Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
With every three-point game that passes, the cutoff for the last spot in the Western Conference playoff race grows.
At one point, it looked as if 95 points would be enough to advance, but now some, including Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, estimate it will take 97 or 98.
“If you can get 99, you should be pretty safe,” defenseman Brian Campbell said. “We’ve got some games in hand on some teams that we need to capitalize on.”
The Hawks (88 points) have played fewer games than teams they’re chasing. They have two in hand on the Nashville Predators (92 points) and one on the Anaheim Ducks (89 points). Behind the Hawks, the Dallas Stars have played the same amount and trail them by two points, while the Calgary Flames are one point behind but have played three more games.
“We want to keep winning games,” winger Patrick Kane said. “Maybe we go .500 [in the last eight games], but that’s not good enough. It gets us to 96. Hopefully, we’ll be better than .500.”
It appears winger Troy Brouwer, who has one point in his last 17 games, will be slotted on the first line in place of Viktor Stalberg tonight against the Detroit Red Wings. It’s clear Quenneville is looking at Brouwer to produce.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve done much of anything, except for hitting people,” Brouwer said. “I have to start picking up my offensive game, especially going into the playoffs.”
Patrick Sharp (left knee) has made some “rapid progress” and is on pace to return before the season ends, Quenneville said.
“We’re pleased that he’s been able to ratchet up his off-ice training and conditioning,” he said. “We’re happy with his progress.”
Despite minimal improvement, the Hawks don’t plan to rule out center Dave Bolland (concussion) for the rest of the season.