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Hawks lose Sharp for 3-4 weeks with upper body injury

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- A bitter loss on Sunday night to the rival Detroit Red Wings got even worse on Monday for the Chicago Blackhawks.

After an optional workout at the Hawks' practice facility down the street from the United Center, coach Joel Quenneville told reporters that star forward Patrick Sharp will be out "three-to-four weeks" with an undisclosed upper body injury.

It's a big loss for the Hawks, who haven't won in five of their last six games -- including a current four-game skid -- and have dropped to fifth in the Western Conference after being on top less than a week ago. Sharp, whose injury won't require surgery, has 20 goals and 20 assists in 42 games. He's also a stalwart among Chicago's top six forwards.

"He's one of our leading scorers," Hawks goalie Corey Crawford said "If he goes … (everybody) knows what he can bring and just his presence in the room, having a guy there just makes you that much more confident in the room and going out to the ice. Obviously that's a huge loss for us, but all the teams deal with the same sort of stuff. You can't really use it as an excuse."

Regardless of the when and how the injury happened, the fact of the matter is Chicago is left to dig its way out of the current midseason skid without one of its top all-around players and third-leading scorer. The good news is Sharp isn't the only Blackhawk who knows how to score and set up goals.

"Our scoring's so spread out that, obviously we'll miss him, but we've got a lot of other guys who can do the job, too," Crawford said. "It's the second half of the season (now). The first half we had 52 points, so we've just got to focus on this next half and keep playing our game. It's hard to stay in first place all year long. There's not too many teams that do that. When (you drop), it just makes you play harder to get back up there."

Quenneville, however, doesn't want his team trying to overcompensate for the loss of Sharp by straying too far from the Hawks' tight-checking and solid defensive efforts that often lead to good offensive scoring chances.

"(Sharp's) certainly had a good first half for us, but I just think we need to pay better attention to detail, play tighter and we might get more offense," Quenneville said. "When we think we've got to outscore teams and everybody's got to manufacture offense is when we expose ourselves."

Chicago already has a pair of rookie forwards in the current playing rotation in Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes -- and they'll likely get extended stays in Sharp's absence if they keep playing the way they have the last couple games.

"Anyone's misfortune is somebody else's opportunity to prove themselves that they can also be in this League," said Shaw, who scored his first career goal on his first official shot against the Philadelphia Flyers last week. "It's an opportunity for us to prove ourselves. It's a misfortune for (Sharp), but if we go out there and keep working, good things will happen."

Chicago is also playing without rookie center Marcus Kruger, who had been centering the second line between Sharp and Marian Hossa before sustaining an upper-body injury on Dec. 26 against Columbus.

Kruger was on the ice for the optional team practice on Monday and Quenneville said he continues to get closer to returning.

"He's been good," Quenneville said. "He's progressing and gets better every day. He probably has to do some more testing over the next few days and hopefully we'll get him playing here real soon."

News and notes: Quenneville said that Corey Crawford will start in net against Columbus on Tuesday, his third straight start.

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