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Shaw close to returning

by Shawn P. Roarke / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw, making his first public comments since sustaining a lower-body injury in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round, opened his press conference with a simple question.

"Did you guys miss me?" Shaw said minutes after taking part in his first full practice since getting injured against the Minnesota Wild on May 2.

The answer, it seems, is a universal yes.

The local media loves Shaw because of his quick wit and extensive, engaging answers. His teammates love him because of his non-stop energy and positive outlook. Coach Joel Quenneville values him for his versatility and the different looks he brings to the Blackhawks lineup.

Now, a more pressing question looms for Shaw.

Will he play in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings, which is at the United Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS)? Chicago leads the best-of-7 series 1-0 after a 3-1 victory Sunday.

The answer to that is a bit more complicated.

Shaw said he believes he is ready to go. After participating in a 45-minute practice Tuesday on the extra forward line, he said the additional skating he has done in the past several days has him ready to be productive when he returns.

"I feel like I'm ready to play, but that's not my decision to make," Shaw said. "I'm getting prepared like I'm going to play [Wednesday]."

The final decision lies with Quennevile, and the coach is unprepared to show his hand.

"We'll see on that," Quenneville said when asked about Shaw's status. "I thought he was OK [Tuesday]. First time with the group there, hadn't skated in a while. We're not sure yet on [Wednesday]."

Shaw scored a career-high 20 goals during the regular season and has developed into a reliable net-front presence for the Blackhawks. If he is ready, what would cause the hesitation of returning him to the lineup?

Well, the Blackhawks have won three straight games without Shaw, so Quenneville might want to stick with his winning lineup. Plus, the schedule for this series suggests it might make sense to wait for Game 3 in Los Angeles. After Wednesday, the teams do not play again until Saturday, allowing Shaw three more days to find his fitness after a layoff of almost three weeks.

"That's part of the process," Quenneville said. "When I look back, it could have been last Thursday, Game 7, against Minnesota; probably would have had to fight him not to play him. Certainly having time here and doing the right thing, giving him extra time, is something that's part of the decision as well."

Regardless of the decision on Shaw's status for Wednesday, it was obvious his return to the dressing room provided a spark for his teammates, and a loud one at that.

"Whether it's us not seeing him in a while or him coming back today, the locker room is a little bit louder when he's around," forward Patrick Kane said. "All you can really do is look at him and laugh, because that's his personality and that's the way he is. That's why we love him."

Blackhawks players are sure it is not just Shaw's personality which has returned. They believe he will be in the lineup soon and can quickly provide the style of play that made him successful this season.

"He's excited to be back and he's going to be playing with a lot of energy and playing that usual game that he plays," captain Jonathan Toews said. "I don't think he's going to have to worry too much about missing the last few weeks. I'm sure we'll expect him to be that fearless player just going into traffic like he does, and it'll be good to have him back in the room when he's ready to go."

Shaw is hopeful that return comes sooner rather than later.

"It [stinks] to sit back and watch," Shaw said. "I'd rather be 100 percent, come back and be there for the long run."

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