Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville remained coy about Marian Hossa’s availability for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday at TD Garden. Quenneville said his high-scoring right winger, who was a late scratch before Game 3 because of an upper-body injury, was “likely to play tomorrow night.’’
That was all the Blackhawks coach was prepared to disclose during Tuesday’s media session.
Several times during his news conference, Quenneville was pressed about the nature of Hossa’s injury, and whether it stemmed from a pre-existing injury rather than a sudden setback suffered during warm-ups, as everyone was led to believe.
“I’m not going to get exactly [into] what the injury is or where it occurred,’’ Quenneville said, coyly. “But I’m going to say he’s likely to play tomorrow night.’’
If that were the case, it would likely mean Ben Smith, the former Boston College star who was pressed into service and forced to hurriedly play in Game 3 without the benefit of a warm-up, would be out of the lineup.
Reporters continued to press Quenneville on whether he knew Smith was going to be in the Game 3 lineup. If that were the case, the coach was asked why Smith wasn’t allowed the proper amount of time to get ready. Replied Quenneville, “Ben was ready.’’
“I knew he was doing everything,’’ the coach said. “We were hopeful that Hossa was playing, and Ben was doing everything to get ready. He was ready.’’
Asked for a clarification on whether the coaching staff knew well ahead of time Hossa was not going to be available, Quenneville seemed to suggest there was some subterfuge at work by holding off on the decision.
“He would have taken a warm-up if we wanted him to,’’ Quenneville said of Smith, who wound up playing 13 shifts in 10 minutes, 23 seconds of ice time, taking one shot and blocking two others. “He knew there was a chance he was going to play. He was getting himself ready. I just didn’t want to tip our hand that there’s something going on.’’
Quenneville said he was merely following the time-honored practice of not disclosing injuries.
“We don’t disclose injuries, particularly come playoff time,’’ he said.
Was it to avoid any strategic disadvantage? “I think that’s self-explanatory,’’ Quenneville said.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said he supported the practice, if for no other reason than to protect his injured players from being targeted.
“I think if it’s something that doesn’t put your player in danger, I don’t see why you shouldn’t talk about it,’’ Julien said. “There’s times where you have to protect your players, and I understand it.
“I know it’s frustrating for you guys as media. You’re trying to share that information. The most important thing for us, we can take the heat for that, is protecting your players.
“I respect that from other teams. When you’re playing against each other, stuff like that, you know exactly where everybody is coming from. That’s basically what it is.’’
While discussing injuries was painful for him, Quenneville made no secret of the areas the Blackhawks were deficient in Game 3: power play and faceoffs.
The Bruins converted on one of four power-play opportunities, getting a huge second-period strike by Patrice Bergeron, who also set the tone in the faceoff circle by winning 24 of his 28 draws.
“Bergeron had one of those nights that you like to have in a career,’’ Quenneville said of the Bruins’ alternate captain, who was runner-up to the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews for the 2013 Selke Trophy. “I think across the board we’ve been watching the group of centermen here, digesting it, dissecting it, knowing we have to be better as well.’’
Dave Bolland made a positive contribution when he tallied his first goal of the playoffs in Game 1’s 4-3 triple-overtime triumph, but he failed to duplicate the feat when he took three of the Blackhawks’ first four penalties in Game 3. “Yeah, one of those nights,’’ Quenneville said. “Tough nights. Certainly can’t take three. I think you’ve got to be smarter about it when you do take one, that maybe you [don’t] put yourself in that spot again. Let’s make sure we learn from that.’’ . . . The Blackhawks fell to 0-4 in Game 3s this postseason. Chicago is 10-17 in franchise history when trailing, 2-1, in a best-of-seven series and are 18-9 lifetime in Game 4s when trailing, 2-1.
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.