Patrick Sharp is always looking to poke a little fun at someone, even an entire dressing room full of teammates.
“I’m still undefeated,” Sharp said jokingly Thursday after returning to practice. “That’s all I know.”
The Blackhawks were 21-0-3 with Sharp in the lineup and just 4-4-0 since he has been out with a left-shoulder sprain.
Sharp and Marian Hossa returned to practice, but coach Joel Quenneville ruled his two stars out of Friday’s showdown with Anaheim at the United Center.
They each wore white no-contact jerseys in practice.
“They’re out for (Friday), I don’t want to go much farther than that,” Quenneville said. “But it was nice to see them out in practice. They didn’t have contact yet.
“But we’re going to make sure they’re more than ready, give them maybe even extra time. They’ll be ready.”
The likely return date for both players is next Thursday against St. Louis at the UC.
“I would hope so,” Sharp said. “I don’t want to really pin down a date, but I think the doctors and trainers know what they’re talking about when they put those timelines on things. I guess we’re pretty close.”
Hossa, also nursing a shoulder injury, has missed the last three games.
“It’s getting better, obviously,” Hossa said. “First practice with the guys, it’s better than practicing on your own. When I’m going to play, I’m not sure.
“I don’t like to set a date. It was one week away from the ice, so the conditioning is pretty good, but the strength needs to be better.
“It’s never fun to be on the sideline and just watch the guys play, but injuries are part of the sport, and obviously you want to make sure you’re 100 percent when you come back instead of rushing something and come to hurt it again.”
Sharp has missed the last eight games with his injury, suffered March 6 when he was run into the glass by Colorado defenseman Ryan O’Byrne. Hossa also was lost on a hit by O’Byrne.
“I feel like I’m right there,” Sharp said. “It’s an upper-body injury, so I have been doing a lot of skating. The legs feel good — it’s just a matter of getting some timing back.
“Anytime you can get healthy guys back in the lineup it gives the guys a spark. The team has been playing well. Being injured, you get a chance to take a deep breath, get conditioning in there and come back even stronger. I know I’m excited to get back.”
Getting Sharp and Hossa back is better than any deal general manager Stan Bowman could make before Wednesday’s trade deadline.
Bowman still is believed to be seeking a center who can win faceoffs. It remains the biggest need on the best team in the Western Conference.
While Pittsburgh has loaded up in the last week by adding Jarome Iginla, Douglas Murray and Brenden Morrow, the only way that should concern the Hawks is if they meet the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Before then, however, the focus remains on winning the West, and a victory Friday over Anaheim would go a long way toward achieving that goal. The Hawks lead the Ducks by 5 points.
ŸFollow Tim’s hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.