Hornqvist nets face-time

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

CALGARY - His goal production might be down a little from his break-out campaign, but there’s one category Patric Hornqvist likely leads the league.

Unfortunately, the NHL doesn’t keep track of facewashes received.

“Yeah, he does,” Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz said of the 5-foot-11, 188-lb. winger who takes a lot of abuse for going to the net despite his lack of size.

“He stays in that hard area. Goaltenders don’t like that. Defencemen don’t like that. So they try and intimidate him with a facewash, a crosscheck, a slash, a push …”

Smelling gloves is as much a part of Hornqvist’s game as going to the net.

The 24-year-old Swede doesn’t expect credit for it, either. He considers it his job.

“That’s just my part of the game. I go in front, and d-men get all over me,” said Hornqvist, whose Preds host the Calgary Flames Tuesday night. “Some guys are passers, and some are shooters. I kind of go hard to the net — that’s who I am.”

This season, almost everyone knows it. After scoring

30 goals last season, Hornqvist has earned a lot more attention — in the form of crosschecks and slashes — while hanging around the crease.

“It’s a little different,” Hornqvist said. “Last year, nobody knew who I was. This year, the teams are a little harder on me in front of the net. They know I’m going to go there.”

So do his teammates, who know where to put the puck when Hornqvist is on the ice. Right to the blue paint.

“It takes a special kind of guy to get in front of there and take a good punch to the face or a cross-check to score the goals,” said fellow Predators forward and former Calgary Hitmen grinder Jerred Smithson. “But he enjoys doing it, and he does a good job of it.”

He does as good a job as one of the most renowned crease-crashers in the business, fellow Swedish NHLer Tomas Holmstrom.

That comparison isn’t lost on Trotz, who considers himself lucky to have a guy in that mould to coach.

“I have a lot of respect for guys like him and Holmstrom, because they’re the guys that know they’re going to get hit and they know they’re going to get guys trying to facewash them and do all that,” said Trotz, who lists defenceman Shea Weber’s dangerous shot from the point as another deterrent for standing in front of the net. “They don’t back away. Some guys, after it happens two or three times, they’re not going there.

“These guys? They just keep going back for the punishment.”

Goals are Hornqvist’s reward, and like Holmstrom, he finds plenty of pucks around his feet to tuck past the opposition goalie. After a slow start this NHL season, Hornqvist has seven goals in his last 14 outings, bringing him to 15 in 47 games.

“I’m happy to score 30 goals, but I’m looking forward to beating my record,” Hornqvist said. “The biggest thing is the team. We want to go deeper in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter if I score 10 goals or

30 goals — that’s all we want to do. That’s what we’re shooting for.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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