On Wednesday night, the Chicago Blackhawks got two critical points against the St. Louis Blues, but they came at a heavy price as Patrick Kane left the game with a lower body injury after a second period collision with Brendan Morrow.
During the game, NBCSN’s Pierre McGuire said Kane’s father and agent had told him the injury would keep the winger out for at least two weeks, and then after the contest was over, head coach Joel Quenneville pegged the timetable at three weeks.
Obviously any timeline that close to the injury occurring is highly speculative, but the fact of the matter is that Kane is going to miss some significant time for only the second time in his career.
In his seven seasons in the NHL, Kane has only missed 12 games, and nine of those came during the 2010-11 season after a game in which he collided awkwardly with Cory Sarich of the Calgary Flames. Two more came just before the 2009 Winter Classic, and the 12th game was last season’s finale against the Blues, which he sat out simply for rest purposes.
Kane’s durability has never been an issue despite his relatively slight frame when he came into the league (he has since bulked up a bit), so there’s not really any long-term concern that should come from the injury. After all, it was a fluke play that occurred when Sheldon Brookbank hit Morrow into the boards, and Morrow simply fell down and happened to land on Kane’s leg.
Aside from that feeling of relief that this won’t be something chronic to look out for, the question now for the Blackhawks is how they are going to deal with the injury. They have very little salary cap space to make any significant moves like calling up Teuvo Teravainen or Jeremy Morin unless they get a bit creative with their cap room.
That would either mean waiving Sheldon Brookbank (where he would likely get picked up by another team) or by sending David Rundblad down to the minors (unlikely since the Hawks had to give up a second round draft pick for him). Both of those moves would also be complicated by the fact that Michal Rozsival is still on the shelf with an ailment and is expected to miss at least a few more games.
Another possibility is the Hawks could place either Kane or Rozsival on Long Term Injured Reserve. That move would ensure that they would be able to clear up some salary cap room to call up another player to take Kane’s place, but it would also mean that Kane would have to miss a minimum of 10 games and 24 days. Doing so would take Kane off the roster for the rest of the regular season, and judging by the conflicting reports on how long it will take him to recover from the injury, it seems unlikely that Stan Bowman and Quenneville will want to box themselves in like that.
The final option is to simply ride out the storm until Brandon Saad comes back, which should happen either Friday or Sunday. That means the Hawks will have to continue to double shift forwards in different spots and possibly even have to put Brookbank back in the lineup as a forward, which isn’t an ideal scenario at all but is something that they’ve at least attempted before. Guys like Bryan Bickell and Ben Smith have really looked good in the previous few games, so they could really boost the team if they are given more ice time in Kane’s absence.
There is no ideal scenario for the Blackhawks when it comes to adjusting to life without Kane in the lineup. He is a dynamic playmaker who can affect the game in a lot of areas, and his presence both at even strength and on the power play will be sorely missed as the Hawks try to climb the Central Division standings.
They have some tough games remaining this season, and whatever route they end up choosing to deal with this injury will be critical to whether or not they are able to grab home-ice advantage in the playoffs, or if they’ll have to be road warriors once the postseason begins.