VANCOUVER -- It didn’t take new San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres long to make a lasting impact on the past two Stanley Cup Playoffs, even if it wasn’t always positive.
Despite vowing to change his approach after a hit to the head knocked out Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa and earned Torres a 25-game suspension (later reduced to 21) in the first round last year, Torres is promising not to let up against his former Vancouver Canucks teammates in these playoffs.
“As the game is going and the puck is dumped in you can't focus on what friends you have over there,” Torres, acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes at the NHL Trade Deadline, said before Game 1 on Wednesday. “I don’t want them easing up on me.”
The Canucks wouldn’t expect anything else from Torres, who was playing for them during a 2011 run to the Stanley Cup Final. He knocked Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook out of the first round with a hit and hobbled current teammate Joe Thornton with one in the Western Conference Finals.
“He’s one of those guys who is always one hit away from turning a game around and possibly a series,” San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle said of Torres. “He’s one of those players as a D-man you have to be aware when he is on the ice where he is at.”
Boyle remembers the 2011 hit on Thornton well: “Yep, Joe was banged up, a little bruised up because of it -- a clean hit if I remember correctly.”
Torres escaped punishment for his 2011 hit on Seabrook, but the blow that led to Hossa being taken off the ice on a stretcher forced Torres to rethink a style many believed was predatory. The question is whether he can still have a positive impact for a third straight playoffs without crossing the line.
“I feel like I have shown it over the last 35 games,” said Torres, who finished the season with 89 hits and had six points in 11 games with the Sharks. “You gotta be able to control your emotions in the playoffs. The history I have is not on my side, but at the end of the day just keep going the way I am going, not try to lose myself on the ice, just up and down my wall, keep it simple and try to stay within the guidelines.”
Torres, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, has managed to do that this season, taking two minor penalties while still playing a physical brand since coming to San Jose. His only five-minute major penalty of the season was a fight with Chicago’s Jamal Mayers on Feb. 7, which was widely expected as an answer to the hit on Hossa in the playoffs.
“He’s admitted he had to change his ways,” Boyle said. “But he’s still a threat.”
One the Canucks are familiar with and can expect to see -- and feel.
“Just play my game, make guys keep their head up,” Torres said. “If they get a chance to get a lick on me I wouldn’t want them pulling up. A lot of people say hits are momentum changers but to me it's just part of the game.”
It's still part of Torres' game, reformation and all.