The Chicago Blackhawks have had a very inconsistent season. They have had stretches where they pull out multiple victories and have had stretches which they get beaten down and look sluggish. After a five-game winning streak before the holidays, they are currently on a three-game losing streak and have lost veteran goalie Corey Crawford again.

Crawford was placed on IR for the second time this season earlier this week with an undisclosed injury. There are speculations about what his injury is, including re-aggravating his groin or even concussion problems.

Either way, the public is not really sure what it is. His timetable for return is also uncertain, which means he could be gone for a while as far as people know. This is a big loss for the Blackhawks considering Crawford has arguably been the team's MVP this year.

Crawford's contributions

The Blackhawks have had a number of defensive problems this year. The core of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook has a lot of miles on them being over 30 years old and multiple years of long playoff runs. Other defensemen like Jan Rutta, Cody Franson, and Connor Murphy have either had injury trouble or just been inconsistent. Teams are simply out-hustling them and getting good looks at the net. The Blackhawks currently average 32.5 shots against per game, which is the eighth-highest in the NHL.

When Crawford has been in the net he has been there to challenge those shots.

Before going on IR, Crawford has played in 28 games and has a .929 save percentage (3rd best in the NHL) and 2.27 goals against average. His GAA is the fourth lowest among goaltenders with 20 or more starts. This is all with a team that sees more shots against them than about 75 percent of the league.

There have been a number of games which he has saved the Blackhawks and gotten them at least a point in the standings. Even in games when the opponent is getting a lot of shots and the Blackhawks have trouble scoring, Crawford keeps them in the game.

With Crawford out, the duties mainly go to 25-year-old Anton Forsberg who has just 22 NHL games under his belt.

So far he has played in 12 games this year and has a 3.33 GAA and .902 save percentage. His backup is 32-year-old Jeff Glass, who has sat on an NHL bench in uniform but never actually played in any games.

How long is Crawford gone

The only information coach Joel Quenneville gave the media was an "upper-body" injury, and he "could be out for a bit," as quoted in the Twitter video by the Chicago Blackhawks official account. He added that he will not know the official timetable until he gets back into hockey activities on the ice. The fact that is is upper-body likely rules out groin problems, but Quenneville said he would not say any more.

While we do not know when he will return, these comments indicate it will not be within the next few games.

It might not be anytime soon at all. This is a real tough blow the Blackhawks, who are currently two points out of the second Wild Card spot. There are still three months left in the regular season, but the team will have to pick up the pace if they want to get into the playoffs this year. The race in the West is tight, and they play in a very talented division. It will not be easy.