A fractured clavicle sustained in a game against the Florida Panthers at the end of February was supposed to sideline Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane until some point in the Western Conference Final, assuming they made it that far.
Kane instead returned for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, is second in the NHL with seven postseason goals and has at least a point in nine of 10 games to ensure the Blackhawks will be a part of the conference final for the fifth time in seven seasons.
Kane has goals in five straight games, scoring five in Chicago's four-game sweep of the Minnesota Wild in their Western Conference Second Round series. His goal in Game 4 on Thursday gave the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead and some breathing room in what ended up a 4-3 win following an empty-net goal by Marian Hossa and two late scores by the Wild.
"It's a special group here. It's an exciting time of year to play," Kane said after the game according to the Chicago Tribune. "You're in one of those positions where you realize who knows how many opportunities you'll have like this in the playoffs when you have a good team with you.
"(We're) enjoying the process, enjoying the game and then taking what's next on the list after that."
The Blackhawks opened up a 2-0 lead Thursday, but then lost defenseman Michal Rozsival to injury and gave up a goal to Wild forward Erik Haula in a span of 18 seconds. The Wild stayed within one quick strike of tying things up into the latter stages of the third period.
That's when Bryan Bickell and Kane broke into the Wild zone on a 2-on-1, Bickell controlling a bouncing puck and dishing it off to Kane who skated wide and beat Wild goalie Dubnyk inside the left post with 6:40 remaining.
Dubnyk didn't have much luck keeping Kane off the board in their series; he offered a scouting report which the Anaheim Ducks or Calgary Flames
"He's one of the best, if not the best player in the world," Dubnyk told the Chicago Sun Times prior to Game 4. "That's no secret. That's not just surfacing in this series. It's not surprising anybody. You try to be hard on a guy like that. You try to eliminate his time and space. You've got to be as patient as possible with him and just be prepared at all times. He's capable of doing a lot of different things, so you've just got to be ready for it."
The scary part for opposing goaltenders is Kane thinks he can be better.
"I still think there's some areas that I can try to improve a little bit," Kane said. "I play with some great players who have given me some great chances to get some great looks, and it is going in the back of the net."