NEW YORK — For years, playing at the World Championships wasn’t an option for the Blackhawks. They were too busy playing deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs to play for their countries in May.
In 2016, most of the Hawks desperately needed rest after three grueling playoff runs. And last year, most of the Hawks still were trying to process being swept in the first round to give the worlds much thought.
Only five Hawks participated in the worlds each of the last two years, with Artemi Panarin playing for Russia both years and Nick Schmaltz playing for Team USA last year. But most of the Hawks’ biggest names stayed home.
This spring, however, might be different. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and others could be available for their countries in early May in Copenhagen, Denmark, if they choose to participate.
‘‘I don’t think rest comes into play, really, anymore,’’ said Kane, the face of U.S. hockey for several years. ‘‘We’ve had two first-round exits [the last two years], and we’re not going to make the playoffs this year. It’s not going to be an issue.’’
Kane said he hasn’t given it much thought yet, but donning a USA sweater for the first time since the disappointing 2016 World Cup of Hockey is ‘‘definitely an option.’’ Kane played in the Olympics in 2010 and 2014 (NHL players did not participate last month in the Pyeongchang Games) but hasn’t played in the worlds since the end of his rookie season in 2008. He had three goals and seven assists in seven games that tournament.
It’s not unusual for superstars to play at the worlds when their teams are eliminated from playoff contention. The Penguins’ Sidney Crosby played for Canada in 2015 and went on to win the Stanley Cup the next two seasons. The Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin has played for Russia a dozen times.
‘‘Even last year, I was thinking about it quite a bit,’’ Kane said. ‘‘After I didn’t go last year, I was thinking that maybe I should have went. Obviously, there are different circumstances every time around. We’ll go through them all, whether it’s location or strength of team, who else is going, how the body’s feeling at the end of the season — different things like that.’’
Last year, Marcus Kruger (Sweden), Michal Kempny (Czech Republic) and Trevor van Riemsdyk (United States) joined Panarin and Schmaltz at the worlds. In 2016, Tyler Motte (United States), Vinnie Hinostroza (United States), Erik Gustafsson (Sweden) and Ville Pokka (Finland) joined Panarin.
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