Andrew Shaw’s official return to highlight Blackhawks’ home opener
On Thursday, for the first time in 1,296 days, Andrew Shaw will play a regular-season game at the United Center as a member of the Blackhawks.
Those 1,296 days might as well be 10 million.
“It seems like a long time ago,” Shaw said. “Though the three years flew by, it does feel a little bit in the past. But I never forgot the memories we created in this rink, so it’s going to be a fun atmosphere for sure.”
That last game was a 6-2 loss to the Stars on March 22, 2016. Shaw has been inside the Madhouse a handful of times since — three playoff games in 2016, three Canadiens-at-Hawks matchups in recent seasons, three outings in the just-concluded preseason — but Thursday still will be a special moment.
“If it was a whole new city for me and my family, it’d be a lot different,” he said. “But coming back to a familiar place where we’ve lived for five years and had a lot of memories, it makes it easier for sure.”
In the home opener, the Hawks will face a desperate Sharks team that has lost its first four games, most recently 5-2 to the Predators on Tuesday night — a game many of the Hawks, enjoying an off day, were able to watch.
The fact that the Sharks will be playing their fifth game of the year as the Hawks play just their second could create another odd dynamic in an altogether odd month, schedule-wise, for the hosts.
Aaron Dell will start in goal for San Jose; Jeremy Colliton did not announce the Hawks’ starter after practice Wednesday, but it seems likely to be Corey Crawford again. Connor Murphy also is expected to be in the lineup after missing the game in Prague due to injury.
Undoubtedly the biggest storyline, however, will be the resumption of Shaw’s second Chicago tour.
The scrappy fan favorite is a near-certain bet to stir up a scuffle or two, if only to delight the crowd, but he’ll also be expected to contribute offensively on the wing of Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat. That duality is what makes him such a valuable commodity.
“You definitely need guys like that in the lineup, whether it’s in the room — just to get the energy up a little bit, because he’s got a lot of it — or on the ice,” Crawford said. “He’s not a very big guy, but he plays like he’s seven-foot. . . . We’re all pretty happy to have him back.”
In some ways, Shaw has changed since Hawks fans last saw him, last adored him.
He has grown literally, too. He added about 15 pounds of muscle to his relatively small 5-11 frame this summer.
In other ways, though, Shaw remains much the same. His jovial smile is still there, as is his underrated talent and very-much-not underrated penchant for getting under opponents’ skins.
All of that will be on display Thursday. And it will all fit right in, because Shaw senses that not much is different now about the Hawks franchise, either.
“They haven’t changed,” he said. “The fan base’s love is still there, the excitement is still there, the buzz around the city is still there. Just new faces, new coaching staff — other than that, I’m going to go out there and compete and work hard like every year.”