NHL

Healthy Hossa is key for Blackhawks

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The Chicago Blackhawks can attribute their rise to the top of the Central Division to contributions from several usual suspects. With a fully stocked lineup, it is not much of a surprise that they have a record of 22-9-4 as they approach the short holiday break built into the NHL's schedule.

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane are off to fast starts, with big offensive numbers to show for their efforts. However, the team's leading scorer at the moment is Marian Hossa with 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists), including six power-play goals and a team-best plus-21 rating in 34 games.

In Tuesday night's loss in Pittsburgh, the 32-year-old Hossa had an assist and finished a plus-2 against his former team. His assist in Wednesday's win over Montreal extended his point streak to seven games. Over this stretch, he has four goals and eight assists, including his 400th career goal on Dec. 8 against the Islanders.

He also leads the Blackhawks with 11 multi-point games.

Hossa is used to putting up big offensive numbers when he is in the lineup but, over the past several seasons, staying healthy has been a challenge. This season he's missed only one game, back in mid-October.

Hossa has played a full 82-game regular season just once in his career, in 2006-07 with the Atlanta Thrashers — the franchise's lone playoff campaign. In the four subsequent seasons, the most games that Hossa has appeared in was 74 for the 2008-09 Red Wings.

Last season with the Blackhawks, he was limited to just 65 regular-season games due to several different ailments that took him out of the lineup on four different occasions.

While Hossa will not play in all 82 games this season, staying healthy will be the key to his consistency as the calendar turns to 2012. With the potent scoring threats the Blackhawks possess, having all hands on deck makes preparation a nightmare for opposing coaches and their defenses.

Tagged: Blackhawks, Red Wings, Blues, Predators, Marian Hossa

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