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Wednesday, October 28

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Blackhawks Thu Dec 30 2010

Toews Injury Gives Hawks Another Hurdle

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for blackhawks.gifWhile the Blackhawks were happy to have both Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa back on the ice the past few games, the good feelings were short-lived. A 3-1 loss to the Blues on Tuesday was painful, especially given the Hawks' lackluster play, but seeing Jonathan Toews leave the game with "an upper body injury" (apparently his right shoulder) after being slammed awkwardly into the boards was downright gut-wrenching.

In the 11 games that Hossa and/or Kane didn't dress, Toews lifted the team on his back with six goals and eight assists while winning numerous key faceoffs and providing solid defensive zone coverage. As captain, his leadership and determination will also be missing, both on the ice and in the dressing room. During that stretch, the Blackhawks went 7-3-1 to keep themselves afloat in the Western Conference standings -- no small feat given the team's early struggles.

Coach Joel Quenneville expects Toews to only miss a few weeks, but the timing couldn't be much worse with Kane and Hossa just getting back on the ice. Though Toews has missed games due to injury before, playoff spots in the West are precious enough this season that the maxim "every game matters" looks like more than a cliche. With five of their next seven games against conference opponents (and four of those games featuring teams ahead of them in the standings, plus an Anaheim team who sits one point behind), the Blackhawks clearly need to raise their game.

Toews carried the team when Hossa and Kane were on the mend; now it's time for them to return the favor, with help from Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell. The Blackhawks have enough firepower to survive Toews' absence, but the question is whether they have the heart. They'll get their first chance to answer tonight against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

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