Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane ‘optimistic’ nagging injury won’t stop him

Patrick Kane looks around the Blackhawks locker room with mixed emotions.

For one thing, many of his longtime teammates – his closest friends throughout the greatest peaks of his career – are now gone.

Corey Crawford, Brent Seabrook, Andrew Shaw and Duncan Keith all left the organization in the past year. Even Jonathan Toews is different from the old Toews, having endured a year in “space” to potentially return this season.

“It’s different for sure, especially this year,” Kane said Thursday. “Even last year ‘Duncs’ was there and ‘Seabs’ was there. These two guys are such great players, but their voices also carry a lot of weight in the locker room. You wake up and are excited to see Seabrook at the rink, just to hear what he has to say – [like] his silly little jokes all the time. I definitely miss it. But you keep in touch with these guys.

On the flip side, the new guys brought in to flesh out the Hawks’ rebuilt core introduced excitement, freshness and a renewed belief that the team can reach those great heights again. Kane described the 2021-22 Hawks as a “relevant team again”.

“It looks like, the way the team is built this year, they can do some special things,” he said. “Personally, I was really excited to play with Seth Jones. [General manager] Stan [Bowman] told me they were going to go after him, with a year left on his contract. It’s incredible. When they mention something like that and they’re going to do it, it’s a great feeling. He will help us so much.

Kane himself remains the centerpiece of the Hawks largely intact. When the 32-year-old winger celebrated his 1,000-game career milestone last March, on course to lead the Hawks in the scoring charts for the sixth consecutive season, he still looked unaffected by aging.

This immunity has started to change over the past six months, however. An undisclosed but stubborn injury emerged during the 2021 stretch race, slowing his production from 40 points in the first half of the season to 26 points (including just four goals) in the second half.

And even after a restful offseason – he admitted that the first two days of training camp Thursday and Friday were the first times in a long time he’s had “skated hard” – that injury continues to drag on.

“This is something that is not completely cured,” Kane said Thursday, admitting he had had some concerns about it over the summer. “But I’m optimistic about the direction I’m taking and happy after today’s practice with how I felt.”

Bowman played down the concerns, pointing out that most players feel discomfort in some part of their body at some point and clarifying that Kane’s injury does not and will not need surgery.

“You still want to feel 100% all the time, so you can be your best, but if you had to talk to all of our players, it’s rare that they feel 100%,” said the general manager. “There is usually something wrong a bit… But Patrick never complained about it at all. He’s one of those guys who just wants to show up and play and not complain about anything.

The problem also hasn’t stopped Kane from continuing to hone the nuances of his game.

In his work with coach Brian Keane this summer, he has focused on “shifting the weight to deceive defenders” while skating, as well as “changing the angle and point of attack” of his. shot to move pucks more easily through traffic.

The end result is expected to be another dangerous and dynamic Kane season, making full use of the extra space and supporting the strengthened Hawks roster – including Jones and apparent new frontline center Tyler Johnson – will offer.

But as he approaches his 15th NHL season, his development and that of the Hawks over time have become impossible to ignore.

Lankinen, Hardman on COVID list

Despite being 100% vaccinated, the Hawks will still be affected by the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols this season, and they didn’t have to wait long to find out.

Goalkeeper Kevin Lankinen and forward Mike Hardman were added to the COVID-19 protocol list on Friday, meaning they tested positive, received an unconfirmed positive result, or had a positive close contact test .

The keeper’s plan is unclear

With Lankinen and Marc-André Fleury established as the Hawks’ rotation of NHL goaltenders this season – “It’s pretty clear right now who the two better guys are,” Bowman said, in case there’s any confusion – the Hawks have a dilemma with Malcolm Subban and Collin Délia.

Both will require the sending of AHL waivers, and both – especially Subban – have enough NHL experience that another team is intrigued enough to claim them.

The Hawks could either try to trade one or just hope they get through the waivers. Bowman appeared to favor the latter plan on Thursday.

“We’ll see how it shakes; we will see how health evolves, ”he said. “You’re going to need to use at least three goalies this year – some years we’ve used four and five goalies – so having depth isn’t a bad thing. But we didn’t spend too much time really listing them in order.

His reasoning was immediately supported by the news from Lankinen on Friday and by Delia – replacing Lankinen with the first training group – leaving the ice in discomfort after a few laps.

Potential goalkeeper Arvid Soderblom is also at camp, but won’t need a waiver.

Local television program

NBC Sports Chicago will broadcast all 69 regular season Hawks games that have yet to be selected for national television or exclusive online broadcast rights, the team announced Friday.

Five of the six preseason games will also air on NBC Sports Chicago, with the exception of the Oct. 2 game against the Blues in Kansas City (which airs only on radio).

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