Blackhawks will continue to keep an eye on Marian Hossa
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter February 25, 2014 7:09PM
Updated: February 26, 2014 2:26AM
Of the 10 Blackhawks who participated in the Sochi Olympics, veteran forward Marian Hossa bears the most watching.
Though Hossa is playing as well as he has in his five seasons with the Hawks, he’s still 35, has 16 NHL seasons on him and has a recent history of nagging injuries.
But Hossa and Slovakian teammate Michal Handzus showed little, if any, effect from the Olympics when they returned to the ice for practice Tuesday at Johnny’s IceHouse West.
‘‘I was surprised how well they skated, how much energy they had, so it was good to see them return,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said.
As it turned out, except for a couple of long plane flights, the Olympics were a relative break for Hossa. Slovakia was a disappointing 0-3-1 in Sochi, so Hossa has played in only four games in the last 18 days. He played in eight games with the Hawks in the same span last season and in 10 in that span in 2011-12.
The biggest challenge seemed to be jet lag, and
Hossa said he was over that.
‘‘So far, I feel good; I felt normal,’’ Hossa said after practice. ‘‘The time change is good now. I’ve been here a few days. It’s nice to get back and get ready for the rest of the season.’’
Hossa, who scored two goals in the Olympics, has 24 goals and 50 points in 55 games this season, and his plus-26 rating is tied for third in the NHL. Quenneville has managed Hossa’s ice time in practices and morning skates to maximize his performance and said he will continue to give Hossa ‘‘maintenance days’’ on an as-needed basis.
‘‘He feels good right now,’’ Quenneville said.
But Quenneville indicated all the Olympians will get the same consideration.
‘‘If they need a day off, they’ll get it because we prioritize games,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘But I don’t foresee a lot of practices between now and the rest of the season.’’
Though he was disappointed with Slovakia’s performance in Sochi, Hossa made the most of the trip.
‘‘Obviously, our team didn’t finish the way we wanted,’’ he said. ‘‘We definitely weren’t satisfied with what we achieved there. But the overall experience was great. I think everybody was a little worried [about] going to Russia, but I think they did an
excellent [job]. Everything went pretty smooth. The
security and the villages, the stadiums, everything was top-notch. Even the food was great. So no complaints at all.’’
Handzus echoed that sentiment but couldn’t hide his disappointment when asked about his experience.
‘‘It was all right,’’ he said. ‘‘Obviously, our team didn’t play very well. It wasn’t
as much fun as you would have liked.
‘‘The experience there was awesome. I think everything they did over there was real nice. The rinks were nice. The village was awesome. It was beautiful weather, too — better than [Chicago]. So the experience was pretty good. But, obviously, we go there for hockey, and it wasn’t as much fun. We don’t really look at it as a positive thing.’’
NOTES: With Olympians Marian Hossa, Michal
Handzus and Michal Rozsival on the ice, the Hawks practiced with 15 players.
‘‘It . . . got us up to three lines, which is progress,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘We did get better as we progressed over the last couple of days.’’
◆ Quenneville said one or two of the remaining seven Olympians might skate at practice Wednesday, but the rest won’t participate until the morning skate Thursday in New York before facing the Rangers.
◆ Quenneville said goalie Corey Crawford, who started 14 of the last 16 games before the break, will play ‘‘the bulk of the games’’ in the 22-game stretch before the playoffs.
‘‘Crow likes to play,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘He handles a big workload and doesn’t have a problem with it. But his play will dictate a lot of that, as well.’’