Help is on the way, but it's looking more and more like it will arrive too late to revive the Blackhawks' fading postseason aspirations.
Rookie Jonathan Toews and veteran Jason Williams are edging closer to returns from injuries, and barring setbacks could be in the lineup for the Hawks' game against the Blue Jackets in Columbus next Wednesday.
But before they can get closer to full strength the Hawks have to tend to business in Canada, and they couldn't manage it Wednesday night as they fell to the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 before a crowd of 16,839 at Rexall Place.
The defeat was the Hawks' fifth straight and dropped them four points behind 13th-place Edmonton in the Western Conference playoff race as they prepare to face the Flames in Calgary on Thursday and the Canucks in Vancouver on Sunday.
"This is a game we knew we had to win," Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "I don't really know what happened out there."
Sharp gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead when he tipped in a shot from Duncan Keith at the 19-minute-17-second mark of the first period. After that it was all Edmonton as it scored three second-period goals and added another during the first minute of the third.
"Some of the goals we let in were very preventable," Hawks defenseman James Wisniewski said. "They were just kind of mental mistakes, and they capitalized."
In the second period the Oilers got goals from Jarret Stoll and Dustin Penner on the power play and Ethan Moreau at even strength, all from within close range of Hawks goalie Patrick Lalime. Joni Pitkanen's third-period goal capped the scoring.
Toews is participating in full practices with his teammates as he recovers from a knee injury suffered Jan. 1. He has been lobbying to play against the Canucks but coach Denis Savard said "no chance" and indicated Wednesday at the earliest.
Williams, who hasn't played since Nov. 28 with a groin injury and then surgery for a sports hernia, is to join the Hawks in Vancouver.