|ESPN.com: NHL||[Print without images]|
CHICAGO -- The experiment is over. At least for now.
Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane will return to right wing starting Friday night when Chicago hosts the New York Islanders. Kane had been the team's second-line center for the first two months of the season, but Marcus Kruger will take over that position for the time being.
"Kane at center has been a good option for us," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice Thursday. "Kruger is playing well. It gives us a different look. We just wanted to try something else."
Kane has gone six games without a goal and had just three assists. He will line up next to Jonathan Toews on the top line for the first time this season. Viktor Stalberg remains at left wing.
"I think center worked for a little bit," Kane said. "It's one of those things that is still an option. Sometimes you have to keep things exciting and switch it up."
Quenneville said the move was based on Kruger's play as much as anything. The 21-year old Swede will center Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.
"Marcus gives us an option based on his performance," Quenneville said. "See how he handles it with the top guys. It's more of an experiment that way as well."
Kruger was cut on the final day of training camp but quickly returned, getting fourth-line duties. He was added to both the penalty-killing, then power-play units while also moving up to wing on the third line. Now he gets his shot among the top six forwards.
"I feel better," Kruger said of his play since training camp. "By playing better you get more and more confidence. I try to keep that up and just play good ... You want to get as much responsibility as you can out there. Just trying to get more and more ice time. Just have fun."
Kane and Toews have played much of their career together, including the run to the Stanley Cup championship in 2010.
"I think we'll just go back to our old ways and just go out there and make plays," Toews said. "Both guys want the puck more than the other. It's not necessarily a bad thing. The good thing about playing with Kane is sometimes you can just kind of shy away from the puck and get away from all the attention and kind of sneak back door and hide sometimes."
Toews was named the NHL's second star of the month with nine goals and nine assists. He leads the Blackhawks with 25 points.
"I wanted to have a good start to the year," he said. "I've said it multiple times, people tend to notice more when you score points. I guess that's proof of it again, so I'm just going to keep playing well whether that keeps happening or not."
Dave Bolland, Brent Seabrook and Steve Montador all sat out practice Tuesday but are expected to play against the Islanders. Corey Crawford starts in goal.
Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com.