Chicago Blackhawks know importance of Hossa

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa, left, celebrates with Ryan Hartman (38) after scoring a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, in New York. Hossa has been out since Dec. 20 with an upper-body injury.

    Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa, left, celebrates with Ryan Hartman (38) after scoring a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, in New York. Hossa has been out since Dec. 20 with an upper-body injury.

 
 
Updated 1/3/2017 8:20 PM

It has been a fairly eventful season for the Chicago Blackhawks in terms of dealing with injuries to key players.

They've weathered each storm fairly well, going 6-3-1 without Corey Crawford, 5-2-2 without Jonathan Toews, 1-0-1 without Brent Seabrook and 1-2-2 without Artem Anisimov.

 

One player the Hawks haven't been able to live without, though, is 37-year-old Marian Hossa, who has missed the last five games (and most of a sixth) with an upper-body injury.

"We all know how big a part he is of this team," Niklas Hjalmarsson said after the Hawks lost to the Blues 4-1 in the Winter Classic on Monday in St. Louis. "He's played as good as any season that he's been here, even though he's getting up there in age. He's been huge for us this year."

No doubt about that.

Hossa is tied with Anisimov for the team lead in goals with 16 in 34 games, many of them changing or deciding games.

Including the contest in which Hossa was injured (a 4-3 loss to Ottawa on Dec. 20), the Hawks are 1-5-1 without him in the lineup. (He also missed the fifth game of the season, a 3-2 loss at Columbus).

With Hossa, the Hawks are 22-7-4, which is a 119-point pace over an entire season.

"Every time he's on the ice he's a threat, especially this year," Patrick Kane said. "We miss him. It will be nice to get him back, hopefully soon here."

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During the 2015-16 campaign, Hossa was out of the lineup 18 times due to injury, but the Hawks went 9-5-4 in those games.

But as Kane noted, this is a different Hossa and his absence has left a huge hole at the top of the lineup and on the power play. Also, last season coach Joel Quenneville was able to put Andrew Shaw or Andrew Ladd with Jonathan Toews, whereas now he's running Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza with Toews.

Hartman and Hinostroza certainly have had their moments, but they are rookies who still are learning the ropes of playing at the highest level.

The Hawks were hoping Hossa could return to face Buffalo on Thursday, but the team assigned Tyler Motte to Rockford while recalling forward Spencer Abbott, putting Hossa's availability in doubt.

Whenever Hossa can return, it should be a boost to a squad that has just 8 goals in the last five games.

"He's a huge part of our team offensively and defensively," Duncan Keith said. "Just a powerful player for us. Hangs on to pucks and he's hard to take the puck away from.

"He kind of enhances our whole game. … He's a good example for all of us."

Slap shots:

• Tyler Motte's demotion to Rockford on Tuesday shouldn't come as a huge surprise. The rookie out of Michigan got off to a fast start with 3 goals and 3 assists in the first 12 games, but he has just 1 goal and no assists since getting injured in the 13th game of the season.

• Spencer Abbott, recalled by the Hawks, leads Rockford with 8 goals and 13 assists in 30 games.

• Blackhawks charities announced that country music star Tyler Farr will perform a charity concert at Joe's Bar on 940 W. Weed St. in Chicago to benefit Keith Relief and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. General-admission tickets are $80, VIP tickets $275. They may be purchased starting Friday at 10 a.m. via duncankeith.com/keith-relief-concert.

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