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Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin could be separated

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville considering line adjustments to create balanced scoring

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin may be separated this season, coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday.

Quenneville's rationale is understandable, with balanced scoring the ultimate goal, but there's what Kane calls a "sixth sense" whenever he and Panarin are on the ice together. It showed in the Blackhawks' 4-0 win against the St. Louis Blues at United Center on Saturday.

Kane and Panarin, each playing their first preseason game since returning from the World Cup of Hockey 2016, worked another magic trick to score the first goal of the game and preseason for Chicago. Kane pulled up from the right wing, sent a perfect backhand feed to the slot and Panarin buried it with a one-timer.

"It's funny, I was going down and had a play like that earlier in the game and was kind of looking, and both [forwards] kind of drove the net," Kane said. "I'm not sure who I was on the ice with, but usually Panarin would kind of stop up and find that little open spot, and sure enough the next time I do that, he's on the ice and it's that exact same play."

Prior to the game, Quenneville said it was possible that Panarin, a left wing, might start out on the Blackhawks' top line with center Jonathan Toews and possibly right wing Marian Hossa. That would leave Kane, a left wing, with center Artem Anisimov and whichever forward earns a top-six role.

It's not set in stone, but it's still a possibility.

Video: STL@CHI: Kane sets up Panarin for one-timer goal

"When they're apart, they'll have shifts in games where they'll be together," Quenneville said. "Over the course of a season, you know they'll be together at times. But that's something that's going to get sorted out. [Kane] gets a 2-on-5 and he makes one of those passes that's very special and a great one-timer. They'll always [get] some shifts together. It's whether they'll be permanently together is something we'll evaluate."

Spending nearly all of last season together seemed to work out pretty well.

Panarin had 30 goals, 47 assists and 77 points, and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie. Kane led the League with a career-high 106 points, scored a career-high 46 goals and won the Hart Trophy, Art Ross Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award. Anisimov benefited too, scoring 20 goals and 42 points.

"We know we need to essentially adjust to new partners, because everybody's good," Panarin said through an interpreter. "So, we are ready to get some new partners. But essentially, we score together, because we know each other and we work together."

Panarin played with Toews last season for a short time, but it hasn't been tested out long-term yet. Toews had 28 goals and 30 assists last season, but his assists total regressed after left wing Patrick Sharp was traded to the Dallas Stars. Hossa's struggle to score goals also contributed to a decrease in production for Chicago's first line.

Putting Panarin on the unit might help. 

"I played with Toews a little bit last season," Panarin said. "But I'm ready to play with anyone. That's my role. I played with Kane more last season, that's my experience, but I'm ready to play with anyone."

Same goes for Kane, who's played most of his NHL career with a steady rotation of linemates.

"Last year is probably the one year that I really only played with a couple players, so I'm used to playing all over the place, playing with different guys," Kane said. "We'll see what happens. I know they wanted to try something different for the game [Saturday] and maybe throughout preseason, so I'll just play where they tell me to play I guess."

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