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Blackhawks encouraged by Patrick Kane’s first practice with teammates

Chicago Blackhawks' Patirck Kane (88) celebrates his goal against St. Louis Blues an NHL hockey game Saturday Dec. 28 2013

Chicago Blackhawks' Patirck Kane (88) celebrates his goal against the St. Louis Blues in an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)

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The initial breakout pass from Brent Seabrook skittered under his stick, but Patrick Kane planted hard and dashed off into the offensive zone anyway. He pounced on a loose puck in the high slot, shimmied his hips and flicked his wrists, putting a serious move on Antti Raanta before calmly flipping the puck into the net.

Aside from the knee brace poking through the sock around his left leg, Patrick Kane looked a lot like Patrick Kane in his return to Blackhawks practice on Wednesday morning.

“He looked good out there, scoring a lot of goals, making plays,” Andrew Shaw said. “It looks like he hasn’t missed a beat.”

It was Kane’s fifth time on the ice in six days, but his first session with his teammates since Brenden Morrow fell on his left leg on March 19. His rehab has been right on schedule, and both Kane and coach Joel Quenneville fully expect him to be “100 percent” in time for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs next week.

It’s the most significant injury of Kane’s seven-year career, costing him the last 12 games of the regular season (he’s on long-term injured reserve, and ineligible to return until the postseason). Kane said he initially thought he’d be back on the ice later in the game on March 19, that once the pain subsided, he wanted to return. But the team’s medical staff “told me otherwise.”

But Kane — a guy who hates coming off the ice for a shift, let alone a month — is trying to look at it with a positive slant, considering he has played nearly 150 games since last January.

“You never want to be out of the lineup,” he said. “We all love to play the game, love to play hockey and love to be out there with your teammates and support them any way you can. At the same time, some people think it might be beneficial in the long run to maybe take a little break, especially with the year we had last year. ... It’s something you never want to happen, but you try to think of it in a positive way.”

Jonathan Toews is in the same boat, getting the last two weeks of the season off as he recovers from an upper-body injury.

“They played a lot of hockey in this last year,” Quenneville said. “This break is going to refresh them, so whatever workload we give them, they’ll be fine with it.

There are concerns, of course. When the playoffs begin — either against the speedy Avalanche or the bruising Blues — will Kane be in game shape? Will rust outweigh rest? Will his timing be there without having played a single game in a month? Will the knee brace — something he’s never had to play with before — be in any way a hindrance, as it was for Bryan Bickell earlier in the year? Will opponents target him, and will he be able to dodge hits as well as he usually does?

Kane said the coaching staff has been drilling him hard the last week, getting his conditioning up. He said “the technology’s pretty good these days,” so that the protective brace isn’t bothering him. And he said he should be physically healed and 100 percent in time for Game 1.

We know he’ll be healthy. We know he’ll be rested. But will he still be the same Patrick Kane?

Kane thinks so. And he’s not planning to play any differently when he finally comes back.

“I hope not,” he said. “You try to get comfortable and get out there so you can skate a few times and make sure you’re feeling the same way you did when you left the game. That’s the biggest thing — trying to get back to normal, and feeling as well as you did before.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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