Forward Marian Hossa is close to returning from an upper-body injury for the Chicago Blackhawks, who are looking to get hot during the stretch run of the regular season.
Hossa participated in the Blackhawks' morning skate Friday at United Center prior to their game against the Nashville Predators and hopes to return to the lineup Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings or Tuesday at the Philadelphia Flyers.
"Hopefully it's one of those two games," Hossa said. "You're never happy when something like this happens but it's part of our sport. You want to be back right away but it takes some time. Hopefully the time will come in those two games, Philly or Detroit, and I'll be back."
Hossa was injured late in the first period against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 1 at Soldier Field in the final game of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. He was hit hard behind the Penguins net by forward Craig Adams and skated slowly to the bench, where he remained for the rest of the period.
He was expected to be out 2-3 weeks. He got back on the ice for individual work Thursday and then joined the morning skate Friday, filling in on the fourth line for Brandon Bollig. Hossa said the injury has nothing to do with a back issue that occurred in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins and nearly prompted offseason surgery.
Hossa has made a big impact when healthy, with 24 goals, 50 points and a plus-25 rating in 57 games.
"He looked good out there," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "He skated well and said he felt really good. He's not playing [against Nashville], but real close."
The Blackhawks are 10-7-7 since the start of 2014 and need to start racking up points with just 16 games left in the regular season. They're almost assured of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs but are locked in a tight race for second place, and home ice in the first round, with the Colorado Avalanche in the Central Division.
"I think you've got to start treating it like the playoffs right now, not only for yourself but for the team," right wing Patrick Kane said. "You can't just go into the playoffs and flip a switch and you've got that playoff intensity again. You've kind of got to build yourself up and get ready for it."
Bollig missed the skate Friday but Quenneville said he will be in the lineup against the Predators. Kris Versteeg will get a look on the top line in Hossa's spot at right wing, while Corey Crawford will get the start in net. Forward Peter Regin will re-enter the lineup at right wing on the third line, with Andrew Shaw moving back to center.
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