NASHVILLE – Patrick Kane was pretty happy with his first game back after seven weeks.
Sure, there was the expected rust – every player says you can skate all you want but you can’t simulate a game until you’re actually in a game again. But the impact of his return was certainly felt.
That impact was mostly seen on the Blackhawks’ power play, which scored twice in the second period – 5-on-3 and 5-on-4, with Kane assisting on each – as the Blackhawks came back to beat the Nashville Predators 4-3 in double overtime.
Even when the Blackhawks didn’t score on the power play, it looked much better than it had in the regular season’s final weeks. The Blackhawks not only couldn’t score on it at the time, they had trouble even setting up an attack or maintaining possession.
Kane’s return changed a lot of that.
“Obviously having Kane back will always help us, be it power play or 5 on 5,” said Jonathan Toews, who scored the second power-play goal to tie the game 3-3 at the time. “When it comes down to it, when we’re playing well and we’re all prepared, our power play’s usually reflective of that. Last night we took advantage of opportunities in the second to get back in the game. The two goals we got definitely gives us confidence and reminds us if we keep working, we get those changes and they eventually go in.”
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Kane played just over 23 minutes – including nearly six minutes of power-play time – of the double-overtime Game 1. He recorded four shots on goal. Kane said the rust, for him, was expected.
“The whole thing was timing, whether it’s with the puck, seeing certain plays, just little things like presenting yourself and getting a chance to get the puck in good space and moving your feet,” he said. “That was probably the biggest [issue].”
Kane teamed again with Kris Versteeg and Brad Richards, reuniting the trio that played so well earlier this season. The three didn’t recapture that magic in Game 1 but coach Joel Quenneville figures they’ll click again at some point.
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There’s no doubt, however, that Kane made an impact in his return. He just proved to give the Blackhawks the biggest advantage on the advantage.
“Top guys in the league have great patience with the puck, play recognition. They settle plays down and when you look like you’re out of it and scrambling, they’re trying to get a puck back,” Quenneville said. “He saves a lot of those loose puck battles, sustains play in the offensive zone. He gives opponents more to think about.”