As the National Hockey League breaks for its annual All-Star festivities in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, there is at least one team that is excited about the weeklong break. The Chicago Blackhawks, who have been strong of late, failed to capitalize on a home and home with the Nashville Predators and allowed the team from music city to regain some confidence and tie them in the Central Division race. This tie forces the Hawks down a rung as the Preds have one more victory. But no sob story really, just a couple of bad games before the break. The Hawks will have a chance to redeem themselves in a few weeks on Valentine’s Day in Nashville.
The break allows the Hawks to rest a couple of big name players who are on the sidelines with nagging injuries. Both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp, All-Stars in their own right are on mend and will definitely benefit from some time off. Both players are part of the 20-20 club and Toews is tied for 2nd in NHL Scoring with 27 goals, behind only Steven Stamkos who has 32.
Jonathan Toews: Toews who was selected to play in the ASG suffered his injury on Friday when he was slashed by Florida rookie Eric Gudbranson during their 3-1 win over the Panthers. Captain Serious started Saturday’s game against Nashville, but played his final shift 12:52 into the second period. After the game, Coach Quenneville told NHL.com “we’ll know more over the next day or so, but he didn’t finish” and added “he’s day to day”. When speaking with CSNCHICAGO.com, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman confirmed that the Toews injury shouldn’t be long term, adding “We have a long road trip coming up, starting in Vancouver next Tuesday and we’re targeting him to play in that game, and he’s on track to hopefully be ready by then.” This is great news for the Hawks who looked like a team who could use their captain in Tuesday’s close loss to Nashville.
Patrick Sharp: The news may also be good for Patrick Sharp. Sharp who is sidelined with a left wrist fracture has missed 7 consecutive games since the January 8th contest against Detroit and this week will be nice for his recovery. Per Yahoo Sports, Sharp is expected to make the Western Canadian trip and Coach Quenneville suggested that he should be able to start on that trip. Although Sharp has mostly played wing this season, we must remember that he was one of the dominant centers along with Toews, Bolland and Madden that helped bring the cup back to Chicago. The cold hard truth is that without Sharp the Blackhawks chances in the post-season are exponentially more difficult. Sharp’s return may also temporarily quiet the media and fans who have been pressing for the Hawks to add a second line center.
After the Break: The interruption will be welcome to the rest of the team as well as they re-energize. Immediately upon returning to play, the Hawks will go on a mammoth 9 game road trip, their longest of the season. In fact, only 4 of their next 18 games will be at the United Center. As Stan Bowman mentioned, the road trip starts next Tuesday night in Vancouver, arguably their biggest rival in the league, a game that I’ve had marked on the calendar for quite some time. The Canucks and Hawks are tied with 64 points but the Canucks have a game in hand. For Hawks fans, keep in mind that the Canucks play in the weaker Northwest division which means they have 24 games against 4 teams that could all end up missing the playoffs. Anyone who’s watched these two teams battle it out over the past 3 seasons is dying to see them face off in the post season again this year. *fingers crossed*.
No Rest for the Wicked: There are at least 3 Hawks that won’t get much of a break this weekend. Marian Hossa who is leading the club in points and who is tied for 3rd in league scoring and the shifty Patrick Kane are in the Canadian capital city for the All Star Celebrations. With the All-Star player draft, which occurred last night, the Skills competition on Saturday and the ASG on Sunday, the players will not get much rest. Stan Bowman and his management team, while not players, will be a busy making and receiving phone calls and meeting with other General Managers in hopes to add some depth for the remainder of the season and their impending playoff run.
If they get their way, this will be the last rest stop before their visit to Stanley’s house.