The Chicago Blackhawks will be looking to keep their Central Division title hopes alive on Thursday night, but they’ll be battling the St. Louis Blues with one arm tied behind their backs.
That’s because the Blackhawks will be without five key members of the team as they take on the Blues. Corey Crawford will be out yet again as he recovers from an upper body injury, and although Scott Darling has done a decent job in relief, the Blackhawks’ defense could really use the goaltender when the playoffs finally roll around.
Also out for the Blackhawks are three different forwards, including Artem Anisimov, who was knocked out of Tuesday’s win over the Arizona Coyotes after being slammed into the boards by Antoine Vermette. Joel Quenneville is optimistic that Anisimov will be ready for the postseason, but he’s not taking any chances with a critical piece of the team’s vaunted second line.
The first line will also be shorthanded on Thursday, as Marian Hossa will miss another game with a lower body injury. Hossa has been skating, according to Quenneville, but wasn’t quite ready to go for the critical showdown with the Blues.
The player who normally would replace Hossa on the top line is also out however, as Andrew Shaw will miss another game. His prognosis is less rosy for the playoffs, as the team hasn’t made a ruling on when or if he’ll be back in the near future.
Finally, Duncan Keith will miss his fourth game due to the suspension that he received after slashing Charlie Coyle in the face in a game against the Minnesota Wild last month.
As for how the Blackhawks will lineup, Quenneville has been forced to get creative with his roster. Jonathan Toews and Andrew Ladd will be joined by Richard Panik, who scored a goal in Tuesday’s win over Arizona. Teuvo Teravainen will also move back up in the rotation after the Anisimov injury, centering Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane.
The bottom two lines are where things get really interesting. Andrew Desjardins will serve as the third line center in Thursday’s game, with Bryan Bickell and Dale Weise as his wingers, and Marcus Kruger will take care of fourth line duties with Tomas Fleischmann and Brandon Mashinter.
Fortunately for the Blackhawks, they aren’t the only ones who will be shorthanded on Thursday night. The Blues will be missing captain David Backes, and they’ll also be without Steve Ott in the game. Jay Bouwmeester is questionable as well, according to the team.