With a five-point lead over slumping Anaheim for first place in the Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks won’t rush star forwards Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp back from injury.
Hossa (shoulder) and Sharp (shoulder) skated with the Blackhawks Thursday, but neither were taking contact and neither will play tomorrow versus the Ducks at the United Center.
“The conditioning is pretty good, but the strength needs to be better,” Hossa said, per CSNChicago.com. “Obviously, you want to make sure you’re 100 percent when you come back instead of coming back early and hurting it again. When I’m ready to play, I’ll play.”
‘Hawks coach Joel Quenneville says the club will wait until Hossa and Sharp are “more than ready” before they get back into the lineup.
“It doesn’t hurt the position we’re in,” said Quenneville. “They’ll tell us when they’re ready and we’ll look at everything, including the schedule, and make sure when they do get in they’ll be ready to go.”
The Blackhawks beat Calgary, 2-0, on Tuesday, but are a modest 4-4-0 in their last eight games.
Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.
It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.
“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”
Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.
Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.
Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.
“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”
Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.
The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.
“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”
Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.
The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.
If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.