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NHL commentary: Hawks’ key to Game 4? It’s a secret

Whether Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa will play in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight in Boston is as much a mystery as the nature of the injury that made him a late scratch for Game 3 on Monday.

BOSTON – Pssst. Hey, you. Yeah, you. Want to know a secret?

OK, here it is. Hockey is filled with secrets.

Shhh. You didn’t hear it from me.

Before we go any further, let’s get two non-secrets out of the way.

One: The Blackhawks will try to bounce back from back-to-back losses against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. Two: A Hawks win would even the series at 2-2, while a loss would create a dreaded 3-1 series deficit.

Everything in that previous paragraph is public information.

Now, here comes the juicy stuff.

Marian Hossa was missing Tuesday. At least, it seemed as though he was missing. One day after he was a late, mysterious scratch from Game 3, the future Hall of Fame forward was nowhere to be seen in the Hawks’ locker room or in the surrounding tunnels, hallways and cubbie holes in the basement of TD Garden.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville tried to quell the concern when asked about Hossa’s mysterious “upper-body injury” and whether the forward would play in Game 4.

“I’m not going to go exactly [into] where the injury is or occurred,” Quenneville said. “But I’m going to say he’s likely to play [tonight].”

I’m going to say it’s likely the Hawks could be toying with us.

Maybe Hossa will play in Game 4, and maybe he won’t. For the 14-year veteran to miss a game in the Stanley Cup Finals means that his injury is serious. It’s possible that a 3-day break will be enough to help him return to health (or semi-health).

But I would take anything the Hawks say regarding Hossa’s status with a chip of ice.

After all, the Hawks harbored their Hossa secret until a few minutes before the opening faceoff of Game 3. Hossa’s coaches and teammates knew that he was injured and might not play, but the Hawks had him take part in the pregame skate while keeping possible replacement Ben Smith away from the ice.

If the Hawks knew that Smith might play, why not allow him to warm up? Was preserving a secret really more important than preparing a possible sub?

“He would have taken warmups if we wanted him to take warmups,” Quenneville said. “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 was something going on.”

Like coach, like players. It turns out that nobody on the Hawks is a hand-tipper.

A few feet to the left of Hossa’s locker – all of the gear was in place, but the player was missing – a dozen or so reporters gathered around Hawks center Dave Bolland.

Someone asked Bolland whether he had seen or spoken with Hossa since Game 3.

“Oh,” Bolland said, startled, his arms crossed. “I don’t know.”

You don’t know if you’ve seen him?

“No,” Bolland said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen him.”

This was going nowhere fast.

Maybe Hawks defenseman Johnny Oduya could provide more insight about Hossa. Oduya is from Sweden. That seems like an honest place.

How is Hossa? Have you seen him?

“I’m not a doctor,” Oduya said. “I haven’t seen him.”

Uh oh. In denying Hossa’s condition, Oduya admitted that he was not a doctor.

Gasp! What if the Bruins found out that morsel of information?

On my way out of the locker room, I spotted a Hawks player on an exercise bike. His back was turned, and the hood of his gray sweatshirt was pulled above his head.

Perhaps this was a breakthrough.

I took a few extra steps past the bike before turning around.

The face was familiar. It belonged to Jonathan Toews.

Argh! So close!

Maybe Hossa was in the ceiling ducts.

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