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Kane takes slap shots, progressing well

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane, who returned to the ice last week, has progressed to the point where he's been able to take slap shots. (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean)

CHICAGO -- Anybody who thinks right wing Patrick Kane might return early from surgery to repair his fractured left clavicle only needs to glance at the Chicago Blackhawks opponent at United Center on Tuesday.

There's a strong chance Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker will play against the Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-CH) roughly eight weeks after having the same surgery Feb. 12 to repair his right clavicle. Even if Zucker doesn't play, his return is very close.

Kane, who was injured Feb. 24 and had surgery the next day, started participating in team practices and morning skates April 1. The only limitations were no contact and no slap shots, but Tuesday morning he took multiple one-timer slap shots.

"He's progressing real well," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Every day he seems like he's getting a little stronger. His skating has always been fine and he's handling the puck extremely well, so it's good signs every day, seeing the progress."

Quenneville did not reveal a timeline for when Kane will be cleared for contact. The Blackhawks might have one more practice between games before the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs start, but Quenneville had a quip ready when talking about whether there would need to be a full team workout for Kane to test the collarbone with contact.

"I think there would be a lot of volunteers," he said.

Kane wasn't made available to speak with reporters following his workout. Zucker met with reporters after his on-ice work and said he feels ready to play. He got clearance to take contact just this week and did so Tuesday morning.

Like Kane, he said the injury felt better quickly. He returned to the ice for everything but contact and just waited patiently for medical clearance.

"I felt almost 100 percent at Week 3," Zucker said. "I hadn't had any contact then, but as far as shooting, passing and skating, it felt great. It has been a while of feeling that way."

Despite returning earlier than expected, Zucker said the wait is the toughest part of the injury that sidelined him and Kane.

The playoffs begin April 15, which would be seven weeks after Kane's surgery. If Kane can return in eight weeks, like Zucker, he might be ready by Game 3 or Game 4 of the Blackhawks first-round series.

"You don't want to rush back and risk hurting yourself again, and being out another 8-10 weeks again," Zucker said. "That's something you don't want to do. That's a road you don't want to go down, but obviously everyone wants to be out there helping their team and being in this playoff push."

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