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Blackhawks' Kane takes slap shots, progressing well

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com

CHICAGO -- Anybody who thinks right wing Patrick Kane might return early from surgery to repair his fractured left clavicle only needs to glance at the Chicago Blackhawks' opponent at United Center on Tuesday.

There's a strong chance Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker will play against the Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-CH) about eight weeks after having surgery Feb. 12 to repair his right clavicle. Even if Zucker doesn't play Tuesday, his return is close.

Kane, who was injured Feb. 24 and had surgery the next day, started participating in practices and morning skates April 1. The only limitations were no contact and no slap shots, but Tuesday morning he took multiple one-timer slap shots.

"He's progressing real well," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Every day he seems like he's getting a little stronger. His skating has always been fine and he's handling the puck extremely well, so it's good signs every day, seeing the progress."

Quenneville did not reveal a timeline for when Kane will be cleared for contact. The Blackhawks might have one more practice between games before the Stanley Cup Playoffs start, but Quenneville had a quip ready when talking about whether there would need to be a full team workout for Kane to test the collarbone with contact.

"I think there would be a lot of volunteers," he said.

Kane wasn't made available to speak with reporters following his workout. Zucker met with reporters after his on-ice work and said he feels ready to play. He got clearance to take contact this week and did so Tuesday morning.

Like Kane, Zucker said the injury felt better quickly. He returned to the ice for everything but contact and waited patiently for medical clearance.

"I felt almost 100 percent at week three," Zucker said. "I hadn't had any contact then, but as far as shooting, passing and skating, it felt great. It has been a while of feeling that way."

Zucker said the wait is the toughest part of the injury.

The playoffs begin April 15, which would be seven weeks after Kane's surgery. If Kane can return in eight weeks, like Zucker, he might be ready by Game 3 or Game 4 of the Blackhawks' first-round series.

"You don't want to rush back and risk hurting yourself again, and being out another 8-10 weeks again," Zucker said. "That's something you don't want to do. That's a road you don't want to go down, but obviously everyone wants to be out there helping their team and being in this playoff push."

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