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Blackhawks Tue Mar 17 2015

Blackhawks Keeping Pace in the Central Minus Kane

Chicago Blackhawks Losing a player like Patrick Kane would cause any team and fan base to question its future, especially so close to the playoffs. Before fracturing his left collarbone on February 24, against the Florida Panthers, Kane was leading the league in scoring and making a strong case for becoming the first Hawk since Stan Mikita in 1968 to win the Art Ross (scoring title) and Hart Memorial (regular-season MVP) trophies.

Since the injury, the Hawks have compiled a 6-1-1 record and have closed the gap on both the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues in the Central Division to within five points apiece. With 14 games remaining on the regular-season schedule, the Hawks are looking to make a legitimate run at winning the division with a (somewhat) rejuvenated power play, and sense of urgency with old and new blood on the roster.

When Stan Bowman pulled the trigger on a few trades right at the deadline, he acquired a sought-after forward in Antoine Vermette, a veteran blue liner in Kimmo Timonen and a little Joel Quenneville muscle in Andrew Desjardins. Timonen hadn't played all season, but has been able to shake off a little rust and play admirably alongside Brent Seabrook on most shifts, despite both being pretty slow.

Desjardins has been a bit of a push, only playing in two games and averaging about nine minutes of ice time per game. Odds are he'll be used minimally until the playoffs begin as a way to spell those on quicker line changes.

Vermette, on the other hand, has been as advertised when it comes to winning faceoffs. In his five games with the Hawks, he's hovered around 50 percent on average, with a 78.6 percent game against the Coyotes last week. He still remains in the top 10 in the league in faceoff wins, sitting at sixth overall at 55.6 percent.

As far as the veteran roster, outside of Kris Versteeg, who will not dress against the Islanders at the UC due to being the most recent player to reside in the Coach Q Dog House, it's been captain Jonathan Toews leading the way. In Toews's last five games, he has five points, coming off of two goals and three assists. Those two goals came against the Hurricanes, which counted for the first two goals of the game.

Corey Crawford has found a bit of a groove these last few weeks, allowing no more than two goals in his last five starts. Crawford is seventh in the league in goals-against average with 2.20, and tenth in the league with a .924 save percentage. He's working on his best season thus far, and it's going to make a difference in how far this team goes in late-spring.

There's a bit of a tough stretch upcoming for the Hawks, beginning with the Islanders at home, and then hitting the road for four consecutive games at the Rangers, Stars, Hurricanes and Flyers. Then a week after they return, the Hawks face the Blues twice in the same final week of the season, which could put them over the top if recent play persists.

For Kane to play at all this season, it'll have to be deep into the playoffs. If the Hawks can maintain this type of balance in their play, there just might be a chance for him to make a return in time to contribute.

 
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