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Practice Notes: Dowell Returns, Sopel Optimistic

by Adam Kempenaar / Chicago Blackhawks
With defenseman James Wisniewski expected to be on the shelf for 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, coach Denis Savard will depend even more on Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to carry the load. Keith leads the Hawks in average ice time and led all skaters Wednesday against Nashville with almost 28 minutes. Seabrook was second on the Hawks at 25:14.

"They're going to have to play a lot of minutes," Savard said following practice Thursday. "Especially with lots of hockey coming it'll be tough. But they're young, they can handle it."

Brent Sopel skated before practice on his own and is still planning to be in the lineup Sunday against the Kings despite a broken finger.

"It's not broken in a bad area and I think he'll be able to handle the stick," Savard said. "We'll see where he's at, but he's a warrior; he wants to play."

On the positive side of the injury front, center Jake Dowell practiced with the team for the first time after skating on his own for the past week. Dowell will practice the rest of the week and may play Sunday. He centered the Hawks' 3rd line at practice with Adam Burish and Rene Bourque, who returned to action Wednesday after missing 15 games with a broken thumb. Savard was pleased with Bourque's performance against the Predators.

"I thought Bourqey was excellent," Savard said. "He kept his game simple but it was effective, and that's how you need to play when you come back in the lineup."

Also, winger Jason Williams skated Thursday. Savard said Williams will probably skate on his own for a couple days and then be re-evaluated. However, there is still no timetable for his return to the lineup from a groin injury.

Savard's top two lines were the same with Robert Lang centering Petri Kontiola and Tuomo Ruutu and Jonathan Toews centering Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane. Yanic Perreault, Martin Lapointe, Sergei Samsonov and David Koci comprised the 4th unit.

The Hawks will decide following Rockford's game tonight whether to recall any players from the IceHogs for Sunday.

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