Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Marian Hossa could play Wednesday vs. Blues

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Blackhawks: Marian Hossa could play Wednesday vs. Blues

Even if he hasn’t put up the offensive numbers anticipated this season, Marian Hossa is always a missing piece when he’s out of the Blackhawks’ lineup.

Now he’s feeling better, and his return will bring even more balance and stability to the Blackhawks’ forward lines.

The Blackhawks will check with him in the morning but it looks like Hossa will play on Wednesday night when the team takes on the St. Louis Blues. Hossa, who was injured against the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 13, was back on the Blackhawks’ top line with Andrew Ladd and Jonathan Toews at Tuesday’s practice. For Hossa, the recovery time for his lower-body injury could prove beneficial, in terms of rest heading into the stretch run.

“There’s always something bad for something good happening. You don’t want to get hurt but if you do you try to take advantage of it and hopefully that’s going to be the advantage,” said Hossa, who sounded like he’s ready to go in this week’s games vs. the Blues and Dallas Stars. “Obviously it’s going to be a great test for our team, a two big games on the road [and] Mom’s trip. So couldn’t have timed it better.”

[BLACKHAWKS ROAD AHEAD: Hawks face Blues, Stars in tight Central race]

Ladd said he didn’t play with Hossa much during his first stint with the Blackhawks – Ladd teamed with Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane at times, but mostly played with Dave Bolland. But Ladd figures the three will connect quickly.

“I think first and foremost, playing the right way defensively for the three of us is the best way to create offense. So, I think if we do that, then things will take care of itself,” Ladd said. “I think anytime you get a player like that back, it’s a big boost to the group. So hopefully me, him and Jonny can find some chemistry and get things going pretty quick.”

With Hossa’s return, Andrew Shaw was centering the fourth line with Brandon Mashinter and Dale Weise at Tuesday’s practice. The Blackhawks’ second and third lines remained the same.

Coach Joel Quenneville has seen his second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane bring consistency throughout this season. He’s hoping the top line’s reconfiguration gives the Blackhawks, “a good 1-2 punch.”

“We feel there’s balance deeper than we’ve seen at any point this year,” Quenneville said. “We’re better when everybody’s contributing as four lines, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Hossa was injured when Hampus Lindholm hip checked him in that Feb. 13. Looking at replays, it’s hard to tell whether Hossa was hurt more on the hit or on the subsequent awkward fall into the boards. Hossa had no issues with the hit.

“I think it was an OK hit,” Hossa said. “I’m not saying there was anything dirty; not at all. I tried to go around him and he tried to hip check me and he hit me above the knee and tried to finish me and it was just an accident and it happens. Not worried about it anymore.”

When Hossa first went down Quenneville figured it would take at least two weeks for Hossa to return. It took a little more than three but, as Hossa noted, if he was better sooner, he would’ve returned sooner. He’s just about ready to go now, which can only benefit the Blackhawks, be it that top line or the entire group.

“Those two guys are great leaders. They lift our team even more; make it stronger,” Hossa said of Toews and Ladd. “I’m looking forward to playing with those two. Hopefully we click, hopefully we find the chemistry and we can be the dominant line we want to be.”

UPDATES

- Duncan Keith did not practice on Tuesday but coach Joel Quenneville said Keith is fine and will play Wednesday vs. the Blues.

- Richard Panik and Dennis Rasmussen appear to be the healthy forward scratches tomorrow night. Quenneville said the forwardswill likely rotate with Brandon Mashinter through games down the stretch.

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.