Posted by: kristagolden | September 26, 2011

The center of attention

In the quest to bolster the Chicago Blackhawks after their giant player purge in 2010 and an admittedly less than stellar season following their Cup win, Stan Bowman grabbed some heavy hitters (literally).  He got a good array of defensemen and wingers to back up their go-to goal scorers (Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and some of the prospects are standing out in a big way *cough Brandon Saad cough*. But it’s the line change in practice today that had Blackhawks fans talking.

Since Kaner’s return to the ice after his wrist surgery, he’s been flirting with playing center in practices and scrimmages. He’s playing second line, a place that Patrick Sharp had been last season. Toews is first line, Dave Bolland is solid on third and Jamal Mayers brings up fourth line, so they need that second line slot filled. Floating wingers in there is all right in the short-term, but what they really need is another solid player. That could be Marcus Kruger, but from what I’ve read, he’s been weak in that area in training camp so far.

Will he or won't he be in the middle of things?

Playing center isn’t exactly new to Patrick – a story on the Blackhawks website says that he’d played center until he joined the National Team Development Program, where he was put at wing. He even toyed with playing center in the 2008 preseason when Denis Savard was coach. It’s just a matter of changing his thinking on the ice back to where he was when he was younger.

I’m not sure what to make of this, to be honest. Kaner’s comfortable at wing. He also has problems with being as defensive as a center needs to be – I’ve told Emma that he’s more of a lover than a fighter (he doesn’t have any listings on hockeyfights.com). Then there’s the question of his repaired wrist – today was the first day he’d skated without a splint on it. Because he’s not wearing that anymore, he may feel a need to overprotect it out of habit, and that could cost the team valuable puck possession if he’s in a face-off. And while Savard did have him at center back in ’08, it was in preseason – like now – but it didn’t work. Being a center carries with it a lot more responsibility and maneuvering than being a wing does. If Patrick Kane can handle it, it may bring him to that elite level of play he’s aiming to hit.

– Krista


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