Blackhawks' New Faces Debut
The return of Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews isn't coming any time soon, as he continues his road to recovery from an undisclosed upper-body injury which is believed to be concussion related. During Tuesday's practice, Coach Joel Quenneville tried to shed some light on his Captain's condition.
"Toews is the same. He didn't skate today, about the same he's been the last few days. No progress. Still day to day."
This is clearly something that Blackhawks fans don't want to hear, especially as they continue to plummet in the Western Conference standings. Teams who were out of playoff contention as the 'Hawks sat comfortably in 6th place, are now putting the pressure on and closing the comfort zone.
Tonight, the Blackhawks try to break their latest losing-streak of 3 games as they host fellow Original Six team, the Toronto Maple Leafs at the United Center. With the trade deadline passed, it's time to see the new faces in town. There won't be nearly as many new faces as fans were clamoring for, but the 'Hawks will be sporting a new look, for sure. "I think it was a tough market out there for everybody in the league," Quenneville said.
Johnny Oduya, who was acquired via trade from Winnipeg, will be wearing a familiar number 27 for the Blackhawks tonight and expected to fill some "important minutes defensively" for Coach Q. "We like the way he's going to move the puck, his quickness." Oduya will likely see minutes on the penalty kill along with most of his ice time with Brent Seabrook. Don't be surprised if he has time on the power play as well.
The 'Hawks also have recalled two rookies from Rockford; Andrew Shaw makes his return to the team and Brandon Bollig will make his NHL debut. Bollig, 25, won't be expected to light up the score sheet a whole lot, but his 6'2" 223 lb frame will make his presence known. Chicago shipped enforcer John Scott to the New York Rangers in exchange for a draft pick, and Bollig will be trying to fill that role in order to stay with the big club. "[I'm] just coming to bring energy and that physical aspect of the game and stick up for my teammates and myself," Bollig said after Tuesday's practice. "Those [Scott's] are definitely some big shoes to fill. He played his role well and was that physical presence and put that fear in the other opponents and yeah, that's something I'm going to have to do in order to stick around."
Along with the new faces, Patrick Kane will be relocating from wing back to center, where the Blackhawks had started him this season. With the absence of Toews and their inability to acquire a top-six centerman, Quenneville is trying to shuffle his pieces for the stretch run. Kane saw early success while playing center and hasn't been scoring consistently enough on the wing to warrant an argument suggesting he stay there.
With only 18 games, including tonight, remaining in the regular season, the Blackhawks sit with 73 points in 7th place in the Western Conference, just three points ahead of three teams all fighting for a spot. Once thought to be a contender for the President's Trophy, the 'Hawks, rather, will have a tough battle for a spot in the playoffs as the last month winds down.
Steve Peters is a staff writer for NHLfanchat.com. Follow on twitter: @stevepeters_