The All Star break is over, real hockey is ready to return. Coming over the boards in the Second City will be some familiar faces. Jonathan Toews will be back from injury just in time to face the Vancouver Canucks. Patrick Kane (@88PKane) who has been a little distanced from his usual prowess look to have gotten his swagger back at over the All Star weekend. Patrick Sharp who has missed eight games this season is standing on the horizon poised to retake the ice, and help push the Blackhawks back to being the most prolific offense in the west. Worse still for the competition, is they have added a center that will free up Kane, Hossa and Sharp to stay at wing full time and chase after the dominance they had in the run up to the Stanley Cup two springs ago.
With their first game out of the break against perhaps their most bitter rivals the Vancouver Canuck it’s doubtful any of the BlackHawks will fail to check-in for the game. Many fans will feel cheated that team is deprived of Roberto Luongo, the NHL’s premier big game goalie who some in Chicago (and elsewhere) have come to regard as their lawful prey. Brendan Morrison (@7bmo) who played with the Canucks for seven seasons will have plenty of reasons to get excited for his first game in Chicago uniform, including renewing the chase for next years contract.
A look at the standings at the start of the playoff stretch shows the Blackhawks in sixth place in the west. Three of the teams ahead of them are also in the airtight Central Division. The Detroit Red Wings sit at the top of the food chain with an equal number of games played and a staggering home win streak to their credit. Chicago needs to gain four points on Detroit to win the division. Their remaining schedule of 32 games includes 11 games against teams not currently in playoff position. When it’s all said and done that could be the difference between first in the division, and possibly the conference and being forced to open the playoffs on the road.