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Handzus could be Blackhawks' new second-line center

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Before Michal Handzus fired a perfect stretch pass -- blue line to blue line -- right on the tape of a streaking Patrick Kane for a breakaway goal in the second period Wednesday night in Edmonton, Handzus took the puck right off of an onrushing Taylor Hall's stick.

He also might have taken Dave Bolland's job in the process.

With Bolland still out with a groin injury, Handzus split time with rookie Drew LeBlanc as the Blackhawks' second-line center in Edmonton, skating between Patrick Sharp and Kane. And Joel Quenneville liked what he saw.

"I think last game we found out on the trial situation that Handzus played pretty good with those guys, and it gives us another option as we go along here," Quenneville said "Sometimes you find things out, sometimes it works over the short term, and sometimes hopefully it goes a little longer. On a need basis, guys take advantage of opportunities."

The 36-year-old Handzus, a 14-year NHL veteran, had mostly been playing with the third and fourth lines since he was acquired from San Jose on April 1, before the trade deadline. After posting just one goal and one assist in 28 games with the Sharks, he's got a goal and five assists in 10 games with the Hawks. He's also won 57.3 percent of his faceoffs (Bolland has won 46.1 percent of his draws this season).

Bolland has played in 35 games this season, dealing with various injuries. Sharp will be playing in just his 28th game Friday night against Calgary.

"We've had our fair share of injuries it seems like on that line this year," Kane said. "I thought myself, Handzus and Sharp played really well the other night together, and had some chemistry. So hopefully we can do that again tonight."

And possibly beyond. Bolland -- who made his name as a third-line irritant, particularly in postseason play -- has struggled at times on the second line this season, especially after Sharp suffered his shoulder injury on March 6. He's got seven goals and seven assists but a minus-7 rating (the only Hawks regular who's a minus). But Quenneville has expressed his confidence in Bolland all season. But if he feels Handzus is a better fit there, he won't hesitate to make the change permanent.

"Sometimes those decisions are made for us based on our play," Quenneville said. "Whether we need changes or not."

NOTEWORTHY: Ray Emery (lower-body injury) and Bolland won't make the trip to St. Louis for Saturday's season finale. ... Defenseman Ryan Stanton was called up from Rockford (whose season ended last week) on Friday, but won't play tonight. Eight other players from Rockford -- forwards Jimmy Hayes, Jeremy Morin, Brandon Pirri and Ben Smith; defensemen Adam Clendening, Shawn Lalonde and Steve Montador; and goaltender Henrik Karlsson -- were all called up after Friday's morning skate.
Quenneville said he plans to play his regular lineup tonight, but will rest some guys Saturday in St. Louis.

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Mark Lazerus was honored nationally by the Associated Press Sports Editors for three straight years at the Post-Tribune, was named one of the top three columnists in Indiana for three straight years and has won more than 20 statewide writing awards. He has covered Notre Dame for Sun-Times Media, and now covers the Blackhawks.



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This page contains a single entry by Mark Lazerus published on April 26, 2013 12:55 PM.

Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery leaves game early was the previous entry in this blog.

Blackhawks leave Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Keith at home is the next entry in this blog.

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