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Blackhawks' Kane feeling better, adjusting to brace

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are trying to make the best of not having their two top forwards, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Each is out for the rest of the regular season, Toews with an upper-body injury and Kane with a lower-body injury. But they are expected to be fully healed and available for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a week.

Kane skated on his own for four days prior to joining the Blackhawks' morning skate Wednesday ahead of their game against the Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, RDS). Toews could get back on the ice Thursday for individual work.

"I think we're looking at it in a positive way, that I think this rest is going to be good for these guys," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're getting these guys some rest. We want to make them fresh and get them excited, knowing they've been off. They love playing and I think it creates an appetite as well. I think the amount of hockey and the big stages they've been [on] over the course of one season, I think this is only going to be viewed as a positive from our standpoint."

Upon returning from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Kane played 10 games before twisting his left leg awkwardly March 19 in a 4-0 victory against the St. Louis Blues. Toews played 16 games following the break before a big hit by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik knocked him out of the lineup March 5 in a 4-1 loss.

"I’m going to try to get myself feeling well, get the rest I needed to be ready for the playoffs," said Kane, who skated with a brace on his left knee. "You never want to be out of the lineup. I think we all love to play the game. We love to play hockey, love to be out there with your teammates and supporting any way you can. At the same time, some people think it might be beneficial in the long run to take a little break, especially with the year we had last year and going deep in the playoffs and the Olympics and a lot of different things we've been doing around here the past year-and-a-half or so. It's something you never want to happen, but try to think of it in a positive way I guess."

Quenneville said he has no doubt his duo will return in great shape for the playoffs.

"I'd say they'll both be 100 percent," Quenneville said. "They'll be ready, they'll be fresh, they'll be excited to play and I think that could overcome a lot of the [timing issues]. Those guys have played in a lot of big games in big settings and I'm sure they're excited about playing for keeps in the playoffs."

Kane is working to get his conditioning back and to get used to skating with the brace on his knee. Overall, he agreed with Quenneville's assessment.

"I think I will be [100 percent] for sure," Kane said. "It looks like we're a week away from playoffs. That’s right about the timetable they told me I should be healed. It always would have been nice to play a game before playoffs, [but it] just didn't work that way with the length of the injury and how long they wanted me to rest it and be off of it. Nothing you could do about that."

As for the brace?

"I think we all try to wear some type of equipment when we go through injuries to kind of protect it and make sure you're not reinjuring something like that," Kane said. "Technology is pretty good these days so it feels good. [You've] got to get adjusted to it every day, obviously. A few little tweaks here and there and it should be fine."

The Blackhawks and Canadiens each have some tweaks to their lineups.

Chicago will get puck-moving defenseman Johnny Oduya back from a lower-body injury that sidelined him for three games, and forward Brandon Saad will re-enter the lineup after being a healthy scratch Sunday against the St. Louis Blues.

The Blackhawks enter third in the Central Division with 105 points, but a win could pull them within two points of the second-place Colorado Avalanche and four behind the first-place Blues, who have lost three straight.

Montreal left No. 1 goaltender Carey Price and the top defense pair of Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin off the trip. Defenseman Josh Gorges (hand) is ready to get back in the lineup after missing 15 games. Gorges will be partnered with P.K. Subban as the Canadiens' top pairing.

The Canadiens enter second in the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning. If the Detroit Red Wings lose their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, the Canadiens will be locked into a First Round series with the Lightning, with home ice to be determined.

Montreal did not hold a morning skate. Goalie Peter Budaj will start, and Corey Crawford will be in net for the Blackhawks.

Here are the projected lineups:


Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Thomas Vanek

Alex Galchenyuk - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher

Rene Bourque - Lars Eller - Brian Gionta

Daniel Briere - Ryan White - Michael Bournival

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban

Jarred Tinordi - Mike Weaver

Francis Bouillon - Nathan Beaulieu

Peter Budaj

Dustin Tokarski

Scratches: Dale Weise, George Parros, Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin, Carey Price

Suspended: Douglas Murray

Injured: Brandon Prust (upper), Travis Moen (concussion)


Patrick Sharp - Andrew Shaw - Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg - Michal Handzus - Brandon Saad

Bryan Bickell - Ben Smith - Jeremy Morin

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Joakim Nordstrom

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Sheldon Brookbank

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Teuvo Teravainen, Michal Rozsival, David Rundblad, Matt Carey

Injured: Patrick Kane (lower body), Jonathan Toews (upper body), Nikolai Khabibulin (shoulder surgery)

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