The Chicago Blackhawks are scuffling down the stretch, and just learned they would be without their superstar captain for the remainder of the regular season.
Preparing to play their first game of 2013-14 without Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks try to avoid losing a fourth in row Thursday night against the visiting Minnesota Wild.
Toews suffered an upper-body injury during a hit from Brooks Orpik in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh, and the team announced Wednesday it will rest him until the playoffs.
"He’s going to be 100 percent for the playoffs," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We’re not going to play him for these six games so he’ll be ready to go."
Chicago (42-19-15) is already without Patrick Kane (lower body) for the rest of the regular season and Toews’ absence would appear to make it even more difficult for the defending Stanley Cup champions to make up its deficit with second-place Colorado in the Central Division. The Blackhawks, who have already clinched a playoff spot despite enduring some inconsistent efforts for much of the last month, are three points behind the Avalanche.
Without the combined 57 goals from Toews and Kane, Chicago could sure use Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa to step up.
However, Sharp has scored just three of his team-high 31 goals in the last 20 games – though he does have 15 assists in that span. Hossa, fourth with 27 scores, has two goals and no assists in his last seven contests.
Chicago is among the league leaders with 243 goals but has scored one or less in three of its last five (1-4-0) including a pair of shutouts. It had been shut out once in its first 71 games.
Sharp and Hossa each have a goal and an assist in four games against the Wild this season.
Minnesota (39-26-11) has also been hit hard by injuries, with goaltenders Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding and Darcy Kuemper all injured. That has forced the Wild to rely on Ilya Bryzgalov while they try to stay in front of Dallas and Phoenix in the Western Conference.
He kept the Coyotes at bay in the first of his back-to-back starts, a 3-1 win Saturday. Bryzgalov then prevented Los Angeles from scoring in the final 28 minutes in a 3-2 win Monday.
Mikko Koivu and Matt Moulson scored in a 1:02 span early in the third period to give the Wild their second comeback victory in as many nights. Koivu also had an assist while extending a six-game point streak, and Zach Parise scored his fifth goal in as many games in the second period.
"You don’t want to be behind, but this shows that we believe in what we’re doing," Koivu said. "It was big for our confidence, to get a win over a team like L.A., because they’re deep."
The Wild have taken three of four from the Blackhawks this season, with Jason Pominville tallying four goals and an assist.
Bryzgalov is 0-5-1 with a 4.22 goals-against average in his past six games in Chicago but has posted a respectable 2.43 GAA in the last two.
Minnesota is seeking to reach 40 wins for the first time since 2008-09.