Marian Hossa will return from a five-game absence due to an upper-body injury and Spencer Abbott will make his Blackhawks debut when the team hosts the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night at United Center.
Chicago lost two straight games and went 1-3-1 without Hossa.
Abbott and Hossa will play on the top line with Jonathan Toews as the Blackhawks (23-12-5) play a home back-to-back, this time against Buffalo (14-15-8) and Carolina. Ryan Hartman shifted up to third line with Richard Panik and Tanner Kero while Andrew Desjardins draws into the fourth alongside Dennis Rasmussen and Vinnie Hinostroza.
Michal Kempny looks to stay hot after being a healthy scratch for five straight games. Kempny has scored two goals and an assist in the last three games. Brian Campbell and Michal Rozsival will be healthy scratches.
Hossa, 37, is tied for the team lead in goals (16) with Artem Anisimov. He also boasts four game-winning goals and ranks third among Hawks forwards in Corsi (52.5 percent). Abbott was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League on Tuesday after Tyler Motte was sent down. The 28-year-old Abbott has played just 5 minutes, 16 seconds in one NHL game. He’ll wear No. 24 for Chicago.
Corey Crawford will start in net against the Sabres and Scott Darling is likely to receive the nod Friday against Carolina. Crawford is 13-8-3 with a 2.32 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage this season. He is 7-0-0 with a 1.70 GAA and a .937 save percentage against Buffalo in his career.
The Sabres are seeking their second straight win after a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday. It’ll be a tough task against Chicago, who have won nine consecutive meetings against Buffalo. Chicago hasn’t lost to Buffalo at the United Center since Jan. 10, 2007.
Buffalo will get a big boost with the return of center Ryan O’Reilly. The 25-year-old had an emergency appendectomy two weeks ago but practiced Wednesday.
Anders Nilsson is likely to start in net for Buffalo. The 26-year-old Swedish netminder allowed just one goal against the Rangers and is 6-3-3 with a 2.35 GAA and a .928 save percentage in 12 games this season.
For more on the Sabres, check out SB Nation’s Die By The Blade.
How to watch: Sabres at Blackhawks
Time: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBCSN, CSN
Live Stream: CSNChicago.com