Hossa's right at home

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

So Bob Hartley would rank Marian Hossa "second or third (on the list of) most complete players" he's ever coached, huh?

That's some statement, considering the Peter Forsbergs and Joe Sakics and Ray Bourques and Dany Heatleys who have played for Hartley. But by no means does it come as a surprise.

Personally, it is the contention of this space filler that, when Hossa turns it on high, he is the best all-round player in the NHL.

Bar none.

One of the traits that makes him so good -- along with his obvious talents -- is his unselfishness. That he showed again in his first return to Ottawa as a member of the visiting squad.

On a rare night that saw him take 28 shifts (most of all forwards) and play 22:19 without picking up a point, Hossa had a chance to seal Atlanta's eventual 2-1 win with an empty-net goal. Instead of shooting at the vacated cage, however, he put the puck toward the end boards.

"I was looking," he said afterwards, "but I saw somebody in front. Two guys. So I just put the puck deep, to make sure time ran out and we got the two points."

Hossa admitted to a strange feeling during the warmup, seeing guys he spent seven years with skating in the opposition's end of the ice.

"I had a few words with Alfie and Peter Schaefer," he said. "Y'know, it was fun to come back and play here. I was here for a long time, I know everybody well.

"It was nice to see the guys," he added, "and it's even nicer to be leaving with two points."

Typical Hossa.

Starts and Stops:

Heatley had no shots on goal in New York on Wednesday, but he was the first to test Kari Lehtonen with a solid chance in the Thrashers net last night. Heatley hit the post with the rebound ... Great sniper, that Ilya Kovalchuk, but he sure can be a hazard in his own end. It was Kovalchuk who missed a clearing attempt that rimmed the boards by Niclas Havelid and wound up with Andrej Meszaros for Ottawa's lone goal. Then, with Dominik Hasek on the bench for an extra skater, Kovalchuk's attempt at getting the puck out of his zone landed right on the stick of Wade Redden ... Vaclav Varada had what was probably his best shift of the season in the opening period. First, he creamed Serge Aubin with a clean, open-ice hit that prompted threats from Thrasher Brad Larsen. Moments later, Varada sent Chris Kelly in on Lehtonen, who made a big save to keep the game scoreless ... The first minute of the second period included A) a Heatley scoring chance, B) a Hossa rush that almost produced Atlanta's first goal, C) Hossa hustling to break up a Senators rush, and D) two Jason Spezza giveaways inside his own blue line.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm:

Given that the Senators would rather he forget about three of his past four performances, shouldn't they want him to be Ray "Short Term" Emery? .... What do Chris Phillips and Chris Stevenson have in common (and don't insult us by thinking it has to do with their surnames)? Answer below ... Thrasher Jean-Pierre Vigier left the game in the initial 20 minutes after he was first hit by Christoph Sch"Oobie-Doobie-D"ubert, then again by Kelly when he finally pulled himself to his feet. Still not sure why Kelly didn't get an interference penalty, other than the obvious we're-back-to-the-old-NHL explanation ... Hossa displayed his trademark burst of speed to give himself a short-handed breakaway, but Hasek held his ground in turning him away ... Kelly had not one but two good chances denied while killing a penalty in the third ... Patrick Eaves showed he was into the night's theme when he ran Jim Slater in open ice. He also found Slater as tough to budge as a pickup.

Between Periods:

Free trip or no free trip, four minutes into the game Eugene Melnyk and his bartender pal Bert had already delivered two too many messages from the sunny south ... Nobody needs to learn so much about Barbados on a brisk February night in Hockey Country ... Okay, so the real problem here? The winners of the trip were sitting in the land of the rich (Section 116) if not famous, when they should have been drawn from the cheap seats and accompanied to Barbados by Cheapseats ... Given that it was Barbados Night and considering the legal problems suddenly surfacing in the NHL, a friend wondered if the Senators shouldn't have been serving up subpeona coladas in the concessions?

Punch Lines:

Phillips and Stevenson both came home from New York with sprained or otherwised damaged thumbs, only the Sun guy was able to suck it up and work through the pain last night. 'Course, the scribe doesn't use that particular digit when he types, either ... Most guys never make the same mistake twice, right? Not TSN's Michael Whelan, who has stepped on the big logo in the middle of the Senators' dressing room four times in his last two visits. That's supposed to be $400 in fines, but who's counting ... Taking Phillips' spot alongside Zdeno "Pull Up A" Chara was Anton Volchenkov, whose average ice time per night was 17:32 before he played 22:33 vs. the Thrashers.

SOME THINGS WORTH NOTING...

BATTERED BRIAN: The eye is still puffy. The area around it is black and blue and yellow, the white part invaded by a clot of redness. But while not completely recovered from an Andrew Peters' right hook, Senators winger Brian McGrattan says he's ready to play now. "We both threw (a punch) at the same time; I was fully extended," McGrattan said yesterday of his fight with the Sabres tough guy last Saturday. "I would have continued, but my eye started to swell right away. That was the end of that one." McGrattan added that he signalled to the linesman, as did Peters, and that the punch was one of the best he's ever absorbed. "You know when you tag a guy good ... it was good on his part (to pull up). There's no sense in continuing at that point. You can really hurt a guy."


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