Patrick Kane walked down the hallway in the bowels of the United Center like he always does, looking like he always does — wearing casual Blackhawks-branded workout gear, a smile on his face and no body armor, slings or casts on his body.
Looked ready to play, frankly.
“Yeah, I wish I could play tonight,” Kane said Sunday morning. “That’d be awesome. But it’s one of those things, you’ve got to be patient with it. You’ve got to listen to the doctors and make sure you’re not putting yourself in a position to re-injure it and make it even worse down the line. Do whatever you can to get it as healthy as possible and make sure the bone’s healed before I completely come back.”
For now, that still means mid-May, likely around the start of the conference finals, should the Hawks make it that far. In the meantime, he’s in the gym working on his lower-body strength and his upper-body mobility — well, after plowing through Seasons 3 and 4 of “Homeland” in the days following his surgery to repair the broken clavicle he suffered on Feb. 24 when he fell awkwardly into the boards after being cross-checked from behind by Florida’s Alex Petrovic.
Kane has “moved on” from the initial despair that inevitably follows such an injury, but this one was especially tough. It was the most severe of his career, and possibly ended the best season of his career. When he was injured, he was tied for the league lead in points with 64 (27 goals, 34 assists).
Now he’s just working out, watching games and becoming the Hawks’ biggest fan — the longer they go in the playoffs, the likelier his return becomes.
It’s been a motivating factor for his teammates, too.
“It’s good,” Kane said of the support. “Some of the best therapy for me has been coming to the rink and hanging out with the guys and talking to them — have a few laughs, hear some stories, different things like that. That’s been good for me, and I’m not too worried about that now. I think we’re still a little bit of time left in the season here. Once we get to playoffs, we’ll see what happens. I’ll worry about what I have to worry about, and I’m sure the team will be fine.”
Kane has screws and a plate holding his collarbone together now, and said he “knew it was pretty bad” the moment he hit the boards. He called it a “fluky play,” but also a dangerous one. The NHL department of player safety ruled that Petrovic applied minimal contact, and that Kane simply lost his balance, resulting in an unfortunate — but not premeditated — injury. Even before he was sidelined, Kane watched as much as hockey as anybody, and feels the league should do something about such hits.
“Watching a lot of games, it seems like that happens a lot, where there’s a cross-check in the back and the player falls forward,” he said. “It’s surprising [injuries don’t] happen a lot more often. I think it’s a dangerous play. I know they called a penalty on the play where I got hurt, but I think that should be a penalty more often, too.”
Kane tried to look on the bright side of things. His injury cleared enough cap space that the Hawks were able to acquire Kimmo Timonen and Antoine Vermette at the trade deadline. And should the Hawks stay alive long enough, Kane will be rested and raring to go by the time he returns.
But his frustration was evident. Kane’s regular season ended prematurely last season, too. And he’s never dealt with anything like this before.
“No, and I don’t like it,” he said. “It’s pretty unfortunate, and I don’t want to make a habit of it, especially the last few years where it’s happened around this time. Last year, I missed the last 12 games of the season due to my knee injury, and then I was coming back for playoffs. And then this year, missing the last  games of the season. It’s something you don’t want to get into the habit of. Next year, coming back, my main goal will be to play a full 82.”