Bringing in a new player, or a fresh-off-injury one, can do wonders for a lineup. It can excite. It can motivate. It can agitate.
Well, as far as that last one, that’s what this latest return player really can bring.
Andrew Shaw is expected to play on Saturday, as the Blackhawks will play the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. The feisty forward was given a few more days to recover from his right-leg injury sustained at the start of the second round, but now he’s ready to go.
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And that is great news for the Blackhawks.
“He’s got an element that you appreciate; his competitiveness, his skill and he’s got some abrasiveness,” coach Joel Quenneville said on Thursday, prior to the team departing for Los Angeles. “He’s got the right attitude to find a way to get the job done. We haven’t missed (Shaw) much over the last few years. It’s exciting getting him back in the lineup. That line should be effective. His presence can help us as well.”
Speaking of that line, who comprises it? You figure Shaw goes back to centering that third line, but who comes out of the lineup? Oh, you didn’t think Quenneville would tell us, did you? No, the coach is staying mum at the moment, only saying he has an idea of what the lineup will probably be.
But we’ll get to that later – or more likely in another story. This space is about Shaw’s return, and the space he fills with his energy and expected enthusiasm in returning.
“We’ve missed his presence in the lineup,” Duncan Keith said. “He’s a good guy to have on the team, be it on the ice providing that energy or in the locker room. We look forward to having him back. He’s a versatile player when it comes to what he provides on the ice, be it in front of the net, going to the hard areas or playing different positions. He’s a big part of our team.”
Shaw had his first practice with the Blackhawks on Tuesday. It’s been a long road for Shaw, who said he’s never missed significant time with any injury prior to this. He was one giddy guy when he talked to the media on Tuesday, asking the media if it missed him and saying his hockey equipment was missing the action, too.
“I think the shin pads are excited to get back out there, as well,” said Shaw, whose net-front presence is one of his biggest assets. “My game, you know, it's the best when I'm around the net. I like to live there, get a few lucky ones off me, as well.”
The Blackhawks will get their sandpaper player back on Saturday. He’s more than happy to return; his team is more than happy to see – and even hear -- him again.
“He’s a guy who brings a lot of energy, his presence in the room and on the ice, his physicality. (But) his energy, mostly, is the biggest thing,” Ben Smith said. “Having him back would be nice.”