Hossa continues to amaze even Blackhawks teammates

It was a recent Sunday matinee game against the Blues, and there was Marian Hossa skating into the St. Louis zone with the puck.

There he was fending off one defender by using his big body as a shield.

There he was deking out another Blues player deeper in the zone … and then another.

Eventually Hossa lost control of the puck near the goal line, but his efforts didn't go unnoticed as the sold-out crowd at the United Center roared its approval for his little piece of stickhandling magic.

It wasn't Hossa's first that weekend.

"He put on a show," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Very entertaining."

Indeed it was. Not only for the fans, but for his teammates as well, who despite having witnessed the 35-year-old's artistry on a daily basis, are continuously left in head-shaking awe at what the Blackhawks forward can do - at both ends of the ice.

Hossa, who recently hit the 30-goal mark for the eighth time in his career and who was among league leaders in take-aways with 75 in 72 games this season, may not be the first name that comes to mind when Blackhawks stars are mentioned.

But ask anyone on the team, and they'll tell you just how special big No. 81 really is.

From the very young …

• "It's just fun to watch some of the things he does out there in practice. Game in and game out, the way he controls the puck and can get the puck back when he wants is amazing," rookie Jeremy Morin said. "To me, he's the ultimate pro."

• "It's a good thing he's on my team," rookie goalie Antti Raanta said. "He's playing PK, scoring short-handed goals. As a goalie, you never know where he's going to shoot.

"He's almost like the perfect player."

• "To be able to watch Marian Hossa every night and practice with him is pretty awesome for a guy like me who's trying to break in here," Ben Smith said. "He's so strong on the puck. He plays both ways. He can score, make plays … but he takes as much pride in the defensive end as he does in the offensive end.

"He's a great role model."

To the veterans …

• "He's just so strong on the puck," Duncan Keith said. "There are so many times you can point out a play that he makes for us out there. It's very impressive to see how strong he is, how he can guard the puck and how calm he is in tight spaces. Most guys would panic."

• "It's unbelievable," Bryan Bickell said. "It still looks like he's 25 in the gym. He's still got it. We're just happy he's on our side."

• "He's as skilled as they come," captain Jonathan Toews said. "And at his age to keep working, have that work ethic, on both sides of the puck, I think is amazing."

To his coach …

• "He's a perfect pro," Quenneville said. "You're fortunate to coach a guy like that in your career. The consistency that he brings is the best compliment you could give him.

"Every time he's on the ice it seems like he's always doing the right things."

And because Hossa plays at such a high level in his own end as well, Toews thinks his teammate would be a perfect candidate for the Selke Trophy for the top defensive forward in the league.

"Sometimes it takes people to recognize and talk about it for him to get some attention and get some traction for an award like that," the captain said. "To me, he's definitely deserving."

But that's talk for the off-season. The focus now for the Hawks is the postseason, which opens Thursday night in St. Louis.

The last time we saw Hossa in the playoffs was in the Stanley Cup Final, when he essentially was playing at about 50 percent against the Boston Bruins.

"There was a disc in my back shooting in my nerve," Hossa revealed after the series. "Basically I didn't feel my right foot. It was numb all the time.

"I just thought I could skate on one leg."

Well, bad news for Hawks opponents: It looks like Big Hoss is tan, rested and ready to roll this postseason.

"The last couple of years he's had some injuries, but he looks healthy now," Bickell said. "If he's healthy, he's going to be one of those guys.

"The sky's the limit."

And it may continue that way for years to come.

"He takes care of himself," Keith said. "He's 35. I think there's still a lot of good hockey left in him."

Maybe even another decade?

Raanta says yes.

"I think he's going to play like 10 more years," the goalie said. "He's in that good of shape."

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