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March 3, 2014 | 8:32am ET
Winter Wonderland in Chicago
Saturday's Stadium Series game between the Penguins and Blackhawks won't be forgotten.

CHICAGO, IL -- The game came with all the hype you could ask for to kick the NHL season into high gear for the home stretch.

Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby, teammates six days prior in the gold medal game in Sochi, faced off for the first time in the NHL. Toews with two rings, Crosby with one -- both with two gold medals.

But the Toews-Crosby storyline wasn't the only angle in this matchup.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma coached Blackhawks star Patrick Kane in Sochi. Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp had played with Chris Kunitz on Canada's gold medal team as well. And Marian Hossa had played in the Stanley Cup Final with Pittsburgh in 2008, losing to Detroit.

The scene when the puck dropped was similar to the one on New Year's Day in Ann Arbor. Snow was coming down -- hard -- and the stands were packed with fans excited to see a game in a unique environment.

As the game played out, the snow continued to accumulate and it clearly impacted the play. The pace of the game was a credit to the teams playing in it; the puck was cutting a visible trail through the snow on the ice throughout the game. There were good hits, good shots and plenty of back-and-forth early on as teams got familiar with each other and the weather.

One of the big hits early on came from Craig Adams on Hossa behind the Pittsburgh net while Chicago was on a power play. Hossa did not return for the final seven minutes of the first period, and was ruled out of the second and third periods.

After the game, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Hossa "might miss a little time" with an upper-body injury.

Sharp opened the scoring for the Hawks soon after Hossa was injured, converting a pass from Toews for his 29th of the season. Sharp attempted nine shots in the game, with five finding their way to Marc-Andre Fleury and one getting past him.

For Toews, the assist on Sharp's goal was the opening statement in a night that was dominated by him and the Blackhawks. Toews scored twice in the game, including the game-winner in the second period, and won 15 of 27 faceoffs to lead a complete effort from Chicago.

The Blackhawks received goals from three of their four lines: Toews (2), Sharp, Kris Versteeg and Bryan Bickell. On the Hawks’ fourth line, Marcus Kruger won 10 of 13 faceoffs and Brandon Bollig was credited with a team-high six hits.

Kruger, who will turn 24 in late May, has been evolved into an intriguing player on Chicago's fourth line. After carving out a niche as a penalty kill specialist over the last couple seasons for the Hawks, Kruger has grown into a more significant role with the team this year.

And, with injuries crushing the depth chart for Sweden and Nicklas Backstrom removed from the gold medal game because of his allergy medication, Kruger stepped up and skated over 18 minutes and performed well against Canada in the Olympic finale.

Before the game, Chicago general manager Stan Bowman addressed the media and said the Blackhawks don't plan on being active as the trade deadline approaches.

"We're not focused on the deadline," Bowman said. "We're really happy with the team we have... We made our big move back in November [adding Versteeg].

"I think sometimes it's hard for guy comes in for a couple weeks and then you jump into the playoffs and you can't get him acclimated to your system and the way you play and who you're going to play with,” Bowman continued. "So we're not looking at that at all. We've got a great group here."

A day later, the Blackhawks traded center Brandon Pirri to the Florida Panthers for two draft picks, a move the team was looking to complete for some time after Pirri requested a change of scenery. To be fair, this isn't exactly a deadline deal.

But the injury sustained by Hossa may impact the Hawks' needs, and could explain why they've been linked to Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks.

They have another player on their AHL club in Rockford -- Jeremy Morin -- playing extremely well and both he and Pirri were talked about by Bowman prior to the outdoor game on Saturday.

"[Pirri and Morin] are dominant at the American League level," Bowman said. "The whole reason we have the system that we have here is that they get a lot of repetition in the American League so that they’re continuing to improve their game. What we're trying to do is give those guys a chance when they're not in Chicago to play big minutes and prepare themselves for when the time comes and when they're here."

For one of them, the time already came. Will the other's?

Tab Bamford is a Columnist for The Fourth Period Magazine. Be sure to follow him on Twitter.


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