Without last season's leading scorer, the Chicago Blackhawks offense has gotten off to a slow start. If they hope to snap out of it, their rookies may have to step up.
The Blackhawks visit the Detroit Red Wings in the second matchup in a week between the Central Division rivals.
Chicago (1-2-0) beat the Red Wings 4-3 in a shootout last Friday for just its second win in the last 10 meetings with Detroit (3-0-1).
Martin Havlat, who played only 56 games last season due to injury but still led the Blackhawks in points (57) and goals (25), did not play in that game because of a right shoulder injury. He is out indefinitely, leaving Chicago without possibly its best scoring threat.
The Blackhawks were the league's second-lowest scoring team in 2006-07 with 195 goals, and have done little to show they will be much better this season. They lost their season opener 1-0 to Minnesota and fell 2-1 to San Jose on Wednesday, when they were outshot 32-17.
Rookie Jonathan Toews scored on his first shot in his first NHL game to give Chicago a 1-0 lead at 13:43 of the first period, but the Blackhawks could not match the Sharks' intensity. Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin recorded 30 saves but gave up a power-play goal with 3:31 to play that decided the game.
"It was a great moment," Toews said, "but the bigger picture is the game tonight and I was disappointed not to come out on top."
Chicago went 0-for-2 on the power play to fall to 0-for-10 on the season.
However, there was reason for the Blackhawks to stay optimistic.
Toews, the third overall pick of the 2006 draft, was on the ice after missing the first two games with a broken finger. Patrick Kane, the first overall pick in this year's draft, recorded his second assist of the season. He also had the shootout-winning goal against the Red Wings last week.
The Blackhawks face a Detroit team coming off back-to-back wins since losing in Chicago, including a 4-2 victory over Calgary on Wednesday.
The line of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom combined for two goals and two assists. That trio has accounted for 16 points this season.
"Those guys can go head to head with the top lines in the league right now," said right wing Kris Draper, who also scored. "Those guys are doing a fantastic job creating a lot of chances offensively and certainly doing great things in their own end as well."
Zetterberg, who missed the final 19 games of the 2006-07 regular season with a back injury, has gotten off to a quick start with eight points in four games. He scored the game's first goal on Wednesday - his second of the season.
He pointed to Holmstrom's play as a major reason for the top line's strong start.
"You have to give him (Holmstrom) a lot of credit for the work he does for me and Pav," Zetterberg said. "He always gives us a chance to make the plays. He's always in front of the net, so it's tough for the goalie to see the puck."
Detroit has won four straight and 11 of 12 against the Blackhawks at home. The Red Wings have won all three of their games at Joe Louis Arena this season.
It's unclear if Dominik Hasek will return after sitting out Wednesday with a bruised knee cap. Backup Chris Osgood made 19 saves in place of Hasek.