NASHVILLE -- With the gamesmanship customary of NHL players and coaches in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, neither the Nashville Predators nor the Chicago Blackhawks would reveal whether key players would return from injury, along with other lineup changes, Thursday before Game 4 (8:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2), but some signs are pointing in that direction.
In Nashville's case, right wing Patric Hornqvist, the team's leading scorer who missed Games 2 and 3 with an upper-body injury, participated in the morning skate -- the first time Hornqvist has skated since Game 1 last Friday.
Hornqvist addressed reporters for 34 seconds after the skate and it went like this:
"They're going to come out with a lot of urgency. They're coming with the urgency, the abrasiveness. ... It's not going to change what we're going to do." -- Nashville coach Barry Trotz
Hornqvist: "Who knows?"
Reporter: You don't know the answer?
Reporter: Is it possible?
Reporter: So you're a game-time decision?
Reporter: Did you skate yesterday?
Reporter: So you skated this morning?
Hornqvist: "Yeah, I'm getting better and better."
Predators coach Barry Trotz, wearing his best poker face, only was slightly more forthcoming.
"He's made good improvement," Trotz said. "He came out and skated. He is status quo. He has a chance."
Then the unfailingly polite Trotz apologized to reporters for not being able to shed more light on the situation.
On the Chicago side, defenseman Brian Campbell appears very close to returning to the lineup from a broken collarbone that has sidelined him for almost six weeks. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Campbell would take part in pre-game warm-ups -- something Campbell has yet to do -- and then the team would make the decision. Regardless of whether he plays in Game 4, Campbell said his return is "getting closer."
Even if Campbell does not play, a few new forwards could be in the lineup. Bryan Bickell skated in Andrew Ladd's slot at left wing in practice Wednesday with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
"It's just one practice, but maybe they wanted to see how it worked," the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Bickell said. Quenneville "hasn't told me anything yet. If I do get the call, it would be a good opportunity to play with those guys ...
"If I do get to play with them, I think just personally I need to get the puck out of the corners, be more physical. Give them more room and ice. Give them the puck and go to the net. Screen the goalie. They're two of the most skilled guys on our team. Give them the puck and good things happen."
Adam Burish, who missed most of the regular season with a knee injury, is another forward who could get the call tonight for Chicago. Burish talked about being able to add "fire" and "drive."
"I think what we didn't see the last couple of games is desperation, and this time of year you need that," he said. "It's the cliché but will out-does skill in playoff time. In the games that Nashville won, they out-willed out. They out-worked us, they out-battled us. And this time of year you've got to look across the ice and say, 'You're not going to beat me.'"
Burish said he saw the Nashville coaches in the stands watching to see which players would be the last to come off the ice to try and discern which players might be in the lineup tonight, so the 'Hawks all left at once.
"That's not good gamesmanship if I told you that," he said in answer to whether he would play.
Candidates to come out of the lineup could be Colin Fraser, Ladd (minus-2 in the series) and possibly Troy Brouwer (minus-2). Quenneville said that, "Brow can be better" and that Brouwer's physical play needs to be "more predictable."
Quenneville said with Chicago trailing the series 2-1, having to talk to his team about its compete level is something he has not had to do all season.
"I think that's first and foremost the important part coming out of the last game," he said. "It must be a standard for us going forward. We have to throw that last game right in the garbage can."
Whatever Chicago comes with, Nashville is expecting to see increased intensity.
"They're going to come out with a lot of urgency," Trotz said. "They're coming with the urgency, the abrasiveness. ... It's not going to change what we're going to do."