Despite a key victory over the Western Conference leader that was a milestone win for their coach, the Chicago Blackhawks weren’t very happy after their last game.
That’s because they lost star forward Patrick Kane for three weeks due to an injury, a situation the Blackhawks will try to begin adjusting to when they host the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.
Corey Crawford stopped 23 shots to backstop the Blackhawks to a physical 4-0 victory over St. Louis on Wednesday, giving Joel Quenneville his 700th NHL win. The result pulled Chicago to within six points of the Blues, but that was hardly the main postgame topic of discussion in the locker room.
Kane left the game in the second period, favoring his left leg as he headed to the dressing room following a collision with Brenden Morrow.
”He’s a special player,” Quenneville said. ”We’ll work our way through this. It’s a huge loss for us.”
Duncan Keith, Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith scored as Chicago ended the Blues’ nine-game point streak and dealt St. Louis its first regulation loss against a Central Division opponent this season.
For the Blackhawks to catch the Blues, though, they’ll need to replace the contributions of Kane, whose 69 points (29 goals, 40 assists) are tops on the team. He set up Keith’s opening goal.
”He brings so many things to the table offensively for us,” said Keith, who has two goals and five assists in his last eight games. ”When you get guys like that out with an injury, you have to look at the positives from it, and the only positives come from other guys getting opportunities to play more minutes and develop their game a little bit more and get confidence going into the playoffs.”
Quenneville said he’ll replace Kane’s minutes by committee, and that he may rely more heavily on balancing ice time among his four lines.
The coach also wasn’t sure if Kane would play again in the regular season, saying, "We’ll see."
Quenneville now needs to get the Blackhawks, 2-0-1 in the past three, focused on holding off Colorado as well as catching St. Louis. The Avalanche are one point behind Chicago for second place in the Central.
Carolina (30-30-9) earned a desperately needed victory its last time out as it attempts to pass five teams for the second wild-card spot in the East. It defeated Columbus, one of the clubs it’s chasing, 3-1 on Tuesday behind a career-high 46 saves from Anton Khudobin and a goal and an assist apiece from Andrei Loktionov and Patrick Dwyer.
The Hurricanes avoided a third straight loss.
"It was a gutsy effort for us to grind it out and find a way to get two points on the road," coach Kirk Muller said.
That’s something Carolina hasn’t done much of recently, going 2-7-0 in its last nine away from home. The Hurricanes had allowed five goals in three of their last four road games prior to Tuesday.
The Blackhawks took the first meeting of the season Oct. 15, winning 3-2 in a shootout behind Crawford’s 32 saves, but Carolina has dominated the series in recent years. The Hurricanes have gone 9-1-2 with one tie in the past 13 meetings dating to the 1999-2000 season.
Carolina, though, is 0-1-1 in its last two visits to Chicago.
Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp has recorded a goal and nine assists in his past nine contests, and he opened the scoring Oct. 15.