CHICAGO (AP) — First, Blackhawks star Patrick Kane went crashing into the boards. Then the Bulls announced Derrick Rose was headed for another knee surgery.
And just like that, Chicago’s cold winter had taken another chilly turn.
The Windy City lost two of its biggest sports stars Tuesday night when Kane left the Blackhawks’ 3-2 shootout victory over Florida with an upper-body injury, and the Bulls said Rose had a medial meniscus tear in his right knee. It was a pair of crunching blows in a matter of minutes for two of the city’s most successful teams in recent years.
“You can’t replace Kaner. He’s a special talent, somebody who’s really irreplaceable,” Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg said. “It’s going to have to be by committee. Guys are going to have to step up and find ways to get the job done.”
That likely will be the same message in the coming days for the Bulls, who have plenty of experience when it comes to playing without Rose. The 2011 NBA MVP appeared in only 10 games last season before he had surgery for the same injury in November 2013, shelving him the rest of the way.
The Bulls said a timetable for his return this time will be determined after the operation.
It’s unclear when Rose re-injured his knee. He appeared to be rounding into form last month, averaging 22.6 points over his final 14 games before the All-Star break, but he had struggled since returning to the court after the time off.
Kane, tied for the NHL lead with 64 points coming into the day, lost his balance and careened into the boards after he was cross-checked by defenseman Alex Petrovic with 12:11 left in the first period. Kane stayed down on the ice for a short time and appeared to be favoring his left arm or shoulder as he skated to the bench. He went straight to the locker room.
“Looks like he might miss some time, but we’ll know the extent of it tomorrow,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ll see.”
The 26-year-old Kane was working on one of his best seasons, prompting talk of the Hart Trophy for NHL MVP. He leads the team with 27 goals and 37 assists, and any prolonged absence for the dynamic winger will make it difficult for the star-studded Blackhawks (36-20-5) to keep up in the rugged Western Conference.
“I don’t think you replace the things that he does with the puck, the attention he gets,” teammate Patrick Sharp said. “But one of the strengths of our organization is depth. When a player goes down, you try to collectively try to fill in for him. But you know as well you can’t replace Kaner.”
Rose has been dogged by injuries since he won the MVP award. He was limited to 39 games during the 2011-12 season, and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs against Philadelphia. He missed the next season altogether, and then last season was cut short by the right knee surgery.
But all the questions about his health faded to the background as he piled up games this season, appearing in 19 straight and 30 of 31 before Tuesday’s announcement.
It’s a big blow for the surging Bulls (36-21), who have won six of seven and appeared to be picking up steam after a tough stretch. They lead the Central Division by a half-game over Cleveland, but any extended absence for Rose will make it quite difficult for Chicago to hold off LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
“Man feel bad for D.Rose! Keep your head up homie and stay strong G!” James tweeted after the injury was announced.
James was one of several NBA stars who expressed their support for Rose on social media. All-Star teammate Jimmy Butler posted a picture of him and Rose with the message: “my point guard. my brother.”
Rose, 26, is averaging 18.4 points and 5.0 assists in 46 games this season. He has flashed his MVP form at times, attacking the rim, but his outside shot has been unreliable. He is shooting just 40.7 percent, the second-lowest average of his career, and committing 3.2 turnovers per game.
The last three games have been particularly bad, with Rose averaging 10.7 points on 23.5 percent shooting. He had eight points on 1-for-13 shooting while playing almost 33 minutes in Monday night’s 87-71 victory over Milwaukee.
The Bulls, who host Charlotte on Wednesday night, have shuffled players in and out of the lineup because of various ailments and have struggled to develop continuity after making some big moves last summer. Now they wait to see how long Rose will be out with his latest injury.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.