Patrick Kane

Pressing Playoff Question: Can the Blackhawks flip the switch?

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Chicago is headed to the postseason, but it hasn’t played like a Stanley Cup favorite in a while. After a 25-10-2 start to the regular season, the Blackhawks went just 23-18-4 in their final 45 contests. If you expanded that point-per-game pace over an 82-game stretch, then you would be left with a team that finished between the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche. In other words, out of the playoffs.

A big reason for that has been Chicago’s dreadful offense. The Blackhawks ranked 26th in the league with just 2.23 goals per game since the All-Star break and scored just five goals in their final four games — all losses.

Is that cause for concern given what this team is capable of? Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews doesn’t seem to think so.

“We wanted to win the last couple of games; we just didn’t quite get the job done,” Toews said, per ESPN.com. “We’re not going to panic or overreact by any means. I think we’re doing a lot of good things, and the energy and motivation is going to be there at the right time.”

The Blackhawks haven’t absolutely needed that “energy and motivation” Toews is referring to for a while now, but perhaps that will cost them. While Chicago had the luxury of just meandering into the dance, other teams have had to dig and claw their way in. Clubs like Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Calgary have been in playoff mode for a while now, while others like the Ducks and Blues finished the regular season on high notes that they can carry into the playoffs. (Unlike last year for the Blues, when they lost their final six of the regular season then were eliminated in the first round.)

At least it’s starting to look like Patrick Kane might be ready for Game 1. Getting him back will obviously help with their recent offensive woes, although it is worth noting that he last played on Feb. 24 and their struggles date back further than that. He may also not be the Kane of old right away.

Perhaps the best counter-argument to the notion that Chicago has a momentum problem is its opponent: Nashville. If Chicago had to play against the likes of Minnesota, then there would be a direct contrast between a club that limped towards the finish line and one that excelled in the second half of the campaign. The Predators finished the season with a 6-12-3 run though and are on a six-game losing streak. The lifeblood of their team, goalie Pekka Rinne, has posted a pedestrian 2.48 GAA and .911 save percentage since the All-Star break, while none of the Predators’ forwards recorded 25 or more points in their final 37 games.

In that sense, perhaps Nashville is the ideal opponent for Chicago as it aims to switch into playoff mode.

Related: Is everything OK with the Blackhawks?

Blackhawks clear Kane for ‘full participation’

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The Chicago Blackhawks have cleared forward Patrick Kane for full participation. Kane, who missed the final 21 regular season games with a broken left clavicle, has not played since Feb. 24.

Here’s the official statement from Blackhawks physician Dr. Michael Terry:

“Patrick Kane suffered a broken left clavicle on February 24, and underwent successful surgery to repair the fracture on February 25. Patrick has been working extremely diligently with his rehabilitation and has recently returned to full-contact practice without any difficulty. After discussions with Patrick and the team, and examining Patrick today, we collectively feel it is appropriate, with minimal risk, for him to return to full participation.”

Kane was a participant at Blackhawks practice Monday.

If he plays in Game 1 on Wednesday, it would be seven weeks since he was sidelined.

“I’ve done a lot to try to get myself, whether it’s healed as fast as possible or feeling good as fast as possible, whatever you want to call it,” Kane said following today’s practice. “I’ve done a lot of different things to try and make that happen.

“I’m pretty happy with the progress so far.”

The 26-year-old had 27 goals and 64 points in 61 games prior to being sidelined.

Game 1 ready? Q says Kane cleared for contact, showing ‘real good progress’

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Two days ahead of their playoff opener, the Blackhawks got more good news on the Patrick Kane front.

“He had real good progress,” head coach Joel Quenneville said of Kane, who’s been out since late February with a broken collarbone. “Got cleared for contact, and handled everything pretty well.”

Kane practiced with Chicago on Monday, the latest step in what’s been a quick recovery from an injury that was supposed to sideline him up to three months. The former Conn Smythe winner broke the collarbone on Feb. 24 against Florida and underwent surgery shortly thereafter but, much like Minnesota’s Jason Zucker did following the same injury, resumed skating far quicker than expected.

(Zucker ended up missing just two months, rather than the original prognosis of three, following his broken collarbone, and has scored three goals in his first three games since returning.)

Should Kane play in Game 1 against Nashville, his return would be even quicker than Zucker’s — seven weeks to Zucker’s eight — but the 26-year-old said he pushed himself to speed up the rehab process.

“I’ve done a lot to try to get myself, whether it’s healed as fast as possible or feeling good as fast as possible, whatever you want to call it,” he explained, per the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve done a lot of different things to try and make that happen.

“I’m pretty happy with the progress so far.”

For what it’s worth, Kane took his usual line rushes alongside Kris Versteeg and Brad Richards on Monday, and practiced on the club’s first power-play unit.

Report: Kane expected to be cleared for contact on Monday

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Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane is expected to be cleared for full contact practice on Monday.

According to Pat Boyle of CSN Chicago, Kane, who has been out of the lineup since Feb. 24 with a fractured left clavicle, has benefited from on-ice workouts while Chicago concluded the regular season on a two-game road trip.

Boyle reports that Kane is probable for Game 1 on Wednesday when the Blackhawks visit the Nashville Predators.

Kane was on pace for a career year with 27 goals and 64 points in 61 games prior to being sidelined.

Here are your Western Conference playoff matchups

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Want to read up on the East’s matchups? Click here.

The Western Conference lacked the East’s drama on Saturday, as the biggest jaw-dropper happened on Thursday instead. Let’s take a look at the four series in the West’s first round.

With a tight win against the Arizona Coyotes tonight, the Anaheim Ducks nabbed the first spot in the West (they clinched the Pacific long ago). They won’t get an easy draw despite this designation, however, as the Winnipeg Jets come in as one of the hottest teams with Ondrej Pavelec riding a stunning wave of success.

The St. Louis Blues managed to win a typically brutal Central Division before tonight’s win against the Minnesota Wild, their first-round opponent. Considering all the players resting in Saturday’s contest, that didn’t really qualify as much of a primer for what could be a skin-tight series.

Closing out the Pacific side, you have another all-Canada series as the Vancouver Canucks take on the Calgary Flames. The two franchises haven’t met since Calgary won a seven-game series on its way to losing in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, and the series’ best days really came with three straight postseason squabbles from 1982-1984. The Flames have won four of six postseason meetings, yet the Canucks play the role of favorites this time around.

The Central Division’s No. 2 vs. 3 match is captivating, as the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks both had very real chances to win the top spot. Instead, they fell short and must gut out what could be a thrilling series, especially since Patrick Kane seems like a long-shot to play. Predators fans probably haven’t forgotten out a tough series loss to Chicago back in 2010.