GLENDALE, Ariz. – Patrick Kane headed back to Buffalo late Wednesday night, headed home to pay respects to the late grandfather he called “a great friend.”
Meanwhile, his Chicago Blackhawks teammates prep for his absence when they face the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday night. It’s a loss to the lineup, for sure, but the Blackhawks know it’s not about one player replacing Kane. It’s about all of them replacing him.
The Blackhawks will be without Kane – and possibly Johnny Oduya again – when they wrap up this road trip vs. Phoenix on Friday. Kane does so many things, adds so much depth when he’s in the lineup. But the Blackhawks plan to come with a little bit of everything to weather his absence.
“Kaner gives you so many different looks and options; that versatility is something,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “But it’s a good opportunity for guys to get some more quality ice (time).”
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That could mean more minutes for Brandon Saad, who was back at second-line left wing, with Michal Handzus and Kris Versteeg at Thursday’s practice. That could mean some power-play time for Brandon Pirri, who was a healthy scratch on Wednesday but centered the third line with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw on Thursday. And that could mean everyone doing just a little more.
“There are definitely some big shoes to fill – not literally because (Kane)’s a small guy – but he’s definitely going to be missed. But we have guys who can step in and take care of business,” Brandon Bollig said. “Obviously he brings a lot, not only on the ice but off it. He’s a huge part of our team and a huge part of our success.”
Still, the Blackhawks weather the short-term losses pretty well. They outlasted the Anaheim Ducks last night without Oduya; his loss could’ve really been felt on the penalty kill but the Blackhawks nevertheless nixed all five they faced.
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Jonathan Toews sent best wishes to Kane and his family. For the Blackhawks, though, he said it remains “business as usual.”
“We’ve done a great job of setting a goal for (ourselves), and we want to play some great hockey before going into the break. We have to find a way to win another tough road game tomorrow,” Toews said. “We’ll be prepared for it.”
The Blackhawks are missing a big star in Kane but obviously their lineup isn’t lacking in that department. It’s replace-by-committee in this case as it is in most with the Blackhawks and short-term absences, and they’re looking to get that again on Friday night.
“You can’t replace a guy like Kaner,” Shaw said. “But some guys are gong to step up, take on the challenge. And we wish him and his family the best.”