The Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks have been one of the NHL's hottest teams over the past two weeks. On Wednesday night, their high-powered offense will get a big lift.
Prized free-agent acquisition Marian Hossa is expected to make his season debut as Chicago seeks an eighth consecutive win in a matchup against the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks, trying for a third straight victory with a revamped top line.
Chicago (15-5-2) signed Hossa to a 12-year, $62.8 million contract July 1, but just three weeks later the team announced the four-time All-Star would need right shoulder surgery.
"It's getting better," Hossa said prior to Saturday's 5-2 win over Edmonton. "I'm getting the power back which makes me more comfortable and more happy."
The Blackhawks, who have scored 27 goals during their winning streak, signed Hossa for his leadership and scoring ability. He had 40 goals and 31 assists in 74 games last season with Detroit, notching four goals and three assists in four contests against the Sharks.
Chicago, in the midst of a six-game road trip, arrives in San Jose following wins in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
The seven-game win streak coincides with the return of captain Jonathan Toews, who missed six games after suffering a concussion Oct. 21. Toews assisted on Bryan Bickell's goal in Sunday's 1-0 win over the Canucks and has three goals and five assists since returning. He had five goals and two assists as Chicago went 2-1-1 against the Sharks last season.
San Jose (16-5-4) defeated Anaheim 3-2 on Saturday for its second straight win following back-to-back losses. It was also the second straight game the Sharks' top three offensive threats - Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau - were on the same line.
Heatley had his 18th goal Saturday and assisted on Thornton's go-ahead score in the third period. In Friday's 6-3 win over Philadelphia, Heatley recorded his second hat trick of the season while Thornton tied his franchise record with four assists.
"It's good that a lot of different guys played with each other early on, and I think you're going to see as the year goes on that there's going to be different combinations," said Thornton, who had three goals and three assists in four games against the Blackhawks last season. "Right now, it's a pretty dynamic line with Patty and myself and Dany.
"Good players make each other better, and that's what's going on right now. The scary part is that I think we can get better."
San Jose looks for another strong offensive showing against Cristobal Huet, who is expected to be back in net after having the night off Sunday.
Huet has posted a 1.81 goals-against average in winning his last six starts, but he's 1-3-1 with one tie and a 4.10 GAA in seven games against the Sharks.
San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov made 28 saves Saturday, improving to 4-0-2 with a 1.97 GAA in his last six games. He didn't have much luck against the Blackhawks last season, going 1-1-1 with a 3.59 GAA in three starts.