Hossa back to early-season, healthy form

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Hossa back to early-season, healthy form

Thursday, March 10, 2011Posted: 2:10 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

TAMPA, Fla. Marian Hossa started the 2010-11 season about as strong as he possibly could have, scoring seven goals over his first seven games.

The few months following, however, were pretty quiet, as Hossa battled injuries and struggled to find the net when he was in the lineup. But lately, Hossa has looked more like his early-season self.

Hossa is finding his offense again, as evidence by his eight-game point streak that just ended against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. In that span the right wing tallied seven goals and five assists as part of a successful line with Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland.

Hes progressing in the right direction, coach Joel Quenneville said. The first two weeks (of this season) he was at the top level of the game, and now can see him getting better and better. Its nice to see him getting production as well.

For Hossa, a big part of his resurgence is thanks to his improved health, which was a problem through the middle part of the season. He missed five games with a shoulder injury, then 10 games in late Novemberearly December with a lower-body injury after a freak practice collision with former Blackhawks defenseman Nick Boynton. He also missed one game in January (flu) and another in February (vertigo).

Obviously its nice to play a bunch of games and get into a game situation for a longer period of time. It helps to have no injuries, no flu or anything like that. I can just play and get into a game tempo, said Hossa.

Hossa was just starting to develop some chemistry with Bolland, and it was benefiting them both. Bolland was on a four-game point streak before he was injured against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. If Bolland can get back quickly, that line should go back to its productive ways.

If not, Hossa will be looking to spark that production with another center. Maybe its Michael Frolik, who had a strong game at that spot on Wednesday night after Bollands departure. Frolik and Hossa have played a bit together this season with Tomas Kopecky, and Frolik showed that he can fit in at center just fine, despite not playing there for a while.

Regardless, the Blackhawks need Hossa to keep doing what hes done lately. Hes healthy, hes found his game again, and it can only be beneficial for the Blackhawks as they try to keep pace in the Western Conference. race

I just try to stay focused on the game, Hossa said. Hopefully nothing else will stop it.

Kubina suspended

Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina was suspended for three games Thursday for his elbow to Blackhawks Bolland's head on Wednesday night. Bolland took the hit in the first period of the Blackhawks 4-3 shootout loss and did not return. No penalty was called.

Bolland was to be re-evaluated today.

Kubina will forfeit 60,096.76 for the elbow; the money goes to the Players Emergency Assistance Fund.

Briefly

The Blackhawks did not practice on Thursday. Instead, they visited wounded soldiers and their families at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”