Seth Jones’ thumb injury leaves Blackhawks’ defense in dire shape
Jones will miss three to four weeks after getting injured blocking a shot Saturday. Jack Johnson and Jake McCabe formed the Hawks’ first pair Sunday in his absence.
So much for the Blackhawks’ new top defensive pairing of Jake McCabe and Seth Jones.
McCabe — who was just promoted this weekend — is fine, but Jones isn’t. The Hawks ruled out their No. 1 defenseman Sunday for the next three to four weeks with a thumb injury, which he suffered when blocking a shot by Sabres forward Jeff Skinner during the second period Saturday.
It’s a massive blow to the Hawks’ defense, which has relied on Jones as its far-and-away most talented and versatile cornerstone. He averaged 25 minutes, 14 seconds of ice time through the Hawks’ first eight games and had four assists and 21 blocks.
‘‘We’ll just shift things around a little bit, especially on special teams,’’ coach Luke Richardson said. ‘‘[Seth] plays a lot of big minutes for us — and against top lines. So we’re just going to have to shuffle the deck a little bit, try to buy some time, win by committee on defense and wait until he gets back.’’
Jack Johnson moved back up to the first pairing with McCabe on Sunday against the Wild, which was only the fifth game Jones had missed since joining the Hawks in July 2021. Caleb Jones took over quarterbacking the first power-play unit, and Filip Roos re-entered the lineup.
With those four guys, Connor Murphy and Jarred Tinordi making up the defensive corps, the Hawks will be significantly outgunned against most NHL opponents for the time being. Murphy, who averaged 21:46 of ice time last season and 22:09 the season before, is the only one with any prior experience as a major minutes-eater.
‘‘Everybody’s going to get spread out a little bit more,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘I don’t think there’s a guy who’s going to carry the load like Seth, and we don’t expect them to. We expect them to do their job. And if they get a couple of more minutes here and there, everyone wants more ice time, and they’ll be excited for it.’’
The Hawks likely will call up someone such as Alec Regula or Alex Vlasic on Monday from Rockford of the American Hockey League to have seven healthy defensemen available.
Ian Mitchell, who was ruled out for six weeks Sept. 22 with a wrist injury, isn’t close to returning, which further complicates the roster puzzle. He only just resumed stickhandling, Richardson said.
Goalies status quo
The Hawks’ goalie duo of Alex Stalock and Arvid Soderblom appears likely to remain unchanged this week.
Petr Mrazek, who was ruled out a week ago for one to two weeks with a groin injury, skated Sunday with goalie coach Jimmy Waite, Richardson said. But the Hawks still don’t have an exact timetable for his return. They want to ‘‘inch him along’’ and play it safe, considering his history of groin issues.
On the other hand, the Hawks are comfortable keeping Soderblom in the NHL for now, general manager Kyle Davidson said Sunday, and aren’t scouring waivers in hopes of adding goaltending depth. They’re not worried about his development potentially being stunted by some time away from Rockford.
‘‘The way the team is playing makes that easier [to stomach],’’ Davidson said. ‘‘It’s making the goalie job a little bit easier than it was in the past.’’