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Blackhawks rookies are loving big brother Patrick Kane

Patrick Kane’s easygoing ways are making Hawks’ newest players feel right home.  |  Dilip Vishwanat~Getty Images

Patrick Kane’s easygoing ways are making the Hawks’ newest players feel right at home. | Dilip Vishwanat~Getty Images

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Updated: April 10, 2012 11:32AM

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane was being bombarded with questions. Why is coach Joel Quenne­ville repeatedly calling him a leader? What’s it like centering the first line? What’s it like making up for injured captain Jonathan Toews?

‘‘I’ve never expected to come in and do what Jonny did and be the big leader right off the bat,’’ Kane told the Sun-Times. ‘‘That’s not really who I am. I’m not going to change who I am because people want me to be a leader. I’m a leader in my own way. If it’s not rah-rah-rah, maybe it’s just having fun.’’

Then Kane laughed. Rookie Jimmy Hayes had entered the locker room, his hair absolutely messy.

‘‘Look at his hair,’’ Kane chuckled.

‘‘What?’’ Hayes barked.

For all the attention Kane has garnered for his improved play, which has helped the Hawks win three of their last four, his relationship with the rookies may be the most important sign of his leadership — and the least publicized.

While all the Hawks say they support the rookies, Kane, 23, has had an instant connection. He hangs out with them on the road, goofs off with them in the locker room and stays out on the ice with them after practices.

The Hawks, who are relying on their rookies to handle crucial roles down the stretch, credit Kane for helping to ease their transition and alleviate pressure.

‘‘He’s a lot of fun,’’ Hayes, 22, said. ‘‘When you have a guy of his caliber taking you under his wing and being really nice to you and being great, it makes it a lot easier.”

Hayes and Kane clicked immediately.

‘‘Hayes is my boy, for sure,’’ Kane said. ‘‘We have a lot of the same past experiences. We played with the U.S. [developmental] program. We’re both American and went through the draft.”

But it goes beyond Hayes. Forward Andrew Shaw, 20, has said multiple times that he looks up to Kane.

‘‘He’s one of the best players in the world, and he’s still one of the youngest players in the world,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘He’s been really great to me and other young guys.’’

The most important factor is that Kane doesn’t come off as a haughty star with a Stanley Cup ring, an Olympic silver medal and a Calder Trophy.

‘‘I didn’t really know him too well coming in,’’ defenseman Dylan Olsen, 21, said. ‘‘But he’s really connected with the young guys here. If we ever have questions, we know we can talk to him. Obviously, he’s a superstar. You can get intimidated when you meet guys like that. But he’s not like that. He’s not one of those cocky guys who is older and says, ‘Oh, you’re a young guy. Come up here, shut your mouth and do your job.’ He’s not like that at all.’’

NOTE: The Hawks will broadcast the morning skate Friday before their game against the New York Rangers at the United Center. ‘‘Morning Skate Live’’ will be carried at and on Hawks mobile applications at 10:30 a.m.

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