Hawks rally in Hossa's absence
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The Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson gets a face full of glass after being checked by the Canucks' Henrik Sedin on Saturday.
Two days after getting Marian Hossa back from a lower-body injury, the Blackhawks had to play without their veteran star again on Saturday against Vancouver.
Without Hossa, the Hawks looked lethargic for much of the first two periods before getting goals nine seconds apart early in the third from Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger en route to a 2-1 win over the Canucks at Rogers Arena.
Hossa returned to Chicago to attend to what Hawks coach Joel Quenneville called a family matter.
"I think it's OK, but I don't know yet," Quenneville told reporters after the morning skate.
Hossa was coming off a big game Thursday at Winnipeg, where he showed his value to the team with a goal and assist in a 6-3 win.
It meant the Hawks would face one of their biggest rivals in the Canucks without Hossa and injured left wing Bryan Bickell.
They were also again without center Michal Handzus, who returned to practice on Saturday but did not play.
Quenneville left the door open to Handzus possibly playing on Monday at Edmonton.
"I don't know whether it's the next game or at Calgary (on Wednesday), but we expect him to be joining us real soon," said Quenneville, who is looking to have the veteran back for a lot of reasons.
"Last year when he joined our team we used him in a bunch of different ways," Quenneville said. "He can play center and kills penalties for us. Defensively, he's very reliable. You're comfortable with him in a lot of different places. I think he'll be easy to slot on a line."
Ryan Kesler's goal on a rebound against Corey Crawford during a 5-on-3 power play with 1:27 left in the first period gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead.
It stood until Shaw redirected a spinning backhand pass from Patrick Kane past Roberto Luongo.
Kruger beat Luongo through the pads nine seconds later.
Crawford had a huge third period to keep the Hawks in the lead.
It was the first meeting of the season with the Canucks, who have been a bitter rival of the Hawks ever since they met three straight years in the playoffs starting in 2009.
"When you play these guys three (years) in a row in the playoffs, it's still there and it just takes the drop of the puck to rekindle that intensity," Quenneville said.
Kris Versteeg left the rivalry for a while but didn't needs to be reminded what it was like.
"It all started back in '09 when they were the favorite team and we came in here as a bunch of young bucks and ended up I guess shocking them and shocking ourselves as well," Versteeg told reporters.
Hawks captain Jonathan Toews has been right in the middle of the rivalry since the infamous line brawl at the United Center in 2009 that really started it all.
"We know exactly what we're going to get from Vancouver," Toews said. "I think the core of their team, the guys that have been there for quite a few years, are always going to make sure everyone in that locker room is ready and the same goes for the group in here.
"I think you're seeing some rivalries with teams like St. Louis evolve a little bit, but I don't think this one is going away anytime soon."
After allowing 15 goals in their previous four games prior to Saturday, the Hawks were looking for an improved defensive effort.
"I think that's the one thing with our team, we're always comfortable with the offense that we do have, but keeping the puck out of out net has been a problem recently with us," Quenneville said.
"Whether it's our penalty killing or whether it's 5-on-5 play, we're giving too many goals up. We want to make sure we tighten things up and play a lot more responsible without the puck. I think everybody should assume some of that responsibility from the goalies on out."
•Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.
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