By Mike Zeisberger
TORONTO — When a Blackhawk last had his name engraved on the Art Ross Trophy signifying the NHL’s scoring champion, it would be another 20 years before Patrick Kane was even born.
That’s how long it has been since the legendary Stan Mikita led the league in points, racking up 87 during the 1967-68 season.
Now, some 45 years later, there is talk that Kane, born in 1988, has a legitimate chance to do the same. The slick-skating forward entered the game against the Maple Leafs Saturday with 42 points, just two behind Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby.
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During the Blackhawks' morning skate at the Air Canada Centre, Kane was mobbed by a sea of cameras, microphones and notepads. Everyone in the gaggle of media wanted to know the same thing: Does the south Buffalo native feel like he can add his name to that of Mikita, among others, on the Art Ross?
For his part, Kane did not know who the previous Hawk was to capture the scoring crown. When asked about it, he replied: “Who was it — (Jeremy) Roenick?”
Upon being told that it was Mikita, Kane broke out into a huge grin.
“Well, 1968 is a ways back, isn’t it?” Kane said. “The truth is, we’re just 34 games into the season, so anything can happen. I think I finished fifth in scoring last year, so I have an idea what it’s like (to be in contention).”
Kane credits much of the success he is enjoying right now to plain old veteran savvy.
“As you grow older, you tend to figure things out,” he said.
Words of wisdom from the 25-year-old.
“I’ll say this: I don’t know if anyone has had the puck on their stick longer than Kaner this season,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s had a heck of a year for us. He’s been very consistent.”
Hall of Famer Mikita could not have said it any better.
Because of a Teamsters strike at the Air Canada Centre, ice conditions were awful for the morning skate. Some Hawks were claiming the chunky surface was not adequate to host an NHL game, but ACC officials were confident the issue literally would be smoothed over in time for puck drop on Saturday night.
One player said there was an actual hole in the ice in one of the corners. Meanwhile, outside the rink, the Hawks were greeted by a huge snowstorm that slammed Toronto. Some local areas were expected to receive more than a foot of snow by Sunday morning.
Former Leaf defenseman Mike Kostka confirmed he still has the puck he scored the winning goal with during the Blackhawks' 3-1 victory over the Leafs at the United Center back on Oct. 19. It was his first NHL goal.
“People around here (in Toronto) watched me not score for 34 games last season, so you bet I still have it,” Kostka said.
Kostka scored his second career goal during a 6-2 win over Dallas Tuesday after missing 24 games with a foot injury.
Quenneville spent some time chatting with former Leaf Darryl Sitter prior to the skate. Quenneville was teammates with the Hall of Famer Sittler with the Leafs during the 1978-79 season.
Antti Raanta will get the start in goal for the Hawks while Jonathan Bernier will be between the pipes for the Leafs.
The Blackhawks got a surprise visit from Stanley Cup hero David Bolland prior to their skate Saturday morning. Bolland, who scored the Cup-clinching goal in Game 6 of the final against the Bruins back in June, is out of the Leafs' lineup indefinitely after having the tendon in his ankle severed by the skate of Vancouver’s Zack Kassian on Nov. 2.
“It was good seeing him,” Kane said. “He obviously was a big part of our team for a number of years. He can actually score more than people give him credit for but, with all the offensive players we have, he didn’t get much of a chance to show it.”
He certainly did against the Bruins.