Blackhawks

Hossa primed for a big year

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Hossa primed for a big year

Marian Hossa finally got a restful summer.

The Chicago Blackhawks right wing had basically played four seasons' worth of hockey in three, thanks to back-to-back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances. It had taken it's toll. So as disappointed as he was in that the Blackhawks' run ended early last season, he appreciated the chance to rest, get away from the game and train the way he wants.

And just two games in, it's showing.

Hossa did everything but score a goal in his first two games, and that is something that coach Joel Quenneville has appreciated in Hossa all along. Hossa has a complete game, one that's as strong defensively as it is offensively. And the points will get there soon enough.

"You can look at the stat sheet, but whether he scores or not you know he has the puck, he strips people of it, he protects it, he has it and his positioning is always strong," Quenneville said. "He does some amazing things out there. That's how I appreciate what he brings to our team."

Hossa didn't miss a beat despite joining the Blackhawks five days after training camp began and he's been one of the team's top performers in their first two games. He recorded eight shots in Dallas and looks as fit and energetic as ever.

"Mentally and physically, it takes a toll whether it's one summer (of a lot of hockey) or three. For a guy like that (the long break) makes a huge difference," Jonathan Toews said. "Whether you increase expectations or not, he looks good out there. I think he's ready to play his best hockey and that's only going to help us."

And as much as everyone would like to see the high point totals immediately, Hossa is also aiming for another big number elsewhere.

"For sure I would like to play 80, 82 games. That would be my goal," he said recently. "Because I had the longer summer and recovery program, hopefully that helps."

His speed and strength have been evident from the outset. When the Blackhawks went with seven defensemen instead of 12 forwards in their season opener, Hossa double-shifted. He's also found chemistry with Patrick Kane, whose move to center gave the Blackhawks the chance to get the two together. Kane said he's noticed how the summer has benefitted Hossa.

"He looks like he has a powerful stride this year," Kane said. "He's a great backchecker and great defensive player stripping other guys. I'm just happy to be playing with a guy like that and hopefully I just get him the puck in good areas. He looks fast, he looks strong, he looks ready like he's ready to have a big year."

There's no reason to think Hossa won't have a big year again. He had time to recover from those injuries that plagued him the past few seasons. His complete game. A plethora of points shouldn't be far behind.

"I think he's got surprise shots on the ice; he's so quick," said Michael Frolik. "I know he hasn't scored but it's just about that time. He had eight shots in Dallas. It's going to go in soon."

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information

Blackhawks can't match Oilers' intensity as Connor McDavid leads way in Game 2

Blackhawks can't match Oilers' intensity as Connor McDavid leads way in Game 2

Let's be honest: The Blackhawks dominated the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1. The final score was 6-4, but there was never a doubt as to which team was in the driver’s seat from start to finish.

So going into Game 2, the Blackhawks knew the Oilers would come out desperate.

"We’d be naïve," head coach Jeremy Colliton said before the game, "if we don’t think they’re going to throw everything they have at us."

And that's what the Oilers did. To be more exact: That's what Connor McDavid did.

After scoring 2:34 into Game 1, the two-time Art Ross Trophy winner scored 19 seconds into Game 2 and then again 3:46 later to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead before the Blackhawks even knew what hit them. He completed the hat trick in the second period, giving him four goals through two games so far.

It was clear from the first shift Game 2 would have a different feeling than Game 1. The Oilers, this time, were in control and they followed No. 97's lead.

"They were much better as a team than they were in Game 1, so give them credit there," Jonathan Toews said following a 6-3 loss on Monday. "And to add to the fact, I don't think we made things as hard on them as we did in the first game. So everything we did in that first game, we've got to step all that team game up a notch.

"McDavid's obviously a focus for me, and when we're not making things hard enough for them offensively, then we get ourselves in spots where we end up taking penalties, and you know what happens on the power play, a guy like McDavid's going to make you play. A couple times early in the game, we give him grade A chances and he's not making any mistakes. You know what we're going to get out of him every game, so we've got to be better on him."

You just knew McDavid wouldn’t let his team fall behind 2-0 in a series that easily, especially as the No. 5 seed in their own building. He certainly looked extra motivated to be a factor at even strength after being shut down in Game 1 — all three of his points came on the power play.

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This was a virtual must-win for the Oilers. Only one team in NHL history has overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series: New York Islanders in 1985 after losing Games 1 and 2 in overtime to the Washington Capitals then rallying to win the next three.

"Connor led the way," Oilers forward Tyler Ennis said. "He set the tone for us and gave us a spark. That's exactly what we needed, and everybody followed."

Credit the Blackhawks for clawing back and showing the kind of resiliency that helped them win Game 1. They fell behind 2-0 and tied it up at 3-3 before McDavid's hat trick put the Oilers back in front 4-3.

The game got away from the Blackhawks in the third period, where they were out-chanced 10-1. But that what was bound to happen for a team that was playing catch-up all game.

In the end, the Blackhawks won't sugarcoat their overall performance. It was no secret the Oilers would come out hungry, and the Blackhawks simply didn't match their intensity.

"Ultimately, we didn’t play to the level we need to to beat this team," Colliton said. "We knew going into this series it would be a challenge. ... It’s a 1-1 series, I’m sure no one picked us to sweep them. They won a game, now we have to find a way to be better on Wednesday, and we will."

Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner kneels with Ryan Reaves during National Anthem

Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner kneels with Ryan Reaves during National Anthem

On Monday, former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner, currently with the Vegas Golden Knights, knelt during the National Anthem with teammate Ryan Reaves before Vegas' round-robin game against the Dallas Stars.

Stars forwards Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson joined Lehner and Reaves in taking a knee.

The Associated Press' Stephen Whyno reported Reaves approached Seguin during pregame warmups to inform him that the Golden Knights teammates intended to kneel during the National Anthem. Seguin told his teammates on Dallas in the locker room and Dickinson wanted to join.

"I made a mistake once, putting a Trump sticker on my mask. That is something I regret now... At the end of the day it's about human rights, not politics," Lehner told the media following the game.

The Golden Knights won the contest 5-3 with Lehner as the starting goalie.

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