In an effort to provide some balance to the top two lines, Patrick Kane has shifted back to center for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Kane started the season in the middle after playing right wing for most of his first four seasons in the NHL. The move lasted 24 games before coach Joel Quenneville moved Kane back to his natural position. During Wednesday night's 2-0 defeat to the Los Angeles Kings, Quenneville shook up the lines and had Kane center for Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa in the late going.
When the Hawks face the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night at the United Center, Kane is scheduled to center the second line with wingers Sharp and Viktor Stalberg.
"The last two times I’ve gone to center it seems like we’ve had a little bit more balance," said Kane, who also saw some time in the middle during the Hawks' game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 20. "We’ve had some good periods and some pressure in their end and some chances. I guess maybe they want to start out that way and see where it goes. I’m excited. It’s always fun to play with new linemates and new combinations. Sharp has been playing great and so has Stalberg so I’m playing with two pretty confident guys right now."
Kane had seven goals and 17 assists with a plus-9 plus-minus rating while at center to start the season and is currently sitting at nine goals and 25 helpers.
"At center you’re always moving, you’re always low and you’re always supporting not only the forwards but the defensemen as well," Kane said. "You are an out for the D-men a lot of times to give you the puck and skate up the ice. I have no problem with that. One of the strengths of my game is having the puck and making plays."
Rookie center Marcus Kruger will miss his second consecutive game with a concussion when the Hawks face the Wings. Veteran Daniel Carcillo will return after missing six contests with a suspected concussion. Carcillo skated on the top line with center Jonathan Toews and Hossa during Thursday's practice at the United Center.
"It’s exciting to get back in the lineup, especially against Detroit," Carcillo said. "I’ll have to be on my game and focused. We all are. We have to bounce back from last game and it will be a good test."
Also in the lineup with be Jimmy Hayes, who will make his NHL debut after being recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Thursday. Hayes is expected to start on the fourth line with center Jamal Mayers and Andrew Brunette.
"It’s a dream come true," Hayes said of his recall. "It’s what I worked for my whole life. It was a great phone call to get. I’m just happy to get a chance and see what I can do with it."
One-timer: Corey Crawford will make his fourth consecutive start in goal when the Hawks face the Wings.