The Blackhawks -- who entered play Monday second in the NHL with 32 points -- are about to add one of the game's best players to their lineup when Marian Hossa puts on the Indian head sweater for real Tuesday.
Associated Press file
How good is this for the Blackhawks?
They've already established themselves as one of the best teams in the NHL over the first quarter of the season, going 15-5-2 and doing so without arguably their most dynamic player in Marian Hossa.
When Hossa returns from off-season shoulder surgery and makes his debut at San Jose on Wednesday, it will be like the Hawks acquiring one of the best players in the NHL and not giving up a thing.
"It's crazy to think what could happen," Patrick Kane told reporters in Edmonton. "We feel we have a good shot to go all the way this year, no matter how young we are.
"We have the experience from last year and then you add a guy like that who's been to the finals before. Yeah, we're looking forward to getting him back."
Hossa will have another full practice with the team Tuesday at HP Pavilion, but the way was paved for his return Monday when the Hawks sent Bryan Bickell back to Rockford the day after the left winger scored the only goal in Sunday's 1-0 victory at Vancouver.
Hossa is expected to play on a line with Jonathan Toews and likely Kane, although Hawks coach Joel Quenneville surely will tinker with his new toy.
"He's going to add so much to our lineup," Kane said. "He's a 40-goal scorer and, who knows, when he comes back, he might even score 40 again with the skill I've seen at practice. It seems like he scores on every shot."
Kane isn't the only one who has been wowed by Hossa in practices.
"Every day you look at him and say, wow, the way he can relax the puck and make plays and settle it," Quenneville said. "It's definitely high end."
Hossa has been champing at the bit to show his new team and Hawks fans what they're getting. He signed a club-record, 12-year contract worth $62.8 million as a free agent on July 1, but a few weeks later team doctors determined he needed surgery to repair a damaged rotator cuff.
"It's hard when you can't help the team on the ice, but the time will come and I will try to jump in there and play my best," Hossa said. "I'm excited, but I've been in the league several years so I just want to try to play my game.
"This is the first time I've missed training camp and the beginning of the season and it's definitely not fun."
Hossa has played on some great teams in the past, going to the Stanley Cup Finals with Pittsburgh and Detroit, and he believes the Hawks have what it takes to do special things as well.
"I've been on a quite a few (top) teams and this one is right there," Hossa said. "The advantage with this team is that they are all young guys, and they're just getting better and stronger.
"This is one of the youngest group of guys I have played with. When I was in Detroit, they were maybe a little more mature, but it has been a lot of fun in this dressing room. These guys are fast, and young and they have lots of enthusiasm."
The Hawks will ride a high into San Jose after winning the first three games of their six-game road trip.
Quenneville gave goalie Antti Niemi all the credit for Sunday's 1-0 win over the Canucks at GM Place, a 30-save performance for his second shutout in five starts.
"It was a goalie win," Quenneville told reporters. "You get five or six of them over the course of a year and that was definitely one of them. I thought our defense played well, but Niemi was spectacular."