Raffi Torres launches into Marian Hossa
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – It’s something Marian Hossa will never forget, even though he remembers very little of the hit that led him to those tough few months.
It took several months for Hossa to come back completely from the concussion sustained when Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres hit him in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals last April. He started feeling more himself in the summer, skated in the fall and was cleared in mid-November.
But on the eve of Hossa and Torres taking the ice together for the first time since that hit, the Blackhawks forward says he’s moved past it.
The Blackhawks will face the Coyotes for the second time this season on Thursday night. But it’s the first time they’ll see Torres, who was still serving his 21-game suspension for the Hossa hit during the first matchup. For Hossa, who’s fully recovered, this is just another game.
“It’s a thing you don’t forget, but I (turned) that page and this is another season,” he said Tuesday night. “For me, it’s just another game. I don’t worry about anything else.”
Torres contacted Hossa shortly after the hit. Hossa first talked about it on May 3 and was still angry about what had happened. That emotion has faded since then, as Hossa’s made a full recovery and has looked every bit the All-Star in his first 10 games.
As far as how emotions run tomorrow night, it’s anyone’s guess. But it’s likely to be more focus than fireworks. The Blackhawks dealt with a similar situation recently; the Vancouver Canucks were as unhappy with Duncan Keith for his elbow to Daniel Sedin’s head as the Blackhawks were with Torres for his hit on Hossa. But the Canucks also said it was in the past, and that retaliation, especially in a 48-game season where every point counts, just didn’t make sense.
The Blackhawks have the same thought entering tomorrow’s game.
“It’s kind of the comparable history like when we went to Vancouver with the Sedins and Duncs. We have to be smart, disciplined and stick together,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Getting even is winning the hockey game.”
Jamal Mayers agreed, saying, “it’s unfortunate it happened but we’re just glad Hossa’s OK and he’s playing unbelievable for us.”
Torres, meanwhile, said he knows he has to change his ways if he’s going to stay in this league. His original 25-game suspension for the Hossa hit was the second longest in recent NHL history, behind only Chris Simon’s 30-game suspension for slamming his skate into Jarkko Ruutu’s ankle in 2007. But Torres said he’s getting the message.
“We have to protect the top players in the league. And if it’s going to take me thinking a little bit out there instead of running around with my head cut off, that’s what it’s going to take,” Torres said after the Coyotes’ practice on Wednesday. “At the end of the day, I need to keep playing. This is what I want to do. And if I want to keep playing I have to change the way (I play). I feel I’ve done some of the right things over the summer, and in the first two games, to do that.”
Torres has also gotten some tutelage in that category. Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said the staff sat down with Torres to show him how to be effective without being reckless.
“He’s a real competitive, good player. He’s just had some reckless in his game, and not just the one in the playoffs last year, but before that,” Tippett said. “So we’ve tried to show him instances where he’s gone out of his way to deliver a hit that, if we take those out of his game, he can still be a very competitive player without the recklessness.”
The worst of it is over for Hossa. The lockout down time didn’t hurt his recovery, and he’s looked stellar in the early going. He’s putting that hit behind him. As far as Thursday’s game, it’s just Game 11 on the Blackhawks’ 48-game schedule.
“I think it’ll be a normal game; I don’t expect anything,” he said. “For me it’s just another game. I don’t worry about anything else.”