EDMONTON, Alberta — Artem Anisimov’s road trip ended after half a period, and it’s anybody’s guess when the Blackhawks center will be back in the lineup.
The Hawks placed Anisimov on injured reserve with an upper-body injury Friday, meaning he’ll miss at least the last three games of the road trip. He’d be eligible to return next Friday at home against the Vegas Golden Knights, but the vague way Joel Quenneville described the injury made it sound like it could be a little longer than that. A timetable won’t even be set for at least a couple of days, if not longer.
“He’s probably out at least the week, and we’ll know more when we get back,” Quenneville said. “We don’t expect him out too long, but we’ll get a better idea in the next few days.”
Quenneville said there wasn’t a definitive blow that caused the injury. But it was definitely a blow to the Hawks, who already were thin down the middle, with multiple natural wingers playing at center throughout the season. In Anisimov’s absence, Nick Schmaltz moved back to center. Vinnie Hinostroza had been playing center and returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Vancouver, but he was on rookie David Kampf’s right wing, his natural position.
The Hawks also activated defenseman Cody Franson from injured reserve. He returned to the lineup for the first time since he was hurt on Dec. 8. Gustav Forsling and Jan Rutta were both healthy scratches, and Patrick Sharp sat for the second time in four games.
Try, try again
After scratching him in Vancouver, Quenneville once again put Richard Panik back on the top line with Brandon Saad and Toews. Panik — who signed a two-year, $5.6-million contract after a 22-goal season last year — hasn’t scored a 5-on-5 goal since the third game of the season, and hasn’t had a goal of any sort in 23 games.
“We’ll put those guys back together again and I think there’s enough there that they should at least get some zone time, and get some opportunities off of that,” Quenneville said. “And hopefully, we get some production.”
Panik was supposed to be the long-term answer at right wing, and the Hawks still hope he can be. But after two years of searching for a left wing for Toews, the Hawks went out and reacquired Saad — at a steep price, losing Artemi Panarin in the deal. But now that Toews has a left wing, it’s been a revolving door at right wing. Toews shrugged it off, and said it’s as much on himself as anybody else to make that line work.
“When you have a game or two where there’s no offense, Joel is going to look for something to click,” Toews said. “It is what it is. I didn’t think that was going to happen, but I think Saader and I can both be better, as well.”
Oil be back
Jordan Oesterle played 25 games scattered over three seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, spending most of his time in the American Hockey League. He returned to Edmonton having solidified a spot on the Hawks’ top defensive pairing, alongside Duncan Keith.
“He’s come along nicely,” Quenneville said. “Especially his first game back [after sitting out more than a month], he came out and, wow, he did a lot of good things. He moves well, sees plays. He’s got good decisions at the point with the puck, as well. He’s progressing well with Duncs; they’ve had a good stretch together. H’s added a little element to our team as far as moving the puck and getting involved in the attack.”
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