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Blackhawks' Kane sees Crosby as measuring stick

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane has learned this season that he's no Sidney Crosby.

Not yet, anyway.

The 25-year old Kane, who leads the Chicago Blackhawks in scoring, was hot on the heels of the Pittsburgh Penguins' captain in the NHL points race a couple weeks ago. He's since fallen off Crosby's lead pace of 68 points by 12 points.

"He produces every night," Kane said of Crosby (25 goals and 43 assists). "He's fun to watch. Even on nights where he maybe doesn't have his best game, he still comes out of there with two assists or a goal and an assist. Then there's games where it seems like he's determined, and he's the best player in the world and just dominates the game. You're like, 'Wow, this guy is amazing.' I think he's the best the player in the League for sure."

Heading into the Blackhawks' game Sunday against the Boston Bruins at United Center (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, NHLN-CA), Kane (23 goals and 33 assists) ranks fourth in scoring. He's still having a magnificent season, on pace for what would be a career-high 92 points, but Kane has gone nine straight games without scoring a goal. He has one goal and five assists in the past 10 games.

The slowed production comes on the heels of Kane stringing together a career-high 14-game point streak that was his second stretch of 12-or-more games in a row with at least a point.

"I want to get better," Kane said. "I want to improve and get back to the level I was at a little bit before. I guess that starts with hard work. That's the biggest thing, just try to work hard."

Kane, who plays right wing, hasn't exactly had stability on Chicago's second line. The problem is the Blackhawks are still looking for an everyday option to center that unit with enough speed and skill to complement Kane and 21-year old left wing Brandon Saad.

The job currently belongs to Andrew Shaw, but he normally centers the third line. Michal Handzus, Marcus Kruger and rookie Brandon Pirri (currently in the minors) have also gotten looks there.

Kane's best production has come with Handzus in the middle, but the veteran isn't fast enough to keep up with his wingers for 200 feet. Thus, Kane practically shares the center responsibilities. He'd handle the puck a lot on the offensive end, while Handzus took faceoffs and took on defensive responsibilities in Chicago's defensive zone.

It's a similar situation with the gritty Shaw, but he and Saad can stay with Kane a little easier. Regardless, until the current dry spell, Kane produced points routinely with whomever he played.

He'd like to get back to that point, but also figure out a way to stay there, like Crosby. Asked if he thought he could produce the kind of season Crosby does annually, Kane didn't dismiss it.

"You hope so," he said. "The thing is being consistent. That's the biggest thing about it. To do that for 82 games is where he's at and I'm not, I guess. Consistency is the biggest thing, just to keep that chugging along the whole year. I was real hot and right there with him and then he kind of continues and keeps trotting on. He's a great player."

Tuukka Rask will likely draw the start in net for the Bruins and Corey Crawford will start for the Blackhawks.

Much has been made of the early time for puck drop (11:30 a.m. in Chicago), but neither side is willing to take the ready-made excuse.

Here are the projected lineups:


Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith

Carl Soderberg - Ryan Spooner - Loui Eriksson

Shawn Thornton - Gregory Campbell - Daniel Paille

Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk

Adam McQuaid - Torey Krug

Matt Bartkowski - Kevan Miller

Scratched: Jordan Caron

Injured: Dennis Seidenberg (knee surgery, IR), Marc Savard (upper body, IR), Chris Kelly (leg fracture, IR), Dougie Hamilton (upper body)


Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Brandon Saad - Andrew Shaw - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Michal Handzus - Kris Versteeg

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Sheldon Brookbank

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Michal Rozsival, Michael Kostka

Injured: Nikolai Khabibulin (rotator cuff surgery, IR)

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