New Blackhawks acquisition Michal Handzus to play right wing, take draws
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org April 4, 2013 10:17PM
Blues goalie Brian Elliot covers up a loose puck before Hawks center Michal Handzus can poke the rebound into the net in the first period of the Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues NHL game Thursday April 4, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: April 5, 2013 12:07AM
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman acquired Michal Handzus from the San Jose Sharks on Monday to give his team some depth at center. At the same time, Bowman said he was pleased with the four centers he already has — Jonathan Toews, Dave Bolland, Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger — and said he’d leave it up to coach Joel Quenneville to figure out where Handzus fits.
The answer, for now: Right wing.
Handzus skated on the fourth line with Kruger and Brandon Bollig on Thursday. But the versatile veteran handled faceoffs, winning 10 of 14 on the night. He even came out for an overtime faceoff with Patrick Kane before heading straight to the bench.
Handzus entered the game 55.6 percent from the dot this season (51.1 career), while Kruger has won just 45.1 percent of his draws.
‘‘I felt pretty good,’’ Handzus said. ‘‘I had very good help on my wings, too. They won a lot of faceoffs for me. I was pretty confident.’’
Handzus, who played for Quenneville in St. Louis in his first three seasons from 1998 to 2001, said he was fine with any role.
‘‘It’s up to coaches,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ll play wherever I can, and I’ll do whatever I can to help.’’
After eschewing practices on days off for much of the first half of the season, the Hawks have been hitting the ice more often lately. But with a jam-packed home stretch — 13 games in 24 days, beginning Thursday — Quenneville will try to balance the need to give his players rest while preparing them for the grueling playoff schedule that begins in May.
‘‘The schedule has been dictating time away,’’ he said. ‘‘Down the stretch, we’ve got a busy month, so we’ll make sure when we do hit the ice, we’ll be ready to go.’’
The Western Conference appeared to get even tougher at the deadline, with players added even by teams on the outside looking in. The ninth-place Blues, for example, added Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold to their blue line.
‘‘Whoever’s going to be the top eight, I bet you every team thinks they can win the Cup,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘That’s how competitive it is.’’
Kane missed practice Wednesday with an illness but was back on the ice for the morning skate Thursday and played against the Blues.
‘‘I’m good,’’ he said. ‘‘It wasn’t the flu — I just didn’t feel that well yesterday. Just nice to kind of get a day off to regroup and relax and sleep it off, I guess. But I feel fine. Not a problem.’’