Kane stepping up as leader in Toews' absence

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Kane stepping up as leader in Toews' absence

Patrick Kane heard the word bandied about with his name the past few weeks: leadership. With captain Jonathan Toews out, the Blackhawks have needed more of that from their core players.

And Kane, especially with his play, has provided plenty of it lately.

Back at center, Kane has provided a boost to the Blackhawks in winning three of their last four games. And as far as all that leadership talk? He likes it.

It feels good when you hear people say that, he said. I view myself as a leader of the team, for sure, but Im not going to change who I am. Im sure as time goes on Ill become more of a leader, but Im still a young guy and still learning a lot.

Yes, at 23 Kane is a young guy. But since hes been a pro for so long it doesnt always seem that way.

Every year I feel I become more of a leader, maybe playing more of a team game, who knows, Kane said. Sometimes you do different things and try to get people to follow you on the ice and maybe thats where the leadership is coming in.

Coach Joel Quenneville said most of that leadership is coming through in Kanes play. Outside of Tuesdays game against St. Louis, when everyone in a Blackhawks uniform struggled, the top line has been solid.

Teammates have noticed.

On the ice, hes doing a lot. Hes playing center, which I know is a challenge for him, and hes doing really well at it, Patrick Sharp said. Hes responsible in defensive zone and thats important with a guy like Johnny out of the lineup.

Kane started the season at center and is fine with being there right now. But theres no doubt what he truly feels his position is.

I still call myself a winger, to be honest," he said. "But right now they wanted to fill the void and they put me at center. I feel pretty comfortable getting the puck. Its fun to come up the ice with a lot of speed, thats where my game comes in, but I can still do that on the wing. Right now they just want to put me at center with Johnny out of the lineup.

Perhaps, but thats part of leadership, too: filling voids, taking the reins, stepping out of a comfort zone if its for the better of the team.

The Blackhawks got encouraging news on Thursday, when Toews skated before his teammates at Johnnys Ice House. If Toews strings together some solid, feel-good-after skates, he could be back soon. But in that time, Kane deserves credit for playing a bigger leadership role with the Blackhawks.

Im not rah-rah-rah or anything, Kane said. Im just having fun, getting excited and trying to do my thing on the ice.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Boston Bruins tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Scott Darling gets the nod.

Joel Quenneville is giving a struggling Corey Crawford a breather tonight, electing to go with Darling in the final game of the father's road trip. Darling is 11-4-2 with a 2.34 goals against average, .924 save percentage and one shutout in 20 games this season. His numbers aren't as great on the road, where he is 4-2-1 with a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage compared to a 7-2-1 record with a 1.98 GAA and .928 save percentage at home, but he fared well against Boston last season. The Lemont native stopped 42 of 46 shots, good for a .913 save percentage, in a 6-4 win at the United Center last April.

2. The Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line.

The Blackhawks' trio of Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin had a rare zero points in Tuesday's 6-4 win over Colorado, but don't expect to see that again. In fact, it could be the opposite. In their last meeting against the Bruins, a 6-4 win on April 3 during the 2015-16 season, they combined for 11 points (five goals, six assists), highlighted by a Kane hat trick that put him at 100 points on the season for the first time in his career. 

3. How the rookies build off a monsterous game.

In arguably the most well-rounded victory of the season Tuesday in Colorado, the Blackhawks had three rookies that had multi-point efforts. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals, including the game winner. Tanner Kero had two goals and one assist, while Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. It was the top-six that was doing the heavy lifting earlier in the season, now the bottom-six is slowly starting to contribute on a consistent basis. The Blackhawks will be in great shape if they can confidently roll four lines that have the potential to find the back of the net on any given shift.

4. Patrice Bergeron vs. Jonathan Toews.

Two of the best two-way centers in the league will go head-to-head, and it's always a fun matchup to watch. Bergeron leads the league with 597 faceoff wins, and is ranked fifth with a 58.4 percentage at the dot while Toews ranks eighth in wins with 473 — despite missing nine games with a back injury — and sits at sixth with a 57.5 percentage. Both of the perennial Selke Trophy candidates have struggled offensively this season, with Bergeron recording only 21 points in 45 games and Toews with 22 points in 38 contests. Bergeron has been heating up as of late, though, scoring three goals and six assists in his last eight games. Bergeron also leads the league in possession numbers, with the Bruins controlling 61.9 percent of the even-strength shot attempts when he's on the ice.

5. Brad Marchand.

In September, Marchand inked an eight-year, $49 million deal and it's already paying dividends for the Bruins. He has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in his last eight games, and 45 points total, which is by far the most on his team and tied for sixth in the NHL. He's 16 points away from tying his career high of 61 set last season, with a little less than half the year to go. He's also had great success against the Blackhawks. In his last six games against Chicago, dating back to the 2013-14 campaign, he has registered at least a point in all of them, scoring four goals and adding five assists. To make life more difficult, he's a player that enjoys getting under people's skin, so expect him to be a big factor tonight.

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