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Toews injury the latest bit of adversity for unfazed Blackhawks

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The question made Joel Quenneville wince, as if even acknowledging that the Blackhawks were on the verge of finally having a completely healthy lineup would somehow rankle the ever-fickle hockey gods.

“Tough to talk about having a full lineup,” Quenneville said. “Things change so quickly in our business.”

That was Thursday morning. By the end of the day, Jonathan Toews, the most indispensable player in the lineup and a guy with a history of concussions, had been knocked out of the game by Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, planted face-first into the boards in the second period.

Toews traveled with the team to Long Island on Friday — a positive sign, but no guarantee he’ll play against the Islanders on Saturday. Seidenberg, meanwhile, will receive no supplemental discipline for the hit. The NHL department of player safety felt that Seidenberg was battling for a puck, not tracking Toews for any period of time, and hit him more from the side than between the numbers. In other words, while it had a frightening result, the hit itself wasn’t inherently predatory.

Perhaps the most dangerous part was that the Hawks let Toews stay on the ice for a shift (and a penalty) before he finally left the game. Quenneville said “it’s up to everybody in that situation,” but Toews clearly should have been removed and immediately evaluated for a head injury after such a hit.

Regardless, it’s the latest bit of adversity for a team that’s handled plenty already. The Hawks went 11-3-0 while last season’s leading scorer, Patrick Sharp, dealt with a knee injury. Corey Crawford has missed time with two minor injuries, and unheralded Scott Darling has gone 5-1-0 with a 1.80 goals-against average in his absence. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk was lost for three to four months with a fractured patella, and Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck filled the void.

Through all of it, the Hawks have won eight straight and 11 of 12, soaring to the top of the Central Division standings and re-establishing themselves as a Stanley Cup favorite. The thought of what they could do when fully healthy is tantalizing.

“You can band together as a team, especially when you’re missing some players and you have a couple things working against you, and you still find ways to win,” Toews said before Thursday’s game, upon learning that Crawford was getting close to returning from an injured foot or ankle. “[And] when you do get those guys back, it adds so much more to your confidence as a team.”

Toews is now one of “those guys” the Hawks are hoping to get back. The department of player safety’s decision not to discipline Seidenberg didn’t come as a surprise — as Sharp said after the game, Seidenberg has no history of dirty play. What did come as a surprise were Bruins coach Claude Julien’s postgame comments, in which he essentially blamed Toews for getting himself hurt.

“We need to start educating our players to protect themselves better,” Julien said. “We keep turning our backs. We keep trying to curl away. A player’s job is to finish his check. So a player should know he’s going to be hit. … It’s OK to take away those hits from behind when they’re warranted. But what about the other guy? Does he not have a responsibility?”

The hit — and those comments — surely will make the return match, a matinee at the United Center on Feb. 22, all the more interesting. In the meantime, the Hawks will just keep rolling with the punches.

“[Those] players are certainly important to the lineup,” Sharp said. “But having said that, if somebody goes down, our organization has great depth and people can fit in and continue the Hawk train rolling.”


Twitter: @marklazerus