The last time Raffi Torres and Marian Hossa saw each other, the seasons ended for both with the gut-wrenching image you see above, Hossa lying motionless on the ice, the victim of a devastating headshot.
Midway through the first period in Game 3 of the Phoenix Coyotes' first-round series with the Chicago Blackhawks, Hossa lugged a puck into the neutral zone, then dished it off and turned back, unaware that Torres had the Chicago forward line up. Torres launched himself into the hit, leaving his feet and putting his shoulder right into Hossa's head.
Hossa left the game on a stretcher. Torres stayed in the game (absurdly), but after much deliberation from the NHL's Department of Player Safety, he was handed a massive, 25-game suspension.
10 months later, both players are back in the lineup for their respective teams. Hossa spent months battling a concussion and was finally cleared to play in December. Torres appealed his suspension and had it reduced to 21. He returned to the Coyotes' lineup on February 2nd, in a 2-0 win over Dallas.
And on Thursday, for the first time since one of the 2012 postseason's scariest sights, they'll share the same ice surface (although share might not be the right word here, considering the bad blood).
Will there be payback?
Hossa didn't seem too concerned about it.
"I don't care," he said. "It's a thing you don't forget. Like I said, you know I move the page, and it's another season. I just try to focus on my game. It's just another game and I think it's going to be a normal game. I don't expect anything."
Torres wasn't interested in this one turning into a goonfest either, especially since he's making an effort to change the way he plays, which means excising much of the goonery from his game. Torres, via Sportsnet:
"I need to keep playing. This is what I want to do. And if I want to keep playing in this league, I'm going to have change the way (I play). I've done some of the right things over the summer and the first two games to do that."
Torres worked with Coyotes coach Dave Tippett to alter a style of play that has made him Public Enemy No. 1 with fans of many teams -- and some players.
But while Torres may have turned the page, and while Hossa may not care what happens since it won't change what's already happened, that doesn't mean Hossa's teammates won't seek a little retribution.
Duncan Keith claims the team is more worried about getting a win than getting back at Torres, and there's no doubt that's true. There was much talk about the Vancouver Canucks' hoping to seek revenge on Keith for his elbow to Daniel Sedin late last season, but we saw little in the way of fireworks, most likely because the score was close. Teams simply aren't going to risk two points in an effort to get revenge.
Thus, so long as the score remains close, this will likely be a civil affair. (And thankfully, Dave Tippett's system isn't conducive to blowouts. Playing for the tie: hockey's realest enforcer.) But if the Blackhawks should take a sizeable lead, they may reward themselves by going after Torres.
As Hossa said, it's a thing you don't forget.
Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney
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