Blackhawks

Kane embraces being center of attention

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Kane embraces being center of attention

It was less than two weeks ago when Joel Quenneville dropped the news in an oh-by-the-way fashion in Detroit: he was going to try Patrick Kane at center. It was an experiment, a chance to see what Kane, who had played center growing up, could do with it at this level.

It was surprising to hear. Even Kane, who said general manager Stan Bowman talked to him about playing center last summer, sounded a bit reluctant.

"Especially coming off the wrist injury I thought I was going right to right wing and just getting back into that," Kane said Wednesday. "But it's been good so far."

It's been so good that it's carrying over to Friday's season opener, when Kane will center his line with Andrew Brunette and Marian Hossa when the Blackhawks play the Dallas Stars. Coach Joel Quenneville has liked what he's seen from that trio -- Kane and Hossa have a natural chemistry and Brunette is finding his niche with them -- and how Kane's adjusted.

"He'll continue to grow in that area but his instincts ard good on both sides," Quenneville said after the Blackhawks' preseason finale in Washington D.C. "He'll improve in his position down low."

For Kane, this has been one more job to add to the resume. It was one thing to have a center past as a kid, another to do it at this level. But his comfort level with Hossa has helped, and Hossa and Brunette have assisted him with the down-low play.

"We've talked about it, the three of us. We all have pretty good experience.They're down low first and they'll stay there and come up with pucks," Kane said. "Offensively hopefully we can just work our magic and be a good line."

Bowman, who is confident with the Blackhawks' depth at center, never doubted Kane's ability to play there.

"He's such a smart player," Bowman said. "I like watching him play with Marian. The one difficulty we've had is those two never played together because they played the same position. We like how that's worked so far."

Linemate Brunette said "the center has the puck a lot and that falls right into his strengths. It's a tough position in your own end, and that's probably something he feels the need to get used to. But it's something he can definitely do."

It sounds like Kane is embracing this challenge more now than a few weeks ago. He has said he wants to prove to others and to himself that he can play this spot.

It would still be surprising if Kane's at center come the end of the season. Then again, the experiment that seemed likely to last just a preseason game or two is continuing. As long as it works, Kane will stay put.

"Starting the regular season we'll do it a little bit," Kane said. "It would be nice to prove I can play center, that I can play a couple different positions, show some versatility for the coaches. There have been some good things and bad things. Hopefully I keep getting better at it."

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

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Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

Lance Bouma took his place at fourth-line left wing as the Blackhawks rolled their forward rushes on Tuesday morning. As the Blackhawks have tinkered with their trios, Bouma, whose final two seasons with the Calgary Flames were filled with uncertainty, has found a consistent role in this lineup.

“Obviously I was brought here for a reason,” Bouma said. “Things didn’t go the way I wanted them to in Calgary. To come here to Chicago and have that role, it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

The Blackhawks knew what they wanted from Bouma and his fellow fourth liners: some physical play, some energy and if there are any scoring opportunities, bonus. It’s a second chance for Bouma, whose contract was terminated by the Flames on June 30.

“I think it’s definitely a motivator knowing that you get in that situation where all of a sudden, ‘OK, I have to almost start over again and I have to prove to a new team that I belong in this league and I can play,’” coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday. “There are always circumstances where teams make decisions like that. We’ve been a part of it. And moving forward as a player, you’ve gotta look at it as a fresh opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get back to playing your game.”

After recording 16 goals and 18 assists in the 2014-15 season, Bouma signed a three-year, $6.6 million deal with the Flames. The next two seasons didn’t go as planned as Bouma dealt with injuries, inconsistent play and healthy scratches. So getting that call from the Blackhawks was a huge lift.

“I was just looking forward to a fresh start and something new,” he said. “I just was ready to come into camp and have a great season and it’s been great so far.”

[MORE: Eddie Olczyk expected to return to broadcasting booth this week

Tommy Wingels, who has centered the Blackhawks’ fourth line the last several games – and will again vs. St. Louis on Wednesday – said Bouma looks “refreshed” this season.

“Obviously whether it’s a team doesn’t want to bring you back or it’s a trade or buyout, there’s certainly something that deep down gets you going,” Wingels said. “I think it was a good summer for him mentally to come to a new organization, come to a new group of guys and re-establish his game. It’s tough when you’re with the same coaches, same team for so long; maybe what you do gets taken for granted. He looks good and he’s skating really well and I think he moves really well for a big man. He’s strong on the pucks and he’s a good asset for us.

Bouma isn’t here to be a top-six player. He’s not here to fulfill a contract that he no longer has. The Blackhawks needed depth, energy and a physical presence and in brining that, Bouma has earned steady work.  

“We knew the player coming in that we wanted him to play that style and he’s done a good job of it, too,” Quenneville said of Bouma. “So it’s something we were looking for in our needs and it fit perfectly."

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Nick Schmaltz isn’t the only one returning; guess who is back in the booth?!

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Nick Schmaltz isn’t the only one returning; guess who is back in the booth?!

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Tracey Myers and Pat Boyle discuss Nick Schmaltz returning to the Blackhawks line-up on Wednesday night and which player is looking forward most to his return?

They also weigh in on Corey Crawford’s incredible start to the season and why he’s the major reason why the Hawks begin the week in first place in the Central.

They also discuss who is the biggest Hawks rivalry right now, which new defenseman has impressed the most and how is Connor Murphy dealing with being a healthy scratch at times this season?

Plus, they discuss someone other than Nick Schmaltz returning to work on Wednesday night.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: