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Chicago Blackhawks brace for Patrick Kane’s return — as a Detroit Red Wing: ‘It’s definitely weird’

Chicago Blackhawks rookie Connor Bedard doesn’t have to be a 17-year veteran like Patrick Kane to grasp the magnitude of Sunday’s matchup against the Detroit Red Wings.

Former Hawks and Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios’ No. 7 jersey will be lifted to the United Center rafters before the game.

And for the first time in his career, Kane will return to the UC as the opposition — wearing a Red Wings jersey.

“The whole city and fan base is pretty pumped for that,” Bedard said Friday. “Obviously with Chelios’ jersey going up too, it’ll be a pretty special night. But we’ll worry about that tomorrow and Sunday.”

Hawks defenseman Seth Jones agreed.

“He’s obviously meant so much to this city and this organization,” Jones told the Tribune about Kane. “It’s hard to put into words, to be honest. You can’t really put a finger on it, but the game’s going to be crazy on Sunday with the jersey retirement before and then I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of emotions flying around with Kaner.

“And then people forget about Cat (ex-Hawk Alex DeBrincat) as well. It’s just going to be an awesome atmosphere. I’m really looking forward to that video tribute that they’re going to give Kaner, I think it’s going to be one of the best I’ve seen.”

Several Hawks shared thoughts about Kane’s return. Here are five things we learned.

1. Seeing red.

After Kane signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings on Nov. 28, Kurashev remarked, “It’s going to be so weird to see Kaner in that sweater.”

On Sunday, he’ll get an up-close view.

“That’s going to be definitely weird playing against him,” Kurashev said. “But it’s going to be fun. I’m sure it’s going to be an amazing crowd and an amazing atmosphere, especially with the Chelios night as well.”

Kurashev admitted he marked Sunday on his calendar long ago.

“That’s the one of the games I looked at before the year, like, when is this game coming?” he said. “Because I know it’s going to be a great atmosphere.”

Despite the Hawks’ traditional rivalry with Detroit, it was more jarring for Bedard to see Kane in New York Rangers blue after his trade in February 2023 than in Red Wings red.

“The Rangers (jersey) was a little weird because of the color. At least Detroit is kind of closer colors (to the Hawks),” Bedard said. “But it’s definitely weird. He was a Hawk for so long and meant so much to the fan base, the organization and everything.

“But he’s obviously doing really well and he’s super fun to watch, and it’s good to see.”

2. Kane is still a threat.

Kane opted for hip surgery over the summer and has looked like a rejuvenated player since, posting 10 goals and 14 assists in 25 games.

In fact, he’s on a six-game point streak entering Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues, and he scored the overtime winner against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday.

“He’s still super dynamic,” Jones said. “Even after the surgery, you can see in pre-scouting or watching the highlights, he’s always around the net, always making plays. That passing ability is never going to get lost, no matter what happens.”

Jones said he’ll have his eyes peeled for Kane coming down the rush.

“Since I’ve entered the league, you’ve just got to be aware, you’ve always got to be looking around,” Jones said, “because he’s going to find something that you don’t think is there.”

3. Bedard is unfazed by comparisons.

The timing of Kane’s departure did Bedard no favors.

Kane left via trade late last season as a three-time Stanley Cup winner and face of the franchise.

When the Hawks drafted Bedard with the No. 1 pick in June, he was anointed the team’s new savior, whether he welcomed that title or not.

Kane — also picked at No. 1 by the Hawks in 2007 — gave Bedard a call after the draft.

“It’s special for sure,” Bedard said. “A guy like him doesn’t have to do that.”

Kane plays wing and Bedard is a center, so take any comparisons with a grain of salt.

But Bedard recorded 17 goals and 22 assists in his first 43 games entering Friday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets. Kane had nine goals and 30 assists in his first 43 games.

You can go from there, comparing their skating and shooting styles, et cetera, but “I don’t care too much what people say or whatever,” Bedard said.

“If I can be anything like him, that’s pretty great, the career he had. I’m my own person and player and everything, so I’ll do what I do and he does what he does. He’s had a special career of course, but it’s hard to compare two guys.”

4. ‘How can I chirp?’

Kurashev played his first three NHL seasons with Kane, so he wasn’t sure how he would interact with Kane now that they’re no longer teammates.

“Depends on how the game goes, I guess,” he said with a laugh.

Kane is infamous for talking smack, even with teammates in practice.

“He’s probably going to say something, but I think I’m probably not going to chirp him,” Kurashev said. “How can I chirp? This guy you can’t chirp.”

5. Kane left an impression on the locker room.

There are 14 players on the Hawks active roster plus three on injured reserve who played with Kane at some point during his final season in Chicago.

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He still leaves an impression in his wake.

“He was great, a guy I always looked up to when I was younger growing up, always watching his highlights and just one of my eldest idols for sure,” Kurashev said. “Getting to play with him, I definitely looked a lot at what he does (in) practice and in the games, like his mentality. I took a lot from him.”

Jones remembers Kane’s unforgiving drive.

“Kaner was just intense every game,” he said. “He was just not messing around when he came to the rink, and he would show his intensity in different ways, whether he was frustrated or whatever the case was.

“We all get frustrated out there, but he just wanted to be the best. A lot of guys in this league that are great players show a lot of frustration on the ice because they want guys making plays … and putting the puck in the net and helping the team win.

“If I learned anything from Kaner, it’s just that intensity that he brings to the rink every day. … He’s one of the best American-born hockey players that have ever lived.”