As if defending a Stanley Cup championship without a large chunk of the title-winning roster returning wasn't hard enough, the Chicago Blackhawks
also are facing a big hurdle with a number of injuries so far.
First it was veteran puck-moving defenseman Brian Campbell
, who sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during the preseason and has missed four weeks. Now, with Campbell getting close to returning, it's star forward Marian Hossa
Hossa, who has 7 goals and 11 points, was injured in Chicago's win Wednesday against the Kings. The Hawks are calling it an upper-body injury which will keep Hossa out for at least a couple of weeks -- a huge blow considering his hot start.
Friday's game Edmonton will be the Hawks' first without Hossa this season, but not the first time they've played without him -- he missed the first seven weeks of last season recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
"You've got to learn to play with injuries and we've done that with (Campbell) already this year," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews
said following Friday's morning skate. "We'll make adjustments. It's not the end of the world. He's been playing great for us, but again, he's just one guy and we'll try our best to make up for that void."
Chicago also ran through practice drills Friday without third-line center Dave Bolland
, who missed his second straight practice for what's being termed "maintenance" by Hawks coach Joel Quenneville
Bolland is expected to play against the Oilers, though, as is rookie Ben Smith
, who was recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League to take Hossa's spot. Smith likely will play right wing on a line with Bolland and former Oiler Fernando Pisani
, while the Hawks' top line most will likely feature Patrick Sharp
on the left side with Toews at center and Viktor Stalberg
on the right.
Sharp still is leading the League with 9 goals and leads the Hawks with 12 points. He may have to stay that hot in order for Chicago to ride out Hossa's absence. If not, it will have to mean other scorers who are off to slower starts -- such as Toews and Patrick Kane
-- will need to kick it into high gear.
"(Hossa) is a big part of our hockey team and everybody will need to step up their game," said Tomas Kopecky
, who has been on the same line as Hossa all season. "There's going to be those (extra) minutes to grab for guys, and for myself included. We just have to earn them."
Hossa and Kopecky (1 goal, 8 points) were working great together on the same line, but now will have to start all over again once Hossa gets back on the ice.
"We had a good chemistry together, but he's probably going to be (out) a couple weeks," Kopecky said. "When he comes back he's going to be energized and ready to go, so we'll see (what happens)."
Kopecky said Hossa is taking the setback in stride.
"He's doing well and keeping his spirits high," Kopecky said. "He's a real professional. He's been through these injuries before. It's not like it's his first year in the League."
Kopecky said Hossa told him the injury occurred when he tried to poke check a Kings player, fell and had someone fall on top of him. It was unfortunate, but just another big challenge for the reigning League champions to overcome.
"In his absence, we've got to make sure that we play tight and check," Quenneville said. "We're not looking for somebody to fill that scoring gap that could look like is needed. (Depending) on how resilient we are and (having) that defensive mind-set, we should get some offense out of it across the board."
Frazz back in town --
Edmonton's Colin Fraser
is the first former Blackhawks player from the Stanley Cup championship team to return to the United Center in an opposing uniform.
It was a bit surreal for him to head into the visitor's locker room and probably will be just as odd taking the ice as a visiting player. Fraser became a dad recently and was happy to chat about it with his former teammates. It was a little like old times when Fraser noticed Sharp listening in to his media session outside the Oilers' locker room.
Fraser was asked if he'd be willing to drop the gloves with one of his former teammates if necessary, and after giving a semi-serious response, he smiled at Sharp in the back.
"We're coming after (No.) 10 (Sharp) … there you go," Fraser said, drawing laughs from Sharp and anyone else within earshot. "He's been hot, so we've got to shut him down."
Fraser, who was dealt to the Oilers this summer, has played in all eight games as Edmonton's fourth-line center. He has just 1 point and a minus-1 rating, but leads the team with 26 penalty minutes.
"That'll be a little different, seeing a lot of the guys I played with for a long time and going up against them. But once the puck drops the game will be on and it will be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it." -- Blackhawks forward Fernando Pisani on facing the Oilers
"I'm excited (to be back)," he said. "I had two good years here and loved the city, the fans, the guys -- everything was great. That parade was something you'll never forget. It was unbelievable to be a part of. I love this city. I tell everybody this is the best city."
Pisani welcomes Oilers to Chicago --
Fraser wasn't the only player re-acquainting himself with his former teammates Friday. Hawks forward Fernando Pisani
, who played seven seasons in Edmonton and is from that city, chatted with several former teammates after both teams' practices had concluded.
Pisani said it's going to be odd playing against his former team.
"That'll be a little different, seeing a lot of the guys I played with for a long time and going up against them," he said. "But once the puck drops the game will be on and it will be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it."
Smith trades groceries for call-up -- Ben Smith
was in the supermarket Thursday when the Hawks informed him he was being recalled from Rockford to take Hossa's spot on the roster.
"I was in the grocery store getting some groceries for the weekend," said Smith, 22, who had a goal and 3 assists in eight games for the IceHogs. "I put them all back and hopped in the car. It was really exciting."