Perhaps the most anticipated series this season is between the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes. The first meeting between the two teams was Marian Hossa’s chance to show them that he couldn’t be bested, and he did that with two goals. There was no retaliation for what happened to Hossa last April, just a game of hockey that was played and won by the Blackhawks. That may change tonight.
The big difference between that game and this one is that Raffi Torres is on the ice again, now that his suspension has been served. Coyotes coach Dave Tippett says that he sat down with Torres and pointed out to him that the hits he’d given over his career were reckless and have no place on the ice. It was an attempt to show him that his game could be better if he didn’t go to extremes with his physical play. Torres says that he knows he’ll have to change his game if he wants to stay in the NHL. Well, knowing that and actually doing it are two different things.
The question this game brings is whether the Blackhawks really will retaliate now that Torres is back. The clichéd response would be that they should exact their revenge with goals instead of their fists, but that was done in the first game. This time, the Blackhawks should get it out of their system early by perhaps dropping gloves with Torres or giving him a clean by-the-book hit to show him that they haven’t forgotten what he did. But they can’t cross the line on either one, because the Coyotes may do what the Vancouver Canucks love to do: sucker the Blackhawks into taking stupid penalties that can be costly.
This game will be, in a word, intriguing. What will Torres do? What will Hossa do? How will the Blackhawks respond to the Coyotes this time? Those questions will be answered quite quickly, and what happens in this game will set the tone for the next one. It’s a shame that we’ll have to wait till April for it.