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Round 1

Artem Anisimov of Blackhawks will be ready for Game 1

Center returned to practice Tuesday after missing 13 games with leg injury

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Center Artem Anisimov rejoined the Chicago Blackhawks for practice Tuesday and will be ready for the Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Nashville Predators on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2, CSN-CH, FS-TN).

It was Anisimov's first practice since he injured his left leg against the Montreal Canadiens on March 14. He missed the final 13 games of the regular season.

The Blackhawks used three rookies to replace Anisimov on a line with Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane.

"He's got a real nice fit between those guys," coach Joel Quenneville said. "[He] does a lot of things for you. He quietly goes about his business playing with two real special players, so he really adds something to our lineup because he's so useful in ways. That's an important spot for us."

Video: Blackhawks vs Predators First Round Preview

Anisimov also plays in front of the net on power plays and occasionally kills penalties. During practice, he was on the second power-play unit providing screens.

"I'm going to continue to go to the net, play hard every shift and do all my stuff," Anisimov said. "I feel fine and I'm happy to be back and skating with the team for the first time. I'm ready to play."

Anisimov said he doubts whether he could have returned before the end of the regular season and said he needed the time off.

"It was hard," the 28-year-old said. "I stayed put and [didn't] force anything, but it was good for my leg [to get] a little bit more rest. I got all healed up and got ready to play."

Anisimov had his best offensive season since becoming an NHL regular with the New York Rangers in 2009-10. He had NHL career highs in (45), assists (23) and game-winning goals (seven). He scored 22 goals in 64 games to match his NHL career best, set when he played 81 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013-14.

"It was tough to swallow, but that's life and it's a game," Anisimov said of the injury. "You can't do anything about it. Anything can happen."

Video: STL@CHI: Panarin sets up Anisimov for go-ahead goal

Anisimov is intent on making his second playoffs with the Blackhawks better than his first, which ended with Chicago being eliminated in the first round by the St. Louis Blues last year. Returning in the postseason will not be easy after such a long time off, but Anisimov is eager to get started.

"It's a little bit of pressure," he said. "I think after the first shift, it's going to go away. It's going to be the feeling of the game again and it'll come back after the first shift. I learned [from the playoffs last season] and just need to get it done."

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