CHICAGO -- They're still healing from upper-body injuries that have kept them out for extended time, but Chicago Blackhawks forwards Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa will remain out for Monday night's game against the Nashville Predators.
After going through an optional morning skate at United Center, Sharp and Hossa both need more time to fully heal from what is believed to be shoulder-related issues. Chicago doesn't play again until Thursday at home against the St. Louis Blues.
"They're real close and then the fact we've got a couple extra days here, so I think we [want to be] … more than ready when they're coming back," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We'll get 'em on the ice on Wednesday and we'll know for sure whether they'll be playing Thursday or not. They could."
While it's frustrating to remain out, both Sharp and Hossa see the bigger picture for the Blackhawks, who are still atop the Western Conference with 55 points and hoping to get completely healthy for the stretch run of the regular season.
"It's never fun sitting out, but we've got a lot of guys practicing hard out there and we're starting to get [Hossa] and I better," Sharp said. "Every day it seems like we take a step with physical contact or harder skates or whatever it is. It seems like we're inching closer."
"We've got [three] days between now and the other games, so every day is helpful and I think it's smarter [to stay out]," he said. "It feels better, but a little bit more time is definitely going to help."
Both left the Blackhawks' lineup at different times -- 12 days apart to be exact -- but they were each hurt by big hits from Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan O'Byrne. Sharp, who's missed 10 games, was driven hard into the boards at 7:45 of the third period of a 3-2 Chicago win at United Center and left the game immediately.
O'Byrne delivered a similar hit on Hossa, who's been out five games, with 2:28 left in the first period of a 5-2 Blackhawks win on March 18 at Pepsi Center.
Chicago has gone 3-2-0 in the five games missing just Sharp and 2-3-0 in the five games since Hossa joined him on the sidelines. The Blackhawks, who routed the Detroit Red Wings 7-1 on the road Sunday, scored 22 goals in the five games without Sharp and 16 over the next five without both star players.
Sharp said his conditioning level is high after a number of hard skates. He and Hossa are also getting more work in contact drills during practices.
"We did some battle drills out there today and got hit a few times," said Sharp, who's scored five goals and added 13 assists in 24 games. "We'll see how it feels [Tuesday]. It's still not where it needs to be to play, but if it was a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs I'm sure I'd be out there. When it's ready to go, I'm sure I'll play. I don't want to miss games just to be cautious. I want to be out there whether our team is winning or losing."
Corey Crawford will get the start in net for Chicago a day after almost shutting out Detroit for his 14th win, while Preds goalie Pekka Rinne will make his 20th straight start. Nashville center Mike Fisher, who missed the Preds' last game with a bruised hand, is expected to get back into the lineup and center the top line.
Here is how the Predators and Blackhawks may line up on Monday night:
Hal Gill – Jonathan Blum