Add Jonathan Toews name to the Blackhawks sick bay, out probably from 2-4 weeks with a knee sprain (early diagnosis) suffered early in last night's 9-2 humiliation at the hands of the resurgent L.A. Kings. He joins Marty Havlat, Jason Williams, Brent Sopel, Jim Wisniewski and Dave Bolland. Sopel, Havlat and Williams should all be back within the next 10 days; but the clock is ticking on a team that is already on the outside looking in on a playoff spot.
Hockey is a game where confidence can make a huge difference in a team's performance. L.A. has it right now; the Hawks don't. With two games left on a short West Coast trip, the banged up (physically and psychologically) young Hawks could be looking at another 4-game losing streak by the time they head back to friendlier confines.
Lose five, win four, lose four. No matter the sport, this is the hallmark of a young team trying to establish itself (which the Hawks are), not a playoff team (which they most likely aren't).
With a fairly full roster, the Hawks have been able to successfully operate their revolving door with Rockford, allowing a player or two to come in, show their wares under minimal pressure, and perhaps establish a meaningful role with the team or head back to the AHL for more seasoning. Now, the roster is full of names like Jake Dowell, Danny Richmond, Jack Skille and Petri Kontiola, all of whom are being asked to play vital roles on a struggling NHL club.
Watching and listening to last night's debacle, I have a few observations:
Kings players literally parked in front of Nikolai Khabibulin with impunity, giving him no chance on at least two goals. In both cases, Duncan Keith seemingly made no effort to move them out of the crease.
Dustin Byfuglien continues to convince me his NHL future is at forward, especially after watching him struggle again with positioning in his own zone as a defenseman. Sorry to all those Hawk fans who insist he's a defenseman, the numbers (and the videotape) don't lie.
Between periods on the WSCR radio broadcast, Troy Murray interviewed Stan Bowman who was pretty clear that the team is not going to panic and get taken in a deal while vulnerable. Bowman clearly sounded as though he sees this is a work in progress and there is no reason to mortgage the future. Bravo, Stan (and Dale and the rest of the front office).
Finally, a player will likely need to be called up from Rockford to fill Toews' spot. One player Hawk fans have not seen in the regular season is last year's AHL rookie of the year runner-up Troy Brouwer. Though not a center, Brouwer is a natural goal scorer with a great shot and can play a physical game. He has 15 goals this year at Rockford, the majority of which are on the power play. Between Tuomo Ruutu, Bob Lang, Kontiola, Pat Sharp and Yanic Perreault, the Hawks have a lot of forwards who can take draws in Toews' absence.
John Jaeckel "HB28"
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