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Blackhawks’ Michal Handzus proving he still can play

St. Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks

St. Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks

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Updated: April 17, 2013 8:26AM



Michal Handzus was a healthy scratch in each of his last six games with the San Jose Sharks, a largely unwanted, possibly washed-up 36-year-old in the midst of a sudden youth movement in the twilight of his career.

Then he was traded to the Blackhawks, the best team in the NHL, one with a lineup that pretty
much had been set in stone all
season and seemed all but uncrackable.

So those 180 goals and 281
assists in 939 career games played didn’t mean a whole lot anymore. Handzus was sure he had something left in the tank, but nobody else was quite so certain.

‘‘It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve played in the NHL, you still need to prove that you still belong and still can help the team win,’’ Handzus said. ‘‘I’ve been around for a long time, but every year what I remember is you have to prove again and again and again that you belong and that you can help. And, obviously, after the year in San Jose, I had a lot to prove.’’

Seven games into his second stint with the Hawks — he played eight games for them in 2006-07 before blowing out a knee — Hand-
zus indeed has proved himself and, in the process, proved him-
self right.

Skating between Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg on the third line or alongside Michael Frolik and a rotating cast of characters on the fourth line, Handzus has proved to be a solid addition for the Hawks’ stretch run. He has won nearly 60 percent of his face-
offs — the skill for which he was most coveted by the Hawks — and has fared well at both ends of
the ice.

In his second game with the Hawks, he had the primary assist on a goal by Bickell — the only goal of a 1-0 victory April 6 against the Nashville Predators. In the victory Monday against the Dallas Stars, he executed a nifty give-and-go with a streaking Stalberg to set up another goal. Handzus also has seen time on the penalty kill and power play.

‘‘Handy’s been good,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘We like him in a lot of ways. That line’s been very effective with him and Viktor and Bickell — some size [the line averages 6-foot-4], some zone time, the reliability in their own end. . . . We like his experience. It looks like he’s fit in real well.’’

Handzus said he couldn’t put a finger on what exactly went wrong with the Sharks. After posting a modest seven goals and 17
assists in his first season with them, the three-time 20-goal scorer mustered only one goal and one
assist — both against the Hawks on Feb. 5 — in 28 games this
season. He had a plus/minus rating of minus-9.

‘‘I thought I played better than my production [showed], especially at the start, when I thought I played pretty good,’’ he said. ‘‘I just couldn’t score a goal, couldn’t make points for the team. Then we kind of hit a bump in the road and started losing. And when you start losing, there’s changes. It started with me, and they said they were going to go with younger players. My contract was up, so I
understand that. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.’’

And sometimes it does. And Handzus — who helped steer the trade to the Hawks with his no-movement clause, even though he knew it might be a tough lineup to crack, because he knew the organization and wanted to play for a winner — is particularly pleased to have been proved right.

‘‘It’s great,’’ he said. ‘‘You want to play, and it’s great that I’m playing again. The best thing is we’re winning. It’s fun winning, it’s fun when you’re playing and it’s fun when you’re playing with very good players. I’m not complaining at all.’’



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