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Blackhawks to give banged-up players rest after clinch

Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 2:38 PM / NHL Insider

By Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

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Blackhawks to give banged-up players rest after clinch
After clinching the top seed in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks are set to start resting their players ahead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

CHICAGO -- Ray Emery missed a second day of practice for the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Michal Rozsival also sat out for what Chicago coach Joel Quenneville called "maintenance days," as the Blackhawks begin to rest some players following Wednesday's night's clinching of the Western Conference crown while they were idle.

The Columbus Blue Jackets defeating the Anaheim Ducks in overtime Wednesday night assured Chicago of the conference's top spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Quenneville wants a healthy team heading into the postseason. Corey Crawford likely will make the start Friday night at United Center against the Nashville Predators, and goalie Carter Hutton was recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Thursday to replace Emery.

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"I think at this time we want to make sure we're smart about rest and whether these are … maybe they're small enough [issues] that they could become bigger, and we have that luxury of making sure they are more preventive than anything," Quenneville said. "Corey's been going as well as Ray has, so it's been a fortunate situation with goaltending decision this year."

Emery (16-1-0), who started and picked up the victory Monday against the Dallas Stars, could return to the ice for Friday's morning skate. However, Quenneville said the 30-year-old will not be available as the backup.

Quenneville did say Hjalmarsson would play and that he hopes to get Emery into a game this weekend, which means possibly Saturday night at home against the Phoenix Coyotes.

An estimated timeline for Rozsival's return was not discussed, but Quenneville included the veteran blueliner in the "maintenance day" assessment. The coach also said none of the three are big concerns at this point.

In other injury news for the Blackhawks, forward Patrick Sharp (upper body) practiced again after returning from a 14-game absence a week ago then missing both of this past weekend's games. Quenneville said Sharp appears close to returning again, possibly during Chicago's upcoming two-game road trip next week against the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers.

"I'm not playing [Friday], but I feel pretty good in practice skating," Sharp said. "It's a frustrating process for me personally, but we're getting closer. I hope to play some games before heading into the playoffs. It's going to be a tough, long run in the playoffs and it's always physical and intense and I'll be ready to play. I'd just like to get in there during the regular season and play a couple down the stretch."

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