How Blackhawks plan to hold down fort without Seth Jones

How Hawks plan to hold down fort without Seth Jones originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Blackhawks were dealt a significant blow on defense after it was announced before Sunday's game vs. Minnesota that Seth Jones will miss 3-4 weeks with a right thumb injury.

Jones suffered the injury on a blocked shot in the second period of Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss to Buffalo. He finished the game, but clearly the damage was worse than originally expected after the adrenaline wore off.

"That’s a big blow to our team," Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said. "You feel bad for him. He was playing well and playing a lot obviously. It’s always a big blow to an athlete when they put all that training in and get hurt, especially early in the season. But hopefully it’s not too long and we’ll just try and kind of shift things around a little bit."

With Jones out, the Blackhawks will have to do some shuffling and it will almost certainly be an all-hands-on-deck type of approach from the blue line. Jones is averaging 25:14 of ice time this season, which ranks No. 1 on the team. No other Blackhawk is averaging more than 20 minutes, which shows Jones' value. He's an all-situation-type defenseman.

Where the Blackhawks will probably feel Jones' absence the most is on special teams. He's the quarterback of the first power-play unit and leads the team in ice time on the penalty kill.

Jones' loss is a double-whammy from that perspective, because the special teams has been the primary reason why the Blackhawks have had such early-season success.

"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 probably 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. We just need them to execute what they need to."

In Sunday's 4-3 shootout loss to Minnesota, Caleb Jones took his older brother Seth's spot as the power-play quarterback on the first unit while rookie Filip Roos drew back into the lineup and ran the second power-play unit. Well, at least they were supposed to; the Blackhawks didn't get a single power play.

On the penalty kill, Jones' absence likely means a heavier workload for Jack Johnson, Jake McCabe, Connor Murphy and Jarred Tinordi. The four of them play more of a shutdown role anyway, but the increased minutes could be an adjustment.

In total, here's what the ice time looked like for all six Chicago defensemen on Sunday compared to their season average going into the game:

  • Johnson: 24:20 (season average: 19:27)

  • McCabe: 23:33 (season average: 17:23)

  • Murphy: 21:26 (season average: 19:37)

  • C. Jones: 20:42 (season average: 17:55)

  • Tinordi: 17:55 (season average: 16:12)

  • Roos: 17:17 (season average: 16:44)

Keep in mind the Blackhawks had zero power plays and were on the penalty kill just twice so it was a little easier for Richardson to roll out a three-pairing rotation, but you will probably see pretty evenly-distributed ice time among the six defensemen moving forward.

"Any time you're missing a guy like Jonesy, the ice time and other ways he contributes to our team, you feel that lack of presence right away," Jonathan Toews said. "But I think all those guys did a heck of a job. As forwards, our job is to try and make their job a little bit easier as well."

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