Fans were treated to a wildly entertaining 6-3 Chicago Blackhawks victory over Arizona on Thursday night at the United Center, but there also is a developing story line that may be quite concerning in the near future.
The Hawks won for the eighth time in nine games, getting a hat trick from Patrick Kane and additional goals from Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman and Michal Rozsival.
The fact that Rozsival scored should raise more than a few eyebrows as he hadn't done so in 384 days, but he also was in the lineup only because the Hawks dressed seven D-men as a precaution with Niklas Hjalmarsson ailing.
As it turned out that was the right move because Hjalmarsson, who missed the morning skate, was injured in the first period and did not return. The veteran defenseman's right leg appeared to buckle after he put on the brakes at center ice, and coach Joel Quenneville said Hjalmarsson has an upper-body injury.
"We'll see how he is tomorrow," Quenneville said. "Not sure the prognosis. We're hoping he's going to be OK, but not sure. … We thought he was fine, but didn't turn out so good."
The Hawks improved to 38-18-5 and are within 3 points of division-leading Minnesota, which does not play until Monday.
This game was tied at 3-3 after one period, and it was Rozsival who gave the Hawks a lead they would not relinquish by ripping a shot over goalie Mike Smith early in the second period after taking a pass from Nick Schmaltz. Almost unbelievably, not only did Rozsival's last goal come against Arizona, but it also gave the Hawks a 4-3 lead on Feb. 4, 2016.
"I was tapping my stick," Rozsival said. "They kind of messed it up on the change and we had a 4-on-2. I definitely was trying to get his attention to get me the puck. I'm glad he did and I'm glad it went in for me."
Kane, now with a team-leading 23 goals, scored at 16:41 of the first period to make it 3-1, at 12:41 of the second to make it 5-3, and 9:49 of the third to complete the scoring.
This was Kane's third regular-season hat trick, with all of them coming in the last 14 months. On the heels of Jonathan Toews' 3 goals Tuesday in Minnesota, it also was the first time the Hawks had players record hat tricks in back-to-back games since April 1997 when Alex Zhamnov and Eric Daze pulled off the feat.
"Yeah, we were kind of laughing about that on the bench there after I scored the third one," Kane said. "It's funny how it worked out."
Now with 63 points, Kane is just 5 behind Connor McDavid for the league lead.
"He's a special player," Quenneville said of Kane. "He wants the puck and when he has it there are so many options that he has. A couple of shots today -- whether they (have to) respect the shot or sometimes you think a pass is coming -- that deception is part of his possession with the puck.
"All of his options are assessed quickly, and a lot of times before he even touches the puck. His level of instincts offensively … (are) incredible."
Schmaltz, Toews and Hartman all had 2-point nights, while Richard Panik extended his career-best point streak to five games by assisting on Schmaltz's goal just 37 seconds into the first period.
The Hawks continue their four-game homestand against St. Louis on Sunday.
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