Jordin Tootoo playing his way into a regular spot in the lineup
TORONTO — Two weeks ago, Jordin Tootoo was all but resigned to his fate. He’d be an extra in the postseason, a locker-room guy, a character guy, there for moral support and practice work. A healthy scratch in 14 of the 15 games during the Hawks’ hottest stretch of the season, the veteran winger was on the outside looking in. And in his first game back in the lineup March 3, he played less than four minutes.
Then came his breakout game the next night in Nashville — a goal, a handful of other chances, a fight, a signature effort. And suddenly, it’s looking more and more likely that Tootoo will indeed be a regular in the postseason lineup.
“When you gain a little bit of confidence, it goes a long way,” Tootoo said of the game against the Predators. “My game is north and south and being a physical player and doing all the little things. When you make those little things happen, it goes a long way.”
Tootoo was in the lineup for the fourth consecutive game Saturday against the Maple Leafs, and he has been scratched just once in the last eight. With a rotating cast of linemates on the fourth line, Tootoo has been generating more and more chances lately.
“He’s played very well,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s really improved his game. He brings that element of pace, and he did a nice job in the physicality department, as well. He brings us some sandpaper, some toughness. It looks like he’s got patience with the puck in handling it and having it a little bit more. He’s making some good plays offensively. I like the progression.”
But Tootoo still believes he has much to prove in the final 12 games of the season to secure a role in the playoffs.
“My mentality is you’ve got to prove yourself every day,” he said. “It’s a business out here, and you don’t want to get too comfortable or too content.”
Hossa misses game
Marian Hossa missed the game with a lower-body injury suffered Thursday in Ottawa. Hossa participated in the morning skate to test out the injury but apparently wasn’t good enough to play. Quenneville said it wasn’t serious.