The city of Chicago let out a collective gasp when Blackhawks' Captain Jonathan Toews was placed on injured reserve this morning. He left Saturday's game at Nashville in the second period with an upper-body injury. Luckily Coach Joel Quenneville says it's "not considered serious" and the move is simply to make room on the roster for tonight's game. Both Toews and Patrick Sharp will be with the team Sunday in Vancouver when the break is over.
Toews has also been taken out of this weekend's All-Star game, replaced by Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell.
The business at hand for the Blackhawks, however, will be bouncing back from Saturday's drubbing by the Predators in the second half of a home and home series and they will do so without their Captain. It's difficult to replace the team's leading goal scorer (27) and the NHL's leader in faceoff percentage (61.7%) but it's not an insurmountable task. A team that aspires to make a run at the Stanley Cup will always find a way to fill in the blanks.
The 'Hawks recalled Brandon Pirri from Rockford and he will be centering the third line. Dave Bolland will slot up between Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg.
The Predators come into town for their third game in four days and are now within just two points of the Blackhawks for third in the Western Conference's Central Division. You'd think that fatigue might play into a game like this considering the Preds' workload, but with a six-day break coming up, they'll likely be just as intense as if the playoffs were on the line. Any divisional matchup is important but, this rivalry is certainly growing stronger.
Corey Crawford will get the chance to redeem himself, tonight, after being pulled in the second period of Saturday's game because he allowed four goals on 17 shots. If the 'Hawks are going to win this game, they will need to put more pucks on net and get more traffic in front of goaltender Pekka Rinne, who stopped 20 of just 22 shots on goal Saturday. He enters Tuesday's game on a franchise record eight-game winning streak.
The daunting task of winning an important game without their heart and soul, their leader on and off ice, will not be easy, but the Blackhawks don't want to limp into the All-Star break losing on home ice. It's the last time they will play in the United Center until February 19 and, at this point of the season, every point is going to matter; especially those within the division.
Look for the 'Hawks to come out firing on all cylinders as they understand the importance of not losing any ground in the Western Conference.
Steve Peters is a staff writer for NHLfanchat.com. Follow on twitter: @stevepeters_