CHICAGO -- Heading into the stretch run of the regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks are now looking for ways to fill in for one of their top players.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after practice Monday at United Center that Marian Hossa, who plays right wing on the top line, could miss up to three weeks with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
"Probably 2-3 weeks we're looking at," Quenneville said. "There's going to be some quality ice time shared amongst the guys [now]."
The injury stems from a hit Hossa absorbed in a 5-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins this past Saturday night at Soldier Field in the final game of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.
Hossa, who turned 35 in January, was hit hard by Penguins forward Craig Adams while playing the puck behind the Pittsburgh net with 6:48 left in the first period and skated slowly to the bench. He remained seated for the rest of the period and didn't return to the ice.
His absence takes a key cog out of the Chicago lineup. Hossa is fourth on the team with 50 points (24 goals and 26 assists) in 57 games. He's also third on the Blackhawks with a plus-25 rating, trailing only the plus-27 of forward Brandon Saad and the plus-26 of defenseman Brent Seabrook.
The focus now is how to fill the void.
Quenneville said the initial plan, starting with a game Tuesday at United Center against the Colorado Avalanche, could put Saad on the top line in Hossa's place at right wing and shift third-line center Andrew Shaw to the right wing of that line to open a spot for center Peter Regin.
Highly-skilled right wing Patrick Kane also has extensive experience playing with Sharp and Toews on the top line, which could also be a look for Quenneville to consider.
Nobody has been called up from Rockford of the American Hockey League to take Hossa's roster spot, but that could be an option. Jeremy Morin, who's played 15 games with the Blackhawks this season, and recently acquired forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard are among the possibilities.
"We'll see," Quenneville said. "There's two or three guys probably in that boat and we'll definitely get them up here at some point. Whether they're going to be here immediately, we're not sure of that, but [Bouchard's] played very well down there and [we've gotten] very positive reports about Bouchard's contribution."
One option that doesn't sound like it will be pursued would be acquiring more skill up front through a trade. Based on the comments of Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman prior to the game against the Penguins, it sounds like Chicago is content to stand pat and let the NHL Trade Deadline expire Wednesday without another move.
Even if a move was desired, Quenneville said the market isn't necessarily conducive to getting it done.
"I think we're fine," Quenneville said. "We made a move or two last week and we've got some depth in the minors and right now we like our team. You look at the business side of it and you look at a lot of teams and it's real tough out there for things to generate or enhance or improve your team. There's not a lot of teams that are selling. A lot of teams are looking to add, so it makes it even more competitive."
As for Hossa, the Blackhawks haven't specified whether this injury has anything to do with the one that severely limited him in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. He opted not to have back surgery to repair that injury and instead chose rest and rehabilitation exercises to recover this past summer.
Quenneville has also given Hossa leeway on participation in on-ice activities at practices this season, which has seemingly helped. Hossa had missed just five games prior to the latest injury.
Now, he could miss up to nine or 10 of Chicago's remaining 20 games. The Blackhawks will again depend on their depth to stay afloat in a tight race for positioning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks.
"We've got 20 games and it's going to happen quickly," Quenneville said. "We want to make sure we're playing the right way, we want to position ourselves and we want to finish as strong as we can. We'd love to be able to say we won our division, but that's going to be a challenge with St. Louis having [three] games in hand and where they're at."
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