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Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa relishes return to playoffs

Updated: June 4, 2013 6:33AM

The easy story line here is that Marian Hossa — after the hit, the concussion, the fear, the rehab, the doubts, the comeback — looks at the playoffs as some sort of gift. That 54 weeks after Raffi Torres ended his season and jeopardized his career, Hossa stops and takes a moment to think about how lucky he is every time he steps on the ice in a postseason that not too long ago seemed impossibly far away.

But that’s not the story line here. That was the story line late in the summer and into the fall, when the headaches, dizziness and fogginess finally started to fade for good.

‘‘I was more thinking about it in the summer, when I was training and I was getting back on the ice,’’ Hossa said. ‘‘That’s when I was thinking about it, like, ‘This is great, I can play again. The symptoms are getting better. I feel good again.’ ’’

No, the story line here isn’t that Hossa has made his triumphant return to the playoffs — scoring a goal in Game 1, even — after the horrifying and sudden end to his season last April 17. The story line here is that there’s really no longer anything special about it. That
Hossa is just another player again — well, just another world-class, Hall of Fame-caliber player, at least.

The hit? The rehab? The doubt? The early apprehension? It’s all in the past. Hossa’s back in the playoffs, and the fact that it’s not that big a deal — to him, at least — is kind of a big deal.

‘‘He’s a huge part of our team in any game,’’ winger Patrick Kane said. ‘‘He’s been a great player ever since I’ve been watching him as a little kid, and he still is today. He does so much on the ice you kind of shake your head at or want to take some notes because he’s so good. It’s always great to have him back, especially in a playoff series.’’

His absence certainly was felt in Games 4-6 of the Hawks’ first-round series last season against the Phoenix Coyotes. Brandon Saad, a 19-year-old rookie, took his spot for two games and acquitted himself well, but few can do what Hossa can.

‘‘He’s a top player that is so effective [playing] how we need to play, how we should play, and the way he checks and pursues pucks defensively is as good as anybody in the game,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘He makes us a better team, for sure.’’

While Hossa looks like his old self on the ice, there are subtle signs his grueling seven-month rehab has changed him slightly off the ice. Kane said there were times in the past when Hossa would let something that happened on the ice eat at him a bit. Now, he hardly ever sees Hossa angry.

Some of that simply comes with age. Hossa’s only 34, but he has a lot of mileage on him after entering the league as an 18-year-old with the Ottawa Senators. So, sure, Hossa’s excited to be back on the ice and back in the playoffs. These are the games, after all, that drove him through his rehab. This is what he was coming back for.

But while he won’t dwell on what happened last season or on how fortunate he is to be back in the playoffs, the experience certainly has given him a wider perspective.

‘‘You never want to end a season
by injury, like I did last year,’’ he said. ‘‘This is a new year, and I’m looking forward to it. This is when you want to play, so enjoy this
moment. You never know how long you’re going to [have], so you try to put everything into the next game.’’

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