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Central: Kane and Sharp back in the groove again

by Dan Rosen
Patrick Kane says he doesn't care who his linemates are. In fact, the super-skilled 20-year-old even told that if Chicago coach Joel Quenneville put him with Craig Adams and Colin Fraser, a pair of grinders, he would find a way to mesh.

While that's not likely to happen, Quenneville did re-unite Kane with Patrick Sharp last weekend, and the chemistry the two developed last season instantly returned.

Kane and Sharp, who are playing with left wing Troy Brouwer, combined for both of the Blackhawks' goals in their 5-2 loss in Los Angeles last Saturday. They combined for one more in Wednesday's 4-2 victory against Anaheim at the United Center.

"The thing is, me and Sharpie have so much chemistry on the ice," Kane told "We always seem to find each other and we have fun doing it. We love scoring goals and making plays. In the end, that only helps the team."
Kane (12-17-29) and Sharp (14-9-23) were playing with Jonathan Toews in the middle for most of last season. However, until last weekend, Kane and Sharp hadn't played together under Quenneville.

Sharp was centering his own line, with Brouwer and Martin Havlat, while Kane had spent the bulk of November on the right side of Toews and rookie Kris Versteeg, who is making a strong case to follow Kane as a Calder Trophy winner.

However, Versteeg went three straight games without a goal, and Kane hadn't scored in two straight. Plus, the Hawks were shut out, 1-0, by Anaheim the night before they played the Kings, so Quenneville changed the lines for the first time since taking the job.

"When you don't score is when I want to try different things and see how different combinations are going to look," Quenneville told reporters in Los Angeles. "They (Sharp and Kane) seem to have a nice little bit of chemistry amongst each other. Whether it's a regular shift or a power play together, there's something there."

Kane said that something can be explosive. It's different from when he plays with Toews, who is the Blackhawks' most defensively responsible top-six forward.

"With Sharpie, it's all about, 'Let's go score goals,'" Kane said. "With Toews, it's about, 'Let's go control the game.' Either way it works great, but I just think we can be more explosive and dynamic with me and Sharpie together."

Mason's man -- Columbus goalie Steve Mason, who was named the NHL's Rookie of the Month for November, told that while he doesn't try to model his game after anyone in particular, New Jersey's Martin Brodeur definitely is an influence.

"Growing up I always liked watching Brodeur," said Mason, who is 6-3-1 with a 2.18 goals-against average. "I thought he was the greatest goalie out there and I still like watching him. I liked the way he handled the puck and he's so calm out there. He can joke around, but when it's time get serious he gets back to business. He's had tons of success."

Mason said his on-ice personality is similar to Brodeur's. He chirps with opposing players and always has some banter with the referees. However, he also knows how to get down in that butterfly stance when it matters most and stop the puck.

"I like to have fun out there," Mason said. "It's pretty nice to be playing the sport you love, and being at the highest level it's even better. You have to have fun with it."

Rookie report -- Does this division have the best rookies or what?

In October we were gushing about Columbus center Derick Brassard, who won Rookie of the Month honors. In November it was all about Mason, who also won Rookie of the Month honors.

Throughout the season, we also have been enamored with Kris Versteeg, who currently leads all rookies with 15 assists and 22 points. Versteeg added to his total Wednesday by assisting on the tying and winning goals.

Brassard has at least started to hit the first wall rookies have to barrel through during the season. He went pointless for five straight games before registering an assist in Thursday's 3-2 loss in San Jose. He has 20 points through 24 games.

St. Louis center Patrik Berglund returned last weekend from a groin injury and produced a goal in a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers and an assist in a 4-2 win in Atlanta. Berglund had 6 goals and 6 assists heading into Friday night's game. He was a plus-9 and playing on the Blues' top line with Keith Tkachuk and Brad Boyes.

Not to be forgotten, Jakub Voracek, Columbus' other rookie, has 12 points in 25 games, but only one point in his last nine games. Still, he's a plus-7.

This and that -- Stefan Legien's time away from the game reportedly will be short-lived. The Columbus prospect, who said this summer saying he didn't have the motivation to play anymore and announced his retirement, now is ready to play again, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Legein is supposed to join the club in Columbus "within the next few weeks," the newspaper reported, but eventually would go to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League to begin his season. … The Blackhawks have sold out 12 straight games at the United Center, where they are 7-1-4 this season. … Nashville reassigned Jed Ortmeyer to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League on Wednesday after he cleared waivers. Ortmeyer has not played yet this season due to a blood clot in his leg. The Tennessean reported that by sending Ortmeyer through waivers, the Predators don't have to list him on their 23-man roster. … Eight players drafted by Central Division teams will represent Team USA at the World Junior Championships, which begin later this month in Ottawa. Another seven Central Division prospects were among the 38 players invited to Hockey Canada's evaluation camp, which starts this week in Ottawa.

He said it -- Patrick Kane, talking to about Saturday's Central Division showdown against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena:

"Every game against them is a fun game. You get up for it. They're a great team and in my opinion they are even better than last year. We played them once this year and it was really entertaining (Detroit won, 6-5 in a shootout). It was a fun game to be a part of. It was one of the most fun games I've played in. There was a lot of action back and forth. You look at Saturday, and I don't know if you say a preview for the Winter Classic, but we'll get more used to them for that time. We can get a lot of confidence from a win against them."
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