CHICAGO — It was less than a week ago and Patrick Kane was discussing getting his 1,000th NHL point as if it was going to take some time.
“I mean, it’s still a little ways away, but it’s one of those things that’s pretty special,” the Chicago Blackhawks forward said Jan. 11, having 994 points at the time. “We’ll see what happens, and when it happens, but it’ll be a pretty cool milestone.”
Three games later, Kane is two points away from the mark heading into Chicago’s game at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN1, SNO, SNW, SNP, NBCSCH, NHL.TV).
The 31-year-old had four assists in the past three games, giving him 998 points (380 goals, 618 assists) in 951 NHL games. He leads the Blackhawks and is ninth in the League with 60 points (24 goals, 36 assists) in 48 games this season. Center Jonathan Toews is second on Chicago with 39 points (12 goals, 27 assists).
Kane is on pace for 102 points, which would be the third-most in his NHL career, behind the 110 points he had last season and 106 in 2015-16.
“He keeps getting better every year,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. “He’s got the experience that some of the younger players don’t have, but he’s able to add new wrinkles to his game all the time. When he’s on the ice, it’s dangerous for the other team.”
Just ask Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, who saw Kane’s brilliance firsthand Dec. 31, when he had two goals and two assists in a 5-3 Chicago win.
“The thing about him is, with any scorer, if they get one early in the game, they’re feeling it, and that’s what happened to us in Calgary,” Giordano said. “You have to try to not give him the blue line. Once he gets in, he pulls up and he’s one of the best in the game.”
As for Kane not slowing down, Giordano said, “Yeah, he’s getting better, to be honest.”
Kane has been consistent and streaky this season. He had 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in a 15-game point streak from Nov. 2-30. The game in Calgary started an eight-game point streak when he has 13 points (four goals, nine assists).
Though Kane is sometimes flashy on the ice, especially with his postgoal celebrations, he’s a hard-working player during the season and the offseason, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford said.
“A lot of people look at all the fun parts, the celebrations and the nice goals,” Crawford said. “They really don’t realize how much goes into it, how hard [Kane] works in the offseason, how hard he’s worked his whole life to be that kind of player. The grueling off-ice workouts and the skills days. I mean, you don’t get there just by going out and playing. It’s the dedication to hockey, knowing the other teams, the other goalies; he’s a guy who just loves hockey and wants to be the best in the world, and he’s pretty [darn] close to it.”
Kane is constantly working on his game. He works with coaches in the offseason, including Tomahawk Science founder and director of performance Ian Mack in Chicago and president and founder of Playmakers Inc./performance coach Darryl Belfry; Kane has attended Belfry’s Hockey Tactics and Tune-Up Camp in Florida the past three years.
“There are always things you’re trying to improve and pick up on, whether it’s in season or the summer, always trying to improve,” Kane said. “I feel pretty good about my game. I always think there are some things you can do better, or some nights don’t go as planned. But always try to go into every game with a clean slate and bring a good game.”
Kane has achieved a lot in his career, including three Stanley Cup championships (2010, 2013, 2015); the Calder Trophy voted as the top rookie in the NHL in 2007-08; the Hart Trophy voted as regular-season MVP, Art Ross Trophy (scoring leader) and Ted Linsday Award (most outstanding player as voted by players) in 2015-16; and the Conn Smythe Trophy voted as playoff MVP in 2013.
Reaching 1,000 points would be the latest feat for a player who doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all.
“He’s obviously one of the best in the world,” Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner said. “He has so many tools, so many weapons to use, and he’s very smart out there. So there’s no surprise he’s getting these accomplishments, and it’s fun to watch.”