The Chicago Blackhawks are facing the possibility of playing out the regular season without superstar forward Patrick Kane. An injury to his left leg Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues definitely changes the look of the Blackhawks for the next few weeks.
ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers reported after the Blackhawks' 4-0 win over St. Louis that Kane would be missing "about three weeks," according to coach Joel Quenneville. What appears to be a knee injury could well keep Kane out of action until the start of the playoffs.
There was a lot to like from Chicago's effort against the Central Division-leading Blues. The 'Hawks defense stifled St. Louis all night. Corey Crawford turned away 23 shots to post his second shutout of 2013-14. Andrew Shaw, Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger all potted goals in the victory.
Quenneville picked up his 700th coaching win, and Chicago now stands a point ahead of Colorado for second place in the division. However, news of Kane's injury, suffered in the eighth minute of the second period, tempered the good feelings Wednesday night.
Let's face it. The Blackhawks overtaking St. Louis for the Central Division title is a pipe dream with just 12 games to play in the regular season. Losing Kane doesn't make that task any more attainable.
Going three weeks without Chicago's top goal and point scorer isn't the way Quenneville imagined closing out the regular season. If Kane is able to make a full recovery from his injury, however, there could be some benefits.
The 'Hawks just got Marian Hossa back after two weeks out with an upper-body injury. The time off seems to have done the veteran some good. Assuming Kane can return at 100 percent, he could hit the first round of the playoffs with some fresh legs.
Chicago could elect to place Kane on long-term injured reserve in order to free up some cap space and expand the roster. I would imagine that Jeremy Morin would get a chance to contribute and be called up from Rockford.
Teuvo Teravainen is also an intriguing possibility. His season is over in Finland, and he should soon be available to join the Blackhawks organization. What that means in the immediate future is something I'll address soon, but putting Kane on LTIR could provide the needed cap space to bring Teravainen aboard if that's what the team wants.
As Friday's game with Carolina looms, the Blackhawks are going to have to have current roster members step up. Seeing Bryan Bickell active in over 14 minutes of action Wednesday was a promising sign. The recent play of Smith and the impending return of Brandon Saad could also bode well for the 'Hawks.
Chicago went 3-3 with Hossa out of the lineup this month. The final dozen regular-season games include several tough matchups in and out of the division. We'll have to wait and see how the organization chooses to handle Kane's absence and how the team responds to losing one of its best players.