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.

White Sox: Jose Quintana pleased with final warmup before Opening Day start

White Sox: Jose Quintana pleased with final warmup before Opening Day start

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana was pleased with his final warmup before Opening Day.

The White Sox Opening Day starter threw 48 pitches (30 strikes) against a Milwaukee Brewers minor league team at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday. Quintana allowed two hits, two runs (one earned), walked one and struck out three in three-plus innings. He next pitches at home on Monday against the Detroit Tigers.

"I finished my preparation on a high note," Quintana said. "I'm heading to the season with good energy and satisfied with all the worked and effort that I put in my preparation.

"I'm absolutely ready for the season to start."

A tweet from USA Today's Bob Nightengale on Tuesday suggested Quintana will start the season as a member of the White Sox despite myriad rumors. Nightengale noted that the Houston Astros refuse budge on what they're willing to pay for the 2016 All-Star. The White Sox have also held firm on their asking price and haven't been motivated by any of the offers they've received to move Quintana.

The team reduced the number of players still in camp to 34 on Tuesday with the trade of Peter Bourjos and by cutting nonroster invitees Cory Luebke and Matt Purke. Luebke, who has been sidelined for six days after he tweaked his hamstring, finished the spring with a 0.96 ERA in 9 1/3 innings. He can opt out of his minor-league deal in May. Purke struck out eight in eight innings and finished with a 2.25 ERA. 

Both had been in the mix for one of two open bullpen spots.

Fellow reliever Jake Petricka looked much calmer on Tuesday than he did after taking a comebacker off his hand Monday. X-rays were negative and Petricka played catch. He hopes to pitch as scheduled this weekend in Milwaukee. 

"This is just one of those you do everything you can do to stay healthy, and its part of the game you can't control," Petricka said. "You never want that to happen, especially this late in camp. "But we dodged a bullet and we're good to go."

The White Sox also had a close call with second baseman Tyler Saladino, who was hit by a pitch in the left wrist in minor league action on Monday. Saladino received treatment and could return to action on Wednesday.

"He's doing good, we're just holding him back today for my well being," Renteria said.

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Renteria said reliever Juan Minaya is improving but still likely to start the season on the DL. Minaya suffered an abdominal tear in mid-March. 

"He has been improving solidly and responding to the treatments," Renteria said.

Yolmer Sanchez went 2-for-2 with an RBI and scored a run in a 7-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Surprise, Ariz. 

Michael Ynoa allowed an unearned run and a hit in 2 1/3 scoreless innings. 

Zack Burdi struck out three in a scoreless inning.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs wrapping up spring training

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs wrapping up spring training

Today on the Sports Talk Live podcast, David Kaplan, Seth Gruen, Teddy Greenstein, and Mark Grote discussed Addison Russell’s injury, if Szczur or La Stella should get the Cubs final roster spot, if the Bulls would be better off facing the Celtics or Cavs in the first round of the playoffs, and Jay Cutler’s butt all over the internet.