Sharks' castoff stepping up for Chicago

Sharks' castoff stepping up for Chicago
June 8, 2013, 1:00 pm
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Michal Handzus has nine points in 16 games with the Blackhawks this postseason. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

The Sharks dealt struggling center Michal Handzus to Chicago in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick just prior to this year's trade deadline. Now, the 36-year-old pivot is playing a crucial role in the Blackhawks' playoff success.

When the Detroit Red Wings took an unexpected 3-1 series lead over Chicago in the Western Conference semifinals, head coach Todd Quenneville moved Handzus up to the team's second line in an attempt to get the offense going. The experiment was a success, as Handzus proceeded to tally three points in three games, including a timely goal in Game 6 that ignited a third-period comeback win.

Chicago won the series in seven games, thanks in large part to the production of Handzus and his linemates. Saturday night, they have a chance to eliminate the reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the Conference Finals. Handzus already has a goal and two assists in the series.

When Chicago acquired the forward, they thought they were getting a player who would provide depth up front and help kill penalties. They got much more than that. In 11 regular season games as a Hawk, Handzus registered six points and was a plus-seven. As a comparison, he managed just two points in 28 games with the Sharks. His production has continued to increase in the playoffs, where he has nine points in 16 games.

The Sharks initially acquired Handzus as a free agent in 2011, signing him to a two-year deal worth $2.5 million per season. He's set to return to the free agent market again this summer.