(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks will begin life without superstar winger Patrick Kane when they visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday at BB&T Center for the finale of a home-and-home series.
Kane was placed on long-term injured reserve after suffering an upper-body injury in Tuesday's 3-2 shootout win over the visiting Panthers. The ailment is believed to be a shoulder issue and it could keep the crafty forward out of the lineup for 12 weeks.
Kane, who is tied for the league lead in points with 64, was injured at 7:49 of the first period on Tuesday. He was cross-checked in the lower back by Florida defenseman Alex Petrovic, stumbled and fell awkwardly into the boards, with his left shoulder appearing to absorb most of the impact.
Petrovic, who received a two-minute minor penalty on the play, will not face a disciplinary hearing for the hit.
Kane is leading the Blackhawks with 27 goals and 37 assists. The Buffalo, N.Y. native won the Conn Smythe Trophy when Chicago won its most recent Stanley Cup title in 2013.
Chicago is currently sitting in good position to make the playoffs with 77 points, which places it third in the Central Division and three behind St. Louis. The Blackhawks also are four points ahead of Winnipeg, the fourth-place team in the division and holder of the first wild card spot in the West.
Although marred by Kane's injury, the Blackhawks were able to halt a three- game slide with the recent win over the Panthers. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp each scored during the shootout.
Kris Versteeg and Toews each lit the lamp during regulation for the Blackhawks, while rookie Scott Darling made 34 saves and stopped both Florida skaters in the shootout to earn the win.
Corey Crawford, who is 0-2-1 over his last three outings, could return to the crease tonight for Chicago. He is 3-1-0 with a 1.88 goals against average in his career versus the Panthers.
The Blackhawks are playing the first of two straight games on consecutive days and will visit Tampa Bay on Friday.
Florida, which is battling for a playoff spot in the East, hopes to end a six- game losing streak in the series against the Blackhawks tonight. The Panthers haven't won in this matchup since March 8, 2011 and Chicago has claimed the past two meetings in South Florida.
Jussi Jokinen and Vincent Trocheck each scored late goals for the Panthers on Tuesday and Roberto Luongo turned aside 36 shots in the loss.
"We don't give up, we stay on it. It's a huge point for our team," Luongo said.
The Panthers are two points in back of Boston for the last wild card spot in the East. The Bruins are idle on Thursday.
Luongo is expected to start again tonight and is 15-11-3 with a 2.22 GAA in his career against the Blackhawks.