Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks advances the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during an exhibition game at United Center on September 19, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Penguins defeated the Blackhawks 4-3 in a shootout.
(September 18, 2013 - Source: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)

Kane returns to ‘Hawks practice, wearing knee brace

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There was a welcome sight at Blackhawks practice on Wednesday, as Patrick Kane skated with teammates for the first time since injuring his knee on Mar. 19.

Here’s more, from the Chicago Sun-Times:

His rehab has been right on schedule, and both Kane and Joel Quenneville fully expect him to be “100 percent” in time for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, either Wednesday or Thursday of next week.

It’s the most significant injury of Kane’s seven-year career, costing him the last 12 games of the regular season (he’s on long-term injured reserve, and ineligible to return until the postseason). But Kane — a guy who hates coming off the ice for a shift, let alone a month — is trying to look at it with a positive slant, considering he has played nearly 150 games since last January, and was admittedly feeling the effects of it before the injury.

Kane said he initially thought he’d be back on the ice later in the game on March 19, that once the pain subsided, he wanted to return. But the team’s medical staff “told me otherwise.”

Kane has missed the last nine games with his injury, and that number will grow to 12 as he won’t play in any of Chicago’s final three regular season games against Montreal, Washington or Nashville. It’ll represent one of the longest stretches of inactivity due to injury in his career and, when he returns, he’ll be playing with a knee brace for the first time.

In spite of all that, Kane remains confident he’ll be ready to go when the playoffs open and is trying to take an optimistic approach to the missed time.

“Some people think it might be beneficial in the long run to maybe take a little break, especially with the year we had last year, and going deep in the playoffs, and the Olympics, and a lot of different things we’ve been doing around here the last year and a half,” he explained. “It’s something you never want to happen, but you try to think of it in a positive way, I guess.”


DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”