PITTSBURGH — The losses have been cropping up lately for the Blackhawks. They kept doing so on this recent road trip, a three-game trek through the East on which they collected zero points.
After Sunday night, however, they’re hoping one loss is short-lived.
Jonathan Toews left the game with an apparent left arm injury that coach Joel Quenneville didn’t think was serious, as the Blackhawks went on to lose 4-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. The Blackhawks, who have now lost three in a row and four of their last five, remain behind Colorado — which would have home-ice advantage in their series as of now — in the division race.
But the biggest concern was Toews, who is currently listed as day to day. Quenneville said the team will know more Monday of Toews’ situation.
The captain, who was hit hard along the boards by Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik in the second period, got up holding his left arm/elbow. Toews sat on the bench for a minute or so before heading to the locker room with 6:30 remaining in the second period.
Asked about the hit, several Blackhawks hadn’t seen a replay of it yet (Quenneville was among those who wanted to see it again).
“I saw the replay; I couldn’t tell. It was quick,” Corey Crawford said of the hit. “I couldn’t tell if he jumped before he hit (Toews) or his momentum launched him off the ice. It’s really hard to say.”
Marian Hossa, who played with Orpik for a season here in Pittsburgh, said, “Orps is a heavy hitter, that’s his game. It’s never easy to play against him. Sometimes the calls are on the edge, but I know him as a fair guy. Some calls are tougher than others, and sometimes they’re on the borderline.”
After avoiding injuries a good deal of the season, the Blackhawks are starting to feel them now. Now, Quenneville said, “we’ll have to find out about some other guys.”
“Maybe someone steps up in the middle, (with the) quality and quantity of ice time,” he said. “This time of the year we want to make sure Johnny gets better and fresh. Whether it’s a break or not, we’ll see. We want to make sure our health and being rested going into the playoffs is a priority.”
As for the game, the Blackhawks need to make shoring things up defensively a priority. It was lacking again on Sunday, and it cost them against a talented Penguins squad. The Penguins scored on two 2-on-1s (James Neal to give Pittsburgh an early 1-0 advantage and Sidney Crosby late to make it 3-1).
“We have to play much tighter, definitely,” Hossa said. “We play much better when we check tighter, and we have a lot of guys who can go offensively. We can’t just hang out there and give up odd-man rushes. Against teams like this, it’s going to hurt us.”
The Blackhawks are hurting right now, especially physically. If Quenneville’s first assessment holds true and Toews isn’t that bad, then the Blackhawks will be all right. But whether he misses a game or several, the team has to right its ship, fast.
“To lose (Toews), it’s a big loss. But we have to find a way to win some games here, have some other guys step up,” Crawford said. “We have two of our best players out, but every team goes through that. There are no excuses there.”