Hossa, Blackhawks head to Phoenix off strong opener
LOS ANGELES -- Marian Hossa must have a different definition of "slow-build" than everyone else, because the previously concussed Chicago Blackhawks forward already appears to be in midseason form.
"You wonder how he [would] handle that first game," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "It looked like his pace was as good as he could go."
Hossa scored twice and added an assist Saturday when the Blackhawks defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 5-2, at Staples Center. It was his first game since he was last seen leaving the ice on a stretcher after getting blasted by an illegal high hit from Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres in Game 3 of last season's Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Torres will miss the first eight games of this season serving out the remainder of the suspension he was handed by the NHL for that hit.
Hossa proved on Saturday he's over it, even though he still was critical of himself.
"I went slowly, tried to build the confidence again," Hossa said. "Especially after that concussion, as the minutes went on I started feeling more confident and more comfortable on the ice. It's going to take a couple more games to be where you want to be, especially with the timing."
Hossa's timing looked spot on Saturday. He didn't just produce for the Blackhawks; he played big in all areas and finished with 28 shifts totaling 17:24 of ice time.
"He was good the whole game," Chicago forward Patrick Kane told NHL.com. "He wasn't just putting up numbers, points. He was controlling the play, making good plays. He had just a good overall game."
Quenneville said Hossa's conditioning was very evident as the game wore on.
"He's probably in the best shape he's been in a long time," Quenneville said.
Hossa got there by putting himself through a rigorous training regimen after he was cleared by doctors in November. He said he did it to make sure he could still battle down low and in the corners as he likes to do.
"It's unfortunate what happened to him, but you could see him in training camp, just the way he was skating, he was powerful, big, fast and he had a good shot," Kane said. "I think there were probably a lot of questions how he would come out. … I remember when we just signed him, back in 2009, he had the shoulder injury and came back about 30 games into the season and had two goals in his first game too.
"It's pretty funny that he comes back from injuries and has starts like that."
Hossa's next challenge comes Sunday, when he and the Blackhawks head into Phoenix to play the Torres-less Coyotes. Hossa, though, isn't dwelling on the history he and his team have with the opponent.
Maybe things will be different on Feb. 7, when Torres could be in the Coyotes lineup for the Blackhawks' return to Phoenix, but right now Hossa sees no reason to view Sunday's game as being anything more than it is.
"To tell you the truth, I don't think about it that way," Hossa said when asked if playing the Coyotes is another hurdle he needs to clear in his recovery. "It's just another game for me."