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Kane starting to find his comfort zone

With seven goals in 12 games, Evander Kane feels normal again. It took longer than he thought.

The Sabres’ left winger knew the road back from shoulder surgery would be a long one. He felt he was prepared for it. Then three months of the season went by and he wasn’t the same point producer he used to be.

“You can think that you know what’s going to happen or you can prepare as much as you want, but now going through it and looking back, it was tough in terms of the injury, the surgery,” Kane said Saturday in First Niagara Center. “I almost forgot I was a hockey player last season just because I had been off for so long.”

He finally found himself in Winnipeg, of all places. The former Jet passed up an empty-net goal to feed Sam Reinhart for a hat trick, ending a drought of six games without a point and starting a 15-game run that features 10 points.

“Maybe nature has a funny way of running its course,” said Kane, who will look to continue his production Sunday when the Sabres host Colorado at 12:30 p.m. (MSG, WGR 550 AM).

On a team starving for goals, Kane’s spurt of seven in 12 games has been welcomed. His favorite thing to do in hockey is score. He also knows it’s expected, which is why there’s no extra joy now that pucks are going in. He just feels normal.

“It’s nothing that’s surprising,” he said. “It’s nothing that’s really new. It’s something that needs to continue to happen, needs to enhance as well. I’m looking forward to finishing off these last 20-odd games on a positive note.”

By nearly doubling his goal output to 15 during the last 12 games, Kane has put himself on pace for 24 goals. He says he’s gotten back into a comfort zone and has figured out how to get into the prime scoring areas.

He’s most effective near the net, which he proved again Friday during a 6-4 victory over Montreal. His first of two goals came when he accepted a pass in the right faceoff circle and sped to the top of the crease.

“He gets the puck; it’s right in his wheelhouse,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “That’s where he’s at his best scoring goals, coming in there off the right, on his forehand and releasing that shot.”

Kane added an empty-net goal, ensuring the Sabres would win in Buffalo for just the second time in 11 home games. He knows that’s an unacceptable stat.

“We can’t have stretches of 10 games where we only pick up four of a possible 20 points,” Kane said. “That can’t happen, and that’s something we need to learn from and take pride in playing at home. If you can win 70 percent of your home games and be .500 on the road, there’s a good chance you’re going to be in the playoffs.

“Those are the type of goals we have to look at, and that’s what we have to do moving forward.”

More was expected of the Sabres this year, but it’s turned into another season filled with tough lessons. Kane, acquired last February, watched from the sidelines as last year’s team struggled to learn.

“A lot of the guys that I did meet when I did get traded were gone, and it was a whole new team,” he said. “We’re a team that’s learning to win and changing our mentality in terms of being harder to play against. We have enough skill in here, and I think it’s just a matter of being harder to play against, being tougher to play against, especially at home here.”

Kane says he likes his new home. He had the major incident of a sexual-assault allegation in late December, but the investigation will likely end without any charges filed, The Buffalo News has learned.

“The city’s great,” he said. “Everybody’s so welcoming. People look after you here, and it’s been a real pleasure to live in Buffalo and meet some of the people I have so far.”

The team and fans are happy his shots are meeting the net again.

“I’m starting to feel good,” Kane said. “If we want to have success as a team, I know I have to be one of the guys to produce consistently every night.”


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