After going down with an upper body injury, Chicago Blackhawks Center Michal Handzus is finally slated to return, although it will not be tonight against the Vancouver Canucks. After undergoing a setback while on retroactive injured reserve November 14, Handzus’ role with the team has changed, and his services may not be needed any more.
When Handzus went down, the Brandon Pirri experiment was begun almost immediately. At first, that meant moving Pirri to the fourth line and Marcus Kruger to the second line. But, the production and chemistry simply wasn’t at an ideal level, although it may have been better than when Handzus was in the top six.
Since entering the top six, Pirri and the second line have stepped up their statistical output while helping the team perform much better than they were earlier in the year. In eighteen games, Pirri has eleven points to go along with a plus six rating. Handzus in his nine games only managed three points and had an even rating.
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill continues to be an issue, but the younger Pirri has only two penalties in his eighteen games, compared to Handzus’ three trips to the sin bin in his nine contests. Therefore, the argument to whether Handzus has earned his starting job back is one that does not need to even occur. But, is he worth a roster spot at all?
For the meantime, I believe yes, he does. That role would come on the fourth line, where he would replace Marcus Kruger, likely moving Ben Smith off the active roster, barring further injuries.
What Handzus brings to the team is rather limited, but he can still contribute, even on the penalty kill which is still attempting to hit its stride. Injuries aside, the PK is the lone aspect of the team that continues to be worrisome, and it may save Handzus from relegation to the healthy scratch position he has become all too familiar with as his career winds down.
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