Eddie Olczyk: ‘Kane Well Ahead Of Schedule’

Scott Ferrall was in Las Vegas two weekends ago. It was late in the evening – or early in the morning, depending on your point of view – and he had just finished his “dealings at the table” and was enjoying a gigantic stogie as he walked toward a casino elevator.

And that’s when he saw them.

Joel Quenneville, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and several other members of the Chicago Blackhawks. Ferrall didn’t just see them that night, either. He saw them in the casino for the next couple of days.

He may have been the only one who noticed.

“(It was) the weirdest thing,” Ferrall said. “No one knew them because it was a bunch of degenerates and gambling addicts and freaks and alcoholics walking around the casino.”

The Blackhawks were “left alone” and “loving every second of it.”

Interesting.

What do we make of Chicago’s little trip to Vegas?

“What’s happened here over the last handful of years – and it’s hard to argue with success when you win two cups in five years – but Joel Quenneville has always used a time in the schedule to be able to bring the team down to Vegas and let their hair down a little bit for a day-and-a-half or two days – and that’s exactly what happened,” NBC lead NHL analyst Eddie Olczyk said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “No, they didn’t play very good in that next game against Minnesota (a 2-1 loss April 7), but they’ve been doing this – and if it’s not broke, you’re not going to try to fix it. It’s an opportunity for the boys to have a little bit of fun. That’s where they’ve gone, and we’ll see if it continues down the road.”

The Blackhawks (48-28-6) closed the regular season on a four-game losing streak, losing each game by one goal. No matter. They still made the playoffs and open against the Predators (47-25-10) in Nashville this Wednesday ay 8:30 p.m. ET.

Chicago advanced to the Western Conference Finals last season, losing to the Los Angeles Kings in seven games. The Blackhawks lost Game 7, 5-4, in overtime at the United Center.

This year, they hope to get back to the conference and finals and beyond, and there’s renewed hope that they can. Patrick Kane, who broke his clavicle Feb. 24, has been cleared to play, meaning he would be returning roughly five weeks earlier than anticipated.

“There’s no guarantee he’s going to be playing in the first game, but he’s been cleared to do everything that needs to be done to play the game,” Olczyk explained. “We’ll see if he’s in for game one. If (he) is, that’s a huge checkmark on the side of the Blackhawks. Both these teams – the Predators and the Blackhawks – have had a tough time scoring goals the last little while with Kane out of the lineup.

The Blackhawks have scored two goals or fewer in 16 of their last 25 games.

“You get your best offensive player back, your offensive igniter in Patrick Kane,” Olczyk said. “He’s good for a goal a game – being either the guy scoring or assisting on it. So if he does indeed come back in the series, and it looks like he is – whether or not he’s in for Game 1, I don’t think anybody knows until they make that announcement – he’s well ahead of schedule.”

Still, Blackhawks fans will be holding their collective breaths if Kane takes anything resembling a bone-jarring hit.

“He looks great skating, shooting and doing everything else,” Olczyk said, “but until you get popped on that thing, I don’t think anybody knows if it’s fully healed. But they’re saying that he’s good to go and it’s just a matter of when they give him the okay to get into the playoffs.”

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