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Patrick Kane’s injury not end of the world

Updated: April 22, 2014 6:40AM



There was no rending of garments in the Blackhawks dressing room Wednesday night. No wailing and sobbing. No frantic phone calls to Teuvo Teravainen, either.

Blackhawks fans should take note.

Deep breaths, people. Inhale, exhale, repeat. Patrick Kane’s apparent knee injury is not a death knell to the Hawks’ chances of repeating as Stanley Cup champions. In fact, it might have hardly any impact at all. The initial prognosis is that Kane can be back in three weeks, and the worst-case scenario is he returns for the playoffs, which start April 16.

Heck, given the amount of hockey Kane has played since the Olympics, it might be a blessing in disguise. Kane, who always wants an extra shift and who seems like he can skate forever, is loath to admit fatigue. But even he has alluded to how taxing the past two months have been on him. Sure, there are natural and reasonable concerns about how strong his knee will be and how confident he’ll be on it when he comes back. But considering how utterly dominant he was in November and December, a healthy AND rested Kane for the playoffs could be a scary sight for the Western Conference.

This is not to underestimate the significance of losing Kane. He’s the Hawks’ leading scorer. He’s their most dynamic offensive player. He singlehandedly gives the Hawks’ lineup depth and balance by making the second line a serious scoring threat no matter which two Hawks (and just about everybody’s had a crack by now) Joel Quenneville puts next to him.

Kane is a singular talent, and as Andrew Shaw put it, “You can’t fill his shoes.”

But barring a collapse by the Blues over their final 13 games of the season, the Hawks are pretty much locked into second or third place, and a first-round matchup with the Colorado Avalanche. The only thing the Hawks are playing for over their final 12 games is home-ice advantage in that one series — it’s not as if they’re fighting just to get into the playoffs.

This brings us to Teravainen, whose name Hawks fans were breathlessly throwing around before Kane even pulled himself to his feet after Brenden Morrow fell on his left leg Wednesday night.

The Finnish prospect made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday and is expected to be reintroduced on Friday, but his immediate future remains uncertain. The Hawks don’t have the salary cap space to put him on the NHL roster — unless they move Kane to long-term injured reserve, which would pretty much ensure he doesn’t come back until the playoffs. And even if Stan Bowman does find a way to clear cap space for Teravainen, you can be sure the Hawks will be very careful with their most prized prospect.

Make no mistake — Teravainen is the real deal. He’s supremely skilled, he showed tantalizing chemistry with Kane in training camp and he’s without a doubt the Hawks’ second-line center of the future. The question is, is he the Hawks’ second-line center of the present, too?

He shouldn’t be. Even before Kane’s injury, the smart play with Teravainen was to send him to Rockford to get acclimated to the smaller North American rinks, bring him up for a couple of regular-season games, and then have him be a Black Ace during the playoffs — allow him to get to know his teammates, to learn the life and routine of an NHL player, and maybe even to play a couple of games if Quenneville deems him defensively ready (we already know he’s offensively ready).

But unless the Hawks truly believe a 19-year-old with no North American experience is the only difference between winning the Stanley Cup and not winning the Stanley Cup, it’d be foolish to allow him to play 10 total games and burn a year of his three-year, $925,000-a-season entry-level contract. This kid is legit. And when his contract is up, he’s going to command an awful lot of money. To give up a full season of Teravainen at bargain-basement pricing on a flyer would be out of character for Bowman, who’s been one step ahead with every move he’s made in the salary-cap era.

And that was before Kane was hurt. Now? To throw the kid on the second line without Kane to lean on, and to implicitly tell him that he needs to make up for the loss of Kane? It’s unreasonable, it’s unfair, and it’s unlikely to happen.

The fact is, the Hawks are fully capable of winning the Stanley Cup as currently constituted — ask the Bruins, Ducks and the Blues, all of whom had lengthy hot streaks end at the Hawks’ hands. Of course, they also might not get out of the Central Division playoffs. Teravainen’s arrival doesn’t change those facts. And assuming he’s back in time for the playoffs, Kane’s injury doesn’t, either.

So breathe easy, Hawks fans. There’ll be plenty of time for breath-holding once the playoffs begin.

NOTE: The Hawks signed St. Lawrence University freshman Matt Carey to a two-year contract on Wednesday. He had 18 goals and 19 assists in 38 games this season. He’ll report to the Hawks and wear No. 25.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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