While the win over Phoenix was definitely huge, it might have come at a serious price. Leading goal-scorer, Patrick Sharp, injured his left knee after a collision with Rostislav Klesa late in the first period. Sharp left the game and never returned.
The Blackhawks are getting banged up at precisely the wrong time, as a playoff berth is still not a guarantee in this crazy Western Conference race. Jordan Hendry is out for the season with a torn ACL, while Dave Bolland’s upper body injury has kept him out since the 19th with no sign of return. Brain Campbell was shaken up last week as well and missed the game Sunday but is out skating in practice as I write this, but he still he remains unsure about his chances of playing tomorrow.
Needing someone to fill some gaps opened by all the injuries, the ‘Hawks decided to import some talent all the way from Sweden.
Marcus Kruger, according to reports, will join the team for the remaining 10 game of the season. News hasn’t struck on what position Kruger will play, but with Bolland and Sharp both centers, one can assume it will be center.
Kruger could also play forward, but that would trigger the coaching staff to make a forward switch to center, which would probably cause adjustment time that the ‘Hawks don’t have.
All in all this situation is a burden to the ‘Hawks.
They lose their leading scorer, but most importantly they lose the chemistry the first line has, which has been crucial to their recent success. If the first line is clicking, the ‘Hawks tend to win.
The ‘Hawks are now faced with an opening in their first line, and all signals point to Viktor Stalberg filling in the empty spot. Stalberg practiced with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane this morning, and he finished Sunday’s game in Sharp’s spot. While it might not make total sense, Stalberg has become one of the most active players on the ice, so he may get the first crack.
The only other guy that I think has a chance is Troy Brouwer. He initially got the promotion to Sharp’s spot right after the injury, but Brouwer found himself replaced by Stalberg by the third period. Brouwer is a streaky player, but his relationship with Kane and Toews chemistry-wise is the best compared to anyone else on the team. This late in the season, that’s a good card to have.
It’s not the ideal situation the ‘Hawks would like, but it’s they’re going to have to work with it and try their best to make it work. If anything, it’s going to make the playoff race that more exciting and suspenseful.
*UPDATE:According to espnchicago.com, Sharp will return before the end of the season, and that it’s not a long term injury.