The experiment is over.
When the Blackhawks too the ice for practice on Thursday, Patrick Kane was not skating as the second line center as he had for the first two months of the season. Instead, he was back at the right-hand side of captain Jonathan Toews as a wing on the team's top line. Viktor Stalberg was still at Toews' left.
In Kane's place as the second line center was 21-year-old Marcus Kruger, who has been very impressive early this year. He has two goals and five assists in 24 games with Chicago, but he has been an important piece on both special teams for Chicago and has been a more physical player than his 170-pound frame would suggest.
One of the major reasons for the change was Kane's struggles in the faceoff circle. His production has been as good as ever so far this year; he has 24 points in 25 games, and his 17 assists are tied for sixth in the NHL. However, Kane won only 41 percent of his faceoffs in November, which was more than seven percent lower than Kruger.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville indicated after practice that Kane was moving back to wing "for the foreseeable future."
The problem with the Hawks at times this year has been their team defense, and the move of Kruger to the second line is putting a more defensive-minded player into a position to play more minutes. If the lines hold from practice on Thursday, he'll be between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa on Friday night.
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