Patrick Kane

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.

Timonen should be ready for playoffs; Kane ‘ratcheting up’ contact

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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?

NHL on NBCSN: Blues, Blackhawks battle for positioning in Central

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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.

Is everything OK with the Blackhawks?

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Maybe they just really miss Patrick Kane. He’s a pretty good player, right?

Still, something just doesn’t seem 100-percent right with the Chicago Blackhawks. And, frankly, it didn’t before Kane got hurt.

In 2015, starting with the Winter Classic loss in D.C., the ‘Hawks are a pedestrian 23-16-4. They’ve had a couple of four-game winning streaks during that stretch, but never really any sustained momentum. They’ve been shut out or held to one goal 13 times.

Analytics-wise, in those 43 games, their score-adjusted Fenwick ranks 14th in the NHL.

In their first 37, it ranked first.

Perhaps the ‘Hawks just got a little too comfortable after starting out so well in October, November, and December.

“They seemed the more desperate hockey team tonight,” forward Kris Versteeg said after last night’s 2-1 loss to Minnesota. “Those guys were really fighting for their lives over there.”

The ‘Hawks haven’t had to fight for their lives all season.

Whether it’s an overreaction or not, clearly a segment of the fan base is sensing trouble:

Look, nobody’s writing off a team with Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, and possibly Kane. At online sportsbook Bovada, only the Rangers (6/1) are more heavily favored than the ‘Hawks (8/1) to win the Stanley Cup.

Something seems off, though.

Related: Blackhawks’ decision-making was ‘tough to watch’ last night