Chicago Blackhawks: What Recent Call-Ups Could Mean for Michal Handzus
(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
The Chicago Blackhawks might be planning on giving Michal Handzus a seat this weekend...or possibly a bit longer.
A pair of call-ups from Chicago's AHL affiliate in Rockford suggests some sort of shake-up to the lineup. Right now, it is anyone's guess as to how things fall into place heading in Saturday's game with the Minnesota Wild.
The Blackhawks announced on their team website that Jeremy Morin was recalled on Friday. They also revealed that center Brad Mills, who was on an AHL contract with the IceHogs, was signed to a one-year deal in Chicago and was then recalled.
This gives the Blackhawks a full 23-man roster after Chicago placed injured defenseman Michael Kostka on injured reserve. Coach Joel Quenneville has 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies at his disposal.
I absolutely get Morin's recall. He could well have started the year with the 'Hawks instead of Jimmy Hayes. He has eight points (4G, 4A) in eight games with Rockford and has the look of a player who wants his shot at an NHL job.
Mills? Well...I'm still trying to figure this one out.
Don't get me wrong. Mills is a great story. He's a player who washed out of the Devils organization, righted the ship and has been a great veteran addition in Rockford.
The 30-year-old Mills had two goals and two assists with the IceHogs. He joined the team after the lockout ended last season and had 16 points (7 G, 9A) in 33 games with Rockford. He has played well to open the season, has NHL experience and should be fine skating in a depth role for the Blackhawks.
Here's where I start to wonder about Handzus.
I have to think that Chicago brought Mills up to play. Why sign the guy to a contract, call him up and then not play him? If that was the plan, why not just bring up Brad Winchester, who is already signed? So I have to think that Quenneville has a role for Mills, maybe as a penalty killer.
Morin is presumably being called up to get a shot somewhere. So the trick becomes figuring out who are the odd men out this weekend.
Handzus has had trouble keeping up with his linemates so far this season. He took a terrible penalty late in Chicago's loss to Tampa Bay Thursday night. He has been mending for most of the offseason and didn't have much time to work himself into shape at training camp.
It may be that Handzus needs some time off to get right from a health standpoint. Quenneville may just want to shuffle the lineup after a spotty performance against the Lightning. In any case, two forwards are going to be scratches Saturday night unless someone is sent down.
This probably means two things. Either Handzus is getting some much-needed rest or Quenneville is going to sit Brandon Pirri and/or Ben Smith.
Only the announcement of Saturday's lineup or another roster move is going to tip Chicago's hand in this situation. As we get closer to game time, the call-ups of Morin and Mills will be easier to explain. Right now, I await the 'Hawks next move.
UPDATE: Oct. 26, 12:45 p.m. CST-Scott Powers of ESPNChicago reports in his blog that Handzus will miss Saturday's game with an upper-body injury. Joel Quenneville seemed to indicate that he will be missing for several games. Look for both Morin and Mills to skate against the Wild and for Smith or Brandon Bollig to stay in street clothes.
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