-- It was a homecoming for some popular ex-Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night, but a current Hawks star and his linemates stole the show.
The experiment of moving Patrick Kane
from right wing on the top line to center of the second line -- next to Marian Hossa
-- keeps looking better each time out. Thursday night's 4-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets
in front of 21,175 at the United Center was the latest example.
The loss spoiled the return of Dustin Byfuglien
, Andrew Ladd
and Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff -- each of whom has a Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup championship ring.
"It's a big barn, the fans are great and anytime you can come back and play in the barn where you started, it's always fun," said Byfuglien, who along with Ladd helped Chicago win the 2010 Cup. "But we didn't get the win, so it wasn't as good as it could've been."
They can thank some untimely turnovers, plus Chicago's dominant second line centered by Kane, for the bittersweet result. Kane, who was flanked by Hossa on the right and gritty Daniel Carcillo
on the left, finished with a three-point night and scored his first goal of the season.
He added a pair of assists, while Hossa chipped in a goal of his own and set up Kane's marker late in the first, a goal that pulled the Hawks even at 2-2 after they fell behind 2-0 early.
Kane is still not entirely comfortable in the middle, but the way he's playing there says otherwise.
"It's still something I'm getting used to," Kane said. "I know I'm not there yet, but I'll keep trying to get better in practices and in games. I've never really played with (Hossa before). It's kind of something (where) we're getting used to each other and trying to find chemistry because we both like to play the same game."
Having the hard-hitting Carcillo out there with them is something Kane's more confident about. Carcillo had an assist and a plus-2 rating -- but also opened some ice up for Kane and Hossa.
"He creates a lot of energy, he creates a lot of room out there," Kane said. "You see his antics before and after the whistle, which is a good thing when you're playing with him. He draws a lot of attention, and opens up some space."
and Dave Bolland
also scored for the Hawks (2-1-0), while Jim Slater
scored a pair and Kyle Wellwood
added his first for the Jets (0-2-0). Slater scored both of his goals early in the first by deflecting long blasts from defensemen Johnny Oduya
and Ron Hainsey
(2 assists) past Ray Emery
– who got his first start of the season in place of Corey Crawford
Both of Slater's goals appeared to go between Emery's pads after changing direction in mid-air. It was exactly the kind of start that Winnipeg coach Claude Noel talked about after the morning skate. It was also shaping up to be quite a night for Slater, who got a concussion after running into Byfuglien in a game on Dec. 31 and missed the rest of last season.
However, the Hawks turned things around in the last 10 minutes of the first by capitalizing on some Jets miscues.
"We got off to a good start, but we just got a little lackadaisical there in the last half of the first," Slater said. "We played well with them for most of the game, but they buried most of their chances that we gave them. One of my (personal) goals this year was to have a good start to the season and hopefully tonight was the start of that."
Chicago's comeback was preceded by a timeout called by coach Joel Quenneville after the second of Slater's goals. Kane drew a tripping penalty to set up a power play at 8:35 of the first and Brunette made it count with a putback of a rebound off a shot by Kane.
Kane's goal with just 3:10 left in the period tied it 2-2, coming off a one-time blast from the right circle that was set up by a perfect feed from Hossa. Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec
(28 saves) didn't have a chance and the Hawks started to control the action.
The teams went into the first intermission tied 2-2, but Hossa quickly put Chicago ahead 3-2 with a laser from the point 33 seconds into the second. Bolland scored the eventual game-winner a little more than five minutes later for his third goal in two games.
It could've turned into a rout, but Wellwood abruptly halted Chicago's momentum by deftly putting the puck between his legs and into the net off a rebound to make it 4-3 with 6:24 left in the period.
Neither team scored again, but the Jets did make the Hawks work to hold on the rest of the way – including a late scramble in front of the Chicago goal before time ran out.
Afterward, however, much of the talk centered on Chicago's newest center.
"I think everybody was asking how we were going to do defensively, but so far he's answering the question and done a great job and we try to help him out," Hossa said of Kane. "It all depends on us. If we're going to do a great job, (Quenneville's) going to keep us together and if we don't do a good job he won't keep us together. At the end of the day it's up to us."