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Blackhawks forward Kane returns to practice

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- It was April 1, but forward Patrick Kane joining the Chicago Blackhawks for practice Wednesday wasn't a hoax.

Kane's presence for a full team workout, wearing a white non-contact jersey, was real and impressive considering it was exactly five weeks since he had surgery Feb. 25 to repair a fractured left clavicle.

The estimated 12-week timetable hasn't changed and Kane is cleared only to take wrist shots, but seeing the highly-skilled right wing zip around the ice again, displaying elite stickhandling and mobility, was a breath of fresh air. The Blackhawks saw firsthand evidence that whenever Kane is cleared, he'll be ready to contribute right away.

"It's definitely a goal you work towards almost, to get one of your best players, if not your best player, in the lineup," forward Kris Versteeg said. "It's always something that's in the back of your mind."

Kane's timeline for getting medical clearance to return is at the forefront of Blackhawks fans' minds, but coach Joel Quenneville did his best to keep expectations under control.

"No news, nothing's changed," Quenneville said. "If there's anything [that] changes with him, we'll let you guys know, but nothing's changed. He's skating well. He's doing what he can do, but there's still a process that has to be followed there. He's a ways away."

The practice was shorter than usual, but had good pace. It lasted about 25 minutes and Kane stayed out longer than most for individual work. He took a lot of wrist shots, with good velocity, but isn't allowed to take slap shots or one-timers yet.

Kane didn't take contact and isn't close to that step yet, according to Quenneville. He looks close to game ready in almost all other aspects, including agility and speed.

"You never know what's going to happen, but they make those timetables because it's a certain type of injury," Kane said. "I guess you have to wait a little while for it to heal and for the bone to become itself again, I guess. I think it's frustrating, but it is what it is."

Kane was injured Feb. 24 in the first period of a game against the Florida Panthers at United Center. A cross-check by Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic caused him to lose his balance and fall awkwardly into the side boards shoulder first.

He had surgery to insert screws in the bone the next day, and Blackhawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry released the 12-week recovery time frame. If that holds true, the Blackhawks will have to get through the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in order for Kane to return this season.

Despite showing great progress, it doesn't sound like the Blackhawks are willing to rush Kane back if the bone's not fully ready to withstand the rigors of a game, particularly a playoff game.

It doesn't make Kane happy, but he understands the situation.

"It's one of those things you wish you could be out there [Thursday] with the guys and start playing right away, but it's not realistic, it's not possible," Kane said. "You'll drive yourself crazy if you start thinking of certain dates when you can come back. I think the only thing I can really control is trying to heal as fast as I can, trying to get myself in the best shape possible and if it's seven weeks, great, if it's five weeks, great, if it's six weeks, great. Who knows what it's going to be in the end? I still think the timetable [is] at the 12-week mark."

That hasn't stopped the list of suggested home remedies from coming his way. Kane said he's getting all kinds of advice on how to heal quickly, but is sticking with the course of rehab provided by the Blackhawks athletic training staff.

"We've done a bunch of different things [to rehab it]," Kane said. "Nothing, really, to speed up the timetable or anything like that, but just kind of make it heal as best as possible, not necessarily as quick as possible. There's a lot of different things that we've been doing that I'll keep with the training staff and myself. We've been pretty active with it … a lot of different pills, that's for sure."

In the meantime, while he waits for the bone to heal, Kane will continue to put in work on the ice. He'd been skating for almost two weeks on his own and plans to travel to Buffalo for an upcoming game in his hometown.

"I thought it was a pretty good step today skating with the team," Kane said. "I'm happy about that. I'm not really sure what the next step is. I'm sure it would be contact and maybe finish some of the drills the guys were doing today. The most important thing for me, especially when I'm skating with the team and when I get a chance to step into the drills, is get my timing back as best as I can and make sure that when they do clear me to play, and I'm ready to play a game, that I'm as ready as possible."

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