Marian Hossa knows he's not getting any younger.
Hossa, who will be 35 in January, has missed the entire preseason with a back injury that first flared up during the Stanley Cup Final. He was fine for the first few scrimmages at Notre Dame before suffering a setback.
After more than a week off the ice, Hossa skated Thursday and was back at practice Friday at his customary right wing spot on the second line with Michal Handzus and Patrick Sharp.
While Hossa won't play in Saturday's preseason finale against Washington at the United Center, he is hoping to be well enough for Tuesday's regular-season opener against the Capitals.
"I definitely feel much better," Hossa said Friday. "I skated on my own (Thursday) and woke up (Friday) feeling pretty good so it was time to go back with the team.
"I believe (I can play Tuesday), but we'll see how it goes. I try to go day by day. Last year was a long year for me. I missed lots of hockey games.
"I want to take care of my body the right way."
Hossa is hoping he won't have to worry about his back all season.
"To tell you the truth, that would be a pain in the butt," he said. "I really hope it's going to be the opposite, that I take care it now and it will hold up the rest of the year.
"I would have liked to play some preseason games, but in this case I had to be 100 percent to play the game. If not, I'd rather skip preseason and just play regular season. We did it last year and it worked pretty well."
One of the most impressive Hawks during the first few scrimmages at Notre Dame, Hossa admitted he pushed himself too hard.
"After one practice, I went really hard," Hossa said. "I wanted to test myself, and the next morning I felt like something is not how it's supposed to be. So I had to do some rest and take some days off and just did some rehab. Today, I had a pretty good practice. I went hard and we'll see how it's going to react tomorrow and tonight."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville is ready for anything with his veterans. If he has to be careful with Hossa, Handzus and defenseman Michal Rozsival, that's what he'll do.
"With any player, health is a priority, knowing where they're at and if they're capable of going," said Quenneville, who thought Hossa looked "like his normal self" on Friday. "We'll be smart, whether it's Hoss; Handzus is in that group and Rozsival. Whether it's the frequency of games, back-to-back games, ice time, practices -- we'll take it all into account."
Hossa must prepare differently for games now, getting to the rink earlier for stretching and exercise to prevent his back from becoming a major issue.
"If that does happen (that it becomes a yearlong battle to stay healthy), I'll let you know," Hossa said with a smile. "I try to stay positive. I'm going to be 35 years old and I know there's going to be maybe more injuries than when I was younger, but I try to go into the season in a positive way."
Hossa decided against surgery after the Hawks won the Stanley Cup and he believes it was the right decision.
"Surgery for me is the last thing when nothing goes right and everything doesn't work," he said. "It's the last option for myself because then you have to rehab a long time and you don't feel like yourself for a while. So I tried to avoid it and I still believe that was a good decision."
Hossa didn't want to talk about how many games he might play this season.
"We can sit here and speculate, but what's the point?" Hossa said. "We'll see how it goes."
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