With Patrick Kane as No. 1 center, Blackhawks snap skid with victory vs. Isles

SHARE With Patrick Kane as No. 1 center, Blackhawks snap skid with victory vs. Isles

Patrick Kane carries the puck past former teammate Nick Leddy during Saturday’s game at Barclays Center. (Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Coach Joel Quenneville is used to watching the standings at this time of year, flipping around from game to game, sifting through final scores and checking to see how the postseason seeding changes nightly.

Quenneville is watching the standings this season, too. But instead of seeing whom the Blackhawks might face in April, he’s looking to see where the Hawks might be drafting in June. The reality is, Ping-Pong balls are more valuable than points at this stage of the season.

But while Quenneville is keeping an eye on the lottery situation, he has no interest in tanking the last two weeks of the season.

‘‘We look at it, we watch it, yeah,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘I think we’re aware of what’s going on. But as a coach and as a team, I still think our priority is to win hockey games.’’

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So Quenneville’s decision to put Patrick Kane at center Saturday against the Islanders wasn’t a deliberate act of tanking but a curious act of tinkering. After all, Jonathan Toews is out with an upper-body injury and there’s nothing left to play for, so why not throw Kane in the middle between Brandon Saad and Alex DeBrincat?

And it worked. The Hawks snapped a five-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory, thanks in large part to a 31-save bounce-back effort from goalie Anton Forsberg.

Kane at center was an idea Quenneville and his assistants tossed around after the Hawks’ loss Thursday to the Canucks. Initially, they were going to rotate Kane and Nick Schmaltz in the middle. But before the game against the Islanders, they figured they’d just go for it. Kane and his teammates didn’t find out until they arrived at Barclays Center a couple of hours before the game.

‘‘I think a lot of the guys were kind of laughing about it before the game,’’ Kane said. ‘‘I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s almost like you’re so used to playing a certain position . . . you’re a little lost out there at times. But I guess the biggest thing is we got the win.’’

Kane hadn’t played center since a somewhat ill-fated experiment during the 2011-12 season, but he acquitted himself well. He won only two of his 11 faceoffs — he entered the game 4-for-5 (80 percent) — but he scored a power-play goal, was on the ice for Saad’s goal two minutes later and made a nifty defensive play on Islanders superstar John Tavares late in the game, breaking up a scoring chance with a well-timed stick-lift.

‘‘I thought he did a nice job,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘He was defensively responsible, had the puck in some good areas. . . . I thought he adapted very well.’’

Said Saad: ‘‘For him, the more he has the puck, the better. When he can play low like that and get the puck and make plays going forward — I think he looks good at center and wing.’’

Of course, the victory didn’t help the Hawks’ lottery chances. The result left them with the seventh-fewest points in the league (71), which means they have the seventh-best odds of winning the lottery. The Hawks had the fifth-best odds in 2007, when they won the lottery and drafted Kane.

But nobody was worried about that Saturday. After dropping five consecutive games and seven of their last eight, the Hawks were just happy to win a game again. Especially Forsberg, who was coming off two poor performances and had what Quenneville said might have been his best game of the season.

For Forsberg, closing the season on a positive note is everything at this point.

‘‘Obviously, it’s really important,’’ he said. ‘‘I think the whole team feels that way.’’

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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