The Kane-O-Meter — an unofficial measurement of the percent chance that Patrick Kane will play for the Blackhawks again this season — nudged up to 63 Friday. With the Hawks coming off a 4-1 loss to the Flyers on Wednesday, that slight bump is more a reflection of the optimism that Kane might return earlier than anticipated than the possibility the Hawks will make it to the Western Conference Final, when Kane is currently expected to return, 12 weeks after surgery to repair a broken clavicle on Feb. 27.
For the record, that timetable for Kane’s return has not changed, coach Joel Quenneville said Friday. But he left open the possibility that Kane could return earlier than expected.
“I think it’s the same timetable, but I think how well he’s skating and how well he’s doing, I think he feels really good about where he’s at,” Quenneville said after the Hawks’ morning skate prior to Friday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the United Center. “It’s just a matter of when he can get [medical clearance], is probably going to be the hurdle.
“We like his approach — doing a lot of things he wants to do or is able to do. That’s a good sign.”
Here’s the rest of the Blackhawks Update:
1. Heading into Friday night’s game against the Blue Jackets, the Hawks were five points behind the Blues (with one game in hand) and six points behind the Predators (with two games in hand) in the Central Division. But as well as the Hawks have played without Kane (9-3-1), recent losses to the Stars (4-0) and Flyers (4-1) have left room for improvement.
“I think it’s clear to us what needs to improve after games like [the Flyers],” captain Jonathan Toews said. “It’s all about getting four lines going, being engaged, keeping our feet moving. I think our details of the game, our structure, our systems all fall into place when we do that.”
2. David Rundblad, a healthy scratch for six of the Hawks’ previous seven games, was expected to play for Micheal Rozsival against the Blue Jackets. “I haven’t minded his play at all,” Quenneville said. “We want to get him in there. His last game in New York (a plus-1 in 14:15 against the Rangers) he played very well. It’s an opportunity for him to play — get more guys playing, add some depth is what we’re looking for.”
3. Quenneville said that both newcomers, defenseman Mike Paliotta and forward Kyle Baun, will skate with the Blackhawks, probably by Wednesday. “I think both guys have a chance to get integrated with our team,” Quenneville said. “How that plays out as far as playing [in] games, we’ll see.”
4. The 6-4, 205-pound Paliotta, a third-round draft pick in 2011, said he did not consider going the “Kevin Hayes route” and becoming a free agent this summer. He gave credit to owner Rocky Wirtz, team president John McDonough and general manager Stan Bowman for making it happen.
“I have so much respect for his organization. I can’t thank Rocky, John and Stan [enough] for giving me this opportunity. It’s the NHL — nothing’s handed to you. I’m excited to start working toward that goal of becoming a regular in the NHL.”
5. It’s unlikely that either Baun or Paliotta will make more than a token appearance, if any appearance at all, with the Hawks. But hanging out with a championship-caliber team for a few weeks can’t hurt any prospect. You never know what impact it might have down the line.
“Just got a chance to meet [Paliotta],” Quenneville said. “He’s a big kid. I’ve watched him a couple of the rookie camps here. I like his size. He moves well. He’s one of those big defenders who gets involved in the attack. Looks like he’s got a presence about him.
“But not really seeing him in games, we’ll see how he does in getting familiar with our team and how we do things down the stretch and get a better idea.”