Blackhawks expect Patrick Kane to make early return for playoffs

CHICAGO -- Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who suffered a fractured left clavicle nearly seven weeks ago, has been cleared for "full participation" and is expected to play against the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, coach Joel Quenneville said Monday.

Kane, who participated in his first full-contact team practice Monday, could play as early as Game 1 on Wednesday. He suffered the injury Feb. 24 and was given a 12-week timetable to return after undergoing surgery Feb. 25.

The Blackhawks issued a statement Monday night saying that Kane has been cleared for "full participation."

''Patrick has been working extremely diligently with his rehabilitation and has recently returned to full-contact practice without any difficulty,'' team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in a release. ''After discussions with Patrick and the team, and examining Patrick today, we collectively feel it is appropriate, with minimal risk, for him to return to full participation.''

Quenneville said Kane could play in Game 1 if he has another successful practice and feels good Tuesday.

"We'll see how he does again [in practice on Tuesday]," Quenneville said. "I thought he had real good progress today. He got cleared for contact and handled everything pretty well. I thought [his] line looked good as well. We'll see how he is [Tuesday], and we're encouraged by today."

Kane wouldn't commit to playing in Game 1, but he was optimistic about playing in the first-round series.

"Where I am right now is just kind of go through practice today and see how I feel, and get as ready as possible and try to feel like what it's like to be in a game simulation," Kane said Monday. "I thought it was a good day, good practice for the team overall. Overall, I feel pretty good. Just got to take it day by day right now.

"I don't really know yet [about Game 1]. It's too early to tell right now. There still needs to be some things to hash out before that happens."

Kane skated with Kris Versteeg and Brad Richards on the second line and was on the top power-play unit during Monday's practice.

Richards, who worked out with Kane in Chicago during the team's recent road trip, said he looked forward to Kane's return -- but only when he was truly ready.

"He's been good," Richards said. "I've been skating with him the last few days. He just looks like Patrick to me. It's how he feels and everything that goes on with doctors. I don't have enough education to give you anything there.

"Whenever he comes back, he's going to be ready to play, and that's a good thing. No one knows when that is. He might not even know. That's up to them and the medical staff. He's not going to be out there unless he knows he can help the team."

Kane was tied for the league lead in points prior to his injury. He had 27 goals and 34 assists in 61 games this season, and he finished tied for fourth in the league with a 1.05 points-per-game average.

He was placed on long-term injury reserve following his injury, allowing the Blackhawks to use his salary-cap hit on other players. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman used that cap space to acquire forward Antoine Vermette and defenseman Kimmo Timonen prior to the trade deadline. There is no salary cap in the playoffs.

Kane has missed one playoff game out of a possible 94 games during his eight-year career with the Blackhawks. He has 37 goals, including seven game-winning goals, and 54 assists in 93 career playoff games. He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2013.

The Blackhawks went 12-8-1 without Kane in the lineup in their final 21 regular-season games. They were held to less than two goals in nine of those games.

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Scott Powers discusses the quick progression of Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane as he recovered from a fractured clavicle.
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