EDMONTON, Alberta — It’ll be at least a couple more weeks until Bryan Bickell returns and puts the Blackhawks back at full strength, but they’re getting closer.
Michal Handzus returns to the lineup for the Hawks tonight against the Oilers after missing 14 games with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Michael Kostka also rejoined the team for the first time since suffering a foot/ankle injury during a practice in Florida on Oct. 22. He’s still on injured reserve, but Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said he “could” play in one of the final three games of the circus trip.
And Marian Hossa, who left the team on Saturday to attend to a family matter, will be back with the team in Calgary in time for Wednesday’s game against the Flames.
“We haven’t had many injuries over the last few years,” Quenneville said. “It’s nice to see a full lineup, and all the options available. Handzy’s a useful guy, as well, it’s nice to get him back. Might play on the wing, and a little bit of center, as well. He was important for us last year at the end, and nice to see him return.”
Handzus skated on the left wing with Brandon Pirri and Patrick Kane during the morning skate.
In other lineup news, Corey Crawford will start in goal for the Hawks, making his 15 straight appearance. Sheldon Brookbank — who’s been playing forward lately for the shorthanded Hawks — returns to his natural spot on the blue line, with Michal Rozsival a healthy scratch. Brookbank played Rozsival’s blue-line shifts in the third period at Vancouver, too.
As always, Quenneville is expecting a tough game against the last-in-the-West Oilers, where two years ago Edmonton won 9-2 and 8-4. Last year, the Hawks won 4-1 here.
“Coming into this building is kind of scary,” Quenneville said. “They’ve had some success against us here and are playing well right now. They’re a dangerous team, they’re an attacking team, they’re dangerous off the rush. We like to go off the rush, but we need to be a little more patient when we play these guys, otherwise we get into a track meet, and it seems they’re better at it than we are. Let’s be smart, let’s be respectful for their skill and their speed and their quickness off the attack and be ready to check in that area. We’re definitely aware of what they can do, and how they seem to have our number here.”