Blackhawks win vs Panthers, but lose Kane to injury

On the bright side, the Chicago Blackhawks won the final game of their eight-game homestand versus the Florida Panthers, and took two much-needed points. The bad news is much worse.

Just 7:49 into the first period, Alex Petrovic cross-checked Patrick Kane near the boards, and Kane left the ice in obvious pain, retreating immediately to the team locker room. He did not return to the game after sustaining an "upper body injury".

Jonathan Toews opened the scoring for Chicago with a power play goal midway through the first. It would take until late in the second for the Blackhawks to stretch the lead to 2-0 on a Kris Versteeg goal.

The Blackhawks were not trying to play too pretty, or fancy, and one player after another was consistently parked in front of Roberto Luongo in the Panther's net. They were working hard for the 'greasy' goals.

But with just 7:37 left in the third, and rookie goaltender Scott Darling nearing a shutout, the Panthers struck and Jussi Jokinen scored. Four minutes later, Vincent Trocheck tied up the game 2-2.

Both teams survived overtime, although the Panthers got the better looks at their opponent's net. Scott Darling kept out the first two Florida shooters, and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp converted to give Chicago the SO win, 3-2.

* * *

On Wednesday, the Blackhawks announced that Patrick Kane had undergone successful surgery for a bloken left clavicle. He is currently expected to miss 12 weeks, which would put him back on the ice around the same time as the Western Conference Final. It is incredibly unfortunate for the talented winger, who was having his best season, and on track to potentially securing the Art Ross Trophy; he had 27 goals and 37 assists for 64 points. That achievement will have to wait for another season now.

It's also unfortunate for the Blackhawks, as Kane has been their leading scorer this season and without a doubt, team MVP. The team has 22 games left: ten versus the Eastern Conference, six versus the Pacific Division, and six versus their Central Division rivals, including a four-game gauntlet to close out the regular season. As of Wednesday evening, with 77 points, the Blackhawks sit at third in the Central behind the Blues (80) and Predators (89). Winnipeg remains in a wild card position with 73 points, and the Wild have surged in their last ten games to move into the second wild card spot with 69 points, just ahead of Calgary (68) and San Jose (68).

The Blackhawks recalled Teuvo Teräväinen from the AHL, while sending Trevor van Riemsdyk to Rockford for a conditioning stint. Goalie Scott Darling is currently expected to remain up with the Blackhawks while Antti Raanta has been sent to Rockford. Although the Blackhawks have stated they plan to keep both in the organization, people can't help speculating that perhaps it means Raanta might be trade bait.

With the trade deadline looming, Kane was immediately placed on LTIR and it is expected that Stan Bowman will search for a 'rental' player. While the Blackhawks were reportedly interested in acquiring Andrej Sekera from Carolina, the LA Kings traded for him today. The Hurricanes get a conditional first-round pick and Roland McKeown.

The Blackhawks have suffered through some personal losses this season, including the suicide of assistant equipment manager Cliff Reif shortly before Christmas. It is hardly surprising that there has been a noticable dip in the team's performance since that date.

That being said, it has been two months, and the playoffs loom close. With Kane's injury, in addition to Johnny Oduya's recent injury, the Blackhawks are going to have to reach inside themselves and flip that magical performance switch that they are so famously known for across the league.

What will the Blackhawks need to do to not only keep themselves in a good position heading into the playoffs, but to succeed without Patrick Kane?

Five thoughts as the trade deadline approaches:

5) Patrick Sharp: Sharp has just 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists) for the year and his 5.90% shooting percentage is well below his career average. If all statistics eventually correct to the mean, Sharp is due -- overdue -- to have pucks start going in for him. Statistically, Sharp makes other players on the team better, so it is important for him to find his fully-rounded game before the season has ended.

4) Defense: With Oduya injured and Leddy long-traded off to the Islanders, the team cannot expect Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson to carry the bulk of the load. They will, of course, but the rest of the team's defensemen have to tighten up their play and be more mindful and consistent. Trevor van Riemsdyk, sent down to Rockford for a conditioning assignment, should be back with the Blackhawks soon, and that is a good thing. Early in the season, TvR showed nice talent for a rookie, and the Blackhawks could use his skill. If Stan Bowman is going to make any kind of splash at the deadline, picking up some defensive depth is the most likely position.

3) Team responsibility: In past seasons, the Blackhawks have suffered lengthy injury losses of Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews at important points in the season. They survived those losses and even played well during them. With Kane out of the picture until late in the playoffs, players across the board will need to elevate their game.

2) Character players: Here's looking at you, Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. Bickell historically finds his game in the playoffs, but he needs to turn on "playoff Bickell" on now, not seven weeks from now. He needs to be big and physical - and stick to what makes him most successful as a player. Likewise, Andrew Shaw needs to get back to what got him being on the roster in the first place: being a scrappy pest who draws penalties instead of taking them.

1) It's time for Joel Quenneville to fully roll four lines. There's no "playing it safe" right now; every single point is going to matter. So instead of shortening his bench in a pinch, Quenneville needs to give his players his trust, especially without Kane to double-shift when needed. This is particularly true for Teuvo Teravainen, who was billed as the Finnish version of Patrick Kane prior to being drafted. Teravainen should not be expected to be an equal replacement for Kane, but with permission to play his style of game, he could be the type of forward that the Blackhawks need. There have been some recent articles about how the NHL bleeds offensive creativity out of its players - perhaps a little offensive excitement could go a long way for this team.

The Blackhawks may have lost their MVP for the next three months, but they have the skill and talent to survive without him. Now they just have to show that they know that.