Chicago Blackhawks fans thought it was safe to get back on the bandwagon, as prolific offensive threats Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane both were returning to the lineup after injury, and it appeared going into the game with the hated rival St. Louis Blues that the Blackhawks were set to make their move in the division and conference.
Fate and the Blues' Matt D'Agonstini had other things in mind when Blackhawks captain and defending Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Toews was driven in the boards.
Various reports had the injury pegged at possibly being longer than a month. This was a dreaded possible outcome for the Hawks who are in the thick of an ultra-competitive and close Western Conference to get a spot for the postseason.
But it was announced by Coach Joel Quenneville that the injury would not be that long in fact, but it looks to be about two weeks before the young team leader will be able to make his return.
So, basically the Blackhawks are looking at not having Toews for around seven games.
Obviously, anytime a game-changing talent like Toews is absent from the lineup it will hurt the hockey club in a multitude of ways. But, it is still the nature of the "beast" of hockey.
Toews has been a very tough and resilient player throughout his short career, with only a knee injury in his rookie campaign keeping him out for an extended period of time.
So, as the Blackhawks have done for more than a month, they will have to count on other players in the red sweater to make an impact and prove themselves to the fans and coaches.
One player who must step up and play a larger role is Dave Bolland. Bolland was a key player during the championship run last season, but this season he has disappeared for games at a time.
If players like Bolland, Ryan Johnson and young Jake Dowell can deliver in the short time that Toews will be absent, then the Blackhawks could really have something going when No. 19 returns.
But, for the short term, the Blackhawks are losing both an emotional and on-ice leader. Toews was second in goals and tied for second in assists on the team. He also had the best plus-minus record on the team, as well to this point in the year.
Overall, this injury to Toews' shoulder should not be something Blackhawks fans should lose sleep over, but in a season that has been an imperfect ride like much of last year, it is a small nightmare.
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