Handzus filling a big role for Hawks

LOS ANGELES — When Michal Handzus was 27 years old with Philadelphia in 2003-04 and the Flyers advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, he took it for granted that he would get many more chances to win the Stanley Cup.

Now 36 with the Blackhawks and back in the conference finals for the first time since then, Handzus knows this might be his last chance at winning the big prize.

That's why this series against the Kings is so important to him.

“Well, you dream all the time,” Handzus said Tuesday before Game 3 at Staples Center. “When you get to the playoffs, you're driven all the time. You realize you're 36. When you are 25, when I was in Philly, we made conference finals, you lose Game 7, you're thinking you'll get there again and you'll win it.

“Then it's maybe nine, 10 years later, you're in the same spot. In 10 years, you realize I'm not going to be there. You kind of realize it might be one of your last chances. I want to win, for sure. But that comes for the whole team.

“Everyone is driven that we want to win. I don't think I'm the only one.”

When Handzus came to the Hawks from San Jose right before the trade deadline, he never dreamed he would be the second-line center.

“I don't think anybody thought I going to be playing top six,” Handzus said. “I just came to the team that was winning before I came here. They played great the whole season. I just tried to fit in, tried not to disrupt anything.

“I just try to play anywhere. I don't care if I'm playing on the fourth line or second line, it's all about the team right now, winning. It's not about individual goals any more.”

Handzus has become a quiet leader for the Hawks.

“He's that kind of guy,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He's low key, kind of quiet about his disposition.”

Quenneville coached Handzus before in St. Louis and knew he had a history with other Hawks such as Marian Hossa.

“Him and Hoss have a history,” Quenneville said. “Good friends from (Slovakia). They played on different teams together. He played for Chicago before. He was comfortable coming back here.

“He's one of those guys that fits in seamlessly, very aware of what his role is, what the expectations are, fulfilling anything that can contribute to the team's success.”

And the younger Hawks also appreciate what Handzus has to offer.

“Michal is great to learn from,” said Marcus Kruger. “You can look at him, how professional he is, everything he does. That's something I can learn from him.”

Waving the no-movement clause he had with San Jose was a no-brainer for Handzus.

“When you do those decisions, you don't know how it's going to end up,” Handzus said. “Chicago, they played great all season. That's one thing. They had a great team. The thing was, I wasn't sure where I going to fit in.

“But I knew the coaches, I knew the players, I knew the city, I was familiar with the organization. I thought coming in it would be pretty easy transition for me to fit in, try to help. You don't envision you're going to play in the conference finals or anything like that. You try to make the decision that you're comfortable with, then just come in and try to help.”

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