Hawks, Wings will get very familiar with one another


Hawks, Wings will get very familiar with one another

The last time the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings met, the Blackhawks were fighting for their playoff lives.

Yeah, its been that long.

Nine months after the Blackhawks lost their regular-season finale against the Red Wings, theyll finally finally resume the rivalry when they host Detroit Friday night at the United Center. After all that time, the Blackhawks and Wings will now play each other three times over the next 16 days.

Let the fun begin.

We have them a lot coming up, coach Joel Quenneville said. It seems like division opponents come in bunches. Well see them a lot for sure. There are a lot of things makes them a top team in our conference.

Despite how long its taken for the two to meet this season, the timing is still great. The Blackhawks sit atop the Western Conference standings (and the Central Division) with 50 points. Detroit, just three points behind, is fourth in the conference and second in the division.

The two teams similarities usually lead to good matchups.

Theyre a team thats made up, basically, the same way we are: four lines that can play hockey and push the pace. That makes for some quick, high-paced games and those are fun to play, Viktor Stalberg said. There are going to be a lot of opportunities both ways. Hopefully Corey (Crawford) can come up big again and hopefully we can put some pucks behind (Detroit goalie) Jimmy Howard tomorrow.

Its debatable that the Vancouver Canucks have become the Blackhawks biggest rival. But the one with the Red Wings is still up there and still has its panache. Its just in this one, theres more admiration than animosity.

I dont want to say we look up to them but we definitely respect them and we always look forward to playing them, Patrick Sharp said. Fans will be into (tomorrows game). Its easy to get up for those. The Canucks ones, you dont know whether to hit someone, slash someone or keep your own head up. Those are scary sometimes.

The longtime rivalry is back tomorrow. No, theres not a lot of nasty venom between the two anymore. But proximity, history and the constant battle for the Central title still fuel this fire plenty.

Its kind of fitting that we play them at this time of year, Patrick Kane said. Were both at the top of the standings in the West and have something to play for. Its kind of cool.

Patrick Sharp hitting his stride in Year 2 as broadcaster

NBC Sports Chicago

Patrick Sharp hitting his stride in Year 2 as broadcaster

The NHL’s best players competing against each other will be a familiar sight for Patrick Sharp, who will work his first All-Star Game as a broadcaster this weekend in St. Louis. 

The three-time Stanley Cup champ with the Blackhawks was the MVP of 2011’s All-Star contest with a goal and two assists. 

Less than two years after hanging up his skates, Sharp's transition from player to television analyst has been as seamless as everyone expected. In addition to the look and the experience, the 2014 Olympic gold medalist has been a student of his new game behind the scenes.

"I feel a little more settled," said Sharp, who can be seen Friday and Saturday on NBC Sports and NBC covering the NHL All-Star festivities. "Just trying to improve and get better at the job. It's just like playing in the NHL, the first year you ask a lot of questions and you learn as much as you can from the people that have done it before you and that are really good at it. Going into Year 2, nothing really changes; you just want to continue to get better. 

"I love following hockey and watching games; it makes the job a little bit easier. I don't think I'll ever get fully comfortable on television, but it's been fun and a good transition for me from playing the game." 

The 38-year-old’s bountiful in-depth insight during game broadcasts has come as no surprise to those who know him.

"Sharpie looks like he's really found a career," said Patrick Kane, who often shoots his former teammate a text after catching him on TV. "He does a really good job and he's easy to listen to. He knows who he's talking about, he has really good information. 

"It almost to me sounds like you're just talking to him, like me just having a conversation with him about hockey. He does a really good job of explaining the information and I think he's done pretty well at it."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews regularly watches his former alternate captain’s commentary as well.

"I think the way he studied the game, the way he understood the game, he obviously has a lot of passion for it," Toews said of Sharp as a player. "I think it's great that our sport has someone like him with his talent level and his career so soon after his playing days to go out there and talk about it and relate some things to the fans that a lot of people, even myself, wouldn't even recognize.

"He does a great job. I think he's more than poised up there too.”

The fact that the former Hawks forward looks like he’d have no trouble skating in today’s NHL adds to his on-air presentation.

“He's still pretty jacked, I'm assuming,” Alex DeBrincat said. “He hasn't gained any weight. You'd assume after your career you'd let go a little bit, but doesn't look like he has.”

“The thing about Sharpie was he was always one of the top-five guys in fitness testing, he was always in great shape,” Kane said. “He was strong, a powerful skater, had a good shot, was able to shoot it pretty good.

"It felt like he could still play. It was just kind of like the opportunity and if he wanted to travel, move his family; so, I wouldn't have been surprised if he kept playing and was successful too.” 

Some of Sharp’s former teammates knew the transition was inevitable.

“Guys that wanted to chirp and make fun of him said he couldn't get there soon enough, he loves the camera,” Toews said with a chuckle. 

Others saw a different path for No. 10. 

“I don't know if we really expected him to do that to be honest with you,” Kane said. “I thought maybe he'd be trying to get in with the team somewhere whether it was scouting or trying to get into the front office. I could see him doing that even to this day. 

“Maybe that's a stepping stone for him maybe in the future. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the front office at some point because I think he's pretty good at scouting players and knowing a lot about the league too.” 

For Sharp, nothing can compare to the rush of playing in front of a sold-out United Center crowd, but the feeling right before going live on the air comes close. 

“I love it,” the Winnipeg native said. “It's very similar [to playing]. I love having the earpiece in and hearing our producer tell us that we're on in '10 ... 9 ... 8 . . .' Hearing the countdown kind of gives you that adrenaline feeling, the butterflies that you used to get as a player right before the first shift of a game. 

“I kind of miss that stress and anxiety of being a player and putting pressure on myself. I can't really think of too many other things in the game that bring that to us, so this is maybe a close second.”

Despite another career in the game, the four-time 30-plus goal-scorer with the Hawks still goes through what a lot of players do after they exit the ice. 

“The struggles of hanging up the skates and then trying to figure out what's next, I kind of went through that myself, still going through it,” Sharp said. “I miss the game every day. 

“I love being a part of NBC, but there's nothing that's going to replace being a professional hockey player and that's something that I did my entire adult life. I'm thankful that I've got an opportunity to continue working and be in the game, but at the same time I've had struggles just like every other former player. I want to keep my mind occupied and try to fill that void of playing hockey as best I can.”

Sharp joins NBC Sports’ national broadcast team every other week for a Tuesday or Wednesday game during the regular season. He’s frequently an analyst for Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago and come the postseason he’ll be on the national broadcasts full-time.

Whether he’s on TV in Chicago or nationally, Sharp prepares the same way.

“I think when I do more prep, that's when I struggle on the air,” he said. “I feel like I do enough prep just by being the same hockey guy that I've been my entire life. I watch the games, I stay involved, I talk to some players that are still playing that are friends of mine. 

“I don't look at it as doing research and preparation; I just love the game and love being around it and watching different players and teams play. I feel like when I fill my head with stats and things that I want to say on the air, it never comes out quite the way I want it to. So my approach now is just stay on top of the league as best I can and let's go out there on TV and just have a conversation and talk some hockey.”

Patrick had plenty of opportunities to talk hockey and get in front of the camera while with the Blackhawks, which made the transition that much easier.

“I think playing for the Blackhawks all those years we had so many opportunities to do different things with the media. Whether it was those Winter Classic games, we had the cameras following us around every year it seemed for a month of the season; training camp was always answering questions and making up videos,” Sharp said.

“The preparation that I got with the Blackhawks, being a Blackhawk player, it prepared me for life in the media post-hockey. My last game was on a Saturday and I took the week and I had an opportunity to come in and talk with NBC on the following Monday and I did it and I'm glad I did because it's been a fun experience and I like working with that team at NBC.”

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Inside Patrick Kane's gameday routine with Blackhawks

Inside Patrick Kane's gameday routine with Blackhawks

It's been a memorable week for Patrick Kane.

He became the ninth player in London Knights history to have his jersey retired and first to do so after playing just one season. He also became the youngest American-born player ever and 90th player in NHL history to hit the 1,000-point mark for his career.

And this weekend, the Blackhawks superstar is participating in his ninth career NHL All-Star Game. The average amount of All-Star appearances for the other 43 players combined is 2.4.

At age 31, Kane is still at the top of his game and showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

To get a glimpse of how one of the greatest players in the game prepares, NBC Sports Chicago takes you inside Kane's gameday routine on a typical home game with a 7:30 p.m. start. 

8:30 a.m. — Wake up

The alarm sounds. Kane is up and immediately jumps in the shower. He doesn't waste any time.

After getting dressed, Kane places his breakfast order to the team, which he will eat at the rink.

"Two eggs over medium with sweet potatoes, spinach and then berries," Kane said. "And they have a green drink for us usually, so that's my breakfast."

On practice days, his breakfast includes egg whites. On the second game of a back-to-back, he might have some oatmeal or overnight oats.

"I like to switch it up," Kane said. "Not try to eat the same thing every day."

9:10 a.m. — Arrive at the rink

Kane lives in Gold Coast Chicago, so his commute to and from the United Center isn't very long. He typically listens to music, but not always.

"Sometimes podcasts if there's something I'm interested in listening to," Kane said. "If there's a good Spittin' Chiclets episode I'll listen to that. But it's only 10-15 minutes in the car for me, so usually I'll listen to whatever music in the morning."

What kind of music?

"It's kind of rotated throughout the years," Kane said. "But nothing too heavy in the morning. Just wake up and get going."

9:30 a.m. — Team meeting before morning skate

After eating breakfast, Kane is ready for the regularly scheduled special teams meeting. First the penalty kill then the power play. But he's one of three players exempt from the former.

"Me, [Alex] DeBrincat and [Dylan] Strome are the only ones that don't attend that meeting," Kane said with a laugh.

Of course, the three of them will attend the power play meeting shortly after.

By that point, it's around 10 a.m. Kane spends the next 10 minutes "getting the body ready for morning skate," which starts at 10:30. He begins putting on his equipment around 10:10 before hitting the ice and he’s usually one of the first ones out there.

Morning skate runs about 20 minutes long, but most guys stay on the ice longer and often times play a game called “Two-Puck," where you get two chances to score on the goaltender. The first is a shot from the slot. The second is a shootout-type attempt. Make one of the two and you advance to the next round. Last one standing wins. Kane is a frequent participant. You can only imagine how many wins he's racked up over the years.

11:15 a.m. — "Marination Session"

After fulfilling his media obligations, Kane heads to the lounge with a few teammates — DeBrincat and Strome are regulars — to hang out. This is one of Kane’s favorite activities of the day.

"We call it our Marination Session,” Kane said smiling. “We just marinate on the couch for the next 45 minutes because we got some pretty comfortable couches there. Usually we'll be watching Hockey Central on Sportsnet. We'll watch that and just relax and talk about hockey and just sit and marinate on the couch for the next little bit."

12 p.m. — Lunch

Once the Marination Session is over, Kane hops in the shower before eating lunch with a handful of teammates at the rink. Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews are always part of the group, along with strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman. Same with Kirby Dach, who’s living with Seabrook this season. Strome is slowly starting to become a regular.

“We had a bigger crew in the past,” Kane said. “But it seems like most guys like to take their food home now, so we only have four or five guys. A couple guys now are starting to join in. It’s getting to be a bigger crew."

Kane’s go-to meal for lunch? Chicken with asparagus and some gluten-free pasta.

2:30-4:30 p.m. — Pregame nap 

Just before 1 p.m., Kane is back home for the afternoon. He stays up for a bit and unwinds before taking a pregame nap, which is the most well-known hockey tradition. 

And Kane isn’t afraid to share his naps have gotten longer this season.

"This year I've been doing like two-hour naps,” Kane said. “They're nice. I always get in bed for my nap and tell my girlfriend, ‘this is the best part of game day.’ It's nice to have that two-hour nap at home and get up and get ready for the game.”

By 4:30, Kane is awake and ready to start his pregame preparations. He hops in the shower — his third of the day — and counts on his girlfriend Amanda to bump up the tunes.

“She has a playlist that will go throughout the house,” Kane said.

After putting on his suit, Kane is ready to roll out.

5:15 p.m. — Arrive at United Center

The Blackhawks are required to be at the arena by 5:30 because they have a team meeting at 5:45. Kane likes to make sure he has his ducks in a row before that.

"Usually before then I'm getting all my equipment ready,” Kane said. “Tape your stick, make sure everything else is good.”

The meeting isn’t a long one. It’s a quick final rundown of the opponent that night and lasts about 5-10 minutes.

“After that I have a little bit of time,” Kane said. “Go back on the couch for like 20 minutes, sit there for a little bit, and then I go do my off-ice warmup.”

His off-ice warmup begins with a 5-10-minute stretch with Goodman, who’s been with the team for 12 seasons.

“He’ll stretch me out and activate everything,” Kane said. “Get everything going then do maybe 5-7 minutes on my own, just kind of a dynamic warmup. Usually I have a tennis ball, throw it around with Pauly and against the wall, different things. Run some routes, we say, and then get ready for the game."

7 p.m. — Pregame warmups

Kane’s body is fully activated by this point and ready to hit the ice for pregame warmups. He’s the second to last one out of the tunnel, in front of Toews and behind Duncan Keith — the three current team captains with Seabrook out for the season.

After a 16-minute warmup, Kane is the last one off the ice, a tradition he started way before the NHL. The last time he didn't follow that was Feb. 24, 2015, which happened to be the game Kane broke his collarbone and missed the remainder of the regular season. He was on pace to be the NHL’s leading scorer. Now he makes sure he’s always the last one off, no matter what.

7:40 p.m. — Puck drop 

The game has officially started. Kane averages the sixth-most minutes of any NHL forward, so you’ll see him on the ice more than most.

Where we don’t see him is during the 17-minute intermissions.

"I'll sit there and retape my stick,” Kane said. “Probably like a 2-3-minute leg shake-out with Pauly in the intermission and then just sit there and get ready. I'll take all my top equipment off, untie my skates then put them back on."

10:10 p.m. — End game

A little after 10, the game will have ended. Give or take a few minutes, depending on whether the game finished in regulation or went to overtime.

If Kane had a big night, he'll speak to the media for a second time. Recently, that's been the case.

Some players have a post-game workout. But Kane normally isn't one of them.

"It depends," Kane said. "Sometimes you're so tired after the game you just sit there and relax, kind of chill that way. I usually like getting in the sauna after the game or like going from the sauna to the cold tub, back and forth. Other times, if we have back-to-back games, I'll probably get my body stretched out a little bit and get ready that way."

11 p.m. — Postgame meal before bed

After a busy night on the ice, Kane starts to unwind off it. He hasn't eaten since lunch and doesn't like to eat right before game time, so this is when he'll finally get his postgame meal in.

"Sometimes I'll go out to eat after and you're not getting back until like midnight or maybe even 12:30," Kane said. "And then I like to wind down for 30-45 minutes, watch TV. I usually watch a show sometimes, get your mind off hockey a little bit.

"But I'll also check up on the highlights too and see what's going on that night. If I'm in bed by 1:30, 2:00 after a game, if I'm sleeping by then I'm pretty happy."

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