That second-line center spot: for the Chicago Blackhawks, it’s been a carousel, a merry-go-round of player “auditions” in the hopes of finding the right one.
When Dave Bolland went down with his latest injury (groin), the Blackhawks were figuring out who to put at that No. 2 spot again. Their answer? Michal Handzus. And thus far, he’s been a pretty good answer.
Handzus has taken the No. 2 center spot between Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane, and it’s been a good choice. The veteran has fit right in, and there’s a budding chemistry between the three.
“He’s a big body, he’s strong on the puck and he wins a lot of face-offs,” Kane said. “He plays a simple game. He’s good defensively and makes the simple pass, gets to the net and creates havoc. We can be better than in Game 1, but we’re looking forward to getting better. And the chemistry’s been very good there.”
Adjusting quickly to new lines isn’t new territory for Handzus. The veteran center has played with a lot of different players over his career, from top to bottom lines. Coach Joel Quenneville said that’s evident.
“He’s had a good career and he’s played in all situations; he used to be a top-line guy,” Quenneville said. “It’s been a little bit since he’s been back up there and playing with Kaner and Sharpie a lot of things will happen. Immediately he felt comfortable and it’s been a good fit.”
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Handzus’ acquisition on April 1 served a few purposes: it gave the Blackhawks another viable center option, one with size, and it bolstered their faceoff percentages. Handzus has been steady in his second stint with the Blackhawks, supplying all of that.
As for playing with Kane and Sharp, Handzus said he just goes with what they’re doing.
“They’re good players, so I try to feed off them, make room for them and try to play solid defensively,” Handzus said. “Obviously, the whole team, we know we have to be better the next game. And for me centering that line, I have to be better.”
Game 1 performance aside, Handzus fits well with Sharp and Kane. For the Blackhawks, the merry-go-round at that No. 2 center spot can stop spinning for a while.
“With Bolley out, we didn’t know what we were going to do in that spot and he immediately grabbed it,” Quenneville said of Handzus. “He’s been very useful in other parts of his game as well.”