VANCOUVER -- Versatile forward Michal Handzus, out since late October with a lower-body injury, took part in Saturday's morning skate and could return to the Chicago Blackhawks' lineup for Monday's game against the Calgary Flames.
He was activated off injured reserve but will miss his 14th consecutive game against Vancouver. Coach Joel Quenneville indicated Handzus could play Monday, saying "we expect him to be joining us real soon."
“He can help us out in a lot of different places,” Quenneville said, adding that Handzus can play center and kill penalties.
Handzus, who has one goal and two assists in eight games this season, does not expect to be at his best when he returns. But he still believes he can help the Hawks, who have battled a few injuries recently.
After a long rehabilitation process, Handzus was just glad to be back on the ice with his teammates.
“You want to be with the team, you want to practise with the team and, obviously, you want to play the games,” Handzus said. “So it’s a lot of fun.”
Crawford in net: Goaltender Corey Crawford will be playing in his 14th consecutive game between the pipes when the Hawks face the Canucks.
While questions remain about new backup Antti Raanta's ability to handle many starting assignments, Quenneville said he had always intended to go with Crawford.
“We looked at our schedule here,” Quenneville said. “We’ve got time in between all our games and, Crow, that was the plan. Towards the end on the trip here, we’ll get (Raanta) going.”
Crawford, who enters Saturday first in the NHL in wins among netminders, has had his share of success in Vancouver.
“Crow has played a lot against these guys in this building and has had some good games,” Quenneville said. "He knows the pace and knows some of the shooters as well.”
The decision means that Raanta, a 24-year-old native of Rauma, Finland, who was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL Sunday as a result of an injury to Nikolai Khabibulin, will have to wait a little while longer for his first NHL start. Raanta saw his first NHL action while logging 47 minutes Tuesday in Colorado, but Quenneville indicated that the rookie, who was signed as a free agent in June after helping underdog Assat-Pori win the SM-liga title and earned regular-season and playoff MVP honors in the process, won’t have to wait much longer during this road trip.
“Our schedule was pretty light there,” Quenneville said. “Now, it’s really picking up, so (Raanta) will get in at some point.”
Rivalry game?: Quenneville believes the Chicago-Vancouver rivalry is still going strong even though the Canucks, losers of five of their last six games, have struggled this season under new coach John Tortorella.
“I still think it’s high,” Quenneville said of the game's intensity. “I think every time we play them the last few years, the pace of these games has been tremendous.”