Shaw returns for Blackhawks, and right in time

Shaw returns for Blackhawks, and right in time

Tonight, Andrew Shaw returns to the Blackhawks’ lineup for the first time since Game 2.  He collided with Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith in the second period.  For his actions, he was suspended for three games…missing Games 3, 4, and 5.

So what does Shaw’s return mean for the Hawks?

While Shaw will never be confused with Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, or even Marian Hossa, he is just the player the Blackhawks have been missing.  For all their shots on goal (averaging 40.4 per game), the Hawks haven’t had a ton of net presence.  When they have, Smith has had difficulty making saves.

Of all the players currently on the Blackhawks’ roster, Shaw is the most willing to plant himself in front of the net and disrupt the goalie and his line of vision.  I fully expect Joel Quenneville to use him on the powerplay for Game 6…another “must win” for the Hawks.

Aside from net presence, Shaw brings a physical and agitating element.  He’s a pest, and gets under the skin of his opponents.  While the Coyotes have been very disciplined this series (except, of course, for Raffi Torres), a chirpy Shaw might cause a Coyote to lose his cool.  Phoenix hasn’t had a shot at Shaw since the contact with Smith.  They’ll be looking for him.

Bottom line…the Blackhawks are a stronger, tougher, grittier and deeper team with Shaw in the lineup.

Look for Shaw to be reunited with Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell.  Rookie Brandon Saad is the most likely candidate to sit tonight.

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