Friday, January 19, 2018
Sports

Two Slovaks' friendship on hold in West

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

Kings wing Marian Gaborik and Blackhawks wing Marian Hossa are childhood friends and longtime teammates for Slovakia, but now they're opponents in the Western Conference final.

By every measure, it's Hossa 1, Gaborik 0. Chicago opened the series Sunday with a 3-1 victory, and when the top lines went head-to-head the Blackhawks had the decisive edge.

"Chicago just comes with its own set of problems," Los Angeles wing 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."

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

Hossa had two assists in Game 1, one on Toews' third-period goal. The Kings' first line? Shut out, on a total of six shots.

"It's a big challenge," Hossa said of tonight's Game 2 in Chicago. "I think in Game 1 we did a pretty good job."

These playoffs have marked a resurgence for Hossa, 35, whose numbers have dropped in recent years. Gaborik, 32, has enjoyed a turnaround since a March trade from Columbus; he had 16 points in 19 regular-season games with the Kings, and 15 points 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 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."

Satan retires: Miroslav Satan, who played 14 NHL seasons, retired after representing his native Slovakia in the World Championships. He last played in the NHL in 2010 and played in the KHL and Slovakia since.

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