The brace around Patrick Kane's left knee is hidden by his red socks, but there's no hiding the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks star right wing has to learn to deal with the new, cumbersome piece of equipment if he's going to be as valuable in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as he was last year, when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Kane will wear the knee brace for Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round series Thursday at Scottrade Center against the St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, CSN-CH, FS-MW). It'll be his first game since injuring his knee on March 19. He missed the final 12 regular season games.

Kane anticipates having to wear the knee brace for the foreseeable future, but insists it doesn't affect the way he skates or his range of motion. He said he's comfortable, doesn't feel limited, and isn't thinking about the brace when he's playing.

"I feel like the same player," said Kane, who had 29 goals and 69 points in 69 regular season games. "Once you kind of get into skating with the puck or other game situations like we've done in some practices, it's the last thing on my mind. When you're out there playing and skating around, it's not like I'm thinking, 'How does my brace feel?' I'm thinking about making a play and making the right one. It's something I have to deal with, but I'm not really worried about it."

Kane has worn the brace as often as possible to get used to it. He has even slept with it on. He has asked other teammates who wear knee braces for advice on how to play with it.

"He's been wearing it around, in his sleep and everywhere, so he's kind of getting used to it," said forward Bryan Bickell, who wears braces on both of his knees. "That's the thing you want to do when you have a knee brace, get used to it and make it part of your own. It [stinks] the first time, but you get used to it."

Kane compared getting used to the knee brace to breaking in a new pair of skates or gloves, or adjusting to a new stick.

"Obviously you feel it a little bit when you first start using it, but as time goes on it's like anything with sticks, gloves, any kind of equipment; the more you use it, the more you get used to it," Kane said. "I'm not worried about it."