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Crunch Time For Kane

by Brett Ballantini / Chicago Blackhawks
He wouldn't quite confirm it, but you wouldn't have blamed Patrick Kane for licking his lips.

After a rough Game 1 that saw defenders Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski smother the Blackhawks' top line, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville split his two younger stars to create a deeper assault in Game 2. And Kane, on the Blackhawks' second line that night, quickly saw that Red Wings coach Mike Babcock had assigned Lidstrom and Rafalski to shadow Toews, not him.

"I was already preparing to be a lot more active out there (in Game 2)," Kane said after Chicago's morning skate Friday. "But seeing (Lidstrom and Rafalski) on ice right off the bat let me know there would be more space for me out there."

Unfortunately for Kane, Babcock altered strategy and within a few shifts had sicced his dogs on the 20-year-old winger. The result was more of the bump-and-grind Kane suffered in Game 1 and another minus finish.

At minus-five for the series, Kane knows that the time for excuses -- facing Detroit's top defenders or no -- is long gone.

Chicago's coaching staff agreed that Kane's Game 2 was a big leap forward from the disappointing opener. Even his freeing up for a mere three shots Monday nonetheless made a big difference in the Blackhawks' attack.

"Kaner was on net much better in Game 2," Quenneville said. "He was creating shots and getting less caught up in (Detroit's) physical play. He was more active with the puck, and that bodes well for us."

Simplicity has been Quenneville's sermon throughout the postseason for his Hawks, as the club has had a tendency to think rather than attack. A wildly creative mind and blinding speed finds Kane falling easy prey to such a mindset, one he knows he can ill-afford to carry over into Game 3.

"I just want to keep creating shots and getting to the net," Kane said. "All I want to do now is play better and better as the series goes on, keep one step ahead (of Detroit) instead of falling a step slow."

Author: Brett Ballantini | Correspondent

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