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Kane no longer playing with mouth guard

(MCT) — GLENDALE, Ariz. — Something clearly is missing from Patrick Kane’s game this season.

Gone are the days of the Blackhawks winger racing into the offensive zone while munching on a mouth guard. Kane and his ever-present mouth guard clenched in his teeth had been synonymous since he entered the league in 2007, but he isn’t using it this season.

“They didn’t have one for me when I got to Switzerland,” said Kane, who played for HC Biel during the lockout. “I could have gone to the dentist and got one, but I forgot all about it. When I came back here, (the Hawks) had some for me to try, but it just kind of felt weird in my mouth.”

The image of Kane with the mouth guard had become iconic, nearly on a level of Michael Jordan wagging his tongue while driving the lane for the Bulls. Even the bobbleheads the Hawks have handed out to fans in the past have featured Kane with the protective device.

Kane said the mouth guard might return but not before he decides whether it is a distraction at times.

“That’s something I’ve thought about,” Kane said. “When it’s in my mouth, is all I’m worried about is chewing it instead of worried about the game? It’s kind of all in your mind. For the time being we’ll keep it out. It could come back.”

Close calls: Seven of the Hawks’ 10 games before Thursday night were decided by one goal. Gathering points in each of them has been a good indicator of the team’s competitiveness.

“When games are on the line, that’s when you like to find out about your team,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We expect ourselves to be in every game. Games are very tight, and finding your way through your games, especially the critical times of games, (means) your team does the right things.”

In the net: Ray Emery started in goal against the Coyotes. Emery was trying to build off a stunning performance against the Flames on Saturday, when he made a career-high 45 saves in a 3-2 shootout victory.

“He deserves a chance to get back in there,” Quenneville said before the game. “His performance the other night made it easier playing him (Thursday).”

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