Kaner Finally Ready for a Beard

Patrick Kane is all grown up.

The young Blackhawks star is finally ready to grow a playoff beard.

In years past, the precocious winger, turned center, hasn't been able grow facial hair, so rather than grow a traditional playoff beard, Kane has grown a playoff mullet.

That could change this year.

“I think I’m just going to try and grow the beard as well as I can,” Kane said Tuesday after practice. “I’m a little older now, and I can do a little bit better than a couple years ago. I’ll try to go with that. I don’t think I’m going to do the mullet. It didn’t really work last year, and the team has been playing well as of late so I didn’t want to change up too much.”

The Blackhawks open the playoffs against the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday, and are favorites to win in the first round.

Chicago finished ahead of Phoenix in the standings, earning two more wins (45) and four more points (101). The Blackhawks have one of the most potent top lines in the league with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, and their second line can match the No. 1 for many teams.

Chicago also has an experience advantage; the Coyotes haven't won a playoff series since moving to Phoenix in 1996, while the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and pushed Vancouver to a seventh game in the second round last year.

"They're a good team, they've had a good year, and we feel we've had a good year, too," Kane said. "We are confident in the team we have, so we'll see what happens. It's going to be a fun series. It'll be pretty intense, playoff hockey."

The Blackhawks played well in the final stretch of the regular season, finishing 8-1-3 despite playing without Toews.

Chicago's captain missed the final 22 games with a concussion, but started practicing this week in preparation for the playoffs and was symptom-free after Wednesday's workout. He's expected to play Thursday night in the desert, though an official decision isn't expected to be made until after the team's morning skate.

If Toews does return, he'll center the first line and Kane, who had been in the middle with the captain out, will slide back to the left side. The line combined for 81 goals and 119 assists, even with Toews missing the big chunk of time at the end of the season.

"I'm right there," Toews said. "It's been another day where I'm getting better and better, getting back to where I want to be as far as if I'm going to play a game. We'll see how it goes tomorrow."

He may want to look over his shoulder against the Coyotes.

While the Blackhawks play a free-and-easy style under coach Joel Quenneville, Phoenix's forte is to grind games out any way they can to keep it close.

Against a team as fast and filled with skill players as Chicago, that means the Coyotes will have to muck it up, knock the Blackhawks down every chance they get.

It worked during the regular-season matchups between the teams — the Coyotes won three of four — and they'll likely pick up the intensity in the playoffs, particularly with Toews coming back from injury.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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