Blackhawks updates: Kane ready, Vermette sitting in Game 1


Blackhawks updates: Kane ready, Vermette sitting in Game 1

Patrick Kane has done the skating, taken the shots and absorbed a few hits. Now to see if there’s any rust or if he’s good to go from the start.

Kane is back and Antoine Vermette is definitely a healthy scratch when the Blackhawks face the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their first-round series tonight at Bridgestone Arena.

The Blackhawks right wing, who missed the last seven weeks with a fractured left clavicle, said he’s not too worried about taking the punishment the Predators are likely to dole out. Coach Joel Quenneville said Kane will be fine. He also doubts Kane will be very rusty.

[Preview: Blackhawks begin playoff run on CSN]

“Watching him skate the last little while, he’s got a jump to his stride,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s excited about getting back for sure. Your top guys, you have to make sure over the course of a season you’re managing and taking away some minutes if you can. Him being fresh as a daisy over this stretch, I think that can help him. I don’t think it’ll take him too long to get up to speed.”

General manager Stan Bowman also figured Kane would get going quickly.

“I think he’ll get over that in a short amount of time,” Bowman said of potential rust. “In terms of taking a hit, he referenced it yesterday, he’s been dealing with people trying to hit him since he was eight years old. That’s nothing new. He’s pretty adept at rolling off pressure. A lot of it is just not putting yourself in position [to be hit]. He’s pretty smart that way. He’s always been a player targeted by other teams and he manages to get through it, so I think he’ll be fine.”

Predators center Mike Ribeiro talked about the task of trying to stop Kane.

“It’s a team concept on this side. That’s how you stop him, really, as a team,” he said. “When you play against the best in the world, you try to focus a little better against him and really take time and space.”

Michal Rozsival looks to be in tonight against the Predators. Kimmo Timonen, who missed the final three regular-season games with an upper-bodyinjury, is also expected to play.

And as expected from the last two days’ lines, Antoine Vermette is not playing tonight. Quenneville said the veteran understood when the two talked earlier today.

“It’s one of those situations, performance based, we made our decision based on the last part of the year. He was understanding of the situation,” Queneville said. “We know the depth’s going to be important as we go forward. At the same time, with his experience, I commend him for having the right attitude in a tough situation today. But our depth is something that can help pay dividends as you get deeper in the playoffs. We anticipate using him at any moment.”

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Nevertheless it’s a surprise, not only because the center was acquired the stretch run, but also with the Blackhawks giving up a first-round pick and a defensive prospect for him. But Bowman also said not to take what happens in Game 1 as an edict for how the entire series/postseason will play out.

“We’re about to start Game 1 of hopefully a long playoff run. There’s a lot of focus, maybe too much focus, on Game 1 and the lineups,” Bowman said. “A lot of things change over the course of a playoff run, whether it’s certain players play or injuries or matchups or situations. It’s really too early to get too detailed on that. Antoine’s got a great approach, he’s excited to help whenever called upon and do his best.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: