“What I’ve noticed about it is I need to get my stamina up a little bit,” Kane said. “Sometimes I want to get off the ice a little bit early.”
Playing two consecutive minutes will do that. Kane’s endurance has been pushed to the max lately. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has been utilizing his star offensive player more than usual. Between playing on both power-play units and at times double-shifting on the third or fourth lines, Kane’s minutes have increased this month. He leads all NHL forwards with an average ice time of 21:30 in February, up from 19:29 last month.
That is all completely fine by Kane. Aside from the very end of his shifts on the power play, he’s enjoyed every second of his recent ice time surge.
“I feel great,” Kane said. “I feel good. I think sometimes when you play those extra shifts it gets you into the game a little bit more and gets you a little bit more involved. I’ll always welcome some extra shifts and some extra ice time, and it’s my job to be as prepared as possible to play those minutes.”
For Quenneville, it only makes sense to play the league’s points leader as much as possible. Quenneville also trusts Kane won’t overdo himself.
“He manages his ice as far as exertion during a shift or the course of a game, make sure he’s ready to go,” Quenneville said. “If he shows signs of fatigue, we give him enough rest. We’ll see how things go down the stretch. He’s been playing well. He wants to be out there, wants the puck, (he) makes us better.”
Kane has double-shifted in the past, but the decision to play him on both power-play units is something new. He played 7:14 of a possible 7:56 on the power play against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, 3:46 out of four minutes against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday and 5:57 out of 7:31 against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 13.
Quenneville said he chose to put Kane on both units because of how effective he is on the power play. He leads the Blackhawks with 21 power-play points.
“Just his production, seems like he has the puck the whole time, his play selection be it off entries, selling the play, patience, play recognition, production,” Quenneville said.
Kane isn’t taking that responsibility for granted either. He called it an honor to be allowed to play on both units.
“You’re playing with some great players on both units,” Kane said. “It’s a great opportunity to try to help your team produce. I think the power play has been pretty good the last few games, just haven’t found the back of the net as much as we’ve wanted.
“It’s sometimes still getting used to different spots on the power play as well. I’m trying to get accustomed to that and make sure I get my stamina up so I can play those full two minutes. But it’s an honor, for sure. So many great players in here, for me to be on it for two minutes right now is something you want to take advantage of the opportunity and make sure the power play is doing well when you’re out there.”