Things sure have changed around the Blackhawks since Michal Handzus last played here in 2006-07.
Like hockey actually matters around town.
When Handzus played eight games with the Hawks in ’06-07, the United Center was half empty for games, Jonathan Toews was a year away from joining the club, Patrick Kane hadn’t even been drafted yet and players could walk down the street without being recognized.
“It’s totally different,” Handzus said Wednesday after his first practice with the team. “I remember 10,000 people in the stands and now, playing against the Hawks for the last six years, the building is great, it’s full and there’s a lot of excitement. Obviously, they won a Cup in 2010 so it’s totally different.”
Patrick Sharp was with the Hawks back then and said Handzus won’t recognize the place.
“He’s at the best place in the league, if you ask me,” Sharp said, “so I’ll be curious to see how he reacts to everything over the next few weeks.
“He was one of our top forwards the last time he was here and I don’t think anyone knew who he was. Today I think he answered more questions in the last five minutes than he did all of that season.”
Handzus skated at right wing on the fourth line with Marcus Kruger at practice Wednesday.
“I’ll play wherever they want me and I’ll do whatever I can to help the team,” Handzus said. “I’ll play wing, center, whatever is needed. I’m coming to a great team and there’s nothing better I can ask for.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville plans to use Handzus in a variety of ways.
“He can play a number of roles for us,” Quenneville said. “He can take faceoffs. He can play both wings. He’s a smart player who is versatile in a lot of ways. We like his size, his thought process and can kill penalties. We like the person we’re bringing into the locker room as well.”
Handzus played for Quenneville in St. Louis his first three seasons in the NHL.
“I learned a lot from him and it’s great to be back with him,” Handzus said. “I’m just glad to be here. It’s a great team. Off ice, I know a lot of guys here: players, coaches, trainers. On ice, I need to work on it pretty fast.
“You can see it’s fun here. They’ve been winning a lot and when that happens there’s a lot fun in the locker room and everyone is energized.”
Hossa in, Sharp out:
Marian Hossa will return to the Hawks on Thursday night against St. Louis after missing six games with a shoulder injury.
However, Patrick Sharp will sit for the 12th straight game with his shoulder problem.
“I felt pretty good today and most likely I’m going to play,” Hossa said. “There’s no reason to wait longer.”
“It means a lot,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He enhances your team game and he’s a player you like the way he plays all over the ice.”
Dave Bolland practiced Wednesday after leaving Monday’s game against Nashville with a foot injury from blocking a Shea Weber shot.
Patrick Kane was sick and missed practice but is likely to play against the Blues.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.