Sochi experience rejuvenates 37-year-old Michal Handzus
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter March 12, 2014 11:34PM
Updated: March 13, 2014 12:20AM
DENVER — Michal Handzus leaned against his locker stall, stretching out his legs and working out the lactic acid after another morning skate Wednesday. He never had to do this kind of stuff when he was 25.
“I didn’t think about it too much back then,” he said.
Handzus turned 37 on Tuesday, but the oldest member of the Blackhawks (excluding the injured Nikolai Khabibulin) said he feels “rejuvenated” since playing for Slovakia in the Olympics.
“I feel good,” he said. “I still feel my game’s got to get on a higher level, for sure, but it’s all mental. My body feels good.”
Wednesday night’s game at Colorado was the 996th of Handzus’ career. The Hawks’ second-line center has four goals and eight assists in 45 games this season.
“Sometimes it feels pretty amazing, 37 and still playing,” he said. “When I started playing, you see those 30-year-old guys, and you’re like, ‘They’re old guys, they’re pretty much finished.’ Obviously the game’s changed a little bit. You take care of your body way better, and science and [proper] meals help you get on a different level. Now you can see 40-year-old guys playing at a high level.”
Avalanche center Matt Duchene skated on a line with Patrick Sharp in Sochi, and also got to know Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith well as a member of Team Canada. Their fast friendship has made the Hawks-Avs game that much more competitive.
“It’s fun going up against all three of those guys,” Duchene said. “I hung out with all three of them a lot over there. All awesome guys. It adds a little bit more competitiveness when you’re out there, for sure. When I’m going on a faceoff against Jonny, it’s kind of a silent competition. Kind of a game within the game. That makes it even more fun.
As usual, there were plenty of Hawks fans at the Pepsi Center on Wednesday. Hawks fans can always be found on the road, but Denver — along with Nashville, St. Louis and Phoenix, in particular — always seems to particularly reddened with Hawks sweaters.
“It’s fun, I enjoy it,” Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “I mean, I’d rather see more Avalanche fans in here and less Blackhawks fans, but it ... creates a fantastic atmosphere. Both teams enjoy it and I’m sure our fans enjoy it, as well — they start going at each other.”
Sheldon Brookbank skated as a forward against the Avalanche, with Peter Regin a healthy scratch. Brookbank skated at right wing with Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg, who moved to center. David Rundblad (healthy) and Marian Hossa (upper-body injury) were the other scratches.