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Hawk's Hossa: I have to step up offensively
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Marian Hossa has no goals and just 1 assist after the first three games of the Blackhawks' first-round playoff series against the Nashville Predators -- not what was expected from the guy signed to a 12-year, $62.8 million contract as a free agent.

 

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Published: 4/21/2010 9:20 PM | Updated: 4/22/2010 2:00 PM

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Marian Hossa has hardly been the Blackhawks' biggest problem in their first-round playoff series against the Nashville Predators.

But with no goals and just 1 assist after the first three games of the series, two of them Hawks losses, it's not what was expected from the guy signed to a 12-year, $62.8 million contract as a free agent last summer.

As a big-time player, Hossa needs to come through in big games. And they don't come much bigger than Game 4 on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.

The Hawks trail the best-of-seven series 2-1 and another loss would put them at a deficit they might not be able to correct.

"I know myself, I have to step up offensively," Hossa said Wednesday after practice. "We're creating some chances, but we're not productive. The bottom line is I have to step up and make something happen.

"Obviously, it's not easy because they're playing well defensively, but somehow we have to break that and get myself on the scoring sheet."

Hossa is not the only Hawks star who has not been able to deliver offensively. Jonathan Toews has no goals and just 5 shots. Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg and Troy Brouwer also haven't scored.

"They're playing well as a five-man unit," Hossa said of the gritty Predators. "When you come into their zone, everybody is in the right position and it's really difficult to go through them. To fight through guys, it's almost impossible.

"We just have to get traffic in front of their goalie and try to put all the pucks (at the net) and score dirty goals. We're chasing pucks, but we don't accomplish anything."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, in an attempt to make his team more abrasive and difficult to play against, will insert forwards Adam Burish and Bryan Bickell into the lineup in place of Colin Fraser and Ben Eager for Game 4.

Bickell skated at left wing in practice Wednesday on the top line with Toews and Patrick Kane.

Quenneville had Sharp back at center between Hossa and Tomas Kopecky and a third line of Dave Bolland, Andrew Ladd and Versteeg.

Burish was on the fourth line with John Madden and Brouwer.

There also is a possibility defenseman Brian Campbell might return Thursday night ahead of schedule from the broken collarbone he suffered March. 14.

"I'm not saying anything on that," said Quenneville, not shutting the door on perhaps having Campbell for Game 4.

Quenneville, at least publicly, wasn't asking for more from his best players.

"I think across the board we should all own up a little bit more and take a little bit more responsibility," Quenneville said. "If you're a top guy, whether you need to score, whether you need the puck a little more, whether you need to be more abrasive, it all adds up when we have the puck more.

"We want to fight for the puck a little more, we want more time in their end, we want more puck possession."

Still, Hossa knows and Toews knows more is expected of them.

"One way or another we have to find a way to produce," Toews said. "It starts with guys like myself."

The Predators are pleased at how they've been able to shut down the Hawks, but they know the series is far from over.

"They're a really good hockey club and they can bounce back," Nashville forward Steve Sullivan said. "They're only one game away from tying the series, so it's not like they're out of it.

"We know how good a club they are. They're not the best team in the Western Conference by fluke. They're a threat every time they're on the ice, so we know we have to play our best hockey if we're going to win the series."