Blackhawks

After breaking into NHL as undrafted free agent, Chris Kunitz set to join exclusive 1,000-game club

After breaking into NHL as undrafted free agent, Chris Kunitz set to join exclusive 1,000-game club

Chris Kunitz is the only active NHL player with four Stanley Cups on his résumé. And he’s about to join another exclusive club.

On Thursday when he takes the ice against the New Jersey Devils, the 39-year-old winger will become the 25th active player to hit the 1,000-game mark and 335th player in league history to do so. In a classy gesture, the Blackhawks held Kunitz out of the lineup on Tuesday in Boston so the milestone would come in front of family members in Chicago, where his wife and her family grew up.

“It's something that's kind of been on the radar, but I knew coming here it wasn't something that I needed to say my career has been complete," Kunitz said. "That's obviously a really nice thing, and the team and organization has found a way to help me get into a game at home. It'll be a really big day for my family."

Hitting the 1,000-game mark isn't exactly a goal you set out to achieve when you start your hockey career, but one you grow to appreciate when you hit that plateau. Especially when you think back to the days where you wondered if you'd even have a career in hockey after going undrafted.

"I didn't actually think I'd have a career until you start playing in it," Kunitz said. "And once you're in it you just try and hang on as long as you can. I've been very fortunate the opportunities that I've had and teammates and people I've come across in my career."

Despite averaging only 9:27 of ice time this season and finding himself in and out of the lineup, Kunitz has been a first-class teammate and perfect mentor for some of the younger players, both on and off the ice.

“He's a great guy and a great teammate, and obviously brings leadership and experience," Jonathan Toews said. "We have a young team. A couple of veterans and a lot of young guys that are really developing and showing what they can do at this level and obviously showing there's a lot more to come down the road. I think a guy like [Kunitz], with his limited opportunity, he's played really well when he's gotten the chance.

"But aside from that, he adds that veteran presence and that leadership in the room. Plus, he's just a great person and a great guy to be around. You look at what he's meant to the championship teams he's been on in his career, you kind of realize what he brings to the table and what he means to a team in the locker room."

Having a veteran like that in the locker room is so important to building a winning and tight-knit culture. Nobody knows that more than Kunitz, who’s been on four different championship-winning teams. It's why the Blackhawks brought him in on a one-year deal this summer.

"He’s a great person, great teammate," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Obviously, his career has been fantastic and I think he’s been playing pretty well lately, giving us professional shifts. He does a lot of little things away from the puck. There’s a reason why he’s had so much success as a player, played on championship teams over and over again.

"He’s had a great career. His accomplishments speak for themselves. He’s been a terrific presence in the dressing room and he’s played pretty well, too. Big night for him."

While 1,000 games in the NHL is a big accomplishment, Kunitz downsized the individual achievement because the Blackhawks find themselves in the thick of a playoff race and he knows the importance of Thursday's game. His focus is on doing anything he can to help the team come away with two points.

"It's really nice that it's happened," Kunitz said. "I'm sure in a few years I'll think of it maybe a little different, but I still think of it as just going out and helping the team win tonight."

Patrick Kane’s love-hate relationship with St. Louis fans highlight of 2020 NHL All-Star Game

patrick_kane_asg_usa_today.jpg
USA Today

Patrick Kane’s love-hate relationship with St. Louis fans highlight of 2020 NHL All-Star Game

ST. LOUIS — Patrick Kane has been booed all weekend in St. Louis and the nine-time Blackhawks All-Star poked a little bit of fun at Blues fans for their, shall we say, warm welcoming. But Saturday put the crowd in a weird spot.

On one hand, Kane is an arch rival in St. Louis. On the other, he represented the Central Division and was teammates with the four Blues All-Stars (Jordan Binnington, Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo).

After falling into a 3-0 hole to the Pacific Division, the Central Division stormed back for three straight goals. Perron scored the second goal, which drew huge cheers. Fourteen seconds later, Kane scored the equalizer, which also drew loud cheers. 

But then the St. Louis fans realized who had scored and Kane had some fun with them by holding his glove up to his ear. 

"Tried to like put my hand up to my ear to hear the boos," Kane said. "But then I was showing them that hey, I’m playing with the Blues players, I’ve got the same jersey as them. Just had fun with it. "

The Blues found themselves conflicted for a second time when Kane evened the score at 5-5 after converting on a breakaway. The interaction between Kane and the crowd was the most memorable moment of the night.

"It’s all in good fun," Kane said following a 10-5 loss to the Pacific Division. "To be honest with you, sometimes you get booed, you kind of like it a little bit. It’s St. Louis and Chicago, it’s a huge rivalry. Not only in hockey, but pretty much every other sport they play against each other. I guess that’s only baseball, but, you know what? Had a lot of fun this weekend and I thought that was a pretty cool moment."

Even the Blues had fun with it.

"Those were boos," a smiling Pietrangelo said. "Not cheers."

But at least somebody had sympathy for Kane.

"I felt bad for Kaner," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "He comes out in his introductions and is getting booed and stuff and then he scores and they're cheering for him. Tough situation for him. Players all know. They all handle it very well. It's a fun event."

In the end, it provided entertainment and brought some life to the event. What Kane is really trying to figure out is why he's snake bitten at All-Stars Games. He hasn't won since 2012 in Ottawa when Team Zdeno Chara defeated Team Daniel Alfredsson 12-9 under the fantasy draft format.

"I know, right?" Kane said. "Central can’t get over the hump. We won one last year and lost in the final. I think every time you look at the roster, you always think you have a really good roster with some of the players that are on the team, and for whatever reason we can’t do it."

The Central Division slipped to 1-5 under the 3-on-3 format, but Kane may have a solution on how to fix their struggles.

"Maybe it would be better if the Central played an Eastern team next year or something," Kane said half-jokingly. "Maybe you could switch it up that way."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Patrick Kane finishes NHL All-Star Tournament with two goals

kane_all-star_1.png
AP

Patrick Kane finishes NHL All-Star Tournament with two goals

Patrick Kane made his ninth NHL All-Star appearance in Saturday's 3-on-3 tournament in St. Louis. It was short-lived, but the superstar forward scored two impressive goals for the Central Division's team before they were eliminated after one game. 

The 31-year-old winger won the inaugural "Shooting Stars" challenge in the Skills Competition on Friday, beating the Blues' Ryan O'Reilly and Maple Leafs' Mitch Marner in sudden death. 

Then, the three-time Stanley Cup champ scored to tie the game 3-3 at 7:18 of the first period for the Central in the semifinal bout against the Pacific on Saturday. Kane kept the puck on a 2-on-1 with Eric Staal and fired it in stick side on goalie Jacob Markstrom. 

He later scored on a breakaway, shooting five-hole on David Rittich to tie it 5-5 at 1:37 of the second period. The Central lost the contest 10-5 and missed out on winning the million dollar prize. 

Kane, who recorded his 1,000th NHL point last Sunday, had four hometown Blues players as teammates: Jordan Binnington, David Perron, Alex Pietrangelo and O'Reilly.

The Atlantic beat the Metropolitan 9-5 in the first semifinal game. Former Blackhawks forward Anthony Duclair had three goals and an assist in the first game of the tourney. Duclair has 33 points (21 goals, 12 assists) in 47 games with the Ottawa Senators this season.

The Pacific beat the Atlantic 5-4 in the final. It was the Pacific's third straight tournament victory. David Pastrnak of the Atlantic (and Boston Bruins) was the MVP of the tournament, winning a 2020 Honda CR-V HYRBRID. 

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.