Marian Hossa, now on third line, an unsung hero in Blackhawks' recent runChicago Tribune — By Chris Hine Chicago Tribune
March 20-- When the Blackhawks go on a run like they have in capturing 34 of a possible 40 points since January, it's natural to think Marian Hossa has been among the top scorers.
The 38-year-old winger has played on the top two lines for most of his career, including his eight seasons with the Hawks. It's noteworthy that the Hawks have been thriving without Hossa among the top six forwards or scoring much-and they have actually been better and more balanced as a result.
Hossa, who missed the last two games because of a lower-body injury, has been an unsung hero of this run because of his willingness to accept a third-line role without question or complaint.
"He is part of our core and part of our leadership group," said winger Ryan Hartman, who has often played with Hossa over the last two months. "He does such a good job when he has had games with those top guys, and then he comes to our line (and) has that same expectation that he wants to be a goal scorer."
But Hossa recognizes his game is more defensive-oriented than it was earlier this season. He hasn't been scoring at the same clip-through January, he had 18 goals in 46 games when Jonathan Toews and the now-injured Artem Anisimov were his centers. He has four goals in 18 games since with the defensive-minded Marcus Kruger and Tanner Kero.
The reduction in scoring doesn't mean Hossa has been ineffective. His defensive prowess has helped coach Joel Quenneville balance his lines, and while Quenneville can rely on the top two lines to score, he can send out Hossa and his linemates to shut teams down.
"It's now a different game," Hossa said, "and when you play, for example, on the second line with (Anisimov and Artemi Panarin), you play more with the puck and more minutes and you create more chances obviously with more production.
"When you play on the third line, you have a little bit different responsibility. You don't go on the ice as much and you're probably not going to get pucks as often as if you're playing with the players who are more skilled and have more ice time. So you adjust your game a little bit and try to play a more defensive role."
The new role has meant a slight reduction in ice time for Hossa, who averaged 17 minutes, 6 seconds through January. His average is 15:58 since, but it's not a big deal for Hossa as long as he is playing significant minutes.
"We try to make the most out of it, and if we score some goals, that's a bonus," Hossa said. "But we want to make sure we spend as much time as possible in their zone, and that's the key."
Hossa isn't going to throw a fit or go to Quenneville to demand his old slot back at right wing on the top line with Toews. And because of his commitment to put the team above his personal scoring numbers, the Hawks have more balance across all lines.
"It's important to have that when we want to be successful in our team game," Hossa said. "We can change the four lines and every line is playing in tempo. ... When we've got the lines going, a four-line game, we're a really dangerous and strong team."
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