BOSTON – Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw is happy to take on towering defenseman Zdeno Chara, so it came as no surprise when he challenged those who questioned his teammate’s toughness.
Namely, former Hawks forward Tony Amonte, who criticized Marian Hossa for missing Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final because of an upper-body injury. Regarding Hossa, Amonte told a Boston radio station that during the finals, “I think you play until you can’t play anymore.”
Shaw snickered as he described Hossa to anyone who didn’t know the 14-year veteran. Hossa returned to the lineup Wednesday for Game 4 and joined a line with Michal Handzus and Patrick Sharp.
“He’s a warrior, man,” Shaw said. “He’s played a lot of hockey. It’s unbelievable how much he’s played and how much he battles and what he battles through. He’s a great player.”
That message resonated throughout the Hawks’ locker room.
Plenty of former players such as Denis Savard, Eddie Olczyk and Troy Murray routinely visit the locker room and mingle with players. The same cannot be said for Amonte, who played for the Hawks from 1993 to 2002 in addition to stints with the New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers and Calgary Flames.
Hawks forward Patrick Kane said Hossa’s toughness could not be questioned. Hossa has played in 1,018 regular season games since entering the NHL in 1998 with the Ottawa Senators.
“A lot of those guys can say what they want, but they don’t really know what’s going on and what the situation is,” Kane said. “Sometimes, if you don’t know what’s going on, you’re better off to not say anything at all and just let it play out the way it is.
“It’s the Stanley Cup Final. Everyone is playing through injuries, bruises and scars, whatever it may be. Everyone is trying to do their best to get out there and play as best as they can.
“Sometimes, it’s just something you can’t do.”
Waiting and ready: Hawks forward Jamal Mayers skated with the second line during morning skate in place of Hossa, who was the only player on the team to miss the session.
Mayers appeared in 19 games during the regular season and has not played since April 27. Rather than sulk, the 38-year-old forward has embraced a vocal leadership role in the locker room while often being one of the last players to come off of the ice after practice.
“It’s the reason why I’ve been riding the bike and skating and staying ready,” Mayers said. “I didn’t want to have regrets. I decided that I would stay ready and be ready to go if I was called upon.”
No thanks: Because of Mayers’ leadership role and his knowledge of the game, some have suggested that he could become a successful coach when his playing days are finished. Mayers wasted little time eliminating that possibility.
“Absolutely not,” Mayers said. “For one reason: the time commitment away from your family.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville laughed when he was informed of Mayers’ stance.
“I don’t want to encourage anybody to be a coach,” Quenneville said.