CHICAGO – At 11:42 a.m. on Monday, Patrick Kane stopped at the edge of the rink at Johnny’s Ice House West, the Blackhawks’ auxiliary practice facility. He wiped down his stick before he skated onto the ice, double-tapped the blade and then dumped over a bucket of pucks before he went to work. A minute later, Jonathan Toews joined him. Chicago’s captain picked up one of the scattered discs and stick-handled through the face-off circle before flicking a shot into the upper right corner of an empty net.
It was the first time since mid-March that the franchise cornerstones had skated together in public. They’d mostly been sequestered as they recovered from injuries – Kane’s knee, Toews’ nebulous “upper-body” – but here they were in full view as the Blackhawks’ defense of their Stanley Cup championship began. And not one other skater on the roster joined them. Aside from two goalies, it was just Kane and Toews and 20 brisk minutes of hard work. This was a fitting opening scene for the postseason: Chicago will go nowhere in the playoffs without its two Conn Smythe Trophy winners drawing everyone’s attention. But the Blackhawks are also going to need more than just Kane and Toews.
“The first four games I was out, the team went 4-0,” Toews said with a smile, moments after leaving the ice and towelling off his sweat-soaked scalp. “It was looking pretty good for a while there. Our team has always done well dealing with key players being hurt, whether it’s guys like [Marian] Hossa or [Patrick Sharp] or Kaner, whatever. We’ve always found ways to step it up. Now when you get some top players back, it’s always about those guys fitting in and being part of the room. Nothing changes that way.”