Will the Blackhawks Target Raffi Torres in Game Against Coyotes?

James Maahs@Jmaz90Contributor IIIFebruary 7, 2013

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 21:  A fan holds up a head shot sign of Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on April 21, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. Raffi Torres was suspended 25 games by the NHL for the blow to the head he delivered to Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa during Game 3. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks are set to take on the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night for the second time this season.

Only this time will be different.

Raffi Torres will be back in the lineup to face the Blackhawks for the first time since he illegally checked Marian Hossa in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

The hit resulted in a 21-game suspension—which saw Torres return to action last Saturday against the Dallas Stars—and an eight-month concussion for Hossa.

What can we expect for Thursday's hockey game?

Will it be a fight-filled bloodbath that sees very little defense and a plethora of goals, or a well-disciplined defensive style of hockey with Torres getting a minimal amount of ice time?

Regardless of how the game draws out, Hossa said he isn't focused on the hit and that his main goal is to play well.

“It’s a thing you don’t forget, but I (turned) that page and this is another season,” Hossa said Tuesday night. “For me, it’s just another game. I don’t worry about anything else," (via CSN Chicago).

Hossa's teammates are likely to remember that hit as well—how they react come Thursday's game may be a bit different from Hossa's philosophy.

But who can blame them if they want to stand up for their star teammate?

Many will look back on that Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup and pinpoint the Torres hit as the turning point in the series. It shook the Blackhawks—who would lose the next two games at home in that playoff series.

It is likely that Brandon Bollig will dress for the game to cause a little havoc on the ice. But don't expect Coach Joel Quenneville to turn this game into a fighting match.

“It’s kind of the comparable history like when we went to Vancouver with the Sedins and Duncs. We have to be smart, disciplined and stick together,” coach Quenneville said. “Getting even is winning the hockey game," (via CSN Chicago).

Quenneville is referring to Duncan Keith's intentional elbow that concussed Daniel Sedin last time the Blackhawks and Canucks played each other a season ago.

When the Blackhawks went into Vancouver to play the Canucks last week, there were no punches thrown. Keith was left alone while both teams focused on obtaining the two points.

The fact that Keith didn't have a track record may have factored into the Canucks' decision not to go after him last Friday night. Raffi Torres on the other hand, is a repeat offender who has been suspended numerous times by the NHL.

How the Blackhawks approach this game may hinge on how physical Torres intends to get during Thursday's game.

Torres, meanwhile, seemed to have a change of heart about the way he played the game. Call it an act to stay in the NHL or a true self-awakening, but Torres made it clear that safety is his first priority (via Chicago Sun-Times):

We have to protect the top players in the league, and if it’s going to take me thinking a little bit out there instead of running around with my head cut off, that’s what it’s going to take. At the end of the day, I need to keep playing. This is what I want to do. And if I want to keep playing in this league, I’m going to have change the way [I play].

Even if the Blackhawks wanted to get into a fighting match with the Coyotes, it would be in their best interest to avoid it.

The 'Hawks are built on speedy offensive players; fighting will only benefit the Coyotes, who will be looking to slow the pace down. It worked well enough in the Western Conference Quarterfinals a season ago.

Retaliation isn't the answer for Thursday night's game—two points will make Hossa and Quenneville feel a whole lot better.


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