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Finally rested, Blackhawks eager to begin the home stretch

DENVER — About 18 hours or so after he left Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena following the hectic All-Star weekend, Patrick Kane was one of the first Blackhawks on the ice at the University of Denver’s Magness Arena for Monday’s practice.

He didn’t have to be there. It’s an NHL rule for All-Stars.

“Coaching staff didn’t tell me that,” Kane said with a shrug.

But if Kane was feeling run down after following up 14 games in 24 days with being the captain of the Central Division’s All-Star team, he wasn’t showing it, saying he felt “surprisingly good.” He looked as sprightly as the rest of his teammates, who all took full advantage of five glorious days off in the midst of a grueling season.

Andrew Shaw and Joel Quenneville each got to Colorado early to get some skiing in — something that carries a far greater risk for Shaw than Quenneville. Shaw joked that he “took it easy” on the bunny slopes.

“I only heard about it after the fact, thank God,” Quenneville said. “I’ve seen it before, but I don’t like seeing it.”

The All-Star break broke up the Hawks’ annual ice show trip. After playing in Colorado, Arizona and Dallas this week, the schedule loosens up considerably. After having just one break of at least two days since Christmas, the Hawks have four such breaks in February, then four more in March. With only 68 days left in the regular season, the home stretch has begun. And the good news is the Hawks are in first place, with the worst behind them.

“This is honestly my favorite part of the year,” Shaw said. “You start seeing ‘games remaining’ and getting closer and closer to playoff time. It’s always fun to try to see the team make the late push, and it should be entertaining.”

Toews talk
Jonathan Toews is suspended for Tuesday’s game at Colorado because he pulled out of the All-Star game with an illness he’s been battling for more than a week. Quenneville said he’s “progressing” and will join the team in Arizona. Toews could have avoided the suspension had he sat out the last game before the break, a 5-0 loss at Carolina in which he didn’t even play in the third period. Quenneville said he wasn’t clear on the rule.

“We’ll deal with it,” Quenneville said. “And an extra couple of days can hopefully help him.”

Teuvo Teravainen, who has become the Hawks’ utility man, will center the top line in Toews’ absence.

Rookie in name only
Artemi Panarin leads all rookies with 17 goals, 29 assists and 46 points. He’s also five years older than his nearest competitors, Detroit’s Dylan Larkin and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel. Panarin played parts of seven seasons in the KHL, so he’s hardly a first-year pro, prompting some grumbling from other fan bases as he tightens his grip on the Calder Trophy.

“I don’t really care, these are not my rules,” Panarin said through an interpreter. “I try to follow these rules. Whatever happens, happens.”

Great Scott
Shaw rarely watches the All-Star game, but tuned in to see John Scott, the unlikely Pacific Division captain who ended up being the MVP of the game.

“I loved it, it was fun to watch,” Shaw said.

Said Kane: “How can you not be happy for the guy? It’s just a dream weekend for him. Probably couldn’t have written that story before if you tried.”

As for that mock fight Kane playfully picked with Scott? Shaw thinks the little guy would have toppled the 6-8 Scott.

“We’ve all seen David vs Goliath,” Shaw said. “I think he would have popped him with one good one and sent him down.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com
Twitter: @marklazerus