Blackhawks

Marian Hossa has earned respect of former teammates, opponents

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Marian Hossa has earned respect of former teammates, opponents

Daniel Alfredsson got his first glimpse of Marian Hossa during the 1997-98 season.

Hossa was coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury and only played seven games with the Ottawa Senators that season, his first in the NHL, but Alfredsson saw plenty of potential.

“You could tell right away that he was going to be a player,” said Alfredsson. “I was impressed with his work ethic and obviously his speed and raw talents. Once he made the team full the following year, he became an important player right away. The player and the person you always wish the best for because he always brings everything.”

Nearly 20 seasons later, Hossa is one of the best and most respected players in the league. He’s also on the cusp of 500 career NHL goals, sitting at 498 heading into Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. For those who opposed or played alongside Hossa, the talent on offense and defense was undeniable from the start.

“It’s very impressive, 500 goals. To some people it may not sound like a lot, but when you break it down and do the math, that’s 10 50-goal seasons or 20 25-goal seasons, those are incredible numbers,” said Patrick Sharp, who was part of three Stanley Cup teams with Hossa. “But when I think of Hoss, I don’t think of the goal scoring. I think of him as a great teammate, a great friend and a guy a coach can put on the ice in any situation and any time of the game. And that’s why he’s so valuable to a team.”

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Marty Turco was Hossa’s teammate for one season; the goaltender faced Hossa over several other seasons. Turco believes he fared pretty well vs. Hossa during his career — “that’s why I’m smiling right now,” he said. But from a goaltender’s perspective, trying to figure out what Hossa was going to do was always a challenge.

“You always paid attention to a few guys. When Hossa’s playing, wherever he was, you knew where he was on the ice. He’s that adept at getting lost,” Turco said. “For me, I had to get out high enough because of his closing speed. Forehand, backhand, deke, he had no tendencies; he had everything in the bag.”

Alfredsson described Hossa’s shot as “deceptive.”

“He shoots in stride better than almost everybody,” Alfredsson said. “He doesn’t have a really hard shot. If you watch in practice, something goalies aren’t afraid of in terms of power. It’s the deceptiveness. It makes his hard for goalies to read when he shoots in stride. He obviously reads the goalies well.”

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Hossa has closed in on 500 goals while maintaining a strong defensive game. While Hossa said he learned plenty in that department from Pavel Datsyuk when the two played together in Detroit in 2007-08, Hossa’s always had a strong two-way game. In that respect, he’s become a goaltender and defenseman’s best friend.

“Obviously other teams see him as an offensive player and the force he is on the ice. But you never see the little plays, just coming back to support, especially when he’s on a line with (Jonathan) Toews for a long time,” former teammate Johnny Oduya said. “Playing off him, helping him out, too, makes Toews a better defensive player. Whoever is on that (other) side is going to have an easier job because of Hoss taking so much responsibility on his side. As a D man, it’s great to have that.”

Hossa has achieved some great things in his career. He’s played in more than 1,000 regular-season games. He’s won three Stanley Cups. He should probably have won Selke Trophy or two, too, but that’s another discussion for another story. Now he’s on the cusp of scoring 500 goals. Hossa has become one of the great players in the league. Those who saw him in those early years aren’t surprised.

“I consider myself lucky to have played with him,” Alfredsson said. “I tried to help him when he came in the league, but we helped each other during our time together. I have a lot of respect for him, and we work very well together. He’ll be a friend for life.”

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

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AP

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.