(WSCR) – It’s been an up and down season so far for the Chicago Blackhawks. After being on an up-swing, winning three games in a row and getting healthy, it appears the Blackhawks are coming down again.
Just when it seemed the Blackhawks had their stars healthy for the first time in months, their captain is expected to miss some significant time.
The San Jose Sharks hope to take advantage of that latest stroke of misfortune after two straight third-period meltdowns.
Chicago welcomes San Jose on Thursday night to the United Center hoping to avoid a third loss to the Sharks this season.
On the same night Patrick Kane returned to the lineup after missing eight games, Jonathan Toews injured his shoulder in the first period of Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to St. Louis, and will be sidelined for up to two weeks.
Toews is second on the Blackhawks with 15 goals and 33 points, and tied for second with Brent Seabrook with 18 assists.
It’s the latest in a series of unfortunate injuries for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Marian Hossa has missed 15 games this season due to upper- and lower-body injuries, and goaltender Corey Crawford has missed the last two with flu-like symptoms.
Tuesday’s loss snapped a four-game winning streak for Chicago (20-15-3), which was outshot 43-26. The last time the Blackhawks allowed that many shots on net was Jan. 1, 2009 – the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field – when they also allowed 43 in a 6-4 loss to Detroit.
“Maybe you get Kane and Hossa back, you think it’s going to be easy again,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “What made us effective is we played hard and simple and played for each other.”
Marty Turco is expected to make his third straight start after deferring to Crawford for seven of the previous eight. Turco made 40 saves against the Blues, but he’s 2-5-1 with a 3.24 goals-against average in his last nine and was pulled in favor of Crawford on Dec. 13 after giving up four goals on 10 shots against Colorado.
Turco took the loss in San Jose’s 5-2 victory Nov. 24, and the Sharks beat Crawford 2-1 in overtime Dec. 11.
However, San Jose (19-13-5) hasn’t experienced that type of success recently.
The Sharks gave up three third-period goals in a 5:21 span Wednesday in a 5-3 loss to Minnesota. On Monday, San Jose allowed all four goals in the final frame in a 4-0 loss against Los Angeles.
The third-period collapses followed a four-game winning streak in which the Sharks outscored their opponents 14-6.
“It’s unacceptable,” captain Joe Thornton said. “It’s ridiculous now. That’s not how you’re going to win games and win in the postseason.”
Thornton had a goal and an assist versus the Wild, giving him six points in four games. However, coach Todd McLellan said he was disappointed in the Sharks’ lack of aggressiveness in front of the net and also with Antero Niitymaki, who made 19 saves.
“Disappointed with our net play, not only in the net, but around the net,” McLellan said. “We need to be much more authoritative. We have some big bodies.”
It’s unclear who will start in net, but Antti Niemi, who led Chicago to its first Cup in 49 years last season, has won both meetings against his former team in 2010-11.
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