For the Chicago Blackhawks, it appears the worst thing about Sunday’s 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins wasn’t the score. Coach Joel Quenneville announced this afternoon the team will be without Johnny Oduya for at least, “a couple of weeks.”
In Sunday’s game, Oduya skated only one shift – 1:14 just minutes into the first period – before leaving the ice. He did not return to the game.
Oduya, 33, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this season and has been heavily relied upon by the Blackhawks this season, averaging more than 20 minutes per game and nearly two minutes per outing on the league's second-best penalty kill.
However, the Blackhawks’ defense hasn’t quite lived up to its reputation, as the team is tied for 22nd in 5-on-5 shots allowed per 60 minutes this season with 29.3. Chicago is the lowest ranking playoff team in that category and with the injury to Oduya they’ll lose a puck-moving defensemen. That said, Oduya hasn't contributed offensively this season in a big way -- he has just two goals and five points in 60 games. Making $3.375 million this season, Oduya will probably be looking for a raise in the off-season and is likely playing his final season as a Blackhawk.
To make up for Oduya’s absence Sunday, 36-year-old Michal Rozsival skated a season-high 21:23. It was just the third time Rozsival had played more than 20 minutes this season, and the second straight game in which the veteran blueliner was relied upon so heavily. Rozsival's immobility, largely due to his age, has posed problems for Chicago, and skating him 20 minutes a night hasn't been ideal for the Blackhawks. It also isn't ideal for the roster, either, as Quenneville's line blender is at its high point this season.
Without Oduya, the Blackhawks defense pairs are already seeing a mixup. Quenneville has used many variations this season, and CSN’s Tracey Myers reported that practice saw Duncan Keith skating alongside David Runblad, Niklas Hjlamarsson with Brent Seabrook and Kyle Cumiskey with Rozsvial. Rozsival's pairing with Cumiskey could mean the Blackhawks are set to give him another shot after he was scratched for Sunday’s game. However, if Tim Erixon is ready to go for Tuesday's game against the Florida Panthers, it could be he who draws back in.
Erixon, who was acquired by the Blackhawks in December in exchange for Jeremy Morin, has dressed in only six games this season for Chicago and been a healthy scratch for 18. However, Erixon has been injured of late, sitting the last six games out with a lower body injury.
Cumiskey signed with the Blackhawks in the off-season and made his season debut 10 days ago when Chicago faced off against the New Jersey Devils. Cumiskey has suited up for four games, but has only averaged 10:52 per outing, including a low of 6:24 in the Blackhawks’ Feb. 18 matchup with the Detroit Red Wings. The 28-year-old blueliner provides the Blackhawks with a more mobile option and, at the very least, is healthy at this point.
This all comes as the team heads towards the trade deadline and sits just four points up on the Winnipeg Jets. Chicago has a game in hand, but they’ve dropped their last two games in regulation and have won just two of their last seven. Over that stretch, the team has allowed more than three or more goals in five games.
Rumors have hinted at the Blackhawks pursuing a defenseman at the trade deadline, and it’s possible that Chicago’s moves late last night will have an impact on whatever it is the Blackhawks are to do going forward.
In positive news for the team, Trevor van Riemsdyk has resumed skating with the team and looks as though he could make a return to the Blackhawks lineup sometime in the near future. He has been out of the lineup since November with a leg injury.