When Chicago Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa suffered a lower-body injury after a hip check from Anaheim Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm on Saturday night, one of the Hawks biggest holes this season was made even bigger. Chicago has suffered from their lack of a real first line left winger for most of the season, and losing Hossa to injury makes the, already thin, top six only thinner.
One encouraging aspect of the injury is the way the Blackhawks have responded. Head coach Joel Quenneville told WGN Radio on Monday morning that Hossa will be "a couple weeks, maybe. It's not serious and that was the most important thing." On Sunday, the team placed Hossa on injured reserve, but not long term, meaning Hossa must miss seven days but can return any time after that.
Luckily for the Blackhawks and Hossa, their February schedule is thin, particularly in the coming weeks. The Hawks have just four games during the next two weeks, which is likely the maximum amount of time Hossa would miss. Hossa's IR status means he will have to miss both games -- Toronto on Monday and Wednesday's game at the Rangers -- this week, but he would be eligible to return for the Stadium Series game against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.
With Hossa out of the lineup, Quenneville will have to make some lineup changes. Those may have been coming regardless, as the Hawks have lost three straight -- all at home -- and Quenneville is known to look to shake things up after bad stretches.
The team recalled forward Vincent Hinostroza from AHL Rockford. Despite leading Rockford with 27 points (10 goals and 17 assists) in 41 games, it's unlikely the 21-year old takes Hossa's spot on the top line. Teuvo Teravainen will likely get the call as he's shown to be Quenneville's utility player, filling injury holes several times this season.
The problem with simply swapping Teravainen to the top line is it leaves the bottom-six extremely thin, and borderline useless. As ineffective as the line of Teravainen, Andrew Desjardins and Phillip Danault is, it would only be made more futile if Hinostroza was simply placed in Teravainen's spot. It would make much more sense for Quenneville to completely reshuffle the lineup, with the exception of the second line.
While Andrew Shaw has found success on the top line, leaving him there now when Teravainen takes Hossa's spot on the top line wouldn't make much sense. Shaw's energetic, hard-nosed style may compliment the two-way play of Hossa and Jonathan Toews, with Teravainen on that line, Shaw's contributions may be more valuable to the bottom six in the interest of balancing the lineup out.
Shaw's spot on the top line wouldn't be too difficult to fill, as theHawks could put either Richard Panik or Jiri Sekac there. While neither are legitimate top-line wingers, Panik's responsible two-way play and flashes of a scoring touch would serve him well alongside Toews and Teravainen, and Sekac's speed and hands would allow him and Teravainen to open up the ice while Toews drives the play. Meanwhile, Shaw would be bringing his energy and recent strong play to the bottom six, who are badly in need of a spark.
In my opinion, the Blackhawks best option would be to roll out the following lines:
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Richard Panik||Jonathan Toews||Teuvo Teravainen|
|Artemi Panarin||Artem Anisimov||Patrick Kane|
|Andrew Shaw||Phillip Danault||Vincent Hinostroza|
|Andrew Desjardins||Dennis Rasmussen||Jiri Sekac|
Overall, this lineup offers the Blackhawks a strong fill-in for Hossa in the form of Teravainen, and would help to both keep the lineup balanced and provide a bit of spark and freshness to the third line.
And hey even Quenneville thinks it's a good idea.
Q on WGN radio says Richard Panik might play in Hossa's spot tonight vs. TOR. Also, Teravainen a "possibility."— Tracey Myers (@TramyersCSN) February 15, 2016
Losing Hossa is a major subtraction from the Hawks lineup. However, it can be managed and its impact minimized if Quenneville looked to balance the lineup out rather than simply plug holes. While Hossa may not be out for an extended period of time, there is no need for the Hawks to rush him back, and these next few games could be important for the Hawks to separate themselves from the rest of the Central Division and regaining some momentum as the season enters its final month.
Adam Hess is a staff writer at Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter on @_adamhess.