His wait looks set finally to end Saturday as he will make his return to the Blackhawks’ lineup against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals after missing the past seven games with a lower-body injury.
“Pretty excited, a long wait, long recovery,” Shaw said after practice at Staples Center on Friday. “I know it was only three weeks, but it feels like a couple of months.”
Shaw has had to be patient about his return. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville initially said Shaw wouldn’t be out of the lineup long, but his recovery took longer than anyone, particularly Shaw, expected.
“Obviously I was telling myself I was going to play the next game [after the injury], but you say that and you get out there and it’s a different story,” Shaw said. “Just want to get tomorrow’s game started.”
In Shaw, the Blackhawks return a player who was the team’s third-line center for much of the past two seasons and has been effective in front of the net on the top power-play unit. He also prides himself on being a pest to opponents.
The Blackhawks are hopeful Shaw can help stabilize their third line. The trio of Patrick Sharp, Peter Regin and Kris Versteeg combined for a 24.2 Corsi percentage (shot differential) in Game 2 against the Kings. Shaw had a 51.2 Corsi percentage in seven playoff games before getting hurt.
Shaw replaced Regin during the team’s line rushes in practice Friday. Sharp was also moved to the second line and was replaced by Brandon Saad on the left wing on the third line.
Quenneville said he thought Shaw’s return could be significant for his team.
“He’s got an element that you appreciate -- his competitiveness,” Quenneville said. “He’s skilled. He’s got some abrasiveness. He’s got the right attitude to find a way to get the job done. Just adding that to our lineup is something that ... We haven’t missed [Shaw] much over the last few years. It’s exciting getting him back in the lineup. That line should be effective. His presence can help us as well.”
Shaw has two goals, two assists, a zero plus/minus rating and has averaged 15 minutes, 54 seconds of ice time in seven playoff games this season. He had five goals, four assists and was plus-2 in 23 playoff games last season. He had 20 goals, 19 assists and a plus-12 rating in 80 regular-season games this season.