The mullet is back. And so is the guy wearing it.
Patrick Kane will indeed play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday in Nashville, a mere seven weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a broken clavicle suffered Feb. 24, when he was cross-checked into the boards by Florida’s Alex Petrovic. Kane took some contact over the weekend, practiced with the team on Monday, had an X-ray later in the day and was cleared by team doctors.
Now, with his hair long in the back and the trademark three steps shaved into his temples, Kane is ready to go.
“It’s exciting,” he said after Tuesday’s practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West. “It’s been a long 50 days here, so it’s a credit to a lot of hard work from the doctors and the trainers, and just listening to them and trying to heal as fast as possible.”
Added coach Joel Quenneville: “Looked good, felt good, cleared medically and all systems go. So it’s great news and we’re happy to have him.”
Kane was the NHL’s leading scorer when he was injured. And not counting empty-netters, the Hawks scored two goals or fewer in 14 of the 21 games he missed. But Kane downplayed the impact his return could have on the Hawks, who have lost four straight entering the postseason.
“I thought they did pretty well when I was out,” he said. “So it was good to see them have some success. Obviously as a player, you feel like you can bring some different things for the lineup and try to help certain things out there. But I don’t think I’m going to try to go out there and be the one and only savior. I’m going to try to play my game. We have plenty of good players in here that can produce and do good things. You’ve seen when I was out they can win games without me, too. It’s important to kind of get back in the lineup and feel it out, but still bring that pace and energy It’s playoff time, so it’s exciting to get back and try to help the team win.”
The original timetable for Kane was 12 weeks. But that always seemed like a conservative estimate.
“Obviously, there was a decision with the management and the front office to make sure everyone was on board with it, on the same page, and not feeling like I was rushed back or anything,” he said. “It was just a smart decision from everyone. It made sense. By no means is it anything that we rushed back. I think you see different players go through this injury, [Minnesota’s] Jason Zucker, I think he came back around the same timetable as I am. I think Brian Campbell in 2010 came back at around five or six weeks. So it’s an injury that can be healed, and some people are a little bit different than others. It’s just kind of my timetable, when I was ready to play.”
Kane skated alongside Kris Versteeg and Brad Richards, a line that lit up the NHL in November and December, but hasn’t been together much since thanks to injuries to Versteeg and Kane. The familiarity could help ease Kane back into the lineup.
“Seems like both of them are skating really well, and it seems like they have a newfound energy come with this new postseason coming around,” Kane said. “Wherever they put me in the lineup, I’ll be happy. But knowing we had some success earlier in the season, hopefully we can recapture that.”
Kane missed the last 12 games last regular season with a lower-body injury before posting three goals and three assists in the first round against St. Louis (and eight goals and 20 assists through three rounds), and said he could learn from that experience.
“Hopefully it’s one of those things that can make me stronger, give me some more excitement,” he said. “Maybe you get the right type of rest and energy and you have some more going into playoffs. So it’s almost like it’s a new season for me and I’m sure a lot of guys feel that way in here. It’s definitely exciting to get back and do something that I love.”