BLACKHAWKS WATCH (2): It would be hard to imagine Patrick Kane playing somewhere other than in a Blackhawks’ uniform, given how the organization has made both him and Jonathan Toews the centre-piece of their marketing program. Kane has had an up-and-down time of it since scoring the winning goal in Game 6 vs. the Philadelphia Flyers in the spring of 2010. That goal capped a 28-point playoff, which followed an 88-point regular season, all at the age of 21. The sky seemed the limit. But last year, he slilpped to just 73 points and this year, he was down again – to 66. Kane suggested his slow start was the result of off-season wrist surgery (and gave that as a reason for why he declined to play for Team USA at the world championships). Kane played all three forward positions for the Blackhawks and had two separate turns at centre, one before Toews’ injury, once after. Kane largely struggled in the face-off circle, but otherwise, playing centre seems like a natural fit for someone of his puck-handling abilities. He apparently is amendable to playing there again next season; and if that’s the way the Blackhawks go, it would make life easier for general manager Stan Bowman, since about half the league is searching for centres who can play on the top two lines and they’re really aren’t a whole lot of them available on the open market.
STUART LIKELY ON THE MOVE: There have been hints, all season long, that defenceman Brad Stuart would likely part ways with the Detroit Red Wings once his contract expires in July, not for professional, but for personal reasons. For the past four years, while Stuart has played in Detroit, his wife and children have stayed behind in California. It’s not a situation he wants to see continue. The question will be, is there a landing place for him among the three California teams? He has already played for the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings, so that would suggest the Anaheim Ducks might be at the top of the list, a team that has two excellent young rearguards (Cam Fowler, Luca Sbisa) that might benefit from having someone with Stuart’s experience and pedigree. The Ducks are also committed to veterans Lubomir Visnovsky and Francois Beauchemin, so they some depth there and it may well be a dollars issue. Once the Los Angeles Kings finish up the season, they’ll need to assess whether Stuart – who played for Darryl Sutter years ago in San Jose - might be a fit too.
“I love it here,” Stuart said to the Macomb Daily. “If it was a purely hockey decision, I would stay. But I’ve got other things to consider and factors other than just hockey. Those are things I guess I’ll have to figure out in the next month and a half.”
AND FINALLY: While three of the four Eastern Conference playoff series went right down to the wire, the Philadelphia Flyers were essentially enjoying a week off, getting the usual number of yucks from goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, but mostly, allowing their injured players to heal and get ready for the second round. A lot of the batter bruised among them, including Daniel Briere and Jaromir Jagr, skipped practices, while a couple of injured defencemen, Nicklas Grossman and Andrej Meszaros, inched closer to a return. Grossman played four of six games against the Pittsburgh Penguins; Meszaros has yet to be activated for these playoffs because of surgery. Up front, a key ingredient could be James van Riemsdyk, who played minimally (7:08) in two games after returning to the line-up from a broken foot. Van Riemsdyk had a difficult injury-filled year (a concussion sidelined him early, limiting him to 24 points in 43 games, not the sort of production the Flyers imagined after van Riemsdyk broke through last spring with seven goals in 11 playoff games. Nothing can salvage a mediocre regular season like a quality post-season, and van Riemsdyk will get that chance – likely on a line with Matt Read and Jakob Voracek – starting in the second round.