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Blackhawks hope to avoid blow of Andrew Shaw suspension

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Updated: May 17, 2012 8:13AM



As sweat-drenched teammates spoke Saturday of victory and last-second comebacks, a cleaned-up and dapper-looking Andrew Shaw strolled into the locker room. He looked in high spirits and discouraged at the same time.

The Blackhawks rookie had just experienced arguably the biggest win of his young career, but he had to celebrate it in the locker room after being ejected for the most controversial play thus far in an increasingly testy first-round playoff series with the Phoenix Coyotes.

‘‘I was happy we came out with the win,’’ Shaw said after the Hawks’ 4-3 triumph in overtime of Game 2 in Phoenix. “It makes me feel a lot better. It was a big goal by [Bryan Bickell] there [in overtime]. Obviously, I was down on myself, but I knew we had a hard-working team.’’

Thanks to Bickell’s goal and Patrick Sharp’s game-tying score with 5.5 seconds left in regulation, the Hawks returned home Sunday with some momentum and a series tied at 1-1. Game 3 is Tuesday night, and the biggest question now is whether Shaw will be able to play.

He has a hearing Monday at 1 p.m. with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan after his five-minute major penalty and ejection for colliding with Coyotes goalie Mike Smith behind his net in the second period.

‘‘I did not try to hit him at all,” Shaw said. ‘‘I tried getting out of the way. Unfortunately, I did make contact.’’

Though the Hawks have Michael Frolik in waiting, losing Shaw for even just one game would sting. He has found a spot on Dave Bolland’s line, and his gritty pace and willingness to fight for space in tough areas is valuable.

‘‘He was playing well,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said.

In a display some would call an embellishment, Smith spun around, his gloves flew off, and he grabbed his facemask as he lay on the ice for several moments. Replays showed Shaw’s helmet initially made contact with Smith’s mask, and considering Shaw’s usual scrappiness, it did not appear to be intentional.

‘‘From what I saw, [Shaw] wasn’t trying to go in there and take his head off or anything,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘If anything, [Shaw] didn’t even try and protect himself. I mean, it’s a quick play. As far as I know, he was trying to avoid contact there. It’s unfortunate that happens. We’ll see what happens.’’

The onus is on the skater to avoid contact with a goaltender, and a penalty was definitely coming. Toews said officials thought Smith was going to leave the game, which may have led to the decision to increase the penalties for Shaw.

‘‘Obviously, they thought he was done, and that’s probably why we got the five-minute penalty,’’ Toews said.

Smith finished the game and was not sent to the ‘‘quiet room’’ for further evaluation for a concussion. Smith, who has a concussion history, was examined on the ice, and a concussion apparently was not suspected.

Does Shaw think Smith embellished?

‘‘I didn’t know,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘I was just glad he got up and was OK.’’

Helping Shaw’s case is that Shanahan can’t take an injury into account when rendering his decision. Smith didn’t meet the media after Game 2 because he was receiving treatment, but he later issued a short statement through the Coyotes, saying, ‘‘I feel fine. I’m 100 percent.’’

Of course, the Hawks and Coyotes had differing takes on the hit. Smith said he didn’t see Shaw coming, and Coyotes coach Dave Tippett and veteran Shane Doan made sure to call Shaw’s hit a head shot.

‘‘Obviously, that’s contact at the head, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a goaltender or a player,’’ Tippett said. ‘‘That’s blindside contact to the head.’’

Now Shanahan will decide if it could have been avoided and if Shaw has already paid the price.



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