Injuries, competition could lead to busy off-ice weekend

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Injuries, competition could lead to busy off-ice weekend

Its already going to be a busy weekend for the Blackhawks, who will have back-to-back road games against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.

But could results around the league make for a busy trading weekend? And if so, will the Blackhawks be part of it?

The Blackhawks players have enough to think about with their on-ice task, games against a Los Angeles team that just pulled off a big trade and an Anaheim squad thats not completely out of playoff contention just yet. The Blackhawks are focused on their own situation foremost, with just 20 games remaining in their regular season. Sitting in sixth place with 73 points and with teams pushing at them, the Blackhawks know every point is critical.

The next (game) is the most important one, and thats the way it is from here on out, Patrick Sharp said Thursday night, after the Blackhawks squandered a chance to pick up one or two points against the Dallas Stars.

The Blackhawks tough weekend task is made tougher since theyre missing Jonathan Toews, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador for both. None traveled with the Blackhawks when they headed to Los Angeles this afternoon. If the Blackhawks can conjure up the game they played against Detroit, theyll be just fine this weekend. The team-first mentality got the through that, got them two points.

And as the team works on how to beat the Kings and Ducks, general manager Stan Bowman has his own decisions to make. Hes said he wants a defenseman, and he has until 2 p.m. CST Monday to find one. One would expect action to pick up this weekend on the trade front. Some dominoes have already fallen, as Kyle Quincey was traded to the Detroit Red Wings and Jeff Carter was acquired by Los Angeles for defenseman Jack Johnson, whos headed to Columbus.

Bowman also mentioned a while back a potential trade for a center. With Toews out, does that need grow? Toews is officially listed as day to day, and could be suffering concussion-like symptoms. He could be back by Monday. He could be out longer. And missing Toews for any amount of time is tough. Will the Blackhawks make getting a center a higher priority now?

Its going to be a busy weekend, one way or the other for the Blackhawks. They need points, need to keep pace with an ever tightening Western Conference what coach Joel Quenneville calls, the amazing race. Theyll have to collect them through this recent rash of injuries.

Bowman could do something over the weekend to help alleviate the struggle.

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd discuss the latest slump and how much does Artem Anisimov's injury play a role in their struggles?

Konroyd tells us he was surprised by Ryan Hartman's benching in Tampa.

The guys play the game, playoff minutes or press box minutes?  They run through the players who are on the bubble when it comes to postseason play.

They also discuss the Hawks chances of overtaking Washington for the President's trophy.

Plus, Konroyd breaks down possible first round opponents: St Louis, Calgary and Nashville.

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

PITTSBURGH – Tanner Kero's been thrown into a lot of different situations in his time with the Blackhawks, be it third- or fourth-line center or penalty kill.

But with Artem Anisimov out, the second-line center spot has become new top-line, left-wing spot: The Blackhawks will keep trying guys out until they find one that works. Kero's the latest to get that opportunity, and since it worked well on Monday, he'll be there again on Wednesday.

Kero will center Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane again when the Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins. The line had a good start to Monday's game against the Lightning in Tampa, scoring the team's first two goals — Kero assisted on Panarin's opener.

Coach Joel Quenneville liked Kero's first go-around there.

"Defensively he's in a good spot — he's usually in a reliable spot in his own end — he made a couple of nice plays offensively and didn't change his game too much," Quenneville said. "It's not easy playing with guys at that next level. It's certainly a great challenge and a great opportunity, so I thought he did a great job, took advantage of it. We'll see how he does going forward but we'll keep him in there for [Wednesday's] game and that gives us some more options."

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Learning on the fly can be part of a rookie season, especially when injuries arise. Jonathan Toews said Kero's handled everything well this season.

"Come to think of it, it's one of those little things that maybe goes over my head but he's definitely one of those versatile players who's as consistent as ever," Toews said. "He has, for his age, an incredible level of maturity and he carries that with him wherever he goes. You're seeing offensive improvement, too. He was making some good plays with Bread Man and Kaner. He's showing he can do it all and I think his work ethic and attitude's a source of that success."

Earlier this season Kero was with guys like Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza. They were all familiar with each other from their Rockford days, and that showed. Playing with two guys you don't know so well? It's a bit of a challenge, and one the three talk out. But ultimately, Kero said you have to rely on your instincts. 

"You go over things before the game and on the bench, get a feel for what you might want to do. But then you just have to play hockey," Kero said. "You have to trust your game, make plays. You know they're going to make plays with the puck so you try to use your speed and get open and try to go to the net, create space for them and a little traffic in front and try to capitalize on opportunities."

Anisimov will be out another 1-2 weeks. Asked if Anisimov has started skating back in Chicago yet, Quenneville said, "I don't think so but I'm not positive. But he's progressing." Filling Anisimov's skates isn't easy, as evidenced by the Blackhawks' search for his temporary replacement. Kero is the third guy to get that shot, and he took advantage of his first showing.

"Obviously it's a great opportunity to play with two great players," Kero said. "You just try to do everything you can and do the little things right."

Briefly

- Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith didn't practice on Tuesday but both are expected to play against the Penguins.

- Corey Crawford gets the start against Pittsburgh.

- Hartman, scratched after a rough game against the Florida Panthers, is probably back in against the Penguins.