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Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa back to feeling fine

Marian HossPatrick Sharp

Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp

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Marian Hossa expected all of it — the earlier arrivals to the rink, the extra stretching, the longer stints in the training room. Closing in on 35 years old, in his 16th season in the league, and nursing a nerve issue in his back that cost him the entire preseason and threatened to linger the rest of his career, Hossa knew what lay ahead, and he was braced for it.

There was one thing, however, he didn’t expect: To feel this good.

“To tell you the truth, I am a little bit surprised,” Hossa said. “Which is good. That’s a nice surprise. I’m glad, because I was a little worried in training camp how it was going to play out. But I am pretty pleased with how it is.”

Hossa — who welcomed his second daughter, Zoja, into the world on Tuesday — hasn’t missed a game this season, and after Thursday’s home game against Phoenix, expects to play in his sixth set of back-to-back games this weekend. He’s averaging more than 18 minutes of ice time per game, and only appears to be getting stronger and better as his timing returns.

Hossa has four goals and four assists in seven games since the Blackhawks’ new top line of Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Hossa was assembled on Oct. 28.

“That’s what I needed, just to play more and more games to get into it,” Hossa said.

Given Hossa’s style of play — that defensively sound, 200-foot game — and the physical toll that takes, it’s even more impressive that he’s been able to log heavy minutes in every game. But Toews, for one, isn’t terribly surprised by how well Hossa has held up.

“He’s never satisfied,” Toews said. “He prepares himself so well. I think it’s just his competitiveness.”

As Hossa sat out the entire preseason while dealing with the effects of the back injury that forced him out of Game 3 of the Final against Boston in June, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said he’d have to monitor his star’s minutes, and perhaps give him more nights off during the season to keep him healthy.

But that hasn’t been the case. Quenneville said he can tell when a player’s hurting, and when it’s time to ask a player if he needs a break. That time hasn’t come for Hossa.

“I just assume he’s ready,” Quenneville said.

The first few weeks of the season wound up being Hossa’s personal training camp, and his timing was slow to return. But now he seems to be hitting his stride. Not coincidentally, so does the Hawks offense, which has scored five goals or more in five of its last seven games.

“The summer was so short, and I couldn’t really work on the things I usually do in the summer because of my back, I needed to have a long period of time to rest,” Hossa said. “But right now, I feel normal.”

Not normal for a guy who’s nearly 35 and has nearly 1,200 NHL games under his belt. Normal for Marian Hossa. Which really isn’t normal at all.

“He’s the horse,” Toews said. “He doesn’t stop. He’s always been one of the best in the world at what he does, and he still is.”

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