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Central: Hossa ends goal slump on bobblehead night

by Phil Coffey
Seems like there is nothing like your own bobblehead to get things going. At least that was the case for the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.

Hossa scored two third-period goals against the Ducks to cement a victory and also end a six-game cold streak that saw him with 4 assists over that span.

This bobblehead thing seems to work for the 'Hawks. As Brian Hamilton reported in the Chicago Tribune, Patrick Kane scored a goal on his bobblehead night in December.

As for Hossa, the return to the scoring column is more good news for a team sharing the Western Conference lead with the San Jose Sharks. Remember, Hossa is behind the curve having missed the start of the season recovering from shoulder surgery. With the rest of his teammates at the halfway mark of the season, Hossa has just hit his 20th game and his 8 goals and 10 assists are a harbinger of what's to come.

"I just tried to work hard, get open and create chances and the puck just didn't want to go in," Hossa said in traditional hockeyspeak. "You just have to stay positive and keep working and good things will happen. I got two in and hopefully it will continue."

But coach Joel Quenneville said he was relieved to have one of his chief scorers get off the deck.

"I'm not worried about who's doing the scoring, as long as we're getting some production (on Hossa's line). We've been getting some offense here across the board along the way, but nice to see him get a couple."

Verdi joins Hawks -- It is said that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. But that won't likely happen with the Blackhawks who have named the much respected Bob Verdi as the team historian.

According to the 'Hawks, Verdi will use his 50 years experience writing about the team for club publications and the Web site, as well as other projects. His piece on terrific tandems in Blackhawks history can be found here.

"We are privileged to add such a true Chicago sports legend in Bob to our staff," Blackhawks Senior Vice President of Business Operations Jay Blunk said. "As Team Historian, he will give our organization perspective and depth in a number of different roles, which includes contributing on His 40-plus years of sports journalism in Chicago will serve as a great link to our franchise’s rich history."

Murray takes the high road -- Career coaches always come to grips with the idea that they are hired to be fired. Just part of the job requirements is to have a thick skin.

So it wasn't surprising to hear Andy Murray take the news that a job he loved was no longer his.

"When I saw (Larry Pleau) and J.D. that early in the morning, certainly you know something's up," Murray said of getting the news from GM Larry Pleau and President John Davidson. "I know that they didn't want to have to make that decision, but they felt it was necessary to do so and I understand that."

For his part, Davidson didn't just cut and run. The Blues did a number of good things under Murray, namely make the playoffs last season, but also the team played an entertaining brand of hockey that brought the fans back and he also integrated a number of young players into the lineup.

"As an organization, we'd like to thank Andy for a terrific effort he put forth," Davidson told Norm Sanders of the Belleville News-Democrat. "He helped take our team to a new level. When Andy got here, we didn't have a whole lot of people in our building, we didn't have a whole lot of talk about our club.

"He was a main ingredient in getting us to the next level."

That's what pleased Murray most.

"I can take pride in that," Murray said. "I loved everything about the job, and it will be even harder tomorrow than it is today. There's going to be playoff hockey in St. Louis, I feel that."

Murray compiled a 118-102-38 record with the Blues.

"We just lost too many games we were in a position to win," Murray said. "Way too many losses at home, too many games we were leading. We're a .500 team and we haven't played good enough. Ultimately, that's what I'm judged on."

Commodore to sit -- Mike Commodore says he isn't 100 percent and is going to sit it out until he is.

Tom Reed wrote in the Columbus Dispatch that Commodore told Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock on Sunday that he isn't ready to go. Commodore had been scratched the previous three games.

"The whole year has been a disaster, but I'm looking to move forward," Commodore told Reed. "Unless I have to, I'm not playing until I'm ready, until I'm 100 percent. When is that going to be? I don't know. I thought it was going to be a month ago."

With the Blue Jackets struggling mightily, one might question Commodore's decision, but the veteran defenseman said playing at less than 100 percent hasn't worked.

"I tried (playing through it), and it didn't work," Commodore said. "I'm minus-9 and my minutes have gone from 22 minutes a game to 16 minutes a game."

"Everyone agrees this is the best course of action for Mike," GM Scott Howson said.
Hitchcock said he understands Commodore's reluctance to return given his conditioning level. He has played in just 28 games.

"He doesn't want to embarrass himself," Hitchcock said. "Mike is not doing himself or us any good by trying to play when he's not even 75 percent. He knows he's not ready, and it's unfortunate for all of us. When we get him back in, we are going to get good games from him."

Taking out the garbage -- Back in the day, Phil Esposito used to set up shop in front of the opposition net and deflect shots, screen goalies and make life incredibly miserable for the opposition.

Today, Esposito's in the Hall of Fame.

And in today's game, the Red Wings' Tomas Holmstrom is a latter-day Esposito. He proved that once again Sunday night when he deftly redirected a pair of Nicklas Lidstrom shots into the Phoenix Coyotes net in a 4-1 win, notching his 14th and 15th goals of the season.

"That's the way I score my goals," said Holmstrom, who has spent most of his career in front of the net, making life miserable for goaltenders. "Sometimes they go in, sometimes they go out."

"He's just determined," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Holmstrom, who will be facing his coach in the Olympics when he suits up for Sweden. "He's going to go there. It doesn't matter what they do to him, he's going to go back there. The thing about him that makes him good is he can tip the puck, he can score."

What's Holmstrom's secret besides a high pain threshold?

"I think his hand-to-eye coordination is fantastic," Lidstrom told Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press. "And he's not afraid -- some guys kind of go to the side a little bit and just try to get the stick in front of the goal, but he stands right in front of the goalie and screens the goalie all the time and still is able to get sticks on pucks, whether it's on his forehand or backhand. He's been so good at it for so many years, and he's tough to move once he gets to the front of the net."

"'Homey' gets hit into boards and hit in front of net, and he just kills himself, but he tries to pass or tip the puck," Pavel Datsyuk said. "Homey (is) not good skater, but he has good balance, especially in front of net."

Rinne takes it in stride -- When looking at the goaltenders for Finland in the 2010 Winter Olympics, it's hard to knock the choices of Miikka Kiprusoff and Niklas Backstrom, two of the NHL's top goalies, and Antero Niittymaki, who has been excellent for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz says the Finns made a mistake by overlooking his guy, Pekka Rinne.

"I was surprised," Trotz told John Glennon of The Tennessean. "I know there are some great Finnish goalies, but I see Pekka day in and day out. He should be in those three (Finnish Olympic goalies).

"Finland's mistake was their mistake. They're all entitled to their picks. I'm biased, but I know Pekka can be a difference maker."

For his part, Rinne shrugs and says he will use the decision as motivation to prove he is worthy of Olympic designation.

"The only thing I can do is just play well and show them that I can play well," Rinne said. "That's all I can do."

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