Kane aiming to help United States end World Championship drought
Blackhawks forward hoping to help country win event for first time since 1960by Michael Langr / Senior Writer, NHL.com/cs
KOSICE, Slovakia -- Patrick Kane's goal with the United States for the 2019 IIHF World Championship is to win the gold medal that eluded him last year.
"Another chance to win gold," the Chicago Blackhawks forward said Thursday. "Last year I had some personal success [at the World Championship] and I think it kind of helped lead me in to my regular season. I had a good season this year. So here is another chance to play hockey, to play for your country. We know the Americans have not won gold for a long time. So, we'll try to [end the drought]."
A win against Canada in the bronze-medal game last year gave the U.S. its first medal of any kind at the tournament since a bronze in 2015. The U.S. has won the tournament twice, in 1960 when it was played as part of the Squaw Valley Olympics, and in 1933.
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The U.S. opens preliminary-round play against Slovakia at Steel Arena on Friday (2 p.m. ET; NHLN).
"We start with Slovakia, there's going to be a lot of buzz and great energy in the arena," Kane said. "It's a great place to play. You can see (Slovakia) is a hockey country, it should be pretty interesting. That's what we are focusing on right now. And we'll worry about the other stuff later."
Kane will be the captain again, and is one of nine players returning from last year's tournament, along with forwards Chris Kreider (New York Rangers), Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings), Alex DeBrincat (Blackhawks), Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames), Derek Ryan (Flames), and Colin White (Ottawa Senators), and defensemen Alec Martinez (Los Angeles Kings) and Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks).
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"We have a lot of good players," Kane said. "A lot of them might be in a different situation then they were in the regular season in the NHL. I don't think anybody on our team is thinking we'll get the same ice time what we are used to. But we have a lot of good players, so every time you are on the ice you have to make sure to not worry and hope that other guys can do the job for you.
"Sometimes you can sit back when you have that much talent that we have. So, focus on what you can control. Obviously, this is going to be a fun tournament with so many good players, so we have to enjoy being here."
One of those good players is 17-year-old forward Jack Hughes, projected to be the No. 1 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft. He'll be the youngest player for the U.S. at the World Championship.
"Obviously [Kane] is one of the best Americans to ever play," Hughes said. "I'm trying to learn from him, these things he does off the ice and things like that. He is such a pro."
Kane was named the most valuable player of the 2018 Worlds after he had a tournament-high 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 10 games. That includes the assist on Nick Bonino's game-winning goal in a 4-1 win against Canada in the bronze-medal game.
He used that strong finish to help propel him to an excellent NHL season, a personal NHL-best 110 points (44 goals, 66 assists) that was third in the League behind Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning (128 points) and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (116).
But the Blackhawks (36-34-12) finished six points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. That left Kane wanting to play more hockey.
"You have the opportunity to play for your country and try to do something special for the USA," Kane said. "There has been one month between then and now but that's the way it kind of worked out. I am excited to play more hockey, to play for my country and try to feed off that good season I had."
U.S. forward Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres) said Kane looks just as locked in now as he did during the regular season.
"He is a great player, he works hard, and I think he's played so long that it makes him the natural leader in our room," Eichel said. "He is such a good player, a good guy in our room for us with a big influence.
"I think he is really dialed-in. He is a focused individual who cares a lot about hockey. He is a nice guy, he is pretty relaxed. A good guy to be around here."