LOS ANGELES – As they embark upon perhaps the most unique season in recent NHL history, the Blackhawks learned an important fact Saturday.
Marian Hossa and Corey Crawford are back.
Hossa had two goals and an assist, and Crawford made 19 saves in the Hawks' 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in front of 18,545 at Staples Center.
The Hawks, who play 10 of their first 12 games on the road, travel to Phoenix to face the team that eliminated them in the first round of last year's Stanley Cup playoffs today.
In that series, Hossa suffered a severe concussion that forced him to be carried off the ice. He only received medical clearance to play in November.
"I tried to keep it simple, especially in the beginning – nothing too fancy, keep short shifts," said Hossa, who recorded a goal and an assist in the first seven minutes.
But was Hossa concerned about getting hit?
"No," he said. "I was worried about it probably at the beginning of November. That's why I practiced so hard to be comfortable going in the corners and having three guys on me."
Meanwhile, Crawford nullified the memories of his poor playoff performance.
"I'm done with thinking about last year and all that stuff," he said. "I felt pretty quick. I felt focused. My eyes didn't move from the puck at all. Just all game, it seemed like it was in my sight all the time."
The Hawks also used the pregame atmosphere's afterglow to their advantage. The Kings' players received their Stanley Cup rings and raised the team's first championship banner.
But once the game started, the Hawks built a 4-0 lead in the first 21:16 against goalie Jonathan Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy last year.
"We went through it a couple of years ago, and I know how it feels," Hossa said. "You get caught in the moment and, all of a sudden, it's 2-0. We tried to jump right away on them."
As a result, "we were able to get into the game really early and we got the speed down," Crawford said. "It seemed like everyone was going on offense."
Patrick Kane began the scoring with a slap shot during a 5-on-3 power play at 3:41 of the first period. Hossa followed with his first goal at 12:57, then Michael Frolik made a wrist shot at 14:11 to extend the Hawks' first-period lead to 3-0.
With 1:16 gone in the second period, Jonathan Toews converted the rebound of Kane's missed shot. Los Angeles narrowed the deficit to 4-2 with 10:40 to play, but Hossa's wrist shot with 10:25 left ensured the victory.
The Hawks' penalty-killing unit, ranked 27th last year, defused all five of the Kings' power plays.