Patrick Kane is one of the NHL’s more durable young players, who had missed only three regular-season games in his career up until this week. One was the result of the flu, the other two as a result of a high ankle sprain that he played with for much of the 2008-09 season that probably should have kept him out far longer. So Blackhawks’ coach Joel Quenneville’s hope - that three weeks is the maximum Kane will be out with another ankle injury - seems reasonable.
Without Kane, Marian Hossa and all those ex-Hawks’ playing well in Atlanta, the Blackhawks have a challenge here, stay in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race until they can get their line-up sorted out. It reminds me of the struggles that the Detroit Red Wings had under similar circumstances last year. Technically, Detroit was ninth at the Olympic break, right on the cusp of a playoff spot, even if no one in their right minds figured they'd miss, it was closer than it had been for years. Chicago is in the same pickle - injuries undermining what it already a paper-thin line-up as they try to integrate new support players to replace the useful Ladds and Byfugliens.
Somehow, the madhouse on Madison has been anything less than intimidating this year; when the Blackhawks beat Dallas last night, with Cory Crawford and not ex-Stars' goalie Marty Turco between the pipes, all it did was square their home record at 8-8. Colin Fraser, the ex-Hawk, said it pretty well on that Oil Change documentary. The atmosphere at the United Centre can be so good that it motivates visitors as well as home teams.
In the meantime, as the Blackhawks tread water in the standings, a key contributor figures to be Dave Bolland, who is playing up the depth char and suddenly coming alive offensively after a slow start. Bolland had a two-goal night earlier this week, raising his total to three, and was good again Wednesday in the win over Dallas on the new Killer Bs line (Bolland, Troy Brouwer, Bryan Bickell). Anyone who remembers Bolland with the London Knights (130 points in 59 games in his last junior season) knows he has shown the ability to provide offence at different times in his career, including last year’s playoffs, when he produced 16 timely points in the 22-game run to the Cup.