Blackhawks updates: Marian Hossa out, Bryan Bickell in vs. Blues


Blackhawks updates: Marian Hossa out, Bryan Bickell in vs. Blues

Marian Hossa is feeling better but he won’t play Thursday night, but Bryan Bickell will as the Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues.

Andrew Shaw and Artem Anisimov, both suffering upper-body injuries, are out Thursday, as well. Coach Joel Quenneville said Anisimov was questionable-to-doubtful to play Saturday; he added that Shaw was unlikely for Saturday.

Scott Darling will start Thursday night in goal.

[MORE - He's back: Blackhawks recall Bryan Bickell]

Bickell, who was recalled on Wednesday morning, was skating at left wing on the Blackhawks’ third line, with Andrew Desjardins and Dale Weise.

“At this time of the year, his play seems to rise to the challenge of playing important games,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He brings an element, he has all the tools to help our team and had some good games in the minors. We know he seems to get excited about this time and the chance to get back here. I’m sure he’s really excited about getting the opportunity today, and we’ll see how it goes going into next week.”

Hossa (lower body), who participated in morning skate but was not on a line, said he also skated on his own 20 minutes prior to the team session. He said he felt “pretty decent,” but he’s not ready for tonight. If he’s healthy enough to play Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, he will – “If it’s meant to be and I feel great in a couple of days, I’ll play. If not, the health is more important at this time of the year,” he said.

The fact that he’s skating again so soon was a relief, considering his collision at the end of the game vs. the Boston Bruins didn’t look good.

“Obviously didn’t feel good at all. Just an innocent collision, but the good thing is I’m back quick on the ice,” Hossa said. “At the first moment, I didn’t know what to think. But it’s nice that so quick I feel better and skating again. Obviously try to wait for my turn whenever I’m 100 percent.”

Corey Crawford (upper body) skated again on Thursday. Quenneville is still targeting Crawford to start Saturday’s regular-season finale.

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

The Blues, much like the Blackhawks, are nursing some injuries. David Backes (lower body) is out and Jay Bouwmeester (upper) and Robby Fabbri (lower) are game-time decisions. But both teams have fared well down the stretch – the Blues have won seven of their last eight games – and that doesn’t surprise Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.

“Both teams, quite frankly, can score their way out of problems, and that’s dangerous for any opponent. When you know you can score your way out of problem, there’s a real inner-confidence that comes over you,” Hitchcock said. “Both teams have confidence that there’s no panic if they’re down a couple of goals. They can come back in games, and that’s a dangerous opponent.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."