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Blackhawks' Kane back for Game 1 against Predators

by Robby Stanley / NHL.com

BLACKHAWKS at PREDATORS

TV: NBCSN, TVA Sports, SN360, CSN-CH, FS-TN

NASHVILLE -- The Chicago Blackhawks will get a big boost to their lineup as forward Patrick Kane will return to play against the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, CSN-CH, FS-TN).

Kane missed seven weeks after having surgery on Feb. 25 to repair his fractured left clavicle. His return to the lineup will be an unexpected boost for the Blackhawks. Kane was originally expected to be out until the Western Conference Final.

"It's always an anxious, nerve-racking time for everyone," Kane said. "It's playoffs, Game 1, and you hope to get started off the right way. Obviously I haven't played in a while, so you try to do every little thing possible to be as prepared as you can."

Kane said being out of the lineup and not being able to play for seven weeks made him appreciate being able to play hockey more.

"It's something you love to do," Kane said. "You love to play hockey. You love to be part of the locker room, be part of everything getting ready and getting prepared for a game. You miss out on all that stuff when it's not possible to happen. It's one of those things you definitely miss when you're out that long."

Chicago forward Antoine Vermette will be a healthy scratch for Game 1 after skating with Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Patrick Sharp on the third line at the morning skate.

"I think the last couple days being on the line he was on in practice, knowing that it looked like he might be out, he did whatever he could to prepare for today's game," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I talked to him today. It's one of those situations where [it's] performance-based. We made our decision based on the last part of the year."

Nashville went 0-4-2 in its final six games to close out the regular season, but the players say that stretch doesn't affect the confidence of the team heading into the playoffs.

"You have to have confidence going in," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "You look at the season as a whole, I think you have to be happy with our season. Just gain confidence from that and just realizing and knowing the way we can play, just bringing that game to the playoffs. I feel like we can match up against anybody."

The Predators have several young players making their playoff debuts Wednesday and have two players that have won a Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks have won two Stanley Cups in the past five seasons. The Predators are hoping they can use home-ice advantage to their benefit in this series.

"I'm just really excited," Predators forward Taylor Beck said. "It's going to be a really fun and exciting series, and to start at home is a great feeling. It's just excitement and ready to go."

Nashville forward Mike Fisher will return to the lineup after missing the final two games of the regular season with a lower-body injury.

Here are the projected lineups:

BLACKHAWKS

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Kris VersteegBrad RichardsPatrick Kane

Bryan BickellAndrew ShawPatrick Sharp

Joakim NordstromMarcus KrugerTeuvo Teravainen

Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook

Johnny OduyaNiklas Hjalmarsson

Kimmo TimonenMichal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Scratched: Andrew Desjardins, David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey, Michael Paliotta, Antoine Vermette, Antti Raanta

Injured: Daniel Carcillo (upper body)

PREDATORS

Filip ForsbergMike RibeiroCraig Smith

Colin WilsonMike FisherJames Neal

Matt CullenCalle JarnkrokViktor Stalberg

Gabriel BourquePaul GaustadTaylor Beck

Roman JosiShea Weber

Mattias EkholmRyan Ellis

Anton VolchenkovSeth Jones

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Victor Bartley, Mike Santorelli, Kevin Fiala

Injured: Cody Franson (lower body), Eric Nystrom (lower body)

Status report: Franson participated in the morning skate but is still listed as day-to-day and is not expected to play.

Who's hot: Toews led the Blackhawks with 66 points in the regular season and has five goals in his past eight games. … Forsberg led the Predators with 63 points and has three goals and one assist in his past four games.

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