The Blackhawks welcomed a familiar face back to the ice as the practiced in Toronto on Friday ahead of a Hockey Night in Canada tilt against the Maple Leafs.
Brandon Saad, who's missed the last 12 games with a right ankle injury suffered against the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 19, returned to the ice with the full team for the first time since the injury.
"It's frustrating to be injured, but it is what it is and just staying positive mentally, keeping that same level of confidence when you get back regardless of how much time you missed," Saad told reporters after practice. "Hopefully can step right in and help the team win."
"He's been great all year for us," said Colliton, who left the door open for a possible return to game action on Saturday night depending on the next 24 hours. "(He's) really strong on the puck and he can carry it from zone to zone. It's a really big benefit for us defensively because when he does get it anywhere above the dots in the D-zone, typically it enters their end somehow. That really helps us and he's been producing for us, doesn't seem to matter who he plays with, he produces. He can kill penalties, big part of our penalty kill and just a really solid, dependable player that you love to have on your team."
Video: Saad on returning to practice
Since arguably Chicago's most consistent player in the opening half of the season left the lineup, the Blackhawks have posted an 8-4-0 record and climbed within striking distance of a Wild Card spot with 33 games left. Saad said it's been encouraging to see the younger players step up with he and fellow top-six forward Dylan Strome (right ankle) out of the lineup, and it's left him even more excited to get back on the ice and contribute down the stretch.
"Anytime you see teams with injuries that can win and they have that depth to keep winning hockey games, that's part of being a good hockey team," he said. "For me, it's exciting to watch but I'm definitely itching to get back."
In other injury news, Strome, who's been out since Jan. 7, isn't as close to returning to the lineup. Colliton told reporters Friday that the winger is "very questionable to come back before the (All-Star) break."
Video: Colliton on Brandon Saad's return