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Hossa returning to Blackhawks' lineup

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- A pair of Central Division teams looking to find their games will meet Thursday when the Winnipeg Jets host the Chicago Blackhawks.

A rare slump accompanies the Blackhawks, who have lost two of their past three games, into MTS Centre. Opponents have outscored the Blackhawks 12-3 in those two losses, and Chicago is on a season-high seven-game road trip that began with a 5-1 loss Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche.

"[We are forgetting] about it," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said of the Blackhawks' recent struggles. "We're looking at the [past] two road games. We weren't so hot obviously. We've given up quite a few goals.

"But I think the [cause of those problems] is pretty clear. We've just got to be a little smart defensively, a little bit more committed to what we have to do in our own zone. We'll be looking to bounce back. We want to start this road trip the right way so we need to make up for what we didn't accomplish in the [past game]."

The Blackhawks will have Marian Hossa back in the lineup against the Jets after he missed three games with a lower-body injury. Hossa participated in the morning skate at MTS Centre and said he felt fit for game action against Winnipeg.

"Hossa really makes a big difference," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He brings your team game. He solidifies your team game defensively, offensively. He has the puck a lot, special teams as well. He plays important minutes for us."

Left wing Bryan Bickell (lower body) left the loss Tuesday at Colorado and will not be available against Winnipeg. Quenneville said Bickell "is likely out for a couple of weeks." The Blackhawks recalled left wing Jeremy Morin on Wednesday from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.

According to Quenneville, center Michal Handzus (upper body), who has missed 12 games, also is expected to rejoin the team for its game Saturday at the Vancouver Canucks.

The Jets are winless in two straight, including a 5-4 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday. The meeting with Chicago and a visit from the Minnesota Wild presents the Jets with a challenging home schedule before beginning a six-game road trip that will stretch nearly two weeks.

Chicago has outscored the Jets 9-2 in the teams' first two meetings this month. Jets coach Claude Noel knows that his team will need to be much better against its Central Division foe.

"Chicago has a good team," Noel said. "We've seen that twice. We've got to be better than we were [in those two games]. They can hurt. If you give them scoring chances they're going to hurt you and we've seen that."

Noel will re-insert left wing Matt Halischuk, a healthy scratch against Calgary, on the Jets' third line. Anthony Peluso will sit as a healthy scratch. Injured defensemen Mark Stuart and Jacob Trouba continue to inch closer to returning to the lineup, but they will remain out Thursday.

Quenneville will bring back Corey Crawford in goal. He allowed three goals on seven shots against the Avalanche. The Jets will turn to Ondrej Pavelec in goal. Chicago knocked him out of a game Nov. 2 after scoring four times en route to a 5-1 win at MTS Centre.

Here are the probable lineups for the Blackhawks and Jets:


Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Brandon Saad - Brandon Pirri - Patrick Kane

Kris Versteeg - Andrew Shaw - Ben Smith

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Jeremy Morin

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Sheldon Brookbank

Injured: Bryan Bickell (lower body), Michal Handzus (upper body), Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body), Michael Kostka (lower body)


Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Evander Kane - Olli Jokinen - Devin Setoguchi

Matt Halischuk - Mark Scheifele - Michael Frolik

Eric Tangradi - James Wright - Chris Thorburn

Grant Clitsome - Dustin Byfuglien

Tobias Enstrom - Keaton Ellerby

Adam Pardy - Zach Redmond

Ondrej Pavelec

Al Montoya

Scratched: Julian Melchiori, Anthony Peluso

Injured: Zach Bogosian (groin), Paul Postma (blood clot), Jim Slater (sports hernia), Mark Stuart (hip), Jacob Trouba (upper body)

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