Blackhawks' Kane will give it a shot at center

 
By Brian Miller
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/26/2011 8:27 PM
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  • Patrick Kane, far right with Jonathan Toews (19) and Patrick Sharp, possibly could be switching to center for the Blackhawks.

    Patrick Kane, far right with Jonathan Toews (19) and Patrick Sharp, possibly could be switching to center for the Blackhawks. Associated Press File Photo

Looking for consistent offensive production, the Blackhawks have decided to address their needs at the center position with a little creativity.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman approached right wing Patrick Kane during the summer about playing center, a position Kane played while making his way up the minor-league ranks.

"We'll see if it works or not, but I'm going to do my best there and see what happens," Kane said following Monday morning's practice at the United Center.

"I've played center for a lot of my life and obviously I'm pretty comfortable on the wing, but it's preseason so might as well try it and see if it works."

Kane played in the middle of a line with Andrew Brunette and Marian Hossa during practice.

There were never any faceoffs for Kane, matched opposite captain Jonathan Toews. Kane admitted he needs to show his defense has improved enough to match up with bigger, physical offensive centers around the league.

"Anything you can put your mind to, especially defensively, you can do," he said. "But I think my defense has definitely developed over the past three years and I feel pretty confident in my own end.

"Obviously center is a whole different position, but it's something you have to work on, I guess."

An NHL all-star the past two seasons as a wing, Kane is understandably understated with his level of excitement on making the possible switch.

But he's willing to do anything to help solidify the team to make it back to another Stanley Cup Finals.

Coach Joel Quenneville said he believes Kane has welcomed the challenge.

"His anticipation, his hockey sense of the puck area is good," Quenneville said. "I think that's the way we want to play, with a quick stick and position of being strong.

"He's got a real good feel for it there. The offensive end, I think with a commitment in that area he could be fine down low. He doesn't have to move bodies around, just make sure you're looking to kill plays and looking to get the puck. I think that's what he can do."

While center Patrick Sharp recovers from an appendectomy, Quenneville is more than content to keep center Dave Bolland on the checking line with his success at disrupting the other team's top line, as well as his ability to put the puck in the net.

Quenneville believes as many as 10 players could play the center position if needed. If the Kane experiment doesn't work out, the Blackhawks still feel good about what they have, but they'll try to make the this experiment pay off.

"(Kane) should be able to adapt to that situation, but we'll watch it from the luxury of having several guys that could be in the middle as well," Quenneville said. "But him with the puck is a pretty good thing."

Roster cuts:

The Hawks trimmed their roster following Sunday's 4-3 shootout loss to Detroit. One of the youngsters who made it through was 20-year-old center Brandon Pirri, who had 2 goals and an assist in the game.

"He was here today, so that was a good sign based on his game last night," Quenneville said. "He's had a real good camp.

"He had a real good camp last year and we thought he made good progress over the course of last season (at Rockford). It's nice to see the growth in his game.

"There's some signs that he's going to play. But he really enhanced the depth chart organizationally and being able to play and fulfill a need for us in the middle of the ice."

"I'm just trying to make an impression in the coaching staff's mind," Pirri said. "There's so much depth here. You try to almost make them take you.

"You don't want to leave anything out there so that they have it in the back of their mind that he didn't play his hardest, or anything like that."

Dave Bolland lauded the play and energy of newcomers such as Pirri and Brandon Staad, who worked with Jonathan Toews and Viktor Stalberg on the top line Monday.

The Hawks assigned forwards Kyle Beach, Jimmy Hayes, Peter LeBlanc and Brandon Segal to the Rockford IceHogs, and also sent defensemen Brian Connelly and Joe Lavin to the AHL affiliate.

The Hawks also announced they have loaned goaltender Cristobal Huet to HC Fribourg-Gotteron SA of the Swiss National League A.

The roster now stands at 32 active players.