Quenneville moving on from Kane at center

CHICAGO -- If ever there was an indication by Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville that he was done playing Patrick Kane at center, it came over the last two games.

Kane’s latest stint in the middle, previous to the games against Colorado and Detroit, just didn’t look or feel right. If he was “into” the experiment to start the season, he seemed disinterested this time around. His back-checking, in particular, was nonchalant to say the least.

So when Andrew Shaw lined up at center in his second NHL game on Friday against Colorado, followed by a slumping Michael Frolik on Sunday against Detroit, it’s as if Quenneville was screaming to the hockey gods (or front office), “Find me a center!”

The funny thing is Quenneville originally moved Kane back to wing with Jonathan Toews to re-ignite his game. Mysteriously, he slumped and had the puck less, so a move back to the middle, eventually with Marian Hossa, was tried again. If you can’t get a few points with Hossa on your wing then something is wrong. But this time Kane started hurting the Hawks defensively, so he’s back at wing again and probably to stay.

His three goals and 13 assists over the last 23 games are below any standard he’s set for himself, particularly in the goal-scoring department. But Quenneville thinks he’s coming out of it.

“I thought his game was where it needs to be,” he said of Kane’s night against Detroit. “I thought he complimented our team game very well, and off of that I’m sure things will develop, just keep persevering. He did a lot of good things. That line was playing against the top line and was responsible in a lot of ways, generated a lot of offense. Some nights you don’t get rewarded for it. I thought [Sunday] night was the recipe for getting out of what he’s been going through.”

Some of that may be true, but Kane was caught floating again on the winning goal by Pavel Datsyuk in overtime. It’s less floating and more cheating. Kane wants to head out on a break the other way once the Hawks get the puck but he’d rather not start that break near the goal line.

The cliché in hockey is that if you’re not scoring you need to be helping the team in other ways. Until this moment in his career Patrick Kane has never needed to worry about living up to that notion. So either the scoring drought needs to end or Kane needs to play some hockey.

Kruger closer: Marcus Kruger skated with several teammates during an optional practice on Monday. The coaches have been putting him through extensive drills as he recovers from a concussion.

“He’s doing good,” Quenneville said. “Better every day. He’ll probably have to do some more testing over the next few days. Hopefully we’ll get him playing here real soon.”

Jackets’ new coach: The Hawks will face Columbus on Tuesday with new coach Todd Richards at the helm after Scott Arniel was fired on Monday. It wasn’t lost on Quenneville that his team has had to face a few teams with new coaches, making the task more difficult as the opposition usually gets some energy from a new boss.

“How about the timing of this,” Quenneville joked Monday. “Someone might have the number [of teams the Hawks faced with new coaches] but it’s nothing to joke about as a coach. But at the same time it’s pretty unusual.”

This year alone the Hawks faced St. Louis in Ken Hitchcock’s debut and saw Montreal and Los Angeles shortly after coaching changes in those cities. In fact, the Hawks have faced the Blues the first game after they’ve made their last two coaching changes, with Davis Payne preceding Hitchcock. They lost to both the Blues and Kings but beat Montreal.

Quotable: “I need to be better, our line needs to be better. We’re supposed to be the line that doesn’t get scored against. Looking at the stats, we’re all in the minuses. In the next half we need to step up and prove to coach and to the team we can do what we need to do.”-- Bryan Bickell, after having his midseason individual meeting with the coaches on Monday.