The Chicago Blackhawks have been winning a ton of games lately and are making a run at the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators atop the Central Division, and they’ve been doing it all without Patrick Kane on the ice.
On Friday morning, Kane was practicing before the team gathered for their normal workout, and he was looking pretty chipper just a few weeks after having surgery to repair his fractured clavicle.
“He was skating before practice, so he was out on the ice, (and) he was actually flying out there,” head coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s progressing real well and he’s going to have a tough stretch of trying to keep him away from wanting to play a game right now.”
Kane was supposed to be out of the lineup for 12 weeks with the injury, meaning a return in mid-May, but it isn’t surprising to see the winger itching to get back in on the action. The Blackhawks are currently just four points behind the Blues for the top spot in the division, and with the playoffs nearing, getting back an offensive star like Kane would be a big boost.
“We’ve played in some pretty tight games and missing a guy like Kaner who can change a game pretty much any time he’s on the ice (is big),” goaltender Corey Crawford said. “Not having him out (there), the other guys are stepping up a little bit more.”
Those guys who are stepping up are coming from all over the lineup. Brad Richards finally broke a lengthy scoring drought last week when he potted a goal against the Arizona Coyotes, and he scored the game-winner against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night. Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell, and Patrick Sharp have also broken out of slumps with goals in recent games.
The big reason the Hawks have been winning games without Kane has been their defense, as they’ve allowed just eight goals in their past seven games.
“When the leading scorer in the league goes out with injury like that you have to change the gameplan a little bit and play a little more defensive minded and win games that way,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “It’s been working real good so far.”
Despite Kane’s presence back on the ice, the 12-week timetable still remains in place however.
“Yeah, nothing’s changed,” Quenneville said.