It came as a shock to many in September, when the Chicago Blackhawks signed veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival to a one-year contract just before the start of training camp.
After the 37-year old played out a two-year deal with the Blackhawks last spring, many thought that would be the last time they would see the Czech Republic native don a Blackhawks’ sweater.
Add in a gruesome ankle injury during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, that unexpectedly halted his season early, and it seemed the writing was on the wall, for Rozsival.
Flash forward to present-day, and Rozsival, though placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve on October 6th, is less than a week away from a return to NHL action, with the Blackhawks. With Duncan Keith undergoing surgery just over a week ago, it seems that the timing couldn’t be better for the depleted ‘Hawks defense. Or is it such a good thing in the first place?
The Blackhawks, sans the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, have won four games in a row. Though their offense has only shown up in times of need (overtime), the defense has been perfect over the past two games, with the Blackhawks recording back-to-back shutouts.
Though they certainly have stepped up in Keith’s absence, it’s not just the likes of Trevor Daley, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson that deserve the credit. The Blackhawks have been playing a team-wide defensive style that is far from the team’s status quo, but it has worked very effectively since losing Keith.
Rozsival will not be in the lineup for the rest of this week, and he is on track to return for his scheduled date, November 2nd, against the Los Angeles Kings. He participated in his first morning skate of the season on Monday, and will likely do so all the way up to his return to game action.
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No matter how many practices and morning skates Rozsival takes part in, however, some worry that his inability to participate in training camp scrimmages, and pre-season action, will still leave him unprepared for the fire of a regular-season action.
At a time where the Blackhawks’ chemistry is as good as ever, especially while still in the month of October, throwing Rozsival into the mix could create a train-wreck effect through the Blackhawks’ defense-corps.
Rozsival still has the potential to be a solid contributor for the Blackhawks on the bottom-half of the blue-line, but his usage must be handled with precision by head coach Joel Quenneville. His role in his first couple of games will likely be severely limited, as he shakes off the ‘rust’ and gets his legs back under him, after about four and a half months off.
If Rozsival can quickly get back up-to-speed, he can be a valuable minute-munching asset for the Blackhawks, while they patiently wait on the return of their star defenseman. As it stands right now, however, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Rozsival placed as a scratch once deemed game-ready, and then placed in the lineup in the second game of a back-to-back, or a similar situation.
The Blackhawks have had four complete days off in their last two weeks, making for a happy and well-rested team. The inclusion of Rozsival to the ‘Hawks lineup is inevitable, but with the team playing the way that they are now, it may not be as soon as some think.
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