The news wasn’t great, but it could have been worse. Patrick Kane, who left in the second period of the Chicago Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over St. Louis, is out three weeks with a lower left-leg injury.
Now the tough task awaits the Blackhawks, who may not see Kane again until the playoffs begin: how do you replace the hard-to-replace player? You do it with several players.
The Blackhawks will look to everyone to bring a little more while Kane is sidelined, starting Friday when they face the Carolina Hurricanes. Players were obviously disappointed to see Kane go down against the Blues — forward Brenden Morrow fell on to Kane’s leg in the second period and Kane did go to the locker room under his own power. But they’ve been through this before and know what needs to be done. That by-committee work started as soon as Kane left, with the Blackhawks up 1-0 at the time.
“You shorten up the lines, have other guys step up, which they did tonight. It shows the depth of four lines,” Bryan Bickell said after the game. “It’s unfortunate it happens, but at times during the year there are going to be injuries. Hopefully he comes back sooner or later.”
Yes, injuries happen. The Blackhawks have been relatively lucky with them this season; Bryan Bickell missed a month with a knee injury and Marian Hossa’s upper-body malaise kept him out two weeks. As far as Kane, the Blackhawks have soldiered on without him in the past.
Let’s look back to December of 2010, when Patrick Kane suffered an ankle injury against the Calgary Flames. He missed the next eight games and the Blackhawks went 5-2-1 over that span. Oh, and Hossa was out around the same time, missing seven of those games along with Kane. Let’s also remember that the Blackhawks’ depth that season was nowhere near where it is in 2013-14. That team was rebuilding off the 2009-10 win-Cup-then-purge-the-roster season.
Again, the Blackhawks know it’s going to come down to everyone contributing.
“It’s hard to pick up the slack for a guy like Patrick Kane. As a team guys will have to step up,” said Ben Smith, who’s centered the line with Kane the last three contests. “We’re definitely capable of that, but it has to be a group effort.”
Duncan Keith agreed.
“Looking at it in a positive way, we have other guys who will have more opportunity to play than maybe they normally would,” he said. “That’s only going to benefit them.”
Losing Kane obviously hurts. Even though the right wing has been up and down in the points department lately, his skating and playmaking always make him a threat, one that opponents always have to try to contain. But the Blackhawks have gone through this before and with less depth than they have now. They still want to get points, they still want to improve their standing in the standings and they know they need everyone on board to do it without Kane.
“You think of that four-line rotation that makes us consistent; it’s something we’ll have to exaggerate as we go along here,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Whether it’s power play, quality or quantity of the ice time, everyone’s going to get more (responsibility).”