When NHL fans last saw Marian Hossa, the Chicago Blackhawks two-way forward was being stretchered off the ice after a late and high Raffi Torres hit knocked him into an unwelcome dream state.
The Blackhawks lost that series to Torres' Phoenix Coyotes in six games, while the Coyotes went on to a dream march to the Western Conference finals which meant that Torres only has the first eight games of this abbreviated season to serve out his suspension. (Like a recidivist at a parole hearing, the man who's encountered NHL supplementary discipline six times vows to change.)
Meanwhile Hossa rehabbed. Perhaps one of the few NHL players to benefit from the lockout, he wasn't cleared for play until mid-November, which should have been a quarter of the way into the regular season.
Instead, nine months after that frightening night that could have ended his career, Hossa has become just the fourth player in Blackhawks history -- that's 85 seasons going back to 1926 -- to score four goals in the team's first two games.
His performance came amid a dominant weekend for the Blackhawks, who opened the season by trouncing the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on their banner-raising night, 5-2, then followed it up the next night with a 6-4 win in Phoenix against the team that gave him such a long summer.
Hossa followed two goals and an assist in L.A. with another pair of goals in Phoenix. Granted, at least one goal in each game came courtesy of some generous goaltending by Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith, but he looked dangerous all night, both nights, even on scoring chances that did not result in goals. The underlying message for all who watched Hossa was a simple: Wow. He's back.
There weren't many good stories nor good outcomes from the NHL lockout, and we needn't bother trying to look for any. But seeing a multi-skilled player like Hossa return in good health and form at the start of the season -- and while Torres still sits -- instead of rushing or trying to get up to speed mid-year after Torres already returned? That's a small lockout bonus any hockey fan can appreciate.