DENVER -- Barring something emerging completely out of the blue, Evander Kane is going to finish his season with the Buffalo Sabres. That's certainly a good thing for the team's playoff quest.
Kane has been one of the hottest goal scorers in the NHL for nearly three months, and chatter of a deal involving the 25-year-old left winger prior to Wednesday's NHL trade deadline seems to be dying down as general managers remain mostly in fact-finding decisions about buying or selling.
Sabres GM Tim Murray might sell some of his unrestricted free agents like Dmitry Kulikov or Cody Franson, but moving Kane would have the Sabres searching for ... a replacement for Kane.
"It definitely doesn't affect me," Kane said of trade talk prior to Saturday's game against the Colorado Avalanche in Pepsi Center. "Am I aware of it? Of course. But it doesn't affect me. It's just this time of year."
Kane entered Saturday's game with 21 goals and 32 points in 48 games. With 22 games still left in the season, he already has his highest goal total since he piled up a career-high 30 in 2011-12 for the Winnipeg Jets in their first season after moving from Atlanta.
No Sabre has hit 30 since Jason Pominville finished at that number in 2011-12. No one has got to 35 since Thomas Vanek finished with 40 in 2008-09. Kane certainly has a chance.
All of Kane's goals have come since Dec. 3 and he leads the NHL in even-strength goals since that date with 20. He is second overall in that span to the 23 goals scored by Montreal captain Max Pacioretty.
Kane has one more season left on the six-year deal he signed with the Jets in 2012. He plays to a cap hit of $5.25 million and the Sabres will certainly have some decisions to make regarding Kane in the coming months, a big reason why his name is hot in Canadian media circles.
"Not to pump my tires but I'm a lightning rod for that media and they love talking about me, whether it's good, bad, ugly or pretty," said a smiling Kane. "I usually come up somehwere. That's their job and I understand that. I just try to do mine."
Kane is providing the Sabres with the true kind of power forward they haven't had in many years. Coach Dan Bylsma said he has a unique feel of what part of Kane's game is particularly sharp.
"It's almost immediate," Bylsma said. "When you see him skating and using his speed, that's when he's a dangerous player and on his game. If you see his feet stationery, 'railroad-tracking' up the ice, he's not on his game. But he's been on his game now, showing that, for the better part of a couple months. Really being the dominant player he can be with that speed."
There is, however, one thing definitely burning in Kane's mind.
Veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey is the NHL record holder for most games played without appearing in the playoffs, as his debut Saturday with Pittsburgh after being traded from Carolina was his 892nd game. But now that he's with the Pens, Hainsey will be going to the postseason come April.
So who, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, will have the longest playoff-less career going?
It will leave Buffalo defenseman Zach Bogosian, who played his 513th game Saturday, as the new leader. Kane is third at 475 with Edmonton's Jordan Eberle at 487 but also likely to be joining Hainsey in the postseason.
The Sabres, of course, have an uphill climb to their first playoff bid since 2011. For his part, Kane is in his eighth season with Atlanta, Winnipeg and Buffalo still trying to get there.
"That's why you play the regular season and play in the NHL: To give yourself a chance to win the Stanley Cup," Kane said. "You want to give yourself a chance to showcase yourself in the playoffs. For me, that's the biggest stage. That's where the lights and the cameras are and all the action is, and that's where everybody is watching. For me, that's definitely what I want to be a part of."
Kane hit the ice Saturday hoping the team could maintain the edge that saw it win three of four prior to the bye. He was planning on putting up more numbers as well.
"You have to stay hungry, that's the biggest thing," he said. "This is the time of year you want to be playing meaningful hockey and doing it at your best."
Saturday's game was the second back at Pepsi Center for Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly, acquired as the centerpiece of the 2015 draft day trade with the Avs. O'Reilly picked up four assists in his first three games against his old team.
'The first time in this arena, sitting in the weight room was really awkward and different," O'Reilly said. "But now I've played them three times already and it's back to that feel that it's just another important game to win."
Former Sabres No. 1 pick Mikhail Grigorenko, sent to the Avs as part of the deal, entered the game with six goals and 12 assists for Colorado. Grigorenko had only one goal in his previous 15 games. Former Buffalo defenseman Nikita Zadorov is out for the season after suffering a fractured ankle in practice Monday.
Nic Deslauriers and Justin Falk were the Sabres' healthy scratches. ... William Carrier, who missed his 11th straight game with a knee problem, is the only remaining player the Sabres are waiting on to return from injury. ... Saturday marked the 39th anniversary of the most lopsided road game in Sabres history. On Feb. 25, 1978, Buffalo blasted the Cleveland Barons, 13-3, in a game played at long-demolished Richfield Coliseum. Danny Gare had a hat trick and five points, while Andre Savard, Jerry Korab and Gary McAdam each scored twice.