Kane comfortable with switch to center

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Kane comfortable with switch to center

Patrick Kane said he enjoyed playing center this season, felt comfortable with it and played some of his best games there.

Thats good, because it sounds like the Blackhawks are figuring hes their No. 2 center moving forward.

The question of the Blackhawks needing a No. 2 center was asked quite a bit this season. But general manager Stan Bowman believes the team already has that in Kane. And he said that Kanes play there, either at No. 2 or at No. 1 when Jonathan Toews was absent, was a big reason why the Blackhawks got into the playoffs this season.

He carried our team the last month of the season, put us on his back and got us into the playoffs, Bowman said of Kane. We had tough times, we had gone through prolonged losing streak, the pressure was on and he stepped up to be our No. 1 center. The notion he cant play center or isnt good there has been dispelled. Not only did our team play well, he played well.

Coach Joel Quenneville announced it during a preseason game in Detroit that they would try Kane at center entering this season, and it was a surprise to hear. But theres no doubt that Kane handled the pressure of the position well. He and Marian Hossa built up good chemistry on a line together, and Kane had 24 points in his first 25 games at center.

So if hes back there again next season, and it certainly sounds like he will be, hes fine with that.

I come up the ice with a lot of speed in the middle, and its natural for me to do that anyway, Kane said today. When I was at wing I played like a center anyway, come back to get the puck and get up ice. Sometimes its exciting to play new positions, so it doesnt matter to me. When you look at this year, when the team was successful, I was at center.

So Kane will probably prepare for center, which will be a bit different than all the seasons he prepped for wing. Faceoffs were an issue Kane was around 42 percent this season. And Kane said he needs to get stronger overall.

Yeah, playing center obviously youre down low more, so I want to get stronger there. But it doesnt change much, Kane said. The biggest thing for me is, Im healthy going into this offseason. There are no problems; Im going right in and working on my body. Last summer I had surgery (on my wrist) and other problems. Now Im excited about just being healthy.

And the Blackhawks are apparently set in moving forward with Kane at center. Hes proven he can do it. Whether or not hes the full-time answer there is still the question.

Watch: Former Bulls center Joakim Noah misses everything with this free-throw attempt

Watch: Former Bulls center Joakim Noah misses everything with this free-throw attempt

We all remember Joakim Noah's twisty-turny tornado shooting style from the free-throw line.

It was funny, and it worked better than you might expect, with Noah's unconventional shooting style from the charity stripe going through the net better than 73 percent of the time over a five-season span from 2009-10 to 2013-14.

But things haven't gone so well there for Noah in his first season with the New York Knicks. Entering Monday night's game, Noah was shooting just 42.9 percent from the free-throw line.

Well, things might've hit rock bottom Monday, with this nasty-looking free-throw try from Noah that missed everything.

Take a look:

Say it ain't so, Jo.

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010, and have eliminated the Minnesota Wild from the playoffs three times from 2013-15.

But it's the Wild that NHL coaches believe will win the Western Conference this season as we approach the trade deadline.

In his annual midseason poll, TSN's Bob McKenzie surveyed 25 of 30 coaches to vote on multiple categories, such as the league's best player and the team most likely to win it all.

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According to the survey, 11 coaches predicted the Wild will win the West while the Blackhawks and Sharks tied for second with four votes.

As for winning the Stanley Cup, the Washington Capitals are the favorite, earning 10 votes, followed closely by the reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins with eight. The Wild and Blackhawks rounded out the poll with three and two votes, respectively.

Joel Quenneville earned one vote as the NHL's best coach, which is three fewer votes than he had last year, despite this year being arguably his most challenging — and best — coaching job since arriving in Chicago, given the youth on the roster.