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At just 18 years old, Patrick Kane hasn't been fazed by much since the Chicago Blackhawks selected him first overall in June's NHL draft. Playing his first game as a professional in his hometown probably won't do it either.
The league's rookie scoring leader leads the Blackhawks into HSBC Arena to face the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
Kane leads all first-year players with 23 assists and 30 points. Paired with fellow rookie Jonathan Toews, Kane has helped hockey enjoy a resurgence in Chicago as the Blackhawks hope to reach the postseason for the first time since 2001-02.
It's clear, though, that Kane's heart is still in western New York.
"Buffalo is pretty much where my life is," he said in a conference call earlier this week. "It's where my family is, it's where my life started. It's where I started playing hockey. It's where I go back to in the summer and where all my friends are and stuff, too.
"It's going to be awesome. I'm not really sure what to expect right now, but I am sure it will be a lot of fun for me."
While Kane's path to the NHL started in Buffalo, he returns there in the first slump of his budding career. He hasn't scored a goal in 13 games and has picked up only five assists over that span.
"It's been a little bit since I've been comfortable with my game," Kane said. "I think the biggest thing is probably keep working hard in practice, and keep working hard and don't get down on yourself because, you know, it's a tough league.
"As long as you're working hard, doing the right things, things should turn up once again."
The Blackhawks (15-13-2) will be looking to snap a four-game road losing streak, and also will try to post back-to-back victories for the first time this month. On Thursday, Chicago scored three times in the first 14:06 and went on to defeat Los Angeles 6-3.
Kane had two assists and Toews chipped in with his 11th goal - leading all rookies in that category - and two assists. Martin Havlat also extended his point streak to five games with two goals, giving him three and three assists during his run.
In November 2005, Havlat had the best game of his seven-year career while in Buffalo. He finished with a career-high four goals to lead Ottawa to a 10-4 victory.
The Sabres (15-14-1) head home looking for their third win in a row. Tim Connolly returned from a gash under his left eye to snap a 3-all tie with less than four minutes to play in the third period and lead Buffalo to a 5-3 win over Washington on Friday.
"You're scared that any player who has a concussion history gets a puck in the face," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of Connolly, who was limited to two games last season. "First of all, I was hoping no broken bones. A lot of times there, it can be an eye socket. Then, the second thought is concussion again."
Connolly, who was born about 2 1/2 hours east of Buffalo in Syracuse, N.Y., has two goals and three assists in a season high-tying four-game points streak.
Derek Roy registered his team-leading 12th goal and Maxim Afinogenov, Drew Stafford and Jochen Hecht also scored for the Sabres.
Ryan Miller, who stopped 20 shots against the Capitals, made his only career start against the Blackhawks on Jan. 10 in Chicago. He made 34 saves and the Sabres got goals from Hecht and Afinogenov en route to a 2-1 win.
This will be the first matchup between these teams in Buffalo since a 1-all tie in December 2002.
|Dec 15 '07||CHI 1 at BUF 3||D. Stafford|