When the Blackhawks acquired center Michal Handzus from San Jose two days before the trade deadline for a fourth-round draft pick, it was a deal met by mostly shrugs from the fans.
Now the Hawks are set to start the playoffs against Minnesota with Handzus as their No. 2 center with Dave Bolland ruled out for Game 1 by coach Joel Quenneville.
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Handzus knows the drill on the second line: Get the puck to Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp and get out of their way.
"I've always been a center who likes to pass," Handzus said. "I know, especially with Kaner, he likes to have the puck all the time on his stick. I think it's pretty easy for everybody to figure out that you try to get him the puck as much as you can if he's open. If I can create a little room for him, he can do some great stuff."
Handzus had 1 goal and 1 assist with the Sharks in 28 games. In 11 games with the Hawks, he had 1 goal and 5 assists and was plus-7.
"When we acquired him I knew what he was bringing us with his versatility, his experience, his size and his ability to win faceoffs and kill penalties," Quenneville said. "I don't think we envisioned him to be playing who he's playing with, but in his career he has played with some good players.
"The way he was distributing the puck the last few games shows he is capable of seeing and making plays. He's been very effective since we acquired him."
Handzus taking faceoffs has relieved some of the pressure on Jonathan Toews.
"It's been huge for us," Toews said. "He's a big body. He's been moving well and has been good on whatever line he plays on. The last few games with Sharpie and Kaner, he's been kind of an enabler: he just gets the puck to those guys and lets them do what they do. It's a long list of things he's doing well."
Sharp and Handzus go way back to their days together in Philadelphia.
"I know Zeus pretty well from playing with him in Philadelphia and here a few years ago, and he's good in every area," Sharp said. "He knows what it takes this time of year. Kaner and myself had a couple good games with him down the stretch and hopefully we can build off that."
Patrick Kane doesn't think the Wild can play defenseman Ryan Suter against him and Jonathan Toews.
Suter, a Norris Trophy candidate, led the NHL in minutes played this season with 27:16.
"That's the good thing about our team," Kane said. "If Suter wants to play against my line, then obviously it's going to free up some space for Tazer or the other way around.
"Whoever matches up with him, he's going to get a lot of ice time. I think the last time we played them he played over 30 minutes. He's going to be out there a lot so we'll just try to wear him down throughout the series, and hopefully as the games go on he'll get tired out."
Bolland and Emery:
Joel Quenneville hopes Dave Bolland and Ray Emery can be back on the ice soon.
"We're going to rule them out for (Tuesday) and say day-to-day, both with lower bodies," Quenneville said. "We're hopeful they're going to be back on the ice real soon."
Henrik Karlsson will back up starter Corey Crawford against the Wild in Game 1.
The Wild announced Monday they will fly home after Game 1 and practice for two days since Game 2 isn't until Friday.
Minnesota center Jason Pominville, who missed a few games down the stretch with a concussion, practiced with his teammates on Monday.