Patrick Kane still ‘happy to be playing hockey,’ even as Blackhawks struggle

Kane raved earlier this season about how much happier and healthier the Hawks’ collective mood was this season. That has waned somewhat — but not disappeared — as wins have become scarcer.

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Patrick Kane celebrates his goal Sunday against the Penguins.

Patrick Kane’s body has held up better this season than last season.

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

In training camp and during the opening weeks of the season, Patrick Kane raved about how much happier and healthier the Blackhawks’ collective mood was compared to last season.

That was when the Hawks were winning, though. Since that 4-2-0 start, they’ve gone 2-8-3, including a horrendous meltdown Wednesday against the Stars, their fifth consecutive loss.

So how does Kane feel now?

“It’s always better when you win; there’s no doubt about that,” he said Wednesday.

“We’re in the midst of the season right now where there’s a lot of games. We still hang out with the team quite a bit, especially when you’re on the road, but there’s not as many set days for that. We did a lot of that at the beginning of the season, which is good for a new group, and now we’re just in the middle of it.”

In other words, he’s not as chipper as he was earlier this fall, but he isn’t miserable, either.

He certainly doesn’t seem like a man eager to jump ship out of Chicago, which is notable as the NHL’s March 3 trade deadline slowly inches closer. With his no-movement clause intact, he still holds all the cards.

“I’m happy to be playing hockey,” he said. “It’s what I love to do. I’ll try to help this team as much as possible. Hopefully I can help a little more going forward.”

Kane notched an assist against the Stars for his 15th point, which leads the Hawks — Max Domi ranks second with 14 points, and Jonathan Toews is third with 13 — but still represents a relatively slow start by Kane’s career standards. He’s on pace to finish with 65 points, down from 92 last season.

He talked this month about searching for more puck touches and possession. Kane clarified Wednesday that he’s trying to do that by verbally “demanding” the puck more often, as well as by circling lower in the neutral and defensive zones to make it easier for teammates to get it to him.

He had 10 shots on goal in the Hawks’ last four games, up from his 1.6 average during games 5 through 15. (He had 10 in the first four games of the season, as well.) Kane also snapped a 10-game goal drought Sunday against the Penguins.

“I’m sure he’d feel good with a roll,” coach Luke Richardson said. “He’s still getting opportunities every game — a guy like that is going to — and it’d be nice to see them falling consistently for him. Not just himself but also the rest of the team would breathe easier knowing that he’s getting on the board multiple times a game or week.”

One positive for Kane is that his body has held up significantly better this season. He has battled through a nagging injury for several years now, but it seems to have become less of an issue lately.

As the season grinds on, that could help him eventually elevate his scoring pace.

“Obviously I’d love to have a little bit more production, but, to be honest with you, I feel better this year than I did last year,” he said. “You learn different things [over time] about your body and what’s going on and how to maintain it. [With] little injuries here and there, how to take care of them. I’m happy with the way things have gone so far this year with my body.”

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