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.
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.
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.
Two bits of good news for Blackhawks fans this morning:
1. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen, injured Sunday, should be ready for the playoffs, even though he’s not on the regular season-ending trip to St. Louis (tonight) and Colorado (Saturday).
2. Patrick Kane is “ratcheting up” the contact back home in Chicago. The star winger is looking more and more like he could play in the first round, a possibility the club has not ruled out.
Any optimism remains cautious, however:
The ‘Hawks enter tonight’s game against the Blues on a two-game losing streak. It’s highly likely they’ll play either Nashville or St. Louis in the first round.
Related: Is everything OK with the Blackhawks?
NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight as the St. Louis Blues host the Chicago Blackhawks at Scottrade Center with puck drop at 8 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.
The Blackhawks and Blues conclude their season series tonight in St. Louis. Both teams have won two games in the series.
St. Louis used a 2-1 win over Chicago on Sunday to take over top spot in the Central Division. Jake Allen, who won that game for the Blues, gets the call again Thursday for his third straight start. Allen may have stolen the starting job from veteran Brian Elliott as the playoffs approach.
Chicago has two games remaining (including tonight) and can finish anywhere from the top seed in the Central to the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks head to St. Louis looking to avoid a third straight loss.
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen is day-to-day with an upper body injury following a hit from Ryan Reaves on Sunday. Chicago is also without Brad Richards (upper body) for the remainder of the season. Patrick Kane (clavicle) is skating with the team, but has yet to be cleared for a return.
St. Louis can clinch home ice in the first round with a win tonight. A Blues victory coupled with a Predators regulation loss against the Wild would win St. Louis the Central Division on Thursday. The Blues are looking for their second Central Division crown in four seasons.
The Blues will be without Robert Bortuzzo (upper body) who was injured Sunday night in Chicago. Additionally, Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko are expected to miss the contest due to lower body injuries.
St. Louis enters tonight’s action one point up on Nashville and three points ahead of Chicago.