ST. LOUIS — The Blackhawks will have to wait at least another couple of days to see their new top line in action.
Marian Hossa, expected to return tonight against the St. Louis Blues from a leg injury that has sidelined him since Feb. 13, will not play, after all. He’s still not sure if he’ll play Friday in Dallas, either.
“I’m still feeling it wasn’t there yet, and I don’t want to rush it,” Hossa said. “I’d rather wait an extra couple days.”
Hossa was still huffing and puffing a bit when he finally emerged from the dressing room after a lengthy skate with fellow scratches Richard Panik and Erik Gustafsson. The 37-year-old veteran isn’t used to such exhausting on-ice sessions, known in the hockey world as a “bag skate.” Hossa said the extra work could only help as he tries to get his conditioning level back up after more than three weeks off.
“With the team [at practice], when I was skating I felt good,” he said. “When you bag-skate just three guys, you can be in the best condition and you’re still going to feel it. But for me, definitely it’s great to have a skate like that after practice and get my conditioning even higher.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said the decision didn’t have anything to do with the fact that the Blues play a particularly physical style.
“No, I think when you’re ready you’re ready,” Quenneville said. “When he’s ready to go – he knows his body – we’ll make the decision. But he wasn’t ready.”
With Hossa out, the Hawks will keep Andrew Shaw on the top line, and Dennis Rasmussen stays in to center the fourth line. Once Hossa returns, Shaw is expected to move back to center (which he hasn’t played in more than a year) and bump Rasmussen from the lineup.
“It’s been in my game, [so] I can just pick up and start off with it again,” Shaw said of playing center. “Just have to support in our own end, be around the puck a little bit more, and help out our ‘D’ as best I can.”