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Blackhawks' Kane must demand puck in Game 3

by Dan Rosen

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville appears to have split up center Jonathan Toews and right wing Patrick Kane for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) with the hope of creating more balance and scoring depth in the forward lines.

"It certainly enhances the offense when they are together," Quenneville said, "but certainly the balance is something we'll look at."

Quenneville used Kane and Toews on the same line for the first five periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the best-of-7 series, which is tied 1-1. They didn't produce. He separated them at the start of the third period in a 4-3 loss in Game 2 on Saturday, and on their second shift apart, Toews set up defenseman Brent Seabrook for a game-tying goal.

"Certainly I think splitting those two up gives you a little bit more freedom as far as whether it's room or something for them [the Lightning] to be concerned with," Quenneville said. "We'll see how that progresses."

The progress Quenneville wants, or actually needs to see regardless of the line combinations he uses, is with Kane's offense. Two games does not make a scoring slump, but Kane's lack of production and general ineffectiveness in the Cup Final so far is at least alarming.

He didn't have a shot on goal and managed only three shot attempts in 19:45 of ice time in Game 2. It was only the second time in 112 career Stanley Cup Playoff games that Kane didn't have a shot on goal. It snapped a streak of 99 straight games with at least one.

The only other time it happened was in a 5-2 loss in Game 1 of the 2009 Western Conference Final against the Detroit Red Wings.

Kane also had no points, three shots on goal and seven shot attempts in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 win in Game 1 on Wednesday.

He entered the series with 10 goals and 10 assists in 17 games in the playoffs after missing the final 21 games of the regular season because of a fractured clavicle. He had five points while playing with Toews in Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Final.

"As an offensive guy you want to help produce, especially at this time of year, but we said all along with our team we don't really care where the goals come from, as long as they're coming from our team," Kane said. "I think I can help in that area, obviously. That's one of the reasons I'm on the team. That's one of my jobs here, is to try to produce offense. Hopefully start that up next game."

Quenneville said he doesn't have an issue with how Kane has played so far in the Final. As an example, he referenced a 2-on-1 he had with Brandon Saad at 5:59 of the first period in Game 2. Saad kept it and his shot was saved by Lightning goalie Ben Bishop.

"Some other things were materializing that were dangerous," Quenneville said. "Obviously certain games, your top guys aren't going to appear on the score sheet or look like they're shut down. I still think they consume a lot of the other team's priorities as far as being aware defensively. So in two games, he's been fine. I haven't minded his game. I think he's been a threat. But obviously we would like to see some production across the board."

To get that production, Kane needs to have the puck more than he's had it in the past two games. He has said in previous postseasons when he has gone through mini scoring slumps that he gets out of it by demanding the puck more.

Most notable was in the 2013 Western Conference Final, when Kane snapped out of a seven-game goalless drought with a goal in Game 4 against the Los Angeles Kings. That came after he watched all 22 of his previous playoff goals with his father to see if there was any pattern to them.

Kane followed that with a hat trick in Game 5 to help Chicago win the series. He scored three goals in the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, including two and the winner in Game 5, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

However, demanding the puck more is harder to do when he plays with Toews and Saad. It's easier to do when he plays with Brad Richards and Kris Versteeg or Bryan Bickell. That's another reason why Quenneville likes his lineup better when Kane and Toews are apart.

"[Kane] is most effective when he has the puck, [when] he wants the puck," Quenneville said. "He can do a lot of good things with it. That's why a lot of times they're not together. I find he plays his best hockey the more he gets the puck. He does a good job himself of finding a way to get the puck. His linemates are part of that too. He's a much better player with the puck."

The hope is that he'll have it more in Game 3. The cost is it means he likely won't play with Toews. It's a tradeoff the Blackhawks are happy to make if it makes Kane a more dangerous threat to score.

"Hopefully something opens up," Kane said.


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