Even if he hasn’t put up the offensive numbers anticipated this season, Marian Hossa is always a missing piece when he’s out of the Blackhawks Green Jersey’ lineup.
Now he’s feeling better, and his return will bring even more balance and stability to the Blackhawks’ forward lines.
The Blackhawks will check with him in the morning but it looks like Hossa will play on Wednesday night when the team takes on the St. Louis Blues. Hossa, who was injured against the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 13, was back on the Blackhawks’ top line with Andrew Ladd and Jonathan Toews at Tuesday’s practice. For Hossa, the recovery time for his lower-body injury could prove beneficial, in terms of rest heading into the stretch run.
“There’s always something bad for something good happening. You don’t want to get hurt but if you do you try to take advantage of it and hopefully that’s going to be the advantage,” said Hossa, who sounded like he’s ready to go in this week’s games vs. the Blues and Dallas Stars. “Obviously it’s going to be a great test for our team, a two big games on the road [and] Mom’s trip. So couldn’t have timed it better.”
Ladd said he didn’t play with Hossa much during his first stint with the Blackhawks – Ladd teamed with Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane at times, but mostly played with Dave Bolland. But Ladd figures the three will connect quickly.
“I think first and foremost, playing the right way defensively for the three of us is the best way to create offense. So, I think if we do that, then things will take care of itself,” Ladd said. “I think anytime you get a player like that back, it’s a big boost to the group. So hopefully me, him and Jonny can find some chemistry and get things going pretty quick.”
With Hossa’s return, Andrew Shaw was centering the fourth line with Brandon Mashinter and Dale Weise at Tuesday’s practice. The Blackhawks’ second and third lines remained the same.
Coach Joel Quenneville has seen his second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane bring consistency throughout this season. He’s hoping the top line’s reconfiguration gives the Blackhawks, “a good 1-2 punch.”
“We feel there’s balance deeper than we’ve seen at any point this year,” Quenneville said. “We’re better when everybody’s contributing as four lines, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Hossa was injured when Hampus Lindholm hip checked him in that Feb. 13. Looking at replays, it’s hard to tell whether Hossa was hurt more on the hit or on the subsequent awkward fall into the boards. Hossa had no issues with the hit.
“I think it was an OK hit,” Hossa said. “I’m not saying there was anything dirty; not at all. I tried to go around him and he tried to hip check me and he hit me above the knee and tried to finish me and it was just an accident and it happens. Not worried about it anymore.”
When Hossa first went down Quenneville figured it would take at least two weeks for Hossa to return. It took a little more than three but, as Hossa noted, if he was better sooner, he would’ve returned sooner. He’s just about ready to go now, which can only benefit the Blackhawks, be it that top line or the entire group.
“Those two guys are great leaders. They lift our team even more; make it stronger,” Hossa said of Toews and Ladd. “I’m looking forward to playing with those two. Hopefully we click, hopefully we find the chemistry and we can be the dominant line we want to be.”