2019 NHL All-Star Game: Patrick Kane happy to go, Jonathan Toews up for vote
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UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Two All-Star Game conversations were held in the Blackhawks’ locker room after the morning skate before their 3-2 overtime loss Thursday to the Islanders.
Winger Patrick Kane, freshly selected for the eighth time, held court. He described the lively atmosphere, debated whether the NHL should abandon its practice of every team being represented and contemplated whether he ever would decline a trip to the game, like Capitals star Alex Ovechkin is doing this year.
Across the room, center Jonathan Toews took questions about being part of the Last Men In vote. It’s a wrinkle the league added this year to allow fans to elect one snubbed player from each division.
Despite 16 goals and 20 assists, Toews didn’t make the initial cut and is up against six other candidates for the last spot on the Central team.
‘‘Anytime you’re in the conversation and/or you’re named to an All-Star team, it’s always an honor,’’ he said.
Does he enjoy the festivities and having fun with the NHL’s other stars?
‘‘Being named to the team is an honor,’’ Toews replied.
Does he like going, or is he looking forward to a break?
‘‘Being named to the team is a nice honor,’’ he said.
That’s as far as it went. Whatever the reason, that subject was a nonstarter with Toews.
The Last Men In polls opened Thursday morning and run through next Thursday. Fans can vote on the NHL’s website or via its app.
Kane seemed more interested in campaigning than Toews, hoping the two can go together for the sixth time.
‘‘I don’t want him to have that week off and then I gotta go for three or four days,’’ he joked. ‘‘It would be good to see him go. It’s always nice to have another Blackhawk there, too.’’
They both were picked in 2016, but Toews withdrew because of an illness and incurred a one-game suspension from the league. The Hawks’ medical staff released a statement confirming he was sick, which limited his playing time in a game, and Toews later lamented having to miss All-Star Weekend. He never has indicated that participation is a chore.
The NHL policy is rigid, although some players view it more as a deal than a rule. Ovechkin is the latest to take the league up on it, accepting the suspension so he can get the full eight-day break. Sidney Crosby and Niklas Lidstrom have done it, too.
Kane grasped Ovechkin’s rationale but said he can’t envision himself skipping the event.
‘‘I don’t think I would ever not go just for rest or something like that,’’ he said. ‘‘But who knows? You get older, different things come up. There’s other priorities. I think you can understand why he’s doing it.’’
Why does Kane insist on going?
‘‘I mean, you’re selected,’’ he said. ‘‘I feel like it’s an honor to be selected. It kind of works out nice this year that it’s right at the start of our bye week, then we have a few days after that to kind of get away, so you’re still getting some time away.’’
The Hawks play at home against the Islanders on Jan. 22 and resume play Feb. 1 at Buffalo. The All-Star Game is Jan. 26.
Kane — and possibly Toews — likely will arrive Jan. 23 in San Jose, California, and leave Jan. 27. That would allow them a brief respite before the game against the Sabres. The Hawks are allowed to practice beginning Jan. 27, but they could excuse their All-Stars.
Kane has been to All-Star Weekend every possible season, including as a rookie-game skater in 2008, and has acclimated to not getting a midseason break. (The All-Star Game wasn’t played in 2010 and 2014 because of the Winter Olympics or in 2013 because of the lockout.)
‘‘I don’t think it’s taxing,’’ he said. ‘‘Sometimes it would be nice to have that break, but . . . you’d rather be selected and be doing something and representing the NHL and going to an event like that than not going.’’