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Will Blackhawks answer ‘wake-up call’?

Will the Blackhawks repeat as champions?




WATCH: Jonathan Toews leaves game after big hit
VIDEO: Bickell on Patrick Kane injury, ‘playoff atmosphere’ vs. Blues
Patrick Kane leaves game with apparent leg injury

Updated: April 1, 2014 10:52PM



For so long, the Blackhawks appeared to be living a charmed life.

When Daniel Carcillo was hurt in the first game of last season, Brandon Saad came out of nowhere to become a major contributor. On their way to the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup, the biggest bit of adversity was a 3-1 series deficit to the Detroit Red Wings. And while stars were falling left and right at the Olympics, the Hawks — with a league-high 10 guys competing — emerged unscathed.

But the hockey gods appear to have turned against them. Patrick Kane is out for the rest of the regular season. Michal Rozsival has missed eight games in a row and Bryan Bickell six. And now Jonathan Toews is injured, and his status is uncertain. No official update will come until Wednesday, with the Hawks on lockdown mode during their two days away from the rink.

With less than two weeks left in the regular season, this can break one of two ways. Either everything falls apart and the Hawks flame out in the first round against the Colorado Avalanche, or all four key contributors come back healthy, rested and rarin’ to go for the playoffs while others gain more playing time and confidence in their absence.

It’s either a disaster or a blessing in disguise.

‘‘We’re going to have to find out about some other guys,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Maybe somebody steps up in the middle [for Toews], but that’s quality and quantity ice time. This time of year, we want to make sure Jonny gets better and fresh.’’

The Pittsburgh Penguins have plenty of experience in dealing with what the Hawks suddenly are dealing with. They’ve played significant stretches during the last few seasons without Sidney Crosby and have been playing the homestretch this season without Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Paul Martin, among others.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik — mere hours before delivering the hit that knocked Toews out of the game Sunday with an apparent shoulder or arm injury — talked about how such adversity could benefit a team in the long run.

‘‘We’ve unfortunately experienced it probably too much the last three or four years,’’ he said. ‘‘I think guys use it as motivation. When you’re a younger team, maybe you panic a little bit, and it crushes your confidence a little bit. You look around the room waiting for somebody else to do it. So maybe that’s a good thing we’ve had so much experience with it.’’

Bickell likely will be back Thursday against the Minnesota Wild. But if Toews misses any time, it’s another huge blow to an offense that, in an eight-day span, was shut out twice and scored only once in another game. Perhaps even more alarming have been the defensive lapses. The Penguins had several odd-man rushes — and not merely once the Hawks began to chase the lead late in the game.

Winger Marian Hossa called the recent bout of adversity a ‘‘wake-up call.’’

‘‘We’ve got different guys who can step up and have to step up,’’ Hossa said. ‘‘And, obviously, some other guys are going to have different minutes and somebody else is going to take another role.’’

To their credit, the Hawks don’t sound rattled despite having lost three games in a row and four of their last five. They’re embracing the challenge. Whether they can meet it remains to be seen.

‘‘You’re already in the playoffs, so you can get guys playing a little more than they’re used to and also get them out of their comfort zones,’’ winger Kris Versteeg said. ‘‘You lose arguably one of the best offensive players in the world, and it’s tough to find offense at times. But it also gives a guy like Kaner, who’s played an extreme amount of hockey, some rest. It’s not the end of the world. You just have to keep battling.’’

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkLazerus



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