Report from Helsinki: Madden's experience already paying off for Kane, Blackhawks

October, 1, 2009

HELSINKI -- Out walked Patrick Kane and John Madden on Thursday, the kid and the vet, chuckling to each other as they left Hartwall Arena.

Kane has taken a liking to his new, older teammate on the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I've sat beside him in the locker room here a couple of times, and from what I can tell, he's a pretty down-to-earth guy, a comical guy, and a low-key guy," Kane said after Thursday's practice. "We've had some good laughs so far. He's a good guy to have in the locker room. He's a great pick-up for us and the experience he has with the Stanley Cups and Selke Trophies, why not pick up a guy like that on a young team that's up and coming?"

Madden has been there, done that -- a two-time Stanley Cup champion in New Jersey. But the 36-year-old center is also careful not to be overbearing with that Cup experience to his new teammates.

"There's a balance there. I haven't said too much," Madden said Thursday on the eve of his team's season opener against the Florida Panthers. "Maybe the one thing that I've said in private conversations to individual guys is that teams are going to be ready for us. A lot of people are picking us to go far in the playoffs and have a great season.

"We have a lot of great players, but you still have to come and work every night. I think they know that; that's how they got their success, is by working hard. The accolades will come after that. I think they're pretty aware of what's going on and hopefully I can just help nurture that along."

Sitting in the stall next to Kane, for example, is the perfect chance to have those types of conversations.

"I actually played with his younger brother Scott in a summer league growing up," Kane said with a chuckle. "It's just funny how things work out like that. It feels like yesterday I was playing with his little brother on a summer league hockey team. And here I am sitting next to John getting ready for the NHL regular season. It's pretty cool."

After spending his entire nine-year NHL career with a superb defensive machine in New Jersey, Madden is looking forward to fitting in with an offensive juggernaut in Chicago.

"But before I went to New Jersey, when I played junior hockey, college hockey and even in [AHL] Albany, I was an offensive guy, I scored goals and got points," said Madden. "I had 97 points before I came to the NHL [98 points, actually]. So I know how to play the offensive end -- it's just been a while. It'll come back. Hopefully it'll be like riding a bike."

And hopefully, Madden thinks, he'll be one of the missing parts in leading this young and talented team to the promised land. But one thing he hasn't done since arriving on the scene with the Hawks is wear either one of his Cup rings around. That's in the past.

"No, I can't remember that last time I've worn my Stanley Cup ring," said Madden. "I've grown since 2003, I've gotten bigger. It doesn't fit anymore. I need a new one."

Crawford on waivers
The Blackhawks were crossing their fingers here Thursday that no other NHL club would claim young goalie Corey Crawford on waivers. The Hawks put Crawford on waivers Wednesday after giving the edge to Antti Niemi for the backup job to Cristobal Huet.

"It was a tough decision," Hawks GM Stan Bowman told on Thursday. "But I don't want to elaborate more until we see what happens. I'll have more to say tomorrow."

Teams had until noon ET Thursday to put in a claim and Crawford cleared.

Sick cats
There were a few missing bodies at practice for the Florida Panthers on Thursday as the flu bug hit the team hard. No. 1 center Stephen Weiss once again didn't skate.

"We've got a flu bug running through the team," said coach Peter DeBoer. "It started earlier on the trip. Stephen Weiss was the first player to get it and now it's run through a couple more guys today, [Keith] Ballard, [Bryan] Allen and [Jordan] Leopold. Right now, we've just got to keep those guys away from the other players and hope we can get through Friday and Saturday without it spreading any more."

It's possible the Panthers will have to start the season Friday without Weiss, Ballard, Allen and Leopold in the lineup. Weiss is the biggest concern. He centers the big line between David Booth and Nathan Horton. He's also battling a groin problem.

"Even if he didn't have the flu, I don't think he would have skated today with the groin," said DeBoer. "We would have given him as much time as possible in order to get him ready for Friday's game."

Drop the puck!
There was a buzz in the Blackhawks room Thursday -- enough with the preseason, real hockey is finally here.

"It's really exciting to get the regular season under way," said Kane. "I can't express enough how excited we are. It's been a long preseason with all the travel. It's been hectic. It's a cool way to promote the game, but we want to get the regular season under way. Hopefully we can pull off a couple of wins and head home with smile on our faces and a bit of confidence."

Coach Joel Quenneville said there's just something about the first game of the season.

"I always found as a player and coach that the first one you always get more butterflies, you're more anxious to get under way and there's a lot of anticipation and build-up," he said.

Getting peppy
Both teams attended a pep rally downtown in late afternoon with a decent crowd on hand to cheer them on. The head coaches and captains for both teams thanked the crowd for their hospitality.

There was an awkward moment at one point when the Finnish host introduced the Hawks captain as Bryan McCabe. Oops. He quickly realized his error and announced Jonathan Toews.


Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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