The schedule isn’t helping matters for the 1-2-1 Hawks, and adding Kane to a list of absent players that already includes the team’s second defense pair of Brian Campbell (IR – knee) and Niklas Hjalmarsson (suspended) is going to make the game against the Blue Jackets a tough test. However, Kane’s absense might actually help coach Joel Quenneville to pull the trigger on a fairly bold roster decision that could ultimately help the team the rest of the season.
The Blackhawks should dress seven defensemen for the game in Columbus.
That’s right, the team should carry an extra defenseman on the trip. Duncan Keith has skated over 30 minutes in all four games already this year, and there are major confidence questions right now in Jordan Hendry and John Scott. If the team is down a forward anyway, why not take advantage of the opportunity and allow Hendry, Scott and Nick Boynton to split minutes again while adding another face to the group? Jassen Cullimore skated the entire preseason in Chicago and is an experienced NHL veteran.
Even better, is it time for Shawn Lalonde, a bigger blue line prospect, to get his crack at the NHL?
The Blackhawks play at the Blue Jackets on Friday, and then turn around and host the Buffalo Sabres in what could turn out to be a very physical game at the United Center on Saturday. Because of games on back-to-back nights, and considering the heavy workload Keith and Brent Seabrook have already played, having someone to take a few minutes away would be a bold decision that could make a big difference during the upcoming stretch of six games in 8 days.
Quenneville indicated that, if Kane doesn’t go, there would need to be a player brought up from Rockford. The Hawks brought Brandon Pirri up for the home opener when Patrick Sharp was not available, and had Troy Brouwer skating in Kane’s spot with Sharp and Bryan Bickell in practice. The team already played most of the third period on Wednesday with Sharp as a wing and only three players taking faceoffs, and could get away with only having 11 forwards on the roster for one night.
But they cannot continue to abuse Keith. The call-up should be a defenseman.