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Patrick Sharp expected to miss 3-4 weeks

Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp scored his 20th goal seasSunday. He has 40 points. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp scored his 20th goal of the season Sunday. He has 40 points. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 11, 2012 8:20AM

If the Blackhawks thought they were being tested with forwards Daniel Carcillo and Marcus Kruger out of the lineup, they might be overwhelmed by the loss of Patrick Sharp for about a month.

The Hawks put Sharp on injured reserve with a suspected fracture in his left hand/wrist, which he suffered in the first period of the 3-2 overtime loss Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings. He’s expected to miss three to four weeks.

“He’s one of our leading scorers,” goalie Corey Crawford said. “Just his presence in the room and having the guy there just makes you that much more confident in the room and going onto the ice. Obviously, that’s a huge loss for us.”

Sharp’s loss won’t intensify general manager Stan Bowman’s search for a top-six forward, which has been ongoing for weeks. But it should show why he’s looking to address the Hawks’ lack of depth up front.

The Hawks might be one of the highest-scoring teams in the league, but they’ve been counting on Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa far too much. The foursome has accounted for 60 percent of the Hawks’ points from their forwards.

Relying on three rookie forwards — Jimmy Hayes, Andrew Shaw and the recently called up Ben Smith — to pick up the slack is impractical. It’s too much pressure to put on players just trying to stick in the NHL.

The Hawks need veterans Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell, Michael Frolik and Andrew Brunette to produce consistently to make up for Sharp’s absence.

But they’ve been inconsistent, especially the Hawks’ once-touted checking line of Bolland, Frolik and Bickell. Bolland has only two goals in the last 19 games, Bickell has one goal in the last 25 and Frolik has one assist in the last 11. Sharp scored his 20th goal Sunday and has 40 points.

Coach Joel Quenneville said that a commitment to defense without Sharp might be the best approach. In other words, he knows it will be very tough to replace him.

“A defense-first attack and defense-first mentality is what we need,” Quenneville said. “[Sharp has] certainly had a good first half for us. We have to check better, pay attention to ­details and play tighter. Off of that, you might get more ­offense.”

NOTES: Kruger (concussion) went through a grueling practice Monday and hopes to be cleared to play in the next day or two. He won’t play Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

◆ Crawford will start in goal for the Hawks against the Blue Jackets.

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