Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa wore identical don’t-hit-me sweaters in their first Blackhawks practice since suffering their respective shoulder injuries.
Afterward, they took the identical approach to their return dates: whenever they’re fully ready, fully confident that they’re fully healed, and not one minute before that.
Hossa and Sharp are getting closer to returning, but both will be out tomorrow night when the Blackhawks host the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center. For their competitive sides, the wait is frustrating. For their sensible sides, it’s the smart move.
Hossa talked about reaching a “comfort level.”
“The conditioning is pretty good, but the strength needs to be better,” Hossa said. “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.”
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The Blackhawks are taking the cautious approach with Hossa and Sharp. When you look at where the Blackhawks sit in the standings, it’s easy to see why. They’re still atop the Western Conference, sporting a five-point lead over the second-place Ducks entering tomorrow night. This isn’t last season, when a nine-game winless streak had the Blackhawks jockeying to get back in the West’s top four on a nightly basis.
Obviously the Blackhawks aren’t going into cruise-control mode; they want home ice advantage, something they haven’t had the past two postseasons. But they want two of their top players at optimum health, too.
“We’re going to make sure they’re more than ready, maybe even give them extra time to make sure they’ll be ready,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It doesn’t hurt the position we’re in. 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.”
Sharp just passed the three-week mark of his injury absence yesterday; he took a hit from Colorado defenseman Ryan O’Byrne on March 6. Sharp, who joked that he’s still undefeated as part of the Blackhawks this season – he was injured in the final victory of that streak – has tried to be patient during recovery.
“It sucks being out of the lineup and watching from the sidelines,” he said. “It sucks when the team loses; you feel like you’re not doing anything to help them out. You also want to be part of the wins. The good news is I should be back soon.”
Indeed, both should be back in a relatively short amount of time. But, considering where the Blackhawks are in the standings and what they want to do this postseason, there will be no rushing Sharp or Hossa back.
“Any time you get healthy guys back in the lineup, it gives guys a spark,” Sharp said. “Being injured gives you a chance to take a deep breath, get conditioning in there and come back even stronger. I’m excited to get back. I’m sure Hoss is, too.”