The Blackhawks have 10 games remaining in the regular season -- five at home, five on the road. Two of those home games happen this week, starting tonight against the Florida Panthers, who are one of the bottom-feeders in the Eastern Conference, with 68 points placing them 14th.
So you'd think this would be an easy game to pick up for the Hawks, right? You'd be wrong. Nothing's been easy for this team all year. They'll have to win, likely for the rest of the regular season, without Patrick Sharp, whose 34 goals lead the team, and whose 68 points rank 11th in the NHL. All NHL teams have to deal with injuries, but it seems this year's Blackhawks team has had to deal with more injuries to more key players than other squads, or in past years. Dave Bolland and Brian Campbell are also out; the Hawks have brought in Marcus Kruger from Sweden, a 2009 draft pick, to help. He should arrive in time for tonight's game; watch for him wearing uniform No. 16.
Every game takes on heightened importance because the Blackhawks and five other teams are all within three points of each other from fifth through 10th in the Western Conference. The Hawks currently occupy seventh place, alone, but are just one point ahead of the Ducks, Stars and Flames.
Tonight's game begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on CSN Chicago.