The Chicago Blackhawks will be without second-line center Michal Handzus for what coach Joel Quenneville refers to as a “little bit.” The NHL’s injury report allows Quenneville to only disclose that Handzus suffered an upper-body injury, and it is unlikely he will be placed on Injured Reserve, as both Jeremy Morin and Brad Mills are able to be inserted into the roster.
Handzus, now 36, was going to get plenty of rest this season as he continues to recover from wrist surgery and a torn MCL suffered during last year’s playoffs. At least tonight against the Minnesota Wild, Marcus Kruger will continue his progression from fourth line center.
Kruger does not seem to fill in the scoresheet quite like Handzus, but is getting yet another chance inside the top six. He will also remain on the penalty kill, where it looks like he will be joined by Mills, in yet another penalty kill combination the coaching staff hopes sticks.
If Kruger cannot perform on the second line, Brandon Pirri is certainly chomping at the bit to get his chance in the top six. The young Pirri has created plenty of controversy amongst Blackhawks fans with where his value exactly lies, and whether he has second-line center potential despite being so young. Although he will have to wait to see if Kruger can succeed, Pirri will be ready to if the Blackhawks need it.
Now, let’s go back to the new additions to the roster. While Mills skates on the fourth line, new addition Morin will be alongside Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw on the third line, replacing Ben Smith who is a healthy scratch. Corey Crawford will be in net tonight as the Hawks look to extend their points streak to eight games.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486.