Blackhawks will need team effort to replace Kane
It’ll take a village
Joel Quenneville stood on the podium in the United Center press room Wednesday night and announced Patrick Kane would miss 3 weeks with an apparent left knee injury, marking one of the few occasions this season the Blackhawks will experience a significant injury to a top player.
"[Kane] is a special player, and we'll have to work our way through it knowing what he brings to our team," Quenneville said, after the winger limped off the ice during the Hawks' 4-0 victory over the Blues. "It's definitely a huge loss for us, but … we've been fortunate as far as not getting hit too hard [with injuries]."
Bryan Bickell (14 games), Michal Handzus (14), Corey Crawford (10), and Marian Hossa (five) have been sidelined for stretches with injuries, but in the grand scheme of things, the Hawks have dodged the bullets during 2013-14.
"You're going to get tested at some point," Quenneville said.
That point is now, as Kane could miss the remaining 12 games of the regular season for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who are battling the Blues and Avalanche at the top of the Central Division standings.
It's no easy task considering Kane's playmaking ability. The 25-year-old's speed, vision and remarkable hands make him a threat every time he touches the puck. Defenders are drawn to him, opening shooting lanes for his linemates, and Kane, who has 29 goals and 40 assists this season, is one of the best finishers in the NHL.
Trying to replace the dynamic talent likely will be a teamwide effort.
"Whether it's the power play or the quality or the quantity of the ice time that [Kane] absorbs, everybody's going to get a little bit more," Quenneville said. "That four-line rotation that makes us consistent a lot of games is something that we'll have to exaggerate even [more] as we go along."
Helping matters is the impending return of Brandon Saad, who has missed two games with an upper-body injury. It's possible the winger will be in the lineup when the Hawks play host to the Hurricanes on Friday night.
Strong play from Bickell and Ben Smith would be huge, as both forwards have come on in the last couple of weeks and figure to see increased ice time.
"Every game is getting more and more like playoff hockey," said Bickell, who appears to have found his game after a long struggle returning from a knee injury. "It's brings my game out more, and gets me more physically in the game."
The under-the-radar acquisition of Peter Regin via trade with the Islanders on Feb. 6 bolstered the Hawks' depth, and the veteran could see a larger role.
It's possible the Hawks will make a move to help bolster their offense. Jeremy Morin would be the leading candidate to be recalled from Rockford. The winger has had three stints with the Hawks this season, and is the IceHogs' leading goal-scorer with 24 in 47 games.
And then there is top offensive prospect Teuvo Teravainen. With his Finnish Elite league season concluded, the intriguing forward is expected to join the organization shortly after arriving Thursday in Chicago.
But to add Teravainen, 19, to the roster, the Hawks would need to clear space under the salary cap. Placing Kane on the long-term injured list, meaning he definitely would be unavailable for 10 games, would solve that issue.
Still, Teravainen has yet to face the level and depth of NHL competition. He has been working on getting stronger, but whether he can display the two-way skills Quenneville demands of his forwards remains to be seen.
Also, if Teravainen plays 10 games this season (including the playoffs), he would burn a year on his 3-year entry-level contract. General manager Stan Bowman must weigh the possibility of a significant impact from Teravainen in a run to the Cup, and a potential earlier large payday for the 18th overall selection of the 2012 draft.
Another player suddenly in the mix is forward Matt Carey, whom the Hawks signed to a 2-year free-agent deal Thursday. Carey, 22, had 18 goals and 19 assists in 38 games as a freshman this season at St. Lawrence University.