Raffi Torres claims he is trying to change his ways.
But talk is cheap.
Torres and Marian Hossa will be on the same ice Thursday night for the first time since last April when Torres sent the Blackhawks star to the hospital on a stretcher with a hit in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series.
The illegal hit earned Torres, who was not penalized on the play, a 25-game suspension that was later reduced to 21 by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman after Torres and the players union appealed. He returned to the lineup only last Saturday for the Coyotes, vowing to be a different player than the one who ran around hunting heads.
Like Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke, who changed the way he played after numerous suspensions and dirty hits, Torres is trying to do the same thing.
“It’s only been two games, but it is what it is,” Torres told reporters on Wednesday. “We have to protect the top players in the league and if it’s going to take me kind of thinking out there instead of running around with my head cut off, then that’s what it’s going to take.
“At the end of the day I need to keep playing, this is what I want to do, and if I want to keep playing in this league I’m going to have to change my way.”
Torres didn’t have any regret in his voice when he talked about the hit on Hossa.
“I was over it the day after they told me I got 25 games,” Torres said. “It’s not a big deal. I don’t think about it every day.”
Since he broke into the NHL with the New York Islanders in 2001, Torres’ contributions have come from his combination of skill and physical presence.
The problem for Torres is that some of his hits have led to suspensions and a reputation as a dirty player.
Torres was suspended four games in 2011 for a hit to the head of Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle while playing for Vancouver and again for two games last season for charging Minnesota Wild defenseman Nate Prosser.
Torres also launched himself into the head of the Blackhawks’ Brent Seabrook in the 2011 playoffs while with Vancouver that gave Seabrook a concussion. Torres wasn’t suspended for that play.
Torres’ hit on Hossa came when he hurled himself into the Hawks forward and sent him sprawling to the ice. Hossa missed the remainder of the series.
Torres’ eventual 21-game suspension was the longest for an on-ice offense since Islanders forward Chris Simon was banned 30 games for stomping on the ankle of Pittsburgh’s Jarrko Ruutu in December 2007.
League disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan cited Torres’ discipline history as one of the factors in determining the length of the suspension.
With the help of Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, Torres has searched for ways to maintain his ferocity, but not earn the suspensions that have come with it.
“(It’s) just focusing on instead of going for the big hit, just kind of rubbing guys out and trying to take the puck at the same time,” Torres told the Associated Press. “He showed me a bunch of clips where I was thinking puck first and hit second and it worked out, where I got a lot of scoring chances out of it. It’s just a matter of me controlling my emotions throughout the game.”
The Hawks (8-0-2) will be looking for their ninth win without a regulation loss. They rallied to beat San Jose 5-3 on Tuesday, taking advantage of a controversial play that went their way in the second period.
It was at 8:48 when Andrew Desjardins hit Jamal Mayers in the open ice that appeared on replays to be clean. But Desjardins was handed a match penalty for hitting Mayers in the head. Even though Duncan Keith jumped in and earned 19 minutes in penalties, the Hawks got a power play for one minute when all was sorted out.
The match penalty to Desjardins was quickly rescinded.
“I thought there were other turning points in the game,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “We were sloppy. We were stripped of the puck a number of times, which is disappointing. We were on the power play twice and took penalties. Were we sharp enough to win? I don’t know. But (Desjardins’ hit) certainly was the turning point
“At that point we were still in the game, and we had every opportunity to win. We probably should have been on a four-minute power play. That was a good hockey play. I think that’s what we all want to see (good hockey plays).”
The Hawks, who fell behind 2-0 in the game’s first five minutes, got 2 goals from Patrick Kane and 1 each from Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger and Brandon Saad — his first in the NHL.
“I liked how we battled back,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Associated Press contributed.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.