VANCOUVER, B.C. – Marian Hossa contemplated his timing prior to Thursday night’s game, wondering how long it would take to get it back after a lower-body injury cost him the previous three games.
“I just basically have to go back to the short shifts, get the feel of the game again and hopefully won’t be too bad,” the Chicago Blackhawks right wing said before the game. “I’m expecting a lot of things from myself, so hopefully I’ll be back to normal.”
Hossa looked like he never missed a shift, let alone three games, when he collected a goal and an assist in the Blackhawks’ 6-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. It was typical healthy Hossa, really: clicking on the offensive side and creating those opportunities, be it his or his teammates’, on the defensive one.
“That’s one thing with Hoss,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He plays the right way.”
A healthy Hossa obviously boosts the Blackhawks’ offense – his goal against the Jets, the game-winner, was his 10th of the season. His defense and puck thievery also set up Brandon Saad’s seventh of the season. With or without the puck, Hossa adds plenty to the team and the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp.
“Just balance,” said Toews. “Sharpie and I have been doing a good job of keeping the puck alive and playing the corners. Hossa’s always in the right spot, be it in the slot or up on the other side. When Sharpie and I turn the puck over, Hossa’s all over it, getting the puck back for us. It’s definitely helpful.”
That balance extends further than the top line.
“He solidifies those top two lines, that top line especially, and allows that second line to get a better matchup,” Duncan Keith said. “We all know what kind of player he is, how good he is. We’re always a better team when he’s in the lineup.”
Hossa’s latest injury was one of several that have cropped up in recent seasons. It wasn’t serious, and it wasn’t the back problem he had last June that still hampered him when training camp began in September. Still, it’s November, there’s a whole lot of hockey left on the schedule, and Hossa wasn’t coming back sooner than necessary.
“I felt like a couple days of rest and treatment would help and (Thursday) was much better,” he said. “When it’s the importance of playoff time, the decisions are different. At the beginning of the season, there are a lot of games ahead of you.”
Considering the results, it was a sound plan.
“He plays at both ends of the ice, he’s willing to put the effort in to come back and help our D. That’s what we need,” Corey Crawford said. “It rubs off on other guys, too.”
Hossa needed several games in October to get his timing back from his Stanley Cup Final back injury. He needed a few shifts to regain it after this injury.
“He’s very consistent and you expect him to play that way, game in and game out,” Quenneville said. “And he didn’t miss a beat.”