Marian Hossa stepped onto the Johnny’s IceHouse West ice on Tuesday, his first practice since … well we’re not sure, actually.
We say that good-naturedly, of course. Hossa didn’t practice much prior to the break, a precaution not so much with his age as with his prior injuries, but he looked great in games and that was the point. Now back from the Olympics and still mindful of his health, Hossa will probably take that same approach through this late regular-season stretch.
Hossa and Michal Handzus returned to practice on Tuesday, two more Olympians rejoining the Chicago Blackhawks to prepare for Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers. For the Slovakian players, the Olympics were a mixed bag: the experience was great, their team’s results not so much.
“It was all right. Obviously our team didn’t play very well. It wasn’t as much fun as you would have liked to (have had). But the experience there was awesome to be in the Olympics,” said Handzus, who played in his third Winter Games. “I think everything they did over there was real nice. The rinks were nice, the village was awesome and it was beautiful weather, too. (The weather) was better than here. So the experience was pretty good, but obviously we go there for hockey and it wasn’t as much fun. We don’t really look at it as a positive thing.”
The positive coming back to Chicago is the Blackhawks’ place in the standings: third place in the Western Conference, just three points out of first. Hossa was a big part of the Blackhawks’ success heading into the Olympic break, and he’s going to ensure he’s as game ready as possible down the stretch. That probably means not participating in many practices or morning skates, continuing a routine he had heading into the Olympics. Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll let Hossa decide what’s best. We’ve seen Hossa’s in-game results: the lack of skates and practices isn’t hurting him a bit. So if it ain’t broke…
“I’m sure me and (Quenneville) will have a talk. If it’s the right time and the right decision and he’s OK with (not practicing) we’ll do it. If I feel and he feels it’s better to practice, I’ll practice,” Hossa said. “It’s just all about communication and what’s better for the team. If I feel better when I have a little extra rest and I feel better on the ice, why not, to benefit the team? It’s all about communication, and I’m open to either.”
Quenneville said Hossa and Handzus looked good in Tuesday’s practice.
“I was surprised with how well they skated, how much energy they had, so it was good to see them return,” he said. “It’s a couple more bodies as well, so it got us up to three lines which is progress. I thought we did get better today as we progressed over the last couple of days.”
The Blackhawks are getting bodies back to practice. At the same time, Hossa will be mindful of his health, as he always is. Whatever brings the best out in him in games.