Patrick Kane's injury puts Blackhawks to the test; Penguins stirring
Off The Draw
Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane stepped onto the ice on Tuesday night tied for the NHL scoring lead with 64 points and in possession of a legitimate shot at the Hart Trophy. He left the rink doubled over in pain after being cross-checked heavily into the boards by Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic, who will not face a disciplinary hearing with the league, which reviewed the play.
“Looks like he might miss some time, but we’ll know the extent of it tomorrow,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said after the game. “We’ll see.”
We're still waiting for that official report, but early indications are grim. Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune tweeted a preliminary report suggesting that Kane may have suffered a broken collarbone and could be out of action between six and 10 weeks or even more.
A broken collarbone or separated shoulder is a dark prognosis, one that could see Kane sidelined into the postseason. The Blackhawks have placed Kane on long-term injured reserve, which means a bare minimum of 10 games or 24 days, but it's likely he'll be out much longer.
Even the best-case scenario would deal a devastating loss for the Hawks, a team that has just one regulation win in its past eight games and is battling for playoff position in the tightly packed Western Conference. Despite spending most of his time on the second line, Kane is the engine that drives Chicago's offense. He's been in on 36% of the Hawks' goals, establishing himself as a rare source of consistency on an inconsistent team. He's routinely asked to perform double duty on a power play that's flirted with the league's top 10. On a team loaded with stars, he's still the one player that Chicago's opposition game plans against.
“You can’t replace Kaner,” teammate Kris Versteeg said. “He’s a special talent, somebody who’s really irreplaceable."
“You guys know as well as I do what kind of player Kaner is,” added Patrick Sharp. “You can't replace the thing that he does with the puck, without the puck, the attention that he draws, but one of the strengths of the organization is depth. You hear it all the time, when a player goes down, you need to step up and collectively fill those shoes.”
If there's any solace here it's that the Blackhawks have that depth. Chicago survived 12 games without Kane (and six without captain Jonathan Toews) at the end of last season after Kane suffered a knee injury, going 6-6 thanks to the play of Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad and others.
“We came together well and played some big games and got some meaningful points,” Quenneville said of that stretch. “That's what we got to do now.”
In fact, circling the wagons might be exactly what's needed to rouse this group from a lengthy funk that's seen them lose any hope of tracking down Nashville for the top spot in the Central Division. But while that goal is out of sight, they need to pick up the pace if they hope to keep the Jets (only four points back) and the hard-charging Wild (eight points back) off their tail.
And if it had to happen, better that it did last night rather than next week after the trade deadline. While Chicago GM Stan Bowman may trust his group to come together, the timing allows him to explore the market for a quick fix. While the Hawks have lived tightly under the salary cap all season, an injury of this sort allowed them to put Kane on LTIR, which creates some space for Bowman to acquire another experienced forward on an expiring contract.
There's no way to replace an MVP-caliber talent like Kane. We'll find out later today if Bowman has to consider his options.
What to watch tonight
Penguins at Capitals, 8:00 ET (NBCSN, TVA, SN1)
Going by recent history, this might not be much of a contest. The Capitals have taken all three meetings with the Penguins this season, outscoring them 10-1 in the process.
But this one might be different.
"The [last two games] you're starting to see the true Pittsburgh Penguin team," Washington coach Barry Trotz told NHL.com. "I think there's a little bit of a rivalry that's starting to develop again. I think both teams will be ramped up."
The Pens do seem to have found their game recently. Vezina Trophy-candidate Marc-André Fleury has gone 4-2-1 with a 1.00 GAA and two shutouts in his last seven starts. They're getting secondary scoring from players like Patric Hornqvist and Blake Comeau. Their long-dormant power play has connected in each of the past two games. Evgeni Malkin, shifted back to the point on that man advantage, is back in OMGeno mode. And you know that Sidney Crosby will be looking to contribute something after being held in check through those first three games against the Caps.
But they'll have to figure out a way to stop Alex Ovechkin, who has three goals against the Pens this season. And they'll have to beat Braden Holtby, who has stopped 90 of the 91 shots that Pittsburgh has fired at him.
“Washington has had an edge over us," said Pens coach Mike Johnston. "You don’t want them to have a psychological edge heading into the playoffs. Certainly [Wednesday] night’s game is a big game."
Rest of the schedule: Flames at Devils (7:30 p.m. EST; SN, MSG+); Senators at Ducks (10 p.m. EST; RDS, TSN5, FS-W)
What you missed
The numbers game
• The Kings’ eight consecutive wins have equaled the second-longest win streak in franchise history—set in 1972-73, '91-92 and 2013-14—and is one shy for the team record from Jan. 21 – Feb. 6, 2010. The 46 points they have picked up through their first 32 home games are a new franchise mark that tops the 44 they picked up in 1974-75 and '90-91.
• Carey Price is now the first goalie in the Canadiens' storied history to win nine straight games on the road. The old franchise mark of eight was set by Rogie Vachon in 1968-69.
• The Rangers, who lead the NHL with nine shutouts, (Henrik Lundqvist: 5, Cam Talbot: 4) now have two goaltenders with at least four whitewashings in the same season since Ed Giacomin had eight and Gilles Villemure four in 1970-71.
• You think a lot of Canadians watch the Maple Leafs on TV? That's nothing compared to the numbers the Leafs pull in China.
• Your favorite team may be on the verge of trading away an actual NHL player in exchange for future draft picks. What exactly are those magic beans worth?
• Gary Lawless says the Jets need to use a telescope, not a microscope when making any trade decisions this week.
• Nice. Edmonton just might get its own version of the Rideau Canal.