By Mike Harrington
Fans are asked to leave First Niagara Center when the Sabres' morning skate is completed, the norm in most NHL buildings. But with Patrick Kane in the fourth homecoming game of his career, a few hundred specators were allowed to stay to watch the pride of South Buffalo and the Chicago Blackhawks work out in advance of tonight's game.
"I've never seen that many people in a morning skate and I'm sure Kaner had a lot to do with that," said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville.
"It's probably one of the first things I look for when the schedule comes out: When we're playing Buffalo and where the game is at," said Kane -- who has not been here with the Hawks since Oct. 11, 2010.
Chicago will now come once a year under the NHL's new scheduling format and that suits Kane quite nicely.
"It's something that will happen every year from here on out ... and it's so exciting being back home, to see some family and friends last night and to play in front of them tonight," Kane said.
Kane has 27 goals and 65 points in 63 games this year but the struggles that hit him during the Olympics have continued since he returned. In four post-Sochi games, he has just two assists and a minus-2 rating, and he knows that has to change soon.
"It's not like you can go into playoffs and flick a switch," Kane said. "It doesn't happen like that."
"You look at him and you measure his production and it's reflected by how he plays," Quenneville said. "When he has the puck more, he's more dangerous. Hopefully he has the puck a lot and does his thing. When he has it, play recognition and patience and making guys around him find the puck on his stick is what he's all about. I expect him to be excited about tonight."
Kane has three goals and three assists in seven career games against the Sabres, including two goals and an assist in Buffalo.
He spoke on a wide variety of topics today, including the trade of Ryan Miller, the Sabres' struggles this season and having a text exchange on Wednesday with new Sabre Cory Conacher about wearing No. 88. He said he's hopeful his hometown team is on the right path.
"It seems like it's been a tough year for them but at the same time it seems like they're a young team and they've got a lot of things in place for the future, whether it's the new rink going up downtown, having a lot of draft picks. It seems like they have the ownership in place to do things right. Hopefully it works out for them. I don't know what happened much with :Pat LaFontaine but it seems like they made a few good moves for the future at the trade deadline.
"As far as following them, it seems like everybody has been following them because they've probably been one of the most talked-about teams in the league lately with all the trades and with what's been going on."
Click below to hear audio of Kane's meeting with the media this afternoon.