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Hossa approaches milestone in tough season

Blackhawks forward, on pace for career low in goals, needs two more for 500 in his NHL career

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa has done a number of things this season in an attempt to find his scoring touch, but nothing really worked until the Chicago Blackhawks right wing did something that doesn't come natural to him.

He got a little selfish.

Upon returning March 11 from a lower-body injury, Hossa decided to pay more attention to a significant career milestone that was on the horizon, rather than keeping it out of mind. Stuck on 496 NHL goals at the time, after scoring 10 in his first 54 games, the usually prolific goal-scorer had to laugh when asked if he'd been dwelling on 500.

"Maybe I should, because I don't think about it and it's not working," the 37-year-old Hossa said on March 13. "So, maybe I should start thinking about it more."

Video: CHI@WPG: Hossa collects ricochet for 2-0 lead

Three days later, on March 16, he scored on a shorthanded breakaway in a 3-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers. He scored again the next game, a 4-0 win at the Winnipeg Jets, to put him at 498. 

In past seasons, Hossa scoring two goals in the final nine games of the regular season would have been looked upon as a foregone conclusion; this season, there's no guarantee he'll get to 500.

Even if his 500th goal is the last he scores in the regular season, Hossa will set a new low for goals in a season, one fewer than the 15 he scored in 1998-99, his first full season with the Ottawa Senators.

Hossa scored 22 goals in 82 games last season, a drop from 30 goals in 2013-14, but the drop this season has been steeper. Hossa went from a 12.4 shooting percentage in 2013-14 to 8.9 last season; he's at 6.7 this season. He leads the Blackhawks in individual scoring chances per game (2.18), according to War-On-Ice.com, but has no answers for why his production has taken a nosedive. 

Video: PHI@CHI: Hossa finishes the shorthanded breakaway

"I don't know why, but I've had great chances this season," he said. "I should have way more goals than I do, but that's not my focus. My focus is the overall game. I would definitely love to have a lot more goals, and I should, but if not, I'll try to help a different way."

That approach is what makes Hossa one of the most complete players in the game, even as he creeps into his upper 30s. Despite a career that includes three seasons of 40 or more goals, eight of 30 or more, and 15 of 20 or more, Hossa craves great defensive plays as much as scoring.

That's the biggest reason Hossa has stayed on the Blackhawks' top line for the bulk of his seven seasons in Chicago, including this one. Hossa is as effective defensively as he is offensively, and that's why he plays on the penalty kill and the power play.

"It's what we always say about [him]," said Jonathan Toews, who is Blackhawks captain and Hossa's linemate. "He's an unbelievable two-way player. Even at his age, to see how hard he works with the skill level that he has, it's pretty amazing. I can't really think of another player that does what he does in the League, or in the world, really."

Video: CHI@DAL: Hossa cuts, shoots and scores

One other player does come to mind, in terms of age, but Hossa isn't ready to compare himself to Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr, the 44-year-old who has 24 goals this season.  

"You know what, everybody's different," said Hossa, who has five more seasons to go on his contract. "Obviously, he's a freak of nature, or something like that, because at 44, and having a season like that, that's unreal. It's unbelievable, and he's one of the best. That's why he's top three in all-time scoring, and it's amazing. But everybody's different. I don't look at him because he's 44 [and think] I can also play that long or do those things, because everybody's different."

Opponents who've played against Hossa say he's different than most too. Despite a few lingering health issues, Hossa is in good shape, has good speed and hounds the puck at each end of the rink.

He's just not scoring as many goals, a source of frustration for him. 

Video: CHI@ARI: Hossa goes short side for equalizer

This season, Hossa has had two seven-game goal droughts, one of six games and two of five. He's changed the tape on his stick more times than he'd like to admit, hoping to spark a hot streak. It hasn't worked.

"Three years ago, scoring 30, that wasn't that bad," Hossa said. "Last year, I played all the [regular-season] games and I was happy about it. This season is definitely not what I expected, goal-wise, offensively, especially with as many chances as I've had. That's a tough one, but it is what it is. I'm still going to play my game, no matter what happens."

That attitude is appreciated in the Blackhawks dressing room, where Hossa's contributions to three Stanley Cup championships in the past six seasons have not gone unnoticed.

"He's an amazing player, amazing teammate, and it's going to be a fun milestone to see him achieve," Patrick Kane said. "Five-hundred goals in the NHL is no joke. For him to achieve that, he's had to have a lot of great years, a lot of consistency over his career. He's scored some big goals for us as well. That'll be a cool moment when it finally happens."

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