The Chicago Blackhawks have three games over the next four nights. A full and healthy roster would be optimal to finish the homestand, and the 'Hawks are working their way into that situation.
The good news from Thursday was word that Marian Hossa not only showed up at practice, but took part in drills with no restrictions of any kind. Two other injured Blackhawks also took to the ice and are nearing a return to the lineup.
Actually, Brent Seabrook looks like a go after missing Tuesday's win over Vancouver. Also at practice Thursday was goalie Corey Crawford, who has missed the last three games with an upper body injury.
Ray Emery is starting in goal Friday, but we could see Crawford in net before the end of the home stand. Daniel Carcillo, out with a knee injury since the first game of the season, also could see some action over the weekend.
Hossa, who went down hard following a Jannik Hansen forearm in the third period Tuesday, is going to be evaluated Friday before a decision is made on his availability. Here's what coach Joel Quenneville had to say to Scott Powers of ESPNChicago.com after practice:
I thought he felt much better today. He said he felt good after practice as well. We'll see how he is [Friday] and with a chance of playing [Friday] night.
Unless there is a change in the way Hossa feels, expect to see him over the weekend, if not in Friday's tilt with San Jose.
Having Hossa on Chicago's top line is only going to aid the Blackhawks as I would expect a pretty rugged outing with the Sharks. This is the third time the two teams have faced each other, the last being the 'Hawks 4-1 win at the United Center a week ago.
As Chicago attempts to set a new NHL record for consecutive games with points won to begin a season, there will be two games following Friday that also need the Blackhawks' attention. Columbus and Edmonton are both at or near the bottom of the Western Conference. That doesn't mean Chicago can coast through those back-to-back games, record or not.
The Blackhawks need to remain level-headed throughout the weekend if they wish to stay on top of the conference standings. Anaheim is staying right behind Chicago and stumbling against some less-regarded teams which could result in the 'Hawks looking up at the Ducks.
Whether Chicago comes away with a point Friday or finally drops a regulation game, there is still a pair of games Saturday and Sunday to close out the seven-game homestand. With players getting healthy, it's a pretty good bet that the 'Hawks will embark on their next road game with a complete roster.