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Marian Hossa likely to return Thursday for Blackhawks

37-year-old forward has missed five games with upper-body injury

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Forward Marian Hossa is likely to play for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Buffalo Sabres at United Center on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CSN-CH, NHL.TV).

Hossa, 37, has missed five games with an upper-body injury, including a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Monday in the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. He returned to practice at United Center on Wednesday and skated in his usual spot at right wing with center Jonathan Toews.

"I feel better," said Hossa, who was injured in the first period against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 20. "I had the first practice after a long time, with the team, and felt good. So that's a good thing."

Asked if he's ready to return, Hossa didn't hesitate.

"I definitely think so," he said. "Obviously, that was a good test today. I think the practice was at a good tempo, high tempo. I needed it and I felt pretty decent."

Hossa is tied with center Artem Anisimov for the Blackhawks lead in goals with 16 and is fifth in points (23). The Blackhawks are 1-3-1 without him, and their puck possession has lagged noticeably.

Video: DAL@CHI: Hossa lasers a slap shot five-hole

"It's exciting to have him back in the lineup," right wing Patrick Kane said. "Looks like he hasn't missed a beat. Any time you get a player of that caliber, [who] adds so much to your lineup, back in … it should give us a big boost."

Coach Joel Quenneville said it's very likely Hossa will play against the Sabres but stopped just short of saying it would definitely happen. Quenneville said he was impressed by Hossa during one of the Blackhawks' toughest practices this season.

"He looked great out there," Quenneville said. "He skated very well and felt good afterwards, and was very useful in a lot of ways, watching him play. I liked his jump today."

Hossa and Toews had a new linemate: Rookie Spencer Abbott, a 28-year old forward, skated at left wing on their line after being recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Tuesday.

"First, maybe it's a little bit nerve-wracking," said Abbott, who was tied for the team lead in Rockford with 21 points. "They're obviously both very high-end guys. It's a privilege to be out there on the same line as them. I'll do what I can to keep up. I'm grateful for the opportunity. I wasn't exactly expecting it, to be honest. It kind of came out of nowhere."

Chicago which is 1-4-1 in its past six games, will play a rare home back-to-back that concludes with a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.

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