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Hawks likely to get Kane back against Blues

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

The final decision won't be made until after the Chicago Blackhawks go through a morning skate on Tuesday, but it looks like star forward Patrick Kane will return to the lineup on Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues.
Kane, who's missed eight games with a lower-body injury believed to be his ankle, was asked after Monday's practice at the United Center what his gut feeling was about playing on Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues.
"I would say it's pretty probable," said Kane, who went through a full practice without an issue. "I'm going to make the trip with the team and see how I feel tomorrow. I'm really happy with (how it's felt) the last couple days. Once you get into a game it's a little bit different, but for now I'm pretty happy with it."
Kane was injured against the Calgary Flames on Dec. 5 at the United Center in Chicago, spinning away from a hit and having his left skate slam into the boards. The Hawks originally assessed the time he'd miss as "upwards of three weeks," and that still looks to be the case if Kane indeed returns against the Blues.
Kane was placed on injured reserve on Sunday, but that move was made retroactive to Dec. 5 -- which means his seven-day wait period has technically expired and he can return any time. When asked on Monday, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Kane's status was "likely" to play against the Blues.
"He skated pretty well today and felt good," Quenneville said. "Going into the break and coming out of it I think he had that in his mind, shooting for the St. Louis game. He looked good today."
During 3-on-2 rushes, Kane skated on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Troy Brouwer. Whether that will be the line he'd play with on Tuesday remains to be determined, but it wouldn't matter to Kane regardless.
"For now, I don't care who I play with really," said Kane, who is still the team's third-highest scorer with 11 goals and 27 points. "It's just nice to get back in the lineup and hopefully that will happen tomorrow. I'm going to skate in the morning and then make a decision after that."
Kane said the Christmas break came at a perfect time in his recovery. The Hawks got three days off, which Kane took full advantage of by mostly staying off his feet.
"I did a couple of exercises here and there, and iced and did some other things, but you're pretty much off it the whole time," he said. "That was nice to have."
Kane's return would mean the Hawks would finally have their full roster back. Marian Hossa (lower body) and Viktor Stalberg (upper body) returned from injuries on Sunday, so suddenly Quenneville again has some tough decisions to make about ice time and healthy scratches.
While Kane, Hossa and Stalberg were out, young players like Jack Skille and Bryan Bickell heated up -- with Bickell currently on a career-high six-game point streak and Skille coming off a two-goal game on Dec. 22 against Nashville.
"Now we might be having some tough decisions as far as who's playing and who's playing with whom and who gets so much ice time," Quenneville said. "It's a healthy situation to be in. Sometimes individually we might be disappointed and sour in some fashion. That's to be expected. At the same time, we want to make sure we're ready to play the next game and contribute."
Turco to start again -- Hawks rookie goalie Corey Crawford felt good enough to go through Monday's practice, but said he isn't back to 100 percent after missing Sunday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets with the flu.
That's not the only reason he won't start Tuesday against the Blues, however. Veteran Marty Turco played really well in a 4-1 win against the Blue Jackets after struggling for the previous month and watching Crawford ascend to the starting position.
Quenneville definitely liked what he saw out of Turco on Sunday.
"Certainly it was a big win for him and for us as well," he said. "It's been awhile since he'd gotten in the net and I think he responded well to a great opportunity and took advantage of it. He kept us in it early, made some key saves and looked sharp -- looked quick. It was good for everyone."
The ultimate goal, according to Quenneville, is to get both of his goaltenders playing at a high level.
"It's a great situation to be in when both guys are playing well and we've got a tough decision to say who's playing net," Quenneville said. "I think it's a healthy problem to have and we don't call that a problem."
Hossa still feeling good -- Hossa skated fast, played well and looked strong at both ends of the rink in his first game back from a lower body injury that kept him out for 10 games.
Hossa picked up two assists and the No. 1 star of the game honor against Columbus in a 4-1 Chicago win, but he said that Monday's practice was a better test to pass from the injury standpoint.
"Everything is good," Hossa said after going through the practice with no issues. "I was a little bit afraid when I was going to sleep (Sunday night) how it was going to be in the morning. So, I woke up and there was nothing unusual. That's a good sign."
The way he attacked at both ends against the Blue Jackets and zipped along at high speeds were good signs for Quenneville.
"He skated real well," Quenneville said. "That last week he had several real tough skates and handled them very well. He's got that powerful stride, and when you're coming off that type of injury you want to make sure you're more than ready. He seemed to be comfortable with playing and felt good today too -- which was important."
Hawks powerful with man-advantage -- After scoring two more goals on their power play Sunday night, the Hawks now are the top-ranked team in the League in overall power-play efficiency heading into Monday's games.
Chicago's power play units are scoring a stellar 25 percent of the time, converting on 33 of 132 chances. 

Author: Brian Hedger | Correspondent

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