-- Even though not all the injured forwards are back, it was a good sign for the Chicago Blackhawks
to see more bodies participating at Friday's morning skate.
Back on the ice and going through all drills were star forwards Marian Hossa
and Patrick Kane
, who have been out for extended periods with lower-body injuries. Both have skated off and on this week at different times, but neither will play Friday night at the United Center against the Detroit Red Wings
(8:30 p.m., NHLN-US).
Still, just seeing them going through the drills with the full team was uplifting for the Hawks, who have been riddled with injuries to forwards recently. Also sitting out against the Red Wings will be Viktor Stalberg
(upper body), who was hurt in Wednesday's home game against Colorado.
"Those are two highly skilled guys that we need in the lineup, so it was good to see them really close to being ready to come back," said forward Jack Skille
, who has been logging time on the top line at right wing in the absence of Kane and Hossa. "It's somewhat comforting just to see them out there. At the same time, we've got a big battle coming up tonight and the guys who are in the lineup right now are making sure we're ready to put up a big fight."
"Those are two highly-skilled guys that we need in the lineup, so it was good to see them really close to being ready to come back. It's somewhat comforting just to see them out there. At the same time, we've got a big battle coming up tonight and the guys who are in the lineup right now are making sure we're ready to put up a big fight."
-- Jack Skille
It also was encouraging for Kane and Hossa, both of whom are frustrated by having to sit out -- especially lately, with the Hawks on a three-game winless skid (0-2-1).
"It is frustrating to watch hockey games from the gym and from the dressing room and not being out there," said Hossa, who suffered his second lower-body injury of the season Nov. 29 when he collided with teammate Nick Boynton
in practice. "But that's a part of the game and you try not to get too far ahead of yourself on the ice and try not to reinjure it. You need to be smart about it, so that when you come back you're 100 percent."
Hossa said he will test his injury during practice Saturday and see if he might be ready to go when the Hawks host the Los Angeles Kings
on Sunday (7 p.m., NHLN-US). As for Kane, he said he's "hopeful" for a Sunday return but doesn't want to put an exact timetable on it.
"I was kind of hopeful that I would play tonight, but when I got the injury they said it was going to be (up to three weeks)," Kane said. "I'm not even at two weeks (right now). I think Sunday will be two weeks … so I think I'm a little ahead of schedule. But for me it feels like it's been two months. I'd love to be out there tonight. I'd love to be playing Sunday. I'm really hopeful for Sunday and I hope it progresses in the next couple of days."
Kane said that much like a lower-body injury that he went through two years ago, the pain from this one is likely to linger for a while even after he returns. He suffered the injury when his skate slammed into the boards as he spun to avoid a hit Dec. 5 against Calgary.
"For me it's just something I'm going to have to deal with for a little bit and hope it stops (hurting) sooner rather than later," said Kane, who has 11 goals and 27 points in 28 games. "You want to make sure you're ready to go -- not only for my sake, but for the team's, too. You want to make sure you're coming back ready to help the team."
Hossa feels the same, but his frustration level must be even higher after being sidelined for the third time for an extended stretch since signing with the Blackhawks before the 2009-10 season. Earlier this season he missed five games with an upper-body injury and Friday's game will be the eighth he's missed with his current ailment.
"It's a little frustrating and (I'm) also getting older, so the body's more banged up," said Hossa, who will turn 32 in early January. "Hopefully after this one I will be able to play the whole season without injuries."
Ozzy out, Jimmy in
-- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock originally planned to start veteran goalie Chris Osgood
against the Hawks at the United Center on Friday, but some of his players convinced him to go with starter Jimmy Howard
They wanted Osgood, who has 399 career wins, to get a chance to go for No. 400 at home in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena on Sunday against Dallas. Babcock changed his mind and Howard now will get the start against Chicago.
Osgood downplayed the opportunity, but admitted it would be great to try and get his milestone mark in the Motor City.
"To be honest I haven't really thought too much about it," he said after Detroit's Friday skate. "I mean, it's nice to be able to do it at home, but nothing's for sure. You've still got to win the game. It would be a bonus to do it at home, but it was never a huge deal for me. It would be nice to win in front of my family and obviously the fans. That would be the only reason it's important to me."
Osgood started his 17-season NHL career with the Wings, who drafted him in the third round (No. 54) in the 1991 Entry Draft.
"It's a very good gesture and he deserves it," said Howard, who hasn't started a game at the United Center since the finale of the 2009-10 regular season. "All the guys here in the dressing room wanted him to have a crack at it at home and we wanted to have the switch. He deserves it. He'll say that it doesn't matter, but just from knowing him personally, I think he really feels great about getting a chance to do it at home, where it all started."
Welcome to the other side
-- Veteran forward Ryan Johnson
was signed to a one-year contract by the Hawks on Friday, which means he'll see what it's like to be a Blackhawk after spending the past two seasons in Vancouver -- when the Canucks and Hawks became bitter rivals.
Chicago ousted the Canucks in each of the past two playoffs and there has been bad blood in regular-season and postseason games each of the past two seasons.
"Took two stabs at trying to beat them and it hasn't worked out, so I figured I'd come over to the other side and give that a go," said Johnson. "As the summer went on, there were some teams who kind of questioned the health of my feet (he broke them blocking shots last season) and wanted me to come into camp without a deal. The way that I play the game, I just felt that probably wasn't the best scenario for me. When this came along it was a no-brainer. Everyone involved had the same intentions. It happened pretty easily."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville
said Johnson gives the Hawks another veteran presence up front, along with the ability to play either center or wing.
"He gives us some experience, some speed, he's good on faceoffs, he can kill penalties and can block shots," Quenneville said. "We think he can give us some energy, as well."
Cullimore on waivers
-- Quenneville confirmed that veteran defenseman Jassen Cullimore
has been put on waivers, even though he'll be in the lineup Friday against the Red Wings. He would have to clear waivers in order for Chicago to send him down to AHL Rockford.
More heat on Hudler
-- Babcock didn't mince words when asked about forward Jiri Hudler
's thus-far disappointing return to the Red Wings after spending a season playing in Russia.
Hudler has just 1 goal, 6 points and a minus-7 rating in 26 games for the Red Wings -- who were hoping for much more when he decided to come back this season.
"He has to be (better)," Babcock said. "He's got to play and contribute and he's got to find a way to get himself on track. His first (26) games, I don't think he would look at it and say the numbers are the way he'd wanted or that he played the way he wanted. He thinks he's a better player. We think he's a better player and you've got to be a better player. The challenge is for him to respond to earn more ice time and earn more of an opportunity."