Whenever Marian Hossa sits out practice, there's cause for concern, considering he has missed time with upper- and lower-body injuries, vertigo and the flu.
So when Hossa wasn't on the ice during practice Thursday at Johnny's IceHouse West, there were some questions.
''I just wanted to give him a day to rest and get him ready for [Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets],'' acting head coach Mike Haviland said.
Hossa and defenseman Duncan Keith received "maintenance" days. The off days are nothing new for Keith, one of the NHL leaders in ice time. And it sounds Hossa may join him as the Hawks make their playoff push.
"A guy like that -- it's not that you leave it up to him -- but you need him to be ready for the games," Haviland said. "The games are important at this time of year in February and he knows the systems and he knows what we want."
Hossa had two assists in the Hawks' 3-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild Wednesday. Haviland also felt Hossa was strong against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday in his first game back from the flu.
"[Coach] Joel [Quenneville] has been around a lot [and] he knows when it's time to give guys days off and when to rest them," Haviland said. "We need Hossa to play like he did that last two games and down the stretch."
A productive Hossa is essential if the Hawks want any chance of making the playoffs. When he records more than one point in a game, the Hawks are 9-0-1 this season.
Hossa has struggled to regain his dominant form because of all his setbacks, whether it's an illness or injury. But Haviland sees the star coming along.
"It's confidence," Haviland said. "You see him carry and puck and possess the puck; he's one of the better guys in the league at holding on to the puck and protecting it and taking it to the net.
"To see what he did [Wednesday] night and in Phoenix, that's a good sign for this hockey team. He's gaining confidence ... and that's great for us."