Minus the injured Sharp, the Blackhawks look to extend their season-high home winning streak to six Wednesday night against the Panthers.
Sharp, who has 34 goals with 34 assists and was MVP of the All-Star game, is expected to miss at least the next two weeks after he suffered a knee injury in Chicago’s 2-1 win at Phoenix on Sunday.
“We hope to have him back before the end of the regular season,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It could have been worse for sure. It’s not long term, but right now long term is basically how we’re looking at it.”
Sharp’s is the latest injury for the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks (39-25-8), who are seventh in the crowded Western Conference with 10 games remaining.
Forward Dave Bolland(notes) is expected to miss his fifth straight game with a concussion and defenseman Brian Campbell’s(notes) status is uncertain as he nurses a lower-body injury that has limited him to a few shifts since a 3-2 loss at Florida on March 8.
“I’m sure Sharpie’s frustrated and he’s going to hurry back as quick as he can,” captain Jonathan Toews(notes) told the Blackhawks’ official website. “For the time being we’ll have to step it up and find a way.”
Chicago will bring in 20-year-old forward Marcus Kruger, a 2009 fifth-round pick of the Blackhawks who just finished his season with Djurgarden of the Swedish League.
Sharp went without a point when the Blackhawks allowed three first-period goals at Florida earlier this month.
Though Corey Crawford(notes) was pulled after making just five saves on eight shots in that contest, he could be in net after stopping 22 at Phoenix to help the Blackhawks bounce back from a 5-0 loss at Dallas on Thursday.
After splitting that two-game trip, Chicago returns to the United Center where its outscored opponents 24-14 during a five-game winning stretch.
The Blackhawks, however, are 0-1-1 with a tie at home versus Florida since beating the Panthers 4-1 there Oct. 17, 2002.
Chicago’s Marian Hossa(notes) has four goals and three assists the last four home games. He had a goal at Florida this month. Patrick Kane(notes) has two goals and four assists the last four at home, and a goal in three straight games overall against the Panthers.
On the verge of missing the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season, Florida (29-33-10) looks to avoid a third straight defeat after opening a five-game trip with a 1-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
The Panthers were without forward Stephen Weiss(notes), who could miss a second straight game with a leg injury. Weiss is tied with David Booth(notes) for the team lead with 21 goals and has a team-high 28 assists.
“We’re missing our leading scorer from what’s left out of this team,” said Tomas Vokoun(notes), who made 32 saves against the Rangers and 37 versus Chicago this month. “We battled hard, but this is where we are.”
Though Booth has one assist the last four games, he had a goal and an assist against the Blackhawks. He also scored in Florida’s 4-3 shootout win at Chicago on Oct. 2, 2009.