The sands of time meant nothing to the Maple Leafs when preparing for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews Wednesday night.
Though in the sunset of their careers; the duo still put the guts and gusts in Windy City hockey, but now trade talk. One of them just might be in play if the Leafs go big name with a playoff upgrade by the March 3 NHL deadline.
Kane, the scoring winger originally from down the QEW in Buffalo, has 30 points in 20 career games versus Toronto. Leaf captain John Tavares has opposed him in the OHL, NHL and played internationally with Toews.
“Two elite players who’ve accomplished pretty much everything you can in this game,” Tavares said Wednesday after the game-weary Blackhawks skipped morning skate at Scotiabank Arena after losing 4-0 in Montreal. “A lot of respect for them and playing against them. You have to be ready.
“They’re such a staple to that franchise and the (Hawks) as a team. I don’t think you ever really thought it would come to that point (a possible trade), but seeing it from the outside, the way they’ve been talking about it, it’s becoming more likely.
“It’s probably not easy when you’ve played somewhere your whole career. I played (on Long Island) nine years and it was extremely difficult, they’ve been there longer and won three Cups. But they want to do this right, knowing them as people and players.”
FANS DESERVE BETTER
The Leafs had reason to dread their three community events between their loss to last-place Columbus on Saturday and Wednesday’s return to play.
But they received hearty cheers from a few hundred Canadian Armed Forces members who stayed on ice to meet them after the Jackets game, staged an open practice at City Hall Sunday before a few thousand fans, mostly adoring kids, and then schmoozed at Monday’s MLSE Foundation gala.
Tavares says getting that support after such a stinker on Saturday resonated with the players.
“It brings us back to what it means to play here, what this city means to the organization, how much they love the team, how much they believe in the team.
“We haven’t had these events the past few (COVID-19) years. It’s great to see the passion and love for this team across the city. (A three-day break) gives us time to focus on what we have to do to get better and connect again with our fan base.”
Defenceman Mark Giordano and coach Sheldon Keefe were more succinct.
“We’ve been sitting on that one a while,” Giordano said of Saturday, Keefe adding, “any time you lay an egg, you want to come back and have a good effort.
“We did a good job Friday on the road (in Columbus) and it was disappointing to have two periods like we did.”
Auston Matthews’ sweater with the alternate captain’s ‘A’ was hanging in its usual stall Wednesday morning, a sure sign he was back after a three-week absence to rehab a sprained knee.
The Leafs lost three of five games without their Rocket Richard Trophy winner after impressive win numbers through the years when he’s been hurt or suspended.
“It’s Auston, you want him in the lineup every time you can,” said defenceman Rasmus Sandin. “We’re excited to see him back.”
WILDER WILLY A HIT
William Nylander’s first career roughing penalty, Saturday against Columbus’s 5-foot-9 defenceman Nick Blankenburg was still a topic in the Leaf room on Wednesday, both serious and satirical.
“It’s about time,” laughed Sandin. “Obviously we don’t want to play on the PK, but at the same time, it shows emotion, the level of his competitiveness, that he really cares.
“He was a little frustrated (at missing a scoring chance) and he took it out on that little guy (Blankenburg). As much as I don’t like (being shorthanded), I kind of like it. His effort has gone up every single game this year.”
MARLIES ARE MORNING PEOPLE
The farm team played an 11 a.m. school day game Wednesday and beat Utica 2-1 at Coca-Cola Coliseum.
Alex Steeves, loaned in the morning, set up Dryden Hunt’s winner in the third with a great cross-ice pass. Bobby McMann had the opening goal with Erik Kallgren making 44 saves.
Chicago coach Luke Richardson, the former first round pick of Toronto in 1987, has taken solace in that his Central Division cellar-dwellers still show up every night, but Tuesday’s effort was not the case. “Right now, it’s hard to accept because I haven’t seen it that much this year,’’ Richardson said post-game. “I’ve been impressed [with the guys’ attention to detail. Some nights, other teams just overpower us with depth, but we push usually right to the end. Tonight, when they’re not connected early and it doesn’t seem like it’s coming and it gets more frustrating on the bench and on the ice, it’s hard to reel it in” … Matthews, post-all-star break in his NHL career, played 144 games before Wednesday with 89 goals, 75 assists and 164 points … Forward Nick Abruzzese is getting rave reviews from Marlies head coach Greg Moore: “His competitiveness, ability to get pucks back for the team, (staying) above, has greatly improved. That’s something we’ve talked a lot about. When he does get the puck back, he makes some incredible plays and makes teammates better.”
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