One Minute Remaining: Chase The Doctor Away
Every team goes through a series of injuries and streaks, but the pressure builds on everyone from the goalie on out when you have a young group.
Through the halfway point of the season, there are 13 teams in the Western Conference battling for the other 7 playoff berths as it appears that NHL point leader Detroit would need a total collapse to fail to reach the post-season.
Blackhawks coach Denis Savard knows the task will be difficult, especially until those key players on injured reserve are back in the lineup and up to speed.
Last year, the 7th place conference finisher was Minnesota with 104 points while Calgary edged Colorado by a single point (96-95) to earn the last slot.
The Hawks hit the halfway mark in 2002 with 50 points on the way to 96. They had 48 in 1996 to wind up with 94. In 1994 they wound up with 87 after reaching 44 points through 41 games compared to 41 points at the same time this season.
With the schedule this month and next mostly on the road, the Hawks have to stay close until March when the team will have 11 of their 18 final regular season games at the United Center.
Goalies are always the focus in every game because they can be the difference, so it is up to Nikolai Khabibulin and Patrick Lalime to stop the puck.
It will be crucial for the team to get rookie Jonathan Toews and Jason Williams back to spur the offense. Keeping Martin Havlat healthy will also add more scoring punch.
The offensive output by Hawk defensemen has already exceeded all of last year, aided by Dustin Byfuglien, plus the continuing improved play by Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith.
Patrick Sharp continues his NHL career best of 20+ goals while rookie Patrick Kane and veteran Robert Lang have helped the offense.
The injuries have impacted the earlier effectiveness of the special teams, although the Hawks continue to lead in shorthanded goals. Last year, the Hawks lost 345 player games to injury/illness. The Hawks are almost at that same pace so far this season, and Denis Savard is certainly hoping the record won't be matched again.
Thus far the Hawks have had several series of streaks, both winning and losing, but Savard knows if his players continue their hard work and stick to their game plans, the victories will come -- hopefully in bunches!
Harvey Wittenberg served as the Blackhawks' Public Address Announcer from 1961 to 2001 and is the author of "Tales from the Chicago Blackhawks." Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.