EDMONTON, Alberta — Michal Handzus is back in the lineup and Corey Crawford will play in his 23rd game of the season when the Chicago Blackhawks face the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place tonight.
Marian Hossa, who flew back to Chicago over the weekend for a family matter, will meet the team in Calgary, coach Joel Quenneville said this morning. Asked if the situation Hossa flew home for is better, Quenneville said, “I think so.”
Meanwhile, tonight will be Handzus’ first game since Oct. 24 against Tampa Bay. Handzus, who was out with an upper-body injury, was skating on the second line with Brandon Pirri and Patrick Kane this morning.
“It’s nice to have Handzus back,” Quenneville said. “He’s a useful guy, we may play him on wing and center. He was important last year for us, and it’s nice to see him return.”
Crawford, meanwhile, is coming off arguably his best outing of the season, stopping 36 of 37 shots against the Vancouver Canucks. He’s continuing to play plenty but Crawford said after Saturday’s game that fatigue isn’t an issue.
“I worked hard in the summer to be ready,” he said “We have enough time to recover; we have a day in between. That should be enough.”
The Blackhawks know Rexall Place all too well, and not all the memories have been great. Sure, they did well here last season; but they won’t forget the awful nights they’ve had here.
“Coming into this building is kind of scary,” Quenneville said. “They’ve had some success against us. They’re a dangerous team, an attacking team and dangerous off the rush. We like to go off the rush but we have to be more patient when we play these guys because, otherwise, we get into a track meet and it seems like they’re better at it. We’re definitely aware of what they can do and they seem to have our number.”
Defenseman Mike Kostka has joined the team and skated with them this morning. Quenneville said Kostka, who hasn’t been activated off long-term injury reserve yet, may play late on the trip. Regardless, outside of Bryan Bickell being out 2-3 weeks, the Blackhawks are starting to regain some health.
“It looks like they’re getting close,” Quenneville said of the injured parties. “We haven’t had many injuries the last few years, so it’s nice to have a (nearly) full lineup and all the options available.”
Sheldon Brookbank should be in the lineup tonight on defense. Kris Versteeg was on the Blackhawks’ third line with Andrew Shaw and Jeremy Morin this morning.