For the Chicago Blackhawks, injuries made an already difficult road trip even more so. However, with center Michal Handzus and winger Marian Hossa only recently returning to the team, the overall health and attitude was improving.
That being said, aside from third line grinder Bryan Bickell, who is a long way away with a leg injury, the return of defenseman Michael Kostka will only benefit the team, and will put the Blackhawks at a roster that is almost entirely healthy.
When Bickell went down, it forced a drastic shuffle in both lines and positions. The team carried eight defenseman on roster this season, for better or worse. While Kostka was hurt, defenseman Michal Rozsival stepped in as a permanent fixture on the back line, and defenseman Sheldon Brookbank played limited minutes as a third line forward.
Both moves have short- and long-term implications. In the short-term, Brookbank still remains the temporary patch at forward in the event of an injury, despite limited potential and productivity. Jeremy Morin remains in Rockford, and the team is unlikely to recall him unless a serious injury forces their hand.
Brookbank only has two points despite playing in 16 games, and is second on the team with 26 penalty minutes. Kostka only has one point on the year, but has only played in two games thus far. His workload as a defenseman should increase in large part thanks to Rozsival.
Despite not playing large minutes, the Blackhawks’ plan for Rozsival involves plenty of rest. Last season, the physical defenseman only played in 27 regular season games, slightly over half of the teams contests. The plan is still to use Rozsival heavily come playoff time, but for now, Kostka should give the Czech defender a much needed reprieve.
“I’ve been used to being on the cusp of being right there a lot,” Kostka told the Chicago Sun-Times. “You do your best to stay focused and be prepared when for when your name is called.”
Kostka has earned his opportunity, and should see plenty of on-ice chances right away.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486.