The Blackhawks are about to face their biggest challenge yet in terms of overcoming an injury with captain Jonathan Toews expected to miss the next two weeks.
Toews hurt his right shoulder in Tuesday's 3-1 loss at St. Louis when he was checked hard into the boards by Matt D'Agostini.
Blackhawks game daySan Jose Sharks at the United Center, 7:30 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Game notes: Antti Niemi is expected to get the start in goal for the Sharks in what would be his first game back at the United Center since helping the Hawks win the Stanley Cup. Niemi already has defeated his old team twice this season in San Jose by scores of 5-2 and 2-1 in overtime. The Sharks will be without centers Joe Pavelski and Torrey Mitchel (lower backs).
Season series: Sharks lead 1-0-1.
Next: Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center, 7 p.m. Sunday
-- Tim Sassone
"He's going to be out probably a couple of weeks," coach Joel Quenneville said Wednesday. "He's feeling OK, and that's kind of where we're at."
While the Hawks were able to overcome recent injuries to offensive stars Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, it could be a different story when it comes to replacing Toews.
The captain is the Hawks' best all-around player and leader on and off the ice.
He has 15 goals, is second on the team in scoring with 33 points, averages 20 minutes of ice time a night, is a plus-7 and means everything to the Hawks as a checker, penalty-killer, power-play guy and faceoff specialist.
"Certainly, Johnny is a big piece and a key guy," Quenneville said. "Johnny means a lot in other ways as well. Some of that leadership responsibility can be shared throughout the lineup and I think off of (Tuesday's) game we're looking for everybody to contribute in a lot of ways and not just leadership."
The best-case scenario has Toews missing the next 6-7 games to the middle of January.
Patrick Sharp is likely to become the Hawks' No. 1 center in Toews' absence with Dave Bolland and perhaps Tomas Kopecky lined up behind him down the middle. Newly acquired center Ryan Johnson is good on faceoffs and also could see additional ice time.
"We don't need to say he needs to be Johnny Toews, whoever is going to get that role," Quenneville said. "As a group we just share that responsibility and everybody chips in. We should be OK."
The intangibles Toews brings to the Stanley Cup champs might be the hardest things to replace.
"You look at the makeup of your lines and your special teams, and there's ice time there and who's going to take that up, but you don't want to change too much," Quenneville said. "Our power play without Kane and Hossa was pretty good.
"Whoever gets that opportunity there, you don't have to think of scoring. I think maybe just being responsible gets the job done."
The Hawks went 5-2-1 without Kane and were 6-3-1 when Hossa was out. When Toews missed 16 games with a sprained knee as a rookie in 2007-08, the Hawks went 5-9-2 without him.
"We've dealt with injuries our whole career," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "You have to move on, and if you don't move on you're not going to be successful.
"Your job is to go out and perform and keep rolling no matter who's with you or who's not with you. Good hockey teams win whatever happens."
The Hawks can't afford the slightest slip with the Western Conference race as tight as it is heading into the new year. The Hawks were eighth in the West before Wednesday's games but only 4 points out of 11th place.
"We've had some guys out and the consistency in our lineup hasn't been in place, but at the same time no matter who it is you have to deal with it," Quenneville said. "We've lost some key guys and we got through some pretty big games in a recent stretch at home. It's up to us to find ways."