Patrick Kane heard the word bandied about with his name the past few weeks: leadership. With captain Jonathan Toews out, the Blackhawks have needed more of that from their core players.
And Kane, especially with his play, has provided plenty of it lately.
Back at center, Kane has provided a boost to the Blackhawks in winning three of their last four games. And as far as all that leadership talk? He likes it.
It feels good when you hear people say that, he said. I view myself as a leader of the team, for sure, but Im not going to change who I am. Im sure as time goes on Ill become more of a leader, but Im still a young guy and still learning a lot.
Yes, at 23 Kane is a young guy. But since hes been a pro for so long it doesnt always seem that way.
Every year I feel I become more of a leader, maybe playing more of a team game, who knows, Kane said. Sometimes you do different things and try to get people to follow you on the ice and maybe thats where the leadership is coming in.
Coach Joel Quenneville said most of that leadership is coming through in Kanes play. Outside of Tuesdays game against St. Louis, when everyone in a Blackhawks uniform struggled, the top line has been solid.
Teammates have noticed.
On the ice, hes doing a lot. Hes playing center, which I know is a challenge for him, and hes doing really well at it, Patrick Sharp said. Hes responsible in defensive zone and thats important with a guy like Johnny out of the lineup.
Kane started the season at center and is fine with being there right now. But theres no doubt what he truly feels his position is.
I still call myself a winger, to be honest," he said. "But right now they wanted to fill the void and they put me at center. I feel pretty comfortable getting the puck. Its fun to come up the ice with a lot of speed, thats where my game comes in, but I can still do that on the wing. Right now they just want to put me at center with Johnny out of the lineup.
Perhaps, but thats part of leadership, too: filling voids, taking the reins, stepping out of a comfort zone if its for the better of the team.
The Blackhawks got encouraging news on Thursday, when Toews skated before his teammates at Johnnys Ice House. If Toews strings together some solid, feel-good-after skates, he could be back soon. But in that time, Kane deserves credit for playing a bigger leadership role with the Blackhawks.
Im not rah-rah-rah or anything, Kane said. Im just having fun, getting excited and trying to do my thing on the ice.