Detroit – Dylan Larkin was always a fan of Patrick Kane as Larkin was moving up the hockey ranks.
Larkin 22, would see Kane, 30, win Stanley Cups and individual awards, and he admired the way Kane went about his business on and off the ice.
But getting an opportunity last year at the world championships to be teammates on Team USA, Larkin was impressed with one other facet of Kane’s approach.
“How dialed in he is to everything,” said Larkin after Wednesday’s morning skate, ahead of the Detroit vs. Chicago game at Little Caesars Arena. “How he prepares, it was impressive. He cares a lot. Even in the world championships, we were playing teams that we should beat. But he still wants a lot from himself and from the team; he has that killer instinct.
“We saw that last time (Feb. 10, a 5-2 Chicago victory) we played these guys, and he had a chance late in the game and put us away (with a late goal).
“He has that ability to finish and win games for his team.”
At an age that many players in the NHL are beginning to slow down statistically, Kane is having one of his best seasons – a Most Valuable Player-caliber season.
Kane won the Hart Trophy in 2015-16 with 46 goals and 60 assists.
Going into Wednesday’s game, Kane had 90 points (36 goals, 54 assists), ranking second in the NHL to Nikita Kucherov (99). The 36 goals are also second to Alex Ovechkin (42), and Kane is third in assists.
Kane’s competitiveness also stood out to Wings coach Jeff Blashill at the world championships (Blashill was the Team USA head coach).
“His competitive fire was unbelievable, and his leadership was awesome,” Blashill said. “Those two things – not having been around him at all – I had an unbelievable amount of respect for his game on the ice, but to see his competitive fire and his leadership was real incredible.
“There’s a lot of talented people but the best in the world, guys who have that inner fire – you look at Tom Brady at quarterback, the inner drive and fire they have – that’s what Kane has. He obviously is super talented, but, man, his competitiveness is awesome.”
Blashill reminded reporters of the individual matchup Kane had with Toronto’s Auston Matthews earlier this season, when Kane answered Matthews’ late-game goal with one of his own.
“He kind of said, ‘Not yet, not yet, I still might be the guy,’” Blashill said. “It’s awesome. He’s an excellent player and leader and you can see that winning three Stanley Cups for sure.”
Larkin said it’s critical to try to limit Kane’s space on the ice.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Larkin said. “One of the best ever American-born players. I grew up watching him a lot and have a lot of respect for him, and if you give him space, he’s going to make you pay.
“You have to take away his time and space and watch him every second he’s on the ice.”
Forward Evgeny Svechnikov (knee) took another step forward in his rehabilitation Wednesday, taking part in the morning skate.
Svechnikov had knee surgery in October at the end of the exhibition season. Svechnikov is hopeful of returning to game action by the end of March, although there’s no specific timetable.
“It’s hard to say,” said Svechnikov of what he expects in these next several weeks. “At this point, hopefully, yes (he’s hopeful of playing). But I just do whatever they tell me and I’ll go from there.
“It feels good. I feel fine, excited. I didn’t know how I’d feel, but I feel good.”
Blashill isn’t projecting what this next month or two holds for Svechnikov.
“If I put a timeline on him, it wouldn’t be right,” Blashill said. “Part of it is progression and today was a step to where he was able to skate with our players, and I know he was excited about it.
“But it’s nothing more than a step right now.”