Kane won't be alone as he heads to Switzerland

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Kane won't be alone as he heads to Switzerland

In the fall of 2009, Patrick Kane and the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks started their Stanley Cup-winning season in Switzerland. Kane enjoyed the time over there, as well as the early boost he got for his game.

Now hell try to do the same thing over there during the NHL lockout.

Kane will head to Switzerland on Sunday, as he signed with the EHC Biel squad on Tuesday. Kane is the fifth Blackhawks player to sign with an overseas team although just the second North American one, with Bryan Bickell heading to Austria earlier this month. Kane chose Biel over offers from Russian and Swedish teams.

Its a chance to go back to where the Cup season began, and to be hockey ready for whenever this lockout ends.

Starting there a few years ago, it jump-started me to the season I had, Kane said after Wednesdays practice. I think its a good league for me, a fast league on big ice. From what Ive seen, a lot of NHL players have gone over there. So itll be nice to play some games, try to work on my skills a little bit.

Jonathan Toews wishes Kane well but isnt ready to make his move overseas yet.

Im not going to be quick to pull a Kane, he said with a smile. Im sure hes excited to get some games in, not that were not taking advantage of working hard here (at practice). When the time comes to make a decision like that, well see.

Boston Bruins left wing Tyler Seguin is already playing for EHC Bien; Kane said hes been told that he and Seguin could play on the same line.

Kanes contract is the standard for most lockout players as soon as the lockout ends, hell head back here. He contract isnt for a crazy amount of money, basically just enough to cover his insurance for playing there.

Kane wont be going to Switzerland alone, as his mom will join him on the trip. Kanes parents, especially his dad, spend a good amount of time in Chicago during the hockey seasons.

I was going to bring dad but I got a text from (my mother) this morning, Its just me and you. He cant do the nine-hour ride, Kane said. Im sure hell try to watch every game he can. I dont know if shell be there the whole time, but shell go over and help me get settled in.

As for ifwhen any other teammates join him in Europe, Kane said hes not sure.

Theyre interested to see why Im going now. But I think some of them are looking at their options, too, Kane said. Its different for everyone. Some guys have families and others have certain injuries to take care of. Who knows when the right time will be for them.

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both drop series openers

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both drop series openers

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Preview: Cubs look to bounce back vs. Giants tonight on CSN

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Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

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Luis Robert the latest high-end acquisition for White Sox

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Carlos Rodon 'getting closer' but still without time frame for return

Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?

MMQB's Peter King's thoughts on Trubisky, Howard, White and the Bears offense

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

“That’s what we’re supposed to look like,” Joe Maddon said Monday night after a 6-4 loss where the San Francisco Giants scored the first six runs and Wrigley Field got loudest for the David Ross “Dancing with the Stars” look-in on the big video board, at least until a late flurry from the Cubs.

But for a manager always looking for the silver linings, Maddon could replay Addison Russell’s diving stop to his right and strong throw from deep in the hole at shortstop to take a hit away from Christian Arroyo. Or Albert Almora’s spectacular flying catch near the warning track in center field. Or Anthony Rizzo stealing another hit from Brandon Belt with a diving backhanded play near the first-base line.

The highlight reel became a reminder of how the Cubs won 103 games and the World Series last year – and made you wonder why the 2017 team hasn’t played the same consistently excellent defense with largely the same group of personnel.

“Concentration?” Jason Heyward said, quickly dismissing the theory a defensive decline could boil down to focus or effort. “No shot. No shot. It is what it is when it comes to people asking questions about last year having effects, this and that. But this is a new season.

“The standard is still high. What’s our excuse? We played later than anybody? That may buy you some time, but then what?

“The goals stay the same. We just got to find new ways to do it when you have a different team.”

FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s statistical website, framed the question this way after the Cubs allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play ever last season, an analysis that goes all the way back to 1871: “Have the Cubs Forgotten How to Field?”

Even if the Cubs don’t set records and make history, they should still be better than 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency, with 37 errors through 43 games. The Cubs have already allowed 28 unearned runs after giving up 45 all last season.

“We just got to stay on it and keep focusing and not let the miscues go to our head,” Ben Zobrist said. “We just have to keep working hard and staying focused in the field. A lot of that’s the rhythm of the game. I blame a lot of that on the early parts of the season and the weather and a lot of difficult things that we’ve been going through.

“If we’re not hitting the ball well, too, we’re a young team still, and you can carry that into the field. You don’t want to let that happen, but it’s part of the game. You got to learn to move beyond miscues and just focus on the next play.”

Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, missed two weeks with a sprained right finger and has already started nine times in center field (after doing that 21 times all last season). Zobrist has morphed back into a super-utility guy, starting 16 games at second base and 15 in two different outfield spots.

[MORE CUBS: Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?]

Maddon has tried to drill the idea of making the routine play into Javier Baez’s head, so that the uber-talented second baseman can allow his natural athleticism and instincts to take over during those dazzling moments.

The Cubs are basically hoping Kyle Schwarber keeps the ball in front of him in left and setting the bar at: Don’t crash into your center fielder. Like Schwarber and Almora, catcher Willson Contreras hasn’t played a full season in The Show yet, and the Cubs are now hoping Ian Happ can become a Zobrist-type defender all over the field.

“I’m seeing our guys playing in a lot of different places,” Heyward said. “It’s not just been penciling in every day who’s going to center field or right field or left field. We did shake things up some last year, but we did it kind of later in the season. We had guys settle in, playing every day. This year, I feel like we’re having guys in different spots.

“It’s May whatever, (but) it seems like we haven’t really had a chance to settle in yet. Not that we’re procrastinating by any means, but it’s just been a lot of moving pieces.”

The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with a formula that incorporated lights-out pitching, airtight defense and just enough clutch pitching. The Cubs are now a 22-21 team trying to figure it out again.

“Defense comes and goes, just like pitching,” said Kris Bryant, the reigning National League MVP, in part, because of his defensive versatility. “I feel like if you look at last year, it’s kind of hard to compare, just because it was so good. We spoiled everybody last year. Now we’re a complete letdown this year.”

Bryant paused and said: “Just kidding. Different years, things regress, things progress, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”