- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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“Honestly, I don’t think it was that bad,” Handzus said Friday. “I think the training staff did an excellent job to help me through it. It was an exciting time for everybody, for my team. You don’t pay too much attention to it.”
A number of Blackhawks fought through various injuries throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs, but none were to the extent of Handzus, who required two surgeries in the offseason. His teammates and coach Joel Quenneville were impressed by his pain threshold then and still are now as Handzus continues to shrug off pain and get his body onto the ice.
“It’s amazing,” Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa said of Handzus' rehabilitation. “To see what he went through the whole summer, he was pretty much rehabbing after the surgeries. In training camp, he’s still icing lots of things. It’s amazing when you see him back there. It is what is, and he wants to play. It’s great for us.”
Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell has also noticed all that Handzus does to keep himself playing. Bickell thought he could learn something to lengthen his own career.
“He does everything it takes to play,” Bickell said. “He’s been in this league for a dozen years, and it shows in the experience he has for injuries or other things on the ice and off it. He maintains his body.”
Quenneville turned to Handzus as the second-line center in the playoffs last season and again this season because he’s reliable in a lot of areas, not because he battles through pain. The latter is just nice to have.
“I guess everyone’s got different [pain threshold] levels,” Quenneville said. “What he went through last year in the playoffs was very remarkable. [He's] starting off still a little on the sore side [this season.] I would have to say he wants to play, and he’ll find a way to play.
“It’s not like you go looking for guys -- ‘We like him because he can tolerate more pain than other players’ -- but it’s a nice attribute knowing that you’ll find a way to get yourself out there.”
The 36-year-old Handzus got himself out to practice Friday after skipping Thursday for what Quenneville described as a maintenance day. Handzus missed all six of the team’s preseason games to give him extra time to recover from his surgeries. He played in the season opener Tuesday, left in the second period with an undisclosed injury and returned for the third period. He deemed himself "fine" Friday.
Despite everything Quenneville and the other Blackhawks have said about his toughness, Handzus doesn’t like accepting compliments about it. He truly believes anybody in his situation would do the same.
"I think it’s all mental," Handzus said. "I love to play, and I love to play games. If I at least in my head think I can play, I’m not going to take myself out, and I’m ready. I love to play the games."
And so he does even if he has a broken wrist and a torn MCL.
15dDarren Rovell and Katie Strang