The veteran forward makes his home debut as the Blackhawks look to avoid a third consecutive loss by winning their eighth straight at the United Center on Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
After missing 22 games while recovering from shoulder surgery, Hossa had two goals in Chicago’s 7-2 win at San Jose on Wednesday in his Blackhawks debut. Though the team’s biggest offseason acquisition was held scoreless while Chicago dropped the final two games of a 4-1-1 trip, he’s sure to receive a rousing ovation when he takes the home ice for the first time.
Hossa, who has 11 goals and four assists in 11 games against Columbus, has already fit in well with stars Jonathan Toews(notes), Patrick Kane(notes) and Patrick Sharp(notes). Collectively, the Blackhawks (16-6-3) lead the Central Division and have the third-best record in the Western Conference.
Now, they’re starting to hear about their status as serious Stanley Cup contenders.
“We’re talking already the Stanley Cup and it’s only November,” Hossa said. “But we are going in the right direction. …We have to go step-by-step. Use short steps and go from there.”
Chicago tries to continue its dominance at the United Center, where it’s 10-2-1 and hasn’t lost since a 3-2 defeat to Vancouver on Oct. 21. Returning home could help the Blackhawks bounce back after being outscored 5-1 in losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles after totaling 20 goals over their previous four games.
Toews scored Chicago’s most recent goal in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Kings on Saturday.
“We’re not going to say we’re satisfied,” said Toews, who has three goals with three assists in his last five games and four goals with seven assists in 13 against the Blue Jackets.
The Blackhawks could have even more incentive to win Tuesday as coach Joel Quenneville again tries for his 500th career coaching victory.
“It’s been a fun situation to be part of where we’re at right now,” Quenneville said. “I’m just worried about winning the next one. It would be a nice number.”
Columbus went 2-1-0 at Chicago last season and clinched the franchise’s first playoff berth with a 4-3 shootout win there on April 8. The Blue Jackets, however, will be trying to avoid a fifth straight road loss in this contest.
Umberger has five goals with three assists in his last six games. He had two and four assists against Chicago last season.
The Blue Jackets will be without defenseman Rostislav Klesla(notes), who is expected to miss at least one month with a lower-body injury—believed to be a torn groin muscle—suffered in Monday’s victory.