When Marian Hossa went down for two weeks with an upper-body injury, the Chicago Blackhawks weren’t just missing another forward. With Hossa, the contributions are so numerous, from his puck possession to his defense to that great scoring ability.
And when he comes back, you remember why it’s so hard to replace him in the first place.
Hossa scored a goal and added two assists, and Ben Smith had a goal and an assist as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1, at the United Center on Sunday night. The Blackhawks halted a two-game losing streak and moved to within one point of Colorado in the Western Conference standings.
The one blemish was the loss of Brandon Saad, who left the game with an upper-body injury. Coach Joel Quenneville said Saad “seemed all right” after the game but that the Blackhawks would re-evaluate him on Monday.
Duncan Keith had two assists while Corey Crawford stopped 19-of-20 for the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks, who had lacked battle and their typical four-line attack in their last two games, had both going on Sunday against a Red Wings team hobbled by injuries. From the start the Blackhawks had more jump, more fire, more of a purpose to their game. Hossa played a big part of all of it, with his all-around game evident from start to finish.
“He changes the complexion of our team game. We seem to have the puck a lot more when he’s out there,” Quenneville said. “He definitely had some nice jump to his game, definitely made a difference tonight.”
Hossa had the primary assist on Nick Leddy’s power-play goal, which got through traffic to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead in the second period. His 25th goal of the season put the Blackhawks up 3-1 six and a half minutes into the third period, and his steal and pass set up Jonathan Toews’ shorthanded goal with just over two minutes remaining in regulation.
Not a bad night for a guy who missed the last two weeks.
“It took me a little bit to get into it. Missing five games you feel it,” said Hossa. “You try to get short shifts in the beginning and try to get yourself into the game and as (it) went on I felt more comfortable.”
Smith said Hossa’s return, “just makes our deep team that much deeper. You could say it was pretty evident tonight we’d been missing him the last few weeks. To get him back and to have a performance like that, it was special.”
The Blackhawks reconfigured lines a bit, with Smith moving up to the second-line center spot. Smith, who’s also gotten some power-play time lately, made both opportunities pay off with his two-point night. His goal, a put-back on a Keith rebound, proved to be the game-winner.
“On this team it’s tough to get those opportunities, there are so many good players,” Smith said. “I’ve just been trying to work hard, and it’s been nice getting good opportunities and making the most of them.”
The Blackhawks looked more like themselves on Sunday night. They played their game, they dictated their pace and they brought their balance. Having the all-around Hossa game back didn’t hurt.
“From the first shift on he put on a clinic with the puck,” Kris Versteeg said. “He’s a player that every team who’s ever had him would miss if he wasn’t in the lineup. Tonight he showed why he’s one of the best to ever play. It was fun to watch him play tonight, even more of an honor to play with him.”