Hossa returns, Q shakes it up as Blackhawks pound Red Wings
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter March 16, 2014 9:04PM
Updated: March 16, 2014 10:13PM
Sure, part of it was the work ethic instilled during an intense Saturday practice spent on battles along the boards. And yeah, a dramatic shakeup of the lines surely injected some life into the Blackhawks offense.
But Sunday night’s 4-1 victory over the injury-ravaged Detroit Red Wings can be summed up pretty simply: Marian Hossa’s back.
“I guess you could say it was pretty evident tonight that we had been missing him the last couple of weeks,” Ben Smith said.
Hossa returned from a five-game absence with an upper-body injury to score a goal and two assists. Meanwhile, Smith took advantage of a surprise — even to him — first-period move to second-line center to post a goal and an assist, and Duncan Keith chipped in a pair of assists as the Hawks offense came to life after scoring just two goals in each of the last three games.
It started at the top, where Hossa had an immediate impact with Jonathan Toews and Kris Versteeg.
“He changes the look, the complexion of that line and our team game,” said Joel Quenneville, who deemed Friday’s effort in a loss to Nashville the worst of the season, prompting the heightened practice and the line changes. “We seem to have the puck a lot more when he’s out there.”
One big negative in an otherwise happy night was an upper-body injury suffered by Brandon Saad, who left the game midway through the second period and didn’t return. Quenneville said he “seemed all right” and that he didn’t “think it’s too serious,” but said he’d have a better idea on Monday.
Other than that, it was a much-needed uplifting night for the Hawks, who stayed one point behind second-place Colorado.
“I’m glad I can help a little bit,” Hossa said. “I thought everybody played pretty well.”
After a scoreless first period, Nick Leddy scored a power-play goal through a Smith screen at 8:44 of the second. After Gustav Nyquist tied it on a power play, Smith scored a huge goal with 13.7 seconds left to make it 2-1.
Smith had no idea he’d get a shot at playing with Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell, but made the most of it. A center in college who’s been converted to right wing, Smith not only had the goal and assist, he won 7-of-10 faceoffs. The restricted free-agent-to-be (there have been no talks between his agent and the Hawks) has been coming on strong lately.
“You have to be prepared for any opportunity,” he said. “Any opportunity you get, any chance, you have to try to make the most of it, and I was just trying to work hard and complement those two guys.”
Hossa scored off a Patrick Sharp feed early in the third, then Hossa set up Jonathan Toews for a shorthanded goal to seal it.
Quenneville doesn’t mess with what works, so expect Smith to be back on the second line Tuesday in Philadelphia.
“I liked our lines,” Quenneville said. “I liked the balance, I liked the pace, I liked the four-line rotation. It’s only one game, but it seems like a real balanced attack.”