There were six games in the NHL on Friday night. And yet it was the players that left the game in Columbus that mean more to the Blackhawks than the final score.
The Blue Jackets defeated the Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout, but that was far from the story. Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard left the game early with an an injury to his right knee, and it was later confirmed that power forward Tomas Holmstrom broke a hand in the game.
Detroit is already struggling with injuries. Mike Modano has been out for most of the season with a deep cut on his forearm, and more recently the Wings have lost Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Stuart and Chris Osgood. While Datsyuk and Modano could be back after the All Star Game, Stuart and Osgood could be out until March.
If Howard’s knee, which was wrapped when he limped out of the stadium, is cause for him to miss more than a couple games, the Red Wings would be left with career minor leaguer Joey MacDonald as their number one netminder, while Stuart was missing from their top defensive pair for a over a month.
The stakes for the Predators and Blackhawks just went up this weekend.
Chicago visits Nashville on Saturday night before the two teams return to Chicago for the back half of the home-and-home on Sunday night. The Hawks trail the Preds by one point for second place in the Central Division, and fifth in the Western Conference, but some in playing some of their best hockey of the year. The three-game win streak by the Blackhawks is tied for the longest in the Conference with Anaheim and Phoenix.
It’s hard to label one weekend as “big” this early in January, but Detroit’s schedule lines up for the Blackhawks to make up some ground quickly. The Red Wings finish their home-and-home with Columbus on Saturday night before road games at Pittsburgh and St. Louis before hosting the Blackhawks on Jan. 22.