Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Patrick Kane returns to Buffalo for first time since investigation

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Blackhawks: Patrick Kane returns to Buffalo for first time since investigation

BUFFALO, N.Y. – When Patrick Kane departed Buffalo in mid-September, he did so facing a myriad of questions.

At that time Kane was the subject of a rape investigation. How that would unfold was unknown. What the Blackhawks were going to do with their right wing, outside of starting the season with him, was unknown.

Since then, some questions have been answered. The investigation against him was dropped in early November. The Blackhawks have stated that Kane is part of their long-term future. Now we’ll see Buffalo’s reaction to Kane’s return when the Blackhawks face the Sabres on Saturday afternoon.

[MORE: Marcus Kruger sidelined four months with dislocated wrist]

On the ice, Kane has been great. Entering Friday’s games, he led the NHL in points (47), was tied for the league lead in assists (28, with Erik Karlsson) and was one shy of the league lead in goals (19), shared by Jamie Benn and Vladimir Tarasenko (20). His 26-game point streak, a new franchise record, ended against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

Kane was in the midst of his streak when general manager Stan Bowman was asked if Kane was part of the Blackhawks’ long-term future.

“Absolutely,” Bowman said in late November. “You can’t find talent like that. You look at what he’s done over the course of his career, whether it’s this season, last season or since he was a rookie. He won rookie of the year. He’s been a game changer. He’s one of those guys that, I’ve said it a lot over the years, he’s able to elevate his game in pressure moments. Not too many guys are able to do that.

"Sometimes when the pressure gets on, they have a hard time performing, but he’s sort of the opposite. He seems to raise his game.”

Fan reaction to Kane on previous road visits varied. Some audiences did nothing audibly noticeable. Some booed. Some took part in unsettling chants. But Saturday’s game won’t be in the buildings in which Kane was disliked well before last summer. It’ll be in his hometown, and one would think the crowd will have a positive reaction to Kane.

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Asked if Kane’s return to Buffalo now would be any different considering this past summer, coach Joel Quenneville didn’t foresee it.

“He’s gone through, I’d say, five months of a lot of attention. He’s gone through a busy stretch here,” Quenneville said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be much different.”

Blackhawks make minor league trade with Panthers, acquire defenseman Ian McCoshen

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USA Today

Blackhawks make minor league trade with Panthers, acquire defenseman Ian McCoshen

The Blackhawks have acquired defenseman Ian McCoshen from the Florida Panthers in exchange for forward prospect Aleksi Saarela, the team announced Tuesday. He will report to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

McCoshen is on a one-year contract that runs through the end of the 2019-20 season. His cap hit is $700,000 and he's set to become a restricted free agent.

Originally drafted by the Panthers in the second round (No. 31 overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft, McCoshen has appeared in 60 career NHL games and has seven points (four goals, three assists) and an ice time average of 14:26 per game. He has four assists in seven games with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL this season.

The motive behind the move appears to be giving each player a fresh start elsewhere, although Saarela's time with the Blackhawks was short-lived. He was acquired by the Blackhawks in June, along with Calvin de Haan, for goaltender Anton Forsberg and defenseman Gustav Forsling and had one assist in five games with the Rockford IceHogs.

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Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks brought Andrew Shaw back to Chicago because they lacked some bite to their game. He's already meeting expectations in the physicality department, leading the team with 23 hits.

But the other part of his game the Blackhawks have to live with is the amount of penalties he takes. Through six games this season, Shaw has taken at least one penalty in five of them and is tied for third among all NHL skaters with six minors. The only two skaters above him are guys who have played in two and four more games, respectively.

Because he plays on the edge, Shaw will occasionally cross it and he's trying to find that balance between toeing the line and not stepping over it.

"I find if I'm not playing on the edge, I'm not playing great," Shaw said. "I need to play physical. Even in preseason, I was just finishing checks — clean, shoulder-to-shoulder — and was getting penalty after penalty. Hockey still is a physical game. There's still hitting; it's still legal. So I'm going to go out there and play hard, make it hard on my opponents, make it hard on them physically, do what I do. Not going to change who I am now. I'm an old dog."

Shaw's reputation may also contribute to the matter. He's racked up more than 600 penalty minutes in his NHL career, including postseason, and the officials might be keeping a closer eye on him when he's on the ice.

"It's something he's got to be aware of, but I also think he's got a bullseye on him," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "If I go back through all the penalties he's taken, he probably earned a couple and he probably earned them five years ago. That's something he's got to deal with. We want him to play hard. I think we can handle the ones where he's running people over. We'll kill those off. Obviously the stick penalties and stuff we don't want. But he's playing hard for the team. That's a good thing."

Said Shaw: "The referees, no matter the history of the player, should call the game as it is. If there's a penalty, call a penalty. If there's not a penalty, you let it go. I mean, yeah, I might have been too vocal in my younger days. But the past three years I've been trying to clean it up a little bit. I just take my penalties when I get 'em. But I must have dug myself a really deep hole. Just trying to climb out of it since."

Still, Shaw knows he has to be smarter about the timing of his penalties and where they're happening. The ones that occur in the offensive zone are the penalties that must be eradicated from his game. The ones he earns from battling between the whistles and sticking up for his teammates, the Blackhawks can live with those.

"Obviously I don't want to take penalties, I don't want to put my team down," Shaw said. "I also don't agree with all of the ones I got. I think I got the short end of the stick on a lot of them. Bite my tongue, go to the box. Our PK's been working hard and competing and killing some penalties. Hopefully they start going my way, I guess."

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