Blackhawks

As expected, Patrick Kane ready to go for Blackhawks in Game 1

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As expected, Patrick Kane ready to go for Blackhawks in Game 1

The clearance came on Monday afternoon. The foregone conclusion came on Tuesday. Patrick Kane is good to go for Game 1.

Kane will play on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks face the Nashville Predators in the opener of their first-round series. It wasn’t a big surprise to get the confirmation, given everything Kane was doing in Monday’s practice. He was doing the same things on Tuesday, skating with Kris Versteeg and Brad Richards and working on the power play.

“It’s exciting,” said Kane, who missed seven weeks with a fractured left clavicle. “It’s been a long 50 days here, so it’s a credit to a lot of hard work from obviously the doctors and the trainers and just listening to them and trying to heal as fast as possible.”

Kane was originally expected to miss nearly two months, maybe even more, with his injury.

“It wasn’t in the cards knowing we had to get through a round or two before he could even be considered,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “This is a very positive situation for us, knowing what he brings to the table. He was having an MVP-type of season. Getting him back just makes you have so many more options. His versatility in all areas certainly enhances our team.”

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The Blackhawks head into this series just about completely healthy. Kane was the Blackhawks’ most consistent scorer when he was injured – his 64 points led the NHL at the time. Puck possession should improve again, too. Jonathan Toews said the Blackhawks fared pretty well without him but obviously get a boost with his return.

“Aside from the losses that we went into the end of the season with, I think we were playing good hockey,” Toews said. “We’re confident as a group. We made it this far, played a number of games without our best player and our top scorer. To get him back I think is only going to help us.”

As for the physical game, which is always that much more intense in the postseason, Kane said he’s ready for it. He’ll have to be; there’s no doubt the Predators will be trying to stop Kane with big hits. Kane said he’s as ready as he’ll ever be to absorb the punishment.

“We tested it out a few times, a few different things where guys run into me, guys checking me. I just kind of feel confidence there,” Kane said. “That’s another thing there for my peace of mind, just being confident with where I’m at right now and I’m not thinking about it too much on the ice, because it is in good shape and it is ready to be out there competing.”

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Still, there’s no way one of his teammates is going to hit him like an opponent would.

“I think that’s what starts everyone, that first shift, getting hit, getting pushed around. Handling that is something of anadjustment here but you can’t formulate that type of a hit until you go out and get hits,” Quenneville said. “It’s something he’ll deal with, adapt and play accordingly.”

Kane has the full green light. He’ll be tested as soon as he comes back by the Predators but he’s confident that he’s healthy and ready to go.

“We’re at the point right now where it’s pretty safe to go out there and try and compete and play. I think that’s important, too, not only for me but for the team, as well. Because I want to feel like I can contribute andproduce when I am back in the lineup,” Kane said. “By no means is it anything that we rushed back. I think you see different players go through this injury. Jason Zucker, I think he came back around the same timetable as I am. I think Brian Campbell in 2010 came back at around five or six weeks. So it’s an injury that can be healed and some people are a little bit more different than others. It’s just kind of my timetable, when I was ready to play.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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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?

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USA TODAY

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: