the game, Schultz said. Its not the same game.But not

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Marian Hossa is as close to a living legend as the Chicago Blackhawks have in their dressing room. Younger teammates are eager to call him special and revere him as a role model.It means Im older, Hossa said. Im just glad I can still play.Hossa can still play, and his consistency at both ends of the ice is a piece of what makes the Blackhawks perennial Stanley Cup contenders. Hes 35 now and this season passed the 1,100-game mark, but on a team led by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, Hossa keeps things together as one of the NHLs best defensive forwards.He just flies on the backcheck. Theres a lot of guys that skate a lot faster going forward than they do coming back to their own end, and hes not that way, Kane said. Hes so good at stripping the puck. Hes also good in these one-on-one battles where more often than not youre going to see him coming away with the puck.He doesnt seem to get any older, either. He seems to get better and better each year.This is Hossas 16th full NHL season and he remains a key cog for the Blackhawks, who have won the Cup twice in the past five years and visit the Washington Capitals on Thursday in the Winter Classic. Hossa is averaging 0.65 points a game, the lowest since his rookie year with the Ottawa Senators, but his two-way game is responsible for preventing more than a few goals against.Teammates past and present marvel at what Hossa can do in the defensive zone and without the puck.Hes got that powerful stride that gets him back in the play easily, said former Blackhawks forward Jeremy Morin, whos now with the Columbus Blue Jackets. And he can take the puck off your stick with ease. Hes so strong on the stick and its always in the right position. He can steal pucks with the best in the league, for sure.That, Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad said, is how Hossa turns defence into offence. In 1,127 games, Hossa has 472 goals and 547 assists.Hossa is 76th on the all-time points list, ahead of Hockey Hall of Famers Pat LaFontaine, Lanny McDonald and Maurice Richard. Hes 52nd in goals, ahead of LaFontaine, Doug Gilmour and Pavel Bure, and third among active players.His career numbers are similar to former Senators teammate Daniel Alfredsson, who retired earlier this month after putting up 426 goals and 682 assists in 1,178 games. But Hossa may be one of the most underrated players in the NHL now and as a result is considered a borderline Hall of Famer at best.Maybe I would have more numbers but maybe some other teams wouldnt want me, Hossa said. Theres an advantage and disadvantage with that. Obviously Im happy how the outcome played out.Hossa has two Stanley Cup rings and appeared in the final two other times. A five-time all-star, the Slovak winger with four Olympic appearances has a case, even if its not easy to quantify.I know (from) being around him and still dominating like he does, I think its his 17th year, hes always been a great player, Saad said. Im not sure exactly the reason, but theres so many little things the guy does, its incredible.Hossa still has six seasons left on his contract at a cap hit of US$5.275 million, so he likely has plenty of time before the Hall of Fame question even comes up. Judging from his assessment of 1,000 career points that he has been lucky, Hossa probably isnt all that worried about it.Truth be told, Hossa has been fortunate to avoid injuries throughout most of his career. The fewest games he played in a full season was 57 in 2009-10.Hossa gets some practices off because of his age and experience, but that doesnt seem to detract from his play. Coach Joel Quenneville calls him a great pro and a player who reinforces what the staff wants out of the team.Defensively and offensively hes got a great thought process, Quenneville said. Game in, game out, you use him in all situations. Hes a very useful player.Before joining Chicago, Hossa was more than just a useful player for the Senators, Atlanta Thrashers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. Despite all that, its possible hes still under-appreciated.But not by the Blackhawks.We definitely know how special of a player he is, whether he gets the recognition or not, Saad said. Its pretty surreal to see a guy like that still playing and still doing as well as hes doing.---Follow @SWhyno on Twitter. Willie Snead IV Jersey . - The Mavericks built a 12-point lead with 2:50 to play, gave away all but two points of it, and still managed to hang on. Baltimore Ravens Jerseys . 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Jordan Lasley Jersey . -- Chris Jones and Louisville have done a tremendous job protecting the basketball this season and thats led to easy victories.PHILADELPHIA - Dave Schultz would drop his gloves in a flash, his bare fists pummeling away at unprotected faces in fits of fury so ferocious he became known as The Hammer.Schultz was the intimidating backbone of Philadelphias Broad Street Bullies teams of the 1970s that won a pair of Stanley Cup championships. The Flyers rugged style of play became their calling card, and rare was the NHL team that didnt have a tough guy or two whose primary role was to protect his teammates by brute force.Fast forward 40 years since the Flyers last championship and players like Schultz are having a harder time sticking in the NHL. The role of the enforcer is seemingly going down without a fight as speed and skill on every line have become the norm.In a league that is also facing head injury concerns — and lawsuits — is it finally time to say goodbye to the goon?They just wanted to take fighting out of the game, Schultz said. Its not the same game.But not necessarily a worse one.The true signal the culture in the NHL has changed comes from Schultzs old stomping grounds. For the first time since the organization was in its infancy, the Flyers opened the season without a true enforcer on their roster. Heck, their biggest threat might be goalie Ray Emery, who headlined a fight last season against Washingtons unwilling goalie, Braden Holtby.Weve got some toughness on our team, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. Weve got some guys that can handle themselves. But I think when you look, there werent a lot of fights in the preseason. There are never any fights in the playoffs. In between, theres been less and less.The numbers back up the former NHL goalie.There were 143 fights through the first 408 games of the season, which projects to 431 fights overall, according to hockeyfights.com. Thats a dramatic dip from 734 fights in 2008-09 and 714 fights in 2009-10. The number of fights fell into the 500s in 2011-12 and the 400s last season (there were 347 fights in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season).The NHL has toughened instigation penalties in place since the 1930s. It added a two-minute minor for the player who started the fight in the 1990s, looking to both cut down on brawling and perhaps attract more casual fans. Of late, the NHL is dishing out longer suspensions for cheap shots and illegal hits, erasing some of the players unwritten code of justice.That tells you, lets just play hockey, Schultz said. And when theres a problem, the league will take care of it.That role used to be left to the enforcers, the de faccto bodyguards for the stars.dddddddddddd Back on the put-up-your-dukes heyday, even Wayne Gretzky had his own personal great one watching his back: Marty McSorley was the Hall of Famers first line of thuggish defence, serving and protecting Gretzky in stints with Edmonton and Los Angeles.I remember when guys like Gretzky said, we want guys to be able to protect us, Schultz said. (Sidney) Crosby doesnt want to be protected. By the league, yes. But not by one of his teammates.Stu Grimson, the colour analyst on Nashville Predators TV broadcasts, was known as The Grim Reaper with 2,113 career penalty minutes in his NHL career. He said fighting still has a role in the game, especially at home games where one entertaining scrum can shift momentum and liven up the fans.I think the fight itself, there is a purpose for it, and you can put your finger on that purpose, he said. I think it makes sense to keep that in the game, and I think its valuable to the game for that reason.Chicago Blackhawks forward Dan Carcillo said fights arent going to completely vanish, either.I dont think the mindless, senseless, go out and fight, rah-rah, for no reason, I dont think that has a place in the game anymore, Carcillo said. If guys take runs at other players, I think those players that take the run at them, whether they fight or not, they have to know in the back of their mind that theres still fighting in this game and theyre going to have to answer the bell or respond to it if theyre going to take dirty runs or cheap shots.But in the back of everyone minds is the risk of concussions and other long-term health risks that come with trading punches on the ice. The idea that brawling was as much fun as a nasty wreck in NASCAR or bench-clearing brawl in baseball came to a jarring halt in 2011 when three former enforcers were found dead.Derek Boogaard, once named in a Sports Illustrated players poll as the NHLs toughest fighter, died from an accidental mix of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone. Wade Belak hanged himself and Rick Rypien was discovered at his home after suffering from depression for a decade.The 65-year-old Schultz said he suffered nothing more than a couple of minor concussions and feels fine.We didnt hit anyone near as hard as they do today, Schultz said.There are just now far fewer of those hits.Its still an exciting sport, Schultz said. Its just evolving. Its the way it is._____AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver and Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report. 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