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Marian Hossa still waiting for the bounces to go his way

Marian Hossa has been on the other side of this. During the 2002-03 season, it seemed like every shot he took had a chance to go in. Pucks went in from sharp angles, off fortunate bounces, through quirky deflections. By the time the season ended, he had a whopping 45 goals, still his career high, and a staggering 19.7 shooting percentage. Basically, he couldn’t miss.

Now, this. He’s still usually in the right place at the right time. Still creating chances. Still getting off good shots. The puck just won’t go in. Pucks are bouncing off flailing goalies, taking unfortunate bounces, being deflected just wide or just high. Through 31 games entering Sunday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, he has just five goals on 99 shots (second on the team behind only Patrick Kane), and an unthinkable 5.1 shooting percentage, far below his career average of 12.4.

Statistical probability suggests that number will rise, and that the pucks will start going in. But Hossa’s weary of waiting.

“I feel like I get so many chances,” he said. “Just the finishing is not what I expect, obviously. From that many chances, I expect myself to be more productive. It’s definitely frustrating. I’m just trying to stay positive [and] keep working hard. Overall, I feel good. Just the production’s not there.”

Hossa returned to the lineup Sunday after missing two games with an upper-body injury. With the benefit of the four-day Christmas break, Hossa — who turns 37 next month — is rested and ready to go. But despite his scoring slump, he’s not about to change anything. Yes, he’s trying to figure out why the goals aren’t coming. But no, he’s not dwelling on it. You don’t become on one of the best overall players in the league for nearly two decades without a little patience and a lot of perspective.

Hossa went through a similar funk last season, which he finished with a career-low 8.9 shooting percentage. Through the first four months of the season, he had just 10 goals, before erupting for six goals in a three-game span in early February and finishing the season with a respectable 22.

“I don’t try to analyze it too much, because I think that’s the worst thing you can do, just worry about it too much,” he said. “Definitely, it’s a little frustrating, but I try to stay positive and keep having fun. As long as I’m skating well, the chances are coming. The chemistry is getting better on our line, so that’s a good sign.”

That might be the most encouraging thing. After going through a half-dozen left wings over the first two months of the season, Hossa and Jonathan Toews finally have what appears to be a permanent partner in Teuvo Teravainen. Teravainen has four goals this month, and Toews has three as he emerges from his own slow start.

Hossa wasn’t shy about his desire for a fixed line, and now he’s got it.

“It definitely would be nice if we win some games and stay on the same line,” he said. “That would help the chemistry to build.”

Of course, part of what makes Hossa so valuable is how good he is away from the puck. Joel Quenneville has had few complaints about Hossa’s game, despite the lack of goals.

“He does a lot of good things,” Quenneville said. “If the production isn’t quite at that level, I still think there’s other parts of his game that make his overall complete game pretty effective.”

That said, Hossa’s not some fourth-line checking winger. He’s a goal scorer, with 491 goals in his career. And it’s taking a lot longer to get to 500 than he would like.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com
Twitter: @marklazerus