Just a few weeks ago, the thinking around the NHL was the Blackhawks would be in the trade market for a forward, likely a left winger to play with Jonathan Toews.
But to borrow a favorite phrase from Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, "Things change quickly in our business."
During February, the Hawks might have found a solution to their top-line issue in pairing Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik with Toews on a line that has been among the NHL's most productive.
So now, maybe the calculus for the Hawks has shifted heading into Wednesday's trade deadline, and perhaps general manager Stan Bowman will look to add veteran depth at the blue line.
The Hawks got a taste of what they might need when one of their top defensemen was injured in their 6-3 victory over the Coyotes on Thursday night at the United Center.
The Hawks overcame Niklas Hjalmarsson's injury because Patrick Kane caught fire. He recorded his third career regular-season hat trick and first since last season. His hat trick came just one game after Jonathan Toews recorded one against the Wild.
Kane tallied a goal in each period as the Hawks won for the eighth time in nine games to dispatch the hapless Coyotes.
"I'm the beneficiary of some nice plays by my teammates," Kane said. "Couple of fortunate bounces too."
Hjalmarsson suffered an upper-body injury, which he tried to play through after missing the morning skate Thursday.
But he didn't make it. He left the game after finishing his fifth shift with 8 minutes, 22 seconds remaining in the first period. Quenneville said the team would know the severity of Hjalmarsson's injury better Friday and was "hoping" Hjalmarsson would be OK.
"We thought he was fine (beforehand), but it didn't turn out so good," Quenneville said.
After first it didn't turn out so "good" with Hjalmarsson out. The Hawks had a 3-1 lead after goals from Schmaltz, Kane and Ryan Hartman, but they quickly relinquished it as Ryan White and Radim Vrbata scored two quick goals late in the period.
But Kane and Michal Rozsival, who dressed as a seventh defenseman in case Hjalmarsson aggravated the injury, put the Coyotes away with goals in the second period. Kane added another midway through the third.
Thursday was another notch in the Hawks' belt during a successful February in which they have lost just one game.
What remains to be seen over the next week is how this pre-spring awakening affects what Bowman does at the deadline.
"Not sure about that," Quenneville said. "We certainly like the progression to our game, way more consistent, way more possession. … If we can get better, we'll look to get better and see."
As currently constructed, the Hawks would head into the playoffs with Quenneville having to turn to the 38-year-old Rozsival, rookie defenseman Michal Kempny or Gustav Forsling, another rookie playing in Rockford.
The Hawks were successful in their Cup run in 2015 because they had four solid defensemen Quenneville could roll for 20-plus minutes. That group included current Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya, who could be on the market if his team decides to become a seller at the deadline.
Right now, offense hasn't been an issue for the Hawks as they have scored five or more goals in six of eight games. Quenneville said he would be fine taking a team into the playoffs relying on multiple rookie forwards.
"There's nothing wrong with having a young team," Quenneville said. "There's a lot of enthusiasm, and that unpredictability can be healthy as well."
The next week is sure to be full of unpredictability.
Chris Hine's three stars
1. Patrick Kane, Blackhawks: Winger had a goal in each period.
2. Nick Schmaltz, Blackhawks: Another strong night included a goal.
3. Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks: Captain tallied a pair of assists.
Vs. Blues at 6:30 p.m. Sunday; NBCSN.
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