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At the Rink: Sharks at Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com

CHICAGO -- San Jose Sharks forward Ben Smith will return from an upper-body injury against his former team, but forward Joel Ward will not play against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; CSN-CA, CSN-CH).

Smith, who started his career with the Blackhawks, has missed 22 games because of a concussion. Forward Barclay Goodrow was reassigned the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League on Sunday and Smith was activated from injured reserve.

"It's been quite a couple months here, so to get here and hear [Andrew Shaw] down [the hall] playing soccer, it's pretty funny," Smith said. "To get back, especially here, the timing is funny. It's definitely an exciting night for me."

Ward is out with an undisclosed injury stemming from a hit by Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki that resulted in a boarding penalty late in the Shark's 4-2 loss on Friday.

The Blackhawks (19-11-4) traded Smith to the Sharks last season along with a conditional pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Smith has no points in four games this season, after having two goals and three assists in 19 games for San Jose last season.

Smith had five goals and four assists in 61 games for the Blackhawks last season.

"I've been skating for about a month or so now, about four or five weeks," Smith said. "I had the two games [in the AHL], and it's just kind of the next step, trying to get an opportunity to get into a game here. Luckily that's tonight. I get a chance to try and prove my worth and show that I can play, and hopefully earn another game on Tuesday in [Los Angeles]."

Corey Crawford, who started in the Blackhawks' 3-2 shootout win at the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday will start. Crawford is 5-1-0 with three shutouts in his past six starts, and has allowed six goals in that span.

"Afternoon game [Saturday] and [he] had some time in between," Quenneville said. "We've been on a busy stretch, but he's been handling it. He loves the action."

Forward Brandon Mashinter, who debuted in the NHL with the Sharks in 2010-11, will re-enter the Blackhawks' lineup after being scratched the past two games.

Quenneville didn't announce who Mashinter will replace, but said his history against the Sharks played a large role in his decision.

The Blackhawks will try to sweep it's third back-to-back set this season. They have swept two back-to-backs, been swept in three and split two.

Martin Jones will start in net for the Sharks (16-15-1), who were defeated by the Blackhawks 5-2 at SAP Center on Nov. 25 in the first game of the season series. That loss ended a six-game winning streak for San Jose, which had won all six games on the road.

"I looked back on our notes on that game and watched some of the film [Saturday]," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "I thought [the Blackhawks] were very good that night. They came in and dictated the play, and I didn't think we were very good. We didn't handle it very well."

Here are the projected lineups:

SHARKS

Dainius Zubrus - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Melker Karlsson - Patrick Marleau - Tommy Wingels

Joonas Donskoi - Chris Tierney - Ben Smith

Matt Nieto - Tomas Hertl - Mike Brown

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Marc-Edouard Vlasic- Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon - Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones

Alex Stalock

Injured: Logan Couture (lower body), Joel Ward (undisclosed)

Scratched: Matt Tennyson

BLACKHAWKS

Teuvo Teravainen - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Dennis Rasmussen - Andrew Shaw

Brandon Mashinter - Phillip Danault - Andrew Desjardins

Duncan Keith - Trevor Van Riemsdyk

Niklas Hjalmarsson - Brent Seabrook

Rob Scuderi - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Injured: Marcus Kruger (dislocated wrist)

Scratched: David Rundblad, Ryan Garbutt

Status report: Desjardins, Garbutt or Bickell likely will be scratched with Mashinter's return. ... Tennyson has been scratched in five straight games. ... DeBoer said Couture continues to make progress and will be re-evaluated after the Sharks return to San Jose. He might return to the lineup after the Christmas break. ... DeBoer said forward Raffi Torres underwent a minor procedure on his knee and did not give a timetable for a return.

Who's hot: Kane decided the shootout against the Sabres and has points in the past two games (goal and assist). His career-high 26-game point streak ended in Chicago's 3-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 15. ... Pavelski has points in three straight games (two goals and four assists), and Burns has scored goals in each of the Sharks' past two games.

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