Hockey / Sports

Friendship of Kings' Gaborik and Blackhawks' Hossa put on hold during playoff time

CHICAGO -- They share a name and a neighborhood, but can't share what they both want most: the Stanley Cup.

The Kings' Marian Gaborik and Chicago's Marian Hossa are childhood friends and longtime teammates on the international level for Slovakia, but now they're opponents in the Western Conference final.

By every measure, it's Hossa 1, Gaborik 0. The Blackhawks opened the series on Sunday with a 3-1 victory over the Kings, and in the head-to-head matchup of the teams' top lines, Chicago had the decisive edge.

"Chicago just comes with its own set of problems," Kings winger Justin Williams said Monday. "If we're just a little off in our game, we're not going to be good because they will expose that."

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville matched up Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell against the Kings' top unit of Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown as much as possible. Strength vs. strength.

Hossa had two assists in Game 1, including one on Toews' third-period goal. The line could have had another goal, but Toews' second-period score was disallowed because of goalie interference.

The Kings' first line? Shut out, with a total of six shots on goal. Kopitar, who has been a force in these playoffs, didn't record a shot.

Gaborik had two strong scoring chances, but on one, couldn't corral the puck in the slot and, on the other, sent the puck into the midsection of goalie Corey Crawford with a thud.

It's just one game, of course.

The Kings' first line had to be gassed, given the great effort it gave less than 48 hours earlier in Game 7 against the Ducks, but a turnaround will be needed in Game 2 on Wednesday.

"It's a big challenge," Hossa said. "I think in Game 1 we did a pretty good job. They still created some chances but (Crawford) was great for us. It's going to be a good challenge for us."

These playoffs have marked something of a resurgence for the 35-year-old Hossa, whose offensive numbers have dropped in recent years but whose defensive credentials have been burnished.

Hossa and his line will be tested against Gaborik, who has enjoyed his own turnaround since a March trade from Columbus to the Kings.

Gaborik, 32, had 16 points in 19 regular-season games with the Kings, and has nine goals and six assists in 15 playoff games.

"He is, and always was, a pure sniper," Hossa said of Gaborik. "He has an unbelievable shot. And his speed, when he gets going, you must know where he is."

The friendship -- Gaborik and Hossa live in the same area of Slovakia in the offseason -- has been put on hold, as Gaborik tries for his first Stanley Cup and Hossa tries for his third.

"We're very close to each other," Gaborik said. "We talk often during the offseason and we've been in touch up to the start of this series. That's pretty much it. No interactions now, no bets."


Tie-ins ran deep when Bob Pulford chatted with Sutter and Kings general manager Dean Lombardi in a United Center hallway.

Pulford is a former Kings player (1970-72) and coach (1972-77) who then moved on to be Chicago's longtime coach and general manager. That's where he coached Sutter, then hired him as head coach.

Lombardi, of course, hired Sutter in 2012, and Lombardi is also married to Pulford's daughter.

Pulford, now 78, lives in the Chicago area and remains an impressive presence with a deep voice.

Lombardi recalled Monday how he went to ask Pulford's permission to marry Wandamae, and was gruffly told to wait until the end of the Kentucky Derby on television.

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