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NHL Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks Clearly Looking Ahead to 2014 NHL Playoffs

Chicago Blackhawks Playoffs

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks put on one of their most listless performances of the season in Friday night’s 4-0 loss to the Washington Capitals.

This was to be expected, of course. Chicago had nothing to play for in light of the Colorado Avalanche‘s victory over the Vancouver Canucks a night earlier, while the Capitals at least had pride on the line in a season which they will see end next week. The Blackhawks are locked into the Central Division‘s third seed, with the only remaining uncertainty being whether their first-round opponent will be the Avalanche or the St. Louis Blues.

Duncan Keith was given the night off to rest, and it seems probable that a number of his teammates will join him in the press box for Saturday’s game against the Nashville Predators — another entirely meaningless tilt.

The question for the Blackhawks now becomes the health of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, especially the latter. Kane has been skating for about a week, and a typical timetable for his injury (grade one MCL sprain) suggests that he will be at or close to ideal form in time for the first round of the playoffs. Toews’ status, however, is murkier; there have not been details of what exactly his injury is, although his body language immediately after sustaining it suggested something related to his arm or shoulder.

Whatever the case, quite a lot will hinge on Toews’ well-being. Whether it is the Blues or the Avalanche as the first-round opponent, the Blackhawks will be matched up against a team ranking among the top four in the NHL in points.

With a matchup against a league titan looming and nothing left to play for in the regular season, Chicago’s focus is understandably set firmly on the playoffs.

Sean Sarcu is a Chicago Blackhawks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter or add him to your network on Google.