Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks

Is a position change in Patrick Kane’s future?

The Chicago Blackhawks lost in a shootout to the rival Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night. As exciting as preseason shootouts can be, the biggest news from Joe Louis Arena may not have come from the ice—but from the Blackhawks head coach’s postgame comments. Joel Quenneville shared with assorted media members that the coaching staff is looking at star winger Patrick Kane as a possible solution for Chicago’s gaping hole at center on the second line.

The announcement is a bit surprising in that it was assumed that Patrick Sharp was going to make the move from wing to center this season. Sharp has played center at times with both the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks over the course of his career. Last season, the #10 Train had a career year with 34 goals and 37 assists for the Hawks while playing mostly on the wing.

Sharp still may end up being the long-term replacement for Troy Brouwer for the Hawks this season. But Quenneville’s public statements mean that the organization plans on giving Kane a serious look. In fact, this has been going on for a while in practices during training camp this year. He told CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers that, “he’s been playing center throughout scrimmages and practices now and we’ll see.”

This wouldn’t be the first time Patrick Kane has ever played center. He has experience and Quenneville thinks he might be able to play the all-around game expected from an NHL pivot:

“He’s played center most of his life. Defensively, he’s gotten better as he’s grown… down low on the walls. It’s something we’re going to at least take a look at.”

The obvious changes from wing to center are the defensive responsibilities and faceoff duties. Kane only took 14 face-offs all season—and only won two of them. But another change that isn’t as well publicized, is the difference for a center when the team breaks out of their own zone. Wingers are usually looking back at the play, while centers can see the entire ice in front of them. Players with good vision (like Kane) can see the play develop with all of the action unfolding up the ice. For highly-skilled forwards, transitioning to the center position can be easier than transitioning to wing.

Whether the Hawks decide to move Kane, Sharp, or a prospect like Marcus Kruger to center, figuring out the second line pivot is one of the more important decisions the coaching staff will make in training camp. Jonathan Toews has the top center position locked up for the next twenty years and Dave Bolland has established himself as a premier shutdown defender. Guys like Daniel Carcillo and Jamal Mayers may prove they can play center on the fourth line, leaving the noticeable void on the second line.

It’s intriguing to hear that Chicago is considering a player like Kane at center. Not only is it interesting that they’d split up the Toews/Kane duo, but seeing Kane put in a position to create offensive with a pair of wingers, is something that could be interesting. Guys like Daniel Briere and Derek Roy have been proving that centers no longer need to be the 6’4”, 230 lbs imposing physical forces they used to be. Then again, not everyone can make the transition with the increased defensive duties.

Since it’s the preseason, what do you think? Would you like to see Patrick Kane play center for a few games, or do you think it’s pointless to mess with a good thing?

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.