Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 2/26/14
Raffi Torres is back, baggage in hand. The hard-hitting Sharks forward with the reputation for playing on the edge -- and sometimes over it -- is expected to be in the lineup for the first time this season Thursday night when San Jose begins its post-Olympic stretch run against the Philadelphia Flyers. An accidental collision in a September exhibition game tore the anterior cruciate ligament in Torres' right knee, and the recovery and rehab process after surgery has taken five months. But the reality is that it's been nine months since Torres last played in a meaningful game, having been suspended during the playoffs for what the NHL deemed a dangerous hit against Jarret Stoll of the L.A. Kings. Torres knows he won't be getting the benefit of any doubt from the league -- "Obviously, the history of my game is going to precede me," he said -- but he also is determined to maintain the high-energy, physical brand of hockey that made him a valuable acquisition from the Phoenix Coyotes at the trade deadline last April. "It's playing hard, fast hockey -- the way I was taught," Torres said Tuesday before the Sharks departed for Philadelphia. "I just need to be a little smarter out there, learn from my mistakes and hopefully finish off the rest of my career without any suspensions." Torres, 32, has earned his reputation for crossing the line -- hard-hitting, or dirty? -- with four suspensions since April 2011 as well as a handful of other serious hits that went unpunished. Among those was one that gave then-Sharks forward Milan Michalek a concussion in the 2006 playoffs when Torres was an Edmonton Oiler. But after being suspended for 25 games in the 2012 playoffs for an elbow to the head of Chicago's Marian Hossa, Torres and the Coyotes made a concerted effort to more clearly establish the line between right and wrong on the ice. The Sharks thought Torres stayed on the right side of that line when he hit Stoll in the second period of Game 1, but the NHL disagreed. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson stood behind his player, receiving a $100,000 fine for publicly questioning the league's action. He then signed Torres to a three-year, $6 million contract extension. Now, once again, Torres has to concentrate on being effective without drawing the league's wrath.
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