Zach Parise isn't the biggest fan of talking about the virtues of opponents, but whenever you ask the Wild winger about his USA Hockey teammate and Chicago Blackhawks rival Patrick Kane, Parise goes on and on with a smile on his face.
That's how much Parise respects Kane as a player.
In today's day and age of supersized goaltenders and the NHL trying to figure out new ways to increase scoring, Kane literally racks up points every game.
Kane, the NHL's leading scorer one season after he vied to become the first American to win a scoring title up until breaking his collarbone, carries a 21-game point streak (13 goals and 22 assists) into Sunday's game against the Winnipeg Jets. He had played mostly on a line with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov.
Kane is trying not to think of the streak, saying: "If you keep the streak alive, it stays alive. If not, then it's been a pretty good run."
It's the longest point streak in history by an American (Kane said "that's pretty cool, I'll be honest.") and has Kane tied with Bobby Hull for the longest point streak in Blackhawks history. Kane is four games from matching Sidney Crosby's 2010 25-game streak, the NHL's longest point streak since 1992-93.
"It's pretty incredible what he's doing now," Parise said. "He's one of those guys whenever he's got the puck, you just expect something to happen. The puck follows him. He puts himself in a good spot in the offensive zone to get the puck always. He probably touches the puck in the offensive zone 35, 40 times a night. It's unbelievable."
What Parise loves about Kane is that "he's not cheating. That's the thing. People think he cheats for offense. I don't think he does. He's smart. He's opportunistic. He anticipates plays better than anyone. It's almost like he knows where the puck's going to go, and that's where he goes.
"Shocker, he gets the puck and makes a play. You see it, and he's even getting better at it."
In Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Wild, Kane scored a power-play goal after Duncan Keith stole the puck from Mikko Koivu. As Kane has proved in the playoffs against the Wild, you can't turn the puck over when he's on the ice. He almost always makes you pay.
But Kane also has a way of hypnotizing defenders. Kane held that puck point-blank in front of Devan Dubnyk for almost three seconds before shooting. Marco Scandella was almost frozen in his skates as he tried to hurry over.
Kane also almost baits defenders into chasing him around the zone. He then draws double coverage and finds the open guy. It's uncanny.
Last week in Anaheim, Kane extended his point streak to 18 games with an assist late. But in that game, he could have had three or four points, and this is a guy who every night goes up against top checking lines and top defensemen, not third-pair blue-liners and fourth-liners, especially because the Blackhawks aren't as deep as previous seasons up front.
"For a guy that weighs 170 pounds, I can't believe how strong he is on the puck," TSN analyst Ray Ferraro said. "I mean, his hands are obvious and his skill-set and vision, but to me I can't believe how small he is and how much strength he has over the puck. Like, it shouldn't be, except it is."
Most incredible about Kane's league-leading 41 points in 26 games is he says he didn't skate in the weeks leading into training camp because of offseason rape allegations in Buffalo, N.Y. He worked out in his basement and shot pucks on a basketball court in his yard. Charges were never filed because of a lack of evidence, but Kane still flourished during the investigation despite what had to be tremendous stress behind the scenes.
"And this is a guy who has always been a rink rat," Ferraro said. "I don't even know how people can go on 20-game point streaks anymore. Like, how does it even happen, especially because the Blackhawks aren't the team they used to be?
"The guy is just incredible."
Center of attention
Jarmo Kekalainen is at least not hanging up on opposing GM's when they call about center Ryan Johansen, but that doesn't mean he trades Johansen. The Blue Jackets GM wants to get a sense of his trade value, and Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has no doubt called.
Johansen has gotten tough love from coach John Tortorella, trying to teach the talented kid to be a pro.
But Kekalainen will surely be cautious here. Ask the Boston Bruins if you should trade No. 1 centers.
Tyler Seguin was dealt to the Dallas Stars partly because he allegedly wasn't a pro away from the rink. He scored 37 goals in each of his first two seasons in Dallas and is tied for second in NHL scoring this season.
Voters flock to Scott
If voting ended today, former Wild and current Arizona Coyotes enforcer John Scott would not only be one of the six Pacific Division forwards in the 3-on-3 All-Star Game, he would captain the Pacific. He is somehow the leading vote-getter among all Pacific Division players.
"I don't want to have my name in the headlines for this reason," Scott told the Arizona Republic. "Hopefully it'll die down over time."
No expansion vote
There will be no expansion vote on Las Vegas or Quebec City during the Board of Governors meeting Monday and Tuesday in Pebble Beach, Calif., but expansion will be a huge topic. Another topic will be the draft-pick compensation teams are upset they must pay if they hire a fired coach or GM who is still under contract to another team.
It is crazy that nobody thought of this obvious loophole when this rule was made.
THE WILD'S WEEK AHEAD
Monday: 8 p.m. at Colorado (FSN Plus). Friday: 8 p.m. at Arizona (FSN). Saturday: 9:30 p.m. at San Jose (FSN).
Player to watch: Brent Burns, Sharks
The 2003 Wild first-round pick with the grizzliest beard in hockey leads all NHL defensemen in goals.
"I'm going to wear something on top of my head, I know that." — Wild coach Mike Yeo, follicle-challenged, on picking his attire for the outdoor game Feb. 21.