ST. LOUIS — Patrick Kane didn’t join the Blackhawks on their season-ending road trip, but Joel Quenneville said that his on-ice work is “ratcheting up” back in Chicago.
Quenneville hesitated to say that Kane was taking “full contact,” and said he has yet to be medically cleared to play. But he made it sound like Kane was taking the next step as he recovers from a broken clavicle suffered on Feb. 24.
Thursday night’s game against the Blues was the 20th straight Kane has missed. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was asked Thursday how different the Hawks are without Kane in the lineup.
“A lot,” he said.
In what ways?
“Every way. It’s easy to play when your focus is on fewer players. They’ve got so many good players, but you can’t check everybody. And one of the things that Chicago has is a sense of timing. They’ve gotten Cups and wins and playoff-round wins because their key guys have done it when it’s all been on the line. … When you’re missing guys that know how to perform when it’s on the line, it’s good for the opposition.”
Should the Hawks and Blues meet at some point in the playoffs, and Kane plays, you can be sure the physical Blues will come after him. But while St. Louis’ Barret Jackman said the Blues would do what they could to limit Kane’s time and space, he said they know better than to take runs at the “slippery” Kane. Perhaps no player in the league is as good at avoiding contact than Kane.
“He almost relishes it when you’re running at him, because he’s going to make you look stupid,” Jackman said. “He’s got such a high hockey IQ, and great skills. He’s going to [make a] backhand pass and spin around you and turn it into a 2-on-0 or a 2-on-1.”
Baun back in
Rookie Kyle Baun played his second straight game, again filling in for the injured Brad Richards on the second line. Baun led the Hawks with five hits in his NHL debut Tuesday against Minnesota.
“I like the pace to his game,” Quenneville said. “I thought he had some presence around the puck area, [and] good instincts with and without the puck.”
With Marcus Kruger out sick, Andrew Desjardins drew back into the lineup. He had played in seven straight games at left wing before yielding for the returning Joakim Nordstrom on Tuesday. He’ll play center against the Blues.
“He can play left, right, center,” Quenneville said. “In the puck areas, he gives us some presence. We like the way he competes. He seems to be coming up with a lot of pucks, which we like.”