Chicago Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa won't play in Game 4, according to Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. It's a major loss for the Blackhawks, who are trailing the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 in their opening round series, making Thursday night's game crucial.
Updates on Hossa's condition have been few and far between since he had to get stretchered off the ice following a dirty hit from Raffi Torres. The Coyotes grinder was suspended indefinitely pending a meeting with the league on Friday.
Hossa led the Blackhawks in scoring during the regular season with 77 points in 81 games. He's had a history on injury problems, but has always been one of the league's most dynamic scorers when healthy.
He carried the team on his back when players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were either struggling or injured. Without him in the lineup, Chicago's offensive depth takes a serious hit because there isn't another player on the roster who will be able to fill the void.
It highlights another reason the NHL must work harder to eliminate high hits from the game. The biggest story of the playoffs should be offensive stars like Hossa lighting up the scoreboard, not fringe roster players like Torres knocking them out with cheap shots.
The Blackhawks haven't set a timetable for Hossa's return, but based on their lack of comments about his status and his past injury problems, they will rightfully play it safe. Unfortunately for Chicago, that will severely damage the team's chances of advancing.
Phoenix possesses one of the league's most effective defensive systems. The Blackhawks offense has been able to manage at least two goals in every game, but still trail in the series. Without Hossa, things are only to become a bigger battle to find the net.
Secondary scorers like Viktor Stalberg and Dave Bolland will need to step up their scoring output for the Blackhawks to keep pace. It's not fair to expect either of those players—or any other depth players—to match Hossa's contributions, however.
The Blackhawks will still be alive in the series regardless of tonight's result, but without Hossa, it's tough to imagine them completing a comeback. Since it seems like the team will update his status on a game-by-game basis, fans just have to hope he starts feeling better sooner rather than later.
As for now, Chicago needs to figure out a way to grind out victories without him, which will be an uphill battle to say the least.