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Evander Kane living up to Buffalo’s ‘good neighbor’ spirit

In many Buffalo homes, Christmas is a time of unfulfilled dreams. Presents cost money, and the cash simply isn’t there.

Evander Kane wanted to do something about it. He’s felt a lot of positivity since arriving in town, and the Sabres forward paid it back Friday by treating 50 kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Buffalo to dinner and a shopping spree.

“Not everybody gets an opportunity, especially as a kid, to get exactly what they want or have an opportunity to get gifts and presents,” Kane said. “It’s something that I wanted to do, give back a little bit and hopefully put some smiles on some kids’ faces, possibly when they have not been as excited for Christmas.

“It’s exciting. It probably makes my day more than theirs.”

It’s safe to say it was a win-win situation. The children feasted on pasta at Chef’s and filled carts at Target while the 24-year-old Kane watched with glee and reflected on his own happy childhood moments.

“Kids don’t have a choice all the time, so when you can give them an opportunity to kind of take their mind off some of the negative things going on in their life, you want to do that, especially around this time of year,” Kane said. “It’s fun because it takes you back to remembering how you were like as a kid and can also take my mind off things that are going on with hockey. It’s good.”

It’s clear Kane is making Buffalo his home. It coincides with another Kane making his way home to Buffalo.

Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks will make their lone visit to First Niagara Center on Saturday for a 1 p.m. matinee. The 27-year-old South Buffalo native hasn’t made a public appearance in Western New York since the sexual assault allegations arose in August.

Evander Kane, meanwhile, has been increasing his community presence. He took 60 kids from the Boys and Girls Club to dinner and an arcade in November. This month, he sent a care package featuring a hand-written note, signed jersey and autographed stick to a 14-year-old Williamsville girl who is battling cancer.

“It’s something that I’ve always done. I guess it’s maybe getting highlighted a little bit more here in Buffalo,” Kane said. “There’s a lot of energy in Buffalo, and I find the people here are very positive and very welcoming. When you feel good about the community you live in, it makes you want to give back and do positive things for the people that you play for and the community that you live in.

“For me, that’s a big plus and something I’m really enjoying.”

The left winger got to enjoy himself on the ice Thursday during a 3-0 victory over Anaheim. He scored a goal to end a drought of six games without a point. He led the team with six hits and five shots.

“We’re establishing a forecheck and a pressure team, and he leads the way in that and has led the way in that for the better part of the last eight games,” coach Dan Bylsma said after practice in HarborCenter. “He desperately wants to win. That’s what I’ve learned. He’s got a pretty serious energy and a passion for doing what it takes to win.”

Bylsma has been playing Kane alongside center Jack Eichel, with the duo creating matchup problems for the opposition despite a lack of production.

“The speed they bring at you together is a factor to deal with when they’re out there,” Bylsma said. “Evander’s going hard down the wing and Jack’s carrying the puck, their speed is difficult to handle.

“I don’t always look at the goals. There have been opportunities there for both of them that haven’t cashed in that factor into them playing together.”

The duo will be joined Saturday by fellow speedster Tyler Ennis, who is returning from a 15-game injury absence. Kane hopes the line provides more gifts for the Sabres as Eichel continues to gain experience.

“I think he’s starting to understand at this level you have to make decisions and plays a little bit quicker,” Kane said. “We were able to get some good looks and some good opportunities to score. I thought because of our quick puck movement we did have a lot more opportunities, and I think he’s starting to see that a little bit.”