Penguins Notebook: Bruins' Chara thinks Hossa will be good fit
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BOSTON -- Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara might know Marian Hossa better than almost anyone else in the National Hockey League.
He might think more highly of Hossa than almost anyone else, too.
Those two not only have played together on national teams for their native Slovakia, but were teammates in Ottawa until 2005, when Hossa was traded to Atlanta. Chara joined Boston as a free agent the next year.
So, when Hossa made his Penguins debut against the Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden last night, he was facing a guy who had a pretty good feel for the kind of impact Hossa can have with the Penguins.
"He can make a big difference in games," Chara said. "On that team, with what they have, with his speed and skill, he's going to fit in very well."
Hossa's goal-scoring ability was the primary reason he appealed to the Penguins, who have been seeking a winger to play alongside Sidney Crosby, but Chara pointed out that he can contribute in any number of situations.
"A lot of people probably don't realize that he's very decent defensively," Chara said.
The Penguins do, however, which he why coach Michel Therrien planned to give him regular work on the penalty-killing unit, as well as his regular shift and time on the No. 1 power-play unit.
"He's going to have a big role," Therrien said. "He's a good player in this league, and we're going to give him a huge role."
Hossa entered the game last night with 296 goals and 342 assists in 689 regular-season games, an average of 0.93 points per game.
He has 13 goals and 22 assists in 55 playoff appearances, an average of 0.64 points per game and has been criticized for not producing to expectations in the postseason.
Chara, though, contends that is neither fair nor accurate, and that Hossa has the mind-set needed to succeed in the crucible of the playoffs.
"It's much harder to be really productive in the playoffs," he said. "There's a lot of [line-]matching, and it's not as easy as it is in the regular season.
"He's very motivated, he likes challenges and he's competitive. I think he's going to be ready [for the playoffs]. I think it's a good pickup for Pittsburgh."
Therrien suggested that the NHL should consider eliminating games on the day of the trade deadline.
He noted that not only do teams often have to get by with fewer than 20 players because newly acquired personnel can't get from city to city in time -- the Penguins, for example, played half of their game Tuesday on Long Island with just 18 because Connor James and Nathan Smith hadn't arrived from Wilkes-Barre -- but that some players have difficulty focusing after having teammates traded.
"It's really demanding for the players to play," Therrien said.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is penciled in to start one of the Penguins' games this weekend, either tomorrow afternoon in Ottawa or Sunday at home against Atlanta. ... The gates at Mellon Arena will open at 1:30 p.m., a half-hour earlier than usual, for the Thrashers game Sunday because of traffic restrictions on Centre Avenue. ... General manager Ray Shero on the Penguins carrying three goaltenders: "It's not a perfect situation, but it's not the worst." ... Hossa was given the No. 18 sweater that forward Adam Hall, who is recovering from sports hernia surgery, had been wearing.
First Published February 29, 2008 12:00 am