The Chicago Blackhawks didn't experience many setbacks on a recent eight-game road trip. It remains to be seen, however, if their upcoming stretch away from home will be affected by the absence of one of their top players.
A matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night kicks off a three-game swing for the Blackhawks, who won't have leading goal scorer Patrick Sharp available for the first time this season.
In their first home game since Jan. 21, Chicago (31-15-8) posted a 6-2 rout of Dallas on Saturday night.
Martin Havlat had two goals with an assist, while captain Jonathan Toews added a goal and two assists as the Blackhawks rebounded after losing two of the final three contests on their eight-game trip - the second longest in franchise history.
"We did all the little things," said Havlat, who has four goals and three assists in his last six contests. "We were passing. We tried to make easy plays, not make the perfect play all the time. We had better energy than the last three games."
Havlat is second on Chicago with 19 goals and 45 points, while Toews is third with 18 and 43, respectively, on an offense that ranks fifth in the NHL with 3.4 goals per game.
The Blackhawks are even more likely to rely on those players after Sharp sustained a lower body injury 39 seconds into Saturday's game. Sharp, who leads the team with 23 goals and is tied for fifth with 38 points while playing all 54 games, is likely to miss two to three weeks.
Still, Chicago - fourth overall in the Western Conference - appears confident it can overcome his absence, even on the road, where it is 16-11-3.
"(Sharp's) a key part of our lineup and it's hard to lose him," center Dave Bolland told the Blackhawks' official Web site. "We have to have guys take on other roles, and there are guys on this team who can do that."
Cristobal Huet did that Saturday by making 16 saves in place of Nikolai Khabibulin, who was sidelined with a lower body injury and is also expected to miss this trip. Huet had rotated starts in the previous 24 games with Khabibulin.
Huet is 8-3-0 with a 2.19 goals-against average in 11 career starts versus the Lightning, while the Blackhawks are 8-1-1 with a tie in the teams' last 11 meetings after winning the most recent matchup, 5-1 at home on Nov. 28, 2007.
Tampa Bay (19-26-11) has lost six of eight (2-5-1) overall and has alternated wins and losses in the first four contests of its season-high six-game homestand.
On Saturday night, the Lightning faced a four-goal deficit 5:33 into the second period in an eventual 5-1 loss to Washington.
"We spotted them three goals on turnovers," interim Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said.
Forward Ryan Malone, fifth on the Lightning with 31 points, scored his 19th in the second period and has two goals in his last three contests but has never scored in four career games against the Blackhawks.
Havlat, meanwhile, has four goals and two assists during a four-game point streak against the Lightning and has nine goals and eight assists in 15 career matchups.
Chicago hasn't visited Tampa Bay since a 3-2 shootout loss on Dec. 2, 2005.