Hawks’ Patrick Kane hopes to get off to a fast start
BY MARK LAZERUS Twitter: @MarkLazerus January 10, 2013 2:46PM
Patrick Kane said the power play will be the focus of the Blackhawks' abbreviated training camp. | Getty Images
Updated: January 12, 2013 12:15AM
Patrick Kane’s upper lip is in midseason form, held together by five stitches after taking a stray elbow to the face last week in Switzerland.
More importantly, with the season suddenly eight days away, Kane’s game also is in midseason form after playing 20 games for HC Biel during the NHL lockout.
“I think it’s going to be big for me,” Kane said Thursday after rejoining his teammates for an informal skate at Johnny’s IceHouse West. “Before I came back, I played eight games in 10 days, or something like that. At one point, it was five in five nights. It was really good for my conditioning and skating and everything, and you’re playing on a bigger ice. … I’m glad I did it. It was a good experience, and hopefully it’ll help during the season.”
With the new collective bargaining agreement expected to be ratified by the players by Saturday, and abbreviated training camps expected to open on Sunday, there won’t be much time for players to get in game shape for a 48-game sprint season. Many players across the league have been participating in informal skates like Thursday’s Hawks’ workout — “coached” by captain Jonathan Toews, whom Kane joked, “talks a little too much.” But practicing and playing are two entirely different things, Kane said.
The Hawks open Jan. 19 in Los Angeles and will spend much of the first month of the season on the road thanks to Disney On Ice taking over the United Center from Jan. 30 to Feb. 10. A quick start will be crucial, and Kane hopes he’ll have an edge over much of the league early on. That’s why he left for Switzerland in October.
“I felt I was just kind of waiting around for hockey to start,” he said. “I realized when I was playing my best hockey, I was playing a lot of hockey. So I figured I might as well head over there and get a head start on the season, and when the season did start back up, maybe I’d have a little bit of an advantage.”
Twenty-one Hawks were on the ice on Thursday, with only Steve Montador, Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival and Ray Emery absent. Joining Kane as first-timers were Viktor Stalberg, Michael Frolik, Nick Leddy, and Bryan Bickell.
Defenseman Duncan Keith was glad to have most of the band back together.
“Every year, the start’s important,” Keith said. “Now that it’s a short season, it’s going to be even that much more important to get off to a good start and make sure we’re on the same page right away. The teams that come out and play the best team game right away are going to be the ones that are tough to beat.”
Kane said he was impressed by how fit his teammates who stayed behind were.
“It seems like one of those things when you’re going to have to get off to a good start,” Kane said. “From the team I saw today, I think we can do that.”
Kane had 13 goals and 10 assists in his 20 games with HC Biel. He had to adjust to different coaches, different schemes, different schedules, different food, and, yes, living with his mom and sharing a laundry machine with Bruins star and neighbor Tyler Seguin. But he said he had only positive things to say about the experience. He also said he played exclusively right wing — no center, as he was forced to do for much of last season.
As for his much-discussed off-ice troubles, Kane said he was only looking ahead, not behind.
“It’s in the past for me, I’m not worried about that,” he said. “I’m a different person now and I’ve changed a lot. That’s the last thing on my mind. I just want to play hockey and do well for the Blackhawks.”