TAMPA, Fla. — When the Blackhawks broke camp in October, Tanner Kero was a forgotten man, relegated to Rockford while six rookies with less NHL experience than him made the team. But less than two weeks before the end of the regular season, Kero has a new, one-way contract worth $1.5 million, and on Monday night found himself centering Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane.
“You never know when you’re going to get your opportunity,” Kero said. “And you’ve got to try to make the most of it, and work hard every day and improve, so you can get those opportunities.”
Kero’s stay between two of the league’s top scorers is likely to be temporary, with Artem Anisimov expected to return from his leg injury in time for the playoffs. In the wake of Saturday’s 7-0 debacle in South Florida, Joel Quenneville shook up his lines and put Kero in the primo spot. Quenneville said he wanted Kero to simply play his game, keep it simple, and go to the net the way Anisimov does.
“They’re so good with the puck, so you want to try to find those open areas and battle hard in front of the net and try to create traffic,” Kero said. “They can do their thing on the outside, and you just try to help them out as much as you can.”
There have been rumblings that Team USA’s men’s hockey team might boycott the World Championships this year in solidarity with the women’s team, which is doing so in an attempt to get more equitable support from USA Hockey. Patrick Kane, arguably the face of USA Hockey, declined to wade into the debate, but hoped for a positive outcome.
“You understand both sides,” he said. “I’ve been very fond of USA Hockey throughout my career, so we’ll see. Hopefully the situation shakes out and both sides can get what they want.”