BY MARK POTASH
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said injured forward Patrick Sharp is getting better. Sharp suffered an apparent separated shoulder against the Colorado Avalanche on March 6 and was expected to miss three to four weeks.
The Hawks are 0-2 without Sharp, though the flurry of seven games in 11 days likely has more to do with the Hawks' first two losses in regulation this season. The Hawks play the Columbus Blue Jackets at 6 p.m. Thursday night at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
''Sharpie's progressing,'' Quenneville said. ''He was hoping to hit the ice [in Chicago] either [Thursday or Friday].''
Jimmy Hayes, the 6-5, 210-pound forward who has 22 goals and 17 assists in 58 games with the Rockford IceHogs, will play for the Hawks for the first time since being called up Tuesday, with Steven Montador assigned to Rockford. He's expected to replace Sharp on the No. 2 line with Kane and center Dave Bolland.
''Obviously with Sharpie out someone has to fill his void. Hopefully it's Jimmy,'' Kane said. ''He's very big and he's got good speed, too. The big thing with Jimmy is for him to play the same way he's been playing at Rockford and the way he played at the end of last year [with the Blackhawks].
''He's a guy that can be a difference-maker because he's so big and he can create space for you and hopefully clog up some room in front of the net. I think he's had some confidence in Rockford. He's been playing really well lately. It's a good test to come in and hopefully he brings us a lot of energy. I'm sure he's excited to play. It's good to have him back up.''