Handzus provides points, smarts for Blackhawks
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org June 3, 2013 10:10PM
Updated: June 3, 2013 10:49PM
LOS ANGELES — Michal Handzus is giving the Blackhawks what they need in the postseason — and not just winning faceoffs.
With his goal in Game 2 against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night, Handzus has a point in five consecutive games — all of them Hawks victories. Only Marian Hossa has matched him.
‘‘He’s one of those guys that quietly goes about his business,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘He’s a smart hockey player, very competitive. Seems like he’s always in the right spot.’’
Handzus was acquired April 1 from the San Jose Sharks for a fourth-round draft pick to provide depth at center and, more important, to win faceoffs. Handzus is 58-51 on faceoffs in the last two playoff series but has provided scoring and leadership that has helped fuel the Hawks’ resurgence.
‘‘When we first got him, we figured he’d give us a little more depth,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘All of a sudden, he moved up the ladder where he’s playing in that nice slot for us. A big line for us. Have to make sure he doesn’t get too high, too low. But he’s very competitive. We’ve got to appreciate his positioning and his awareness.’’
Patrick Sharp, who has played with Handzus with the Philadelphia Flyers and Hawks, has a fine appreciation for what the veteran provides to a contending team.
‘‘He can play in every situation,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘He has an offensive touch that he probably doesn’t get enough credit for. He’s good on faceoffs, can play defensively, special teams. The thing he’s added to our team more than anything is leadership. He says the right things at the right time.’’
Richards in limbo
Kings center Mike Richards, who was held out of Game 2 with apparent concussion symptoms, is expected to be a game-time decision for Game 3.
‘‘It’s after activity, how they react, if they’re allowed [to play],’’ Kings coach Darryl Sutter said Monday. ‘‘There’s no secret to it. It’s how they react.’’
The impact of losing Richards is immeasurable to the Kings.
‘‘It’s not like Mike Richards is a guy you sort of spot in your lineup,’’ Sutter said. ‘‘He’s a significant part of everything. If you’re into matchups, faceoffs, penalty killing, last minutes, first minutes, it moves everybody around a little bit.’’
Room to improve
After being outplayed in the first two games, the Kings are sure to make adjustments.
‘‘We had a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone,’‘ Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ‘‘Chicago is a very good checking team. They’re not an overly physical team, though. Their transition game is probably one of the better transition games in the league. Making them go 200 feet for all their chances will go a long way. I think that will come out in
‘‘Give them credit, they’re a good checking team,’’ forward Justin Williams said. ‘‘They check you and try to get you frustrated. In turn, that’s what we do. But they’ve been more successful at it than we have.
‘‘Do I feel we played a better game in Game 1? Yes, but that’s what losers say.’’