For the Chicago Blackhawks, the elephant in Jobing.com Arena Thursday will be wearing No. 37. No matter what anyone says, Raffi Torres is going to be on the minds of the on-ice participants as well as every fan in the stands or in their living rooms.
Marian Hossa, coach Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks would like us to believe that this is just another hockey game. Two more points for Chicago to pick up via the Phoenix Coyotes.
The memory of the crushing blow delivered by Torres last April will surely be hanging in the air when the teams take to the ice for the second time this season. Torres was still serving the suspension he drew for the illegal hit when Chicago beat the Coyotes 6-4 back on the season's opening weekend.
Pat Foley and Eddie Olcyk will assuredly refresh our memories before and during the contest. We may be treated to another replay of the hit that ended Hossa's season and kept him out of commission until well in to the fall.
The question on everyone's mind will concern the form of retribution the 'Hawks should impose on the Phoenix forward. When does Torres get it and who gives it to him?
Truth be told, Chicago should probably focus on hurting the Coyotes on the scoreboard.
Despite anything Torres says in the days leading up to the game of repentance, it's hard to believe that this old dog is going to learn any new tricks regarding his game. No beating at the hands of Brandon Bollig or any of the other 'Hawks is going to change his edgy physical style.
Chasing Torres down is only going to lead to scoring opportunities for Phoenix, just as it did when Chicago tried to jump to Hossa's defense back in Game 3 of that lost playoff series.
I can't say that I wouldn't like to see Karma (dressed as Brent Seabrook, perhaps?) plant a shoulder into the chest of Torres. I just don't feel like watching the 'Hawks drop a game trying to hunt the guy down.
Others may feel differently. I can't rightly blame you if you want to see Torres get some comeuppance regardless of the cost. I imagine the "Nail Torres" sentiment will be at a fever pitch when Phoenix visits Chicago April 20 no matter what happens Thursday.
The problem is that stooping to Torres' level only takes the Blackhawks off their game. Paul Bissonnette is likely to intercept any attempts to drop gloves with him. Any borderline hit is going to be scrutinized and could result in time off for the player that delivers said hit.
Hossa doesn't need to be defended any more that Seabrook did the first time he ran up against Torres following another dirty hit behind the net back in 2011 when Torres was with Vancouver.
Chicago needs to avoid being pushed around Thursday night. I'll be the first to jump out of my recliner if and when one of the 'Hawks knock Torres off his skates within the flow of the game. I just don't think the Blackahawks should spend all evening trying to deliver a lesson to a player who doesn't care to learn it.