The facts: 7:30, CSN, 720-AM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
You could call it good news that the Blackhawks hope forward Patrick Sharp can return from his injured left knee by the end of the regular season.
‘‘He could have been Jordan Hendry,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said, referring to the Hawks defenseman who is out six months with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
But not having their leading goal-scorer, whether it’s for a week or longer, isn’t really good at all, especially with 10 must-wins left in the season.
With defenseman Brian Campbell nursing an injured left foot and center Dave Bolland out indefinitely with a concussion, it’s just more bad luck for a team that has had a ton of it on the injury front this season.
‘‘There’s never a good time for injuries, but all of a sudden they seem to be all at the same time,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘[Sharp’s injury is] not long-term, but not long-term is [long enough].’’
There will be lineup adjustments. Viktor Stalberg will join Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the first line, promising center Marcus Kruger has been brought in from Sweden to try to fill Bolland’s spot, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will be reunited on the blue line and there is a chance Campbell will play tonight against the Florida Panthers at the United Center.
But a change in style, even approach, will be needed. The Hawks aren’t the same team that recently won eight games in a row. Tight-checking affairs such as their 2-1 victory Sunday against the Phoenix Coyotes should be the norm down the stretch.
‘‘[Sharp] has been productive for us all year long,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘We want to think the checking part of our game has got to be the area we have to reinforce . . . and [we shouldn’t] think we have to replace [Sharp] with goals. We should be thinking about checking.’’
Injuries happen all the time in the NHL, and plenty of top teams are ailing right now, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers.
In the West, the Vancouver Canucks lost center Manny Malhotra for the rest of the season after a puck hit him in the left eye, and Los Angeles Kings forward Justin Williams was ruled out Tuesday with a dislocated shoulder.
But there’s a difference. The Hawks are losing multiple key players at the worst time imaginable. Unlike the Capitals, Penguins, Flyers and Canucks, the Hawks aren’t a lock for the postseason.
The Kings might be in the same boat as the Hawks, but they haven’t also lost a puck-moving defenseman with a plus-28 rating or a player described by rival coaches as one of the NHL’s best checking centers.
Replacing Sharp alone will be difficult. Not only does he see time on both special teams, but his ability to play wing or center is crucial for a team that lacks depth in the middle.
‘‘As a team, we all recognize the challenge that we have to play without some of our best players,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘Everybody has to step up.’’
The Hawks have overcome plenty of key injuries this season, just not to this extent. When they were without Marian Hossa (knee) and Patrick Kane (ankle) for seven games in December, they buckled down defensively, took fewer risks offensively, tried to be more physical and went 4-2-1. The same approach is needed now.
‘‘Playing hard in our own end, being aware in the offensive zone, being responsible with the depth of our third guy [on offense], checking through the neutral zone — there’s enough offense [in] how well we check,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘When we think we want to outscore teams, we’ll get ourselves in a lot of trouble. . . . [Our defensive game] is what we have to tighten up.’’