(Photo: Youtube HockeyChannelHD)

When Patrick Kane fell awkwardly into the boards after a crosscheck in February, the Chicago Blackhawks and fans prepared themselves for the worst.

After the team announced he’d need surgical repairs to a broken clavicle, the Hawks planned to go without their leading scorer for not just the rest of the season, but also the first two rounds of the playoffs. As the team prepares for game one in the first round against the Nashville Predators, though, Kane has proven yet again his otherworldly ability to come up big when he’s needed.

 


 

His recovery has been ahead of schedule all along. Rather than the expected 12 weeks, a Wednesday return would be the seven week mark. Over the last few weeks, though, Kane’s progress has exceeded expectations–much like the player himself.

“It’s exciting,” Kane told media after Tuesday’s practice Johnny’s IceHouse West. “It’s been a long 50 days here, so it’s a credit to a lot of hard work from the doctors and the trainers, and just listening to them and trying to heal as fast as possible.”

He started workouts shortly after surgery and was skating with the team April 1. By last weekend, he was practicing with contact. He had his first full-contact practice Monday. Following a post-practice X-ray and doctor’s visit, Kane was given permission to play. “Patrick has been working extremely diligently with his rehabilitation and has recently returned to full-contact practice without any difficulty,” team doctor Dr. Michael Terry said in a release. “After discussions with Patrick and the team, and examining Patrick today, we collectively feel it is appropriate, with minimal risk, for him to return to full participation.”

Before his injury, Kane led the league in the scoring with 64 points in 61 games.

In the 21 games without him, the team scored two goals or fewer in nine games (14 not counting empty-netters) and carried a 12-8-1 record. They lost the last four.

“To get him back is only going to help us,” Captain Jonathan Toews told media. “So I’m really looking forward to getting it started tomorrow.”

Kane is an integral part of the Blackhawks’ postseason for a number of reasons. He’s known for coming up clutch when times look tough.

In the 93 out of 94 playoff games where Kane has suited up for the Hawks, he’s scored seven game-winning goals in a total of 37 goals. He has 54 assists. In 2010, he scored the Cup-winner and in 2013 he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for the playoffs’ Most Valuable Player.

Last year, Kane missed the last 12 games of the regular season with a lower body injury before returning to a pretty impressive playoff run–20 points in 19 games, including four game-winning goals.

“Hopefully it’s one of those things that can make me stronger, give me some more excitement, maybe you get the right type of rest and energy and you have some more going into playoffs,” he said. “So it’s almost like it’s a new season for me and I’m sure a lot of guys feel that way in here. It’s definitely exciting to get back and do something that I love.”

After a four-game slump, hopefully it’ll be like a new season for the whole team.

The Blackhawks take on the Nashville Predators for game one, round one at 7:30 p.m. CT  Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

 

Carly Mullady grew up needing to know more about icing than its deliciousness on cupcakes. She's the lone daughter of four children, with a father who was among the last cut from the Midwest tryouts for the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team. And she knows very little matches the thrill that happens from puck-drop to handshakes. A rink didn’t return to her hometown until she was gone, but she’s been able to see two younger brothers on the ice. She's their feistiest fan. Her other hockey loyalty lies with the Blackhawks--whether it's meant seeing games for $8 with student IDs when the Madhouse didn’t have much of a temper at all, or dancing to Chelsea Dagger at standing room only--there’s something magical about a roaring anthem, the Indianhead sweater, and the Original Six. A former journalist and current editor, she carries a penchant for excitement (and maybe even fighting) with a resume that includes working for Chicago-area newspapers, and television, including The Jerry Springer Show, as well as NBCUniversal in New York. After East Coast living and a return to the Chicago area, the new Mrs. is giving Graceland a go with her Southern Gent, who now shares her adoration of the game, and their rescue dog, Doc Holliday. Other interests include Cubs, Bears, Illini, Crimson Tide, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, baking a mean pineapple upside-down cake, Kate Spade accessories, and a properly coordinated cardigan for every ensemble.

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