Evander Kane is forgiven. His job now is to make people forget.
Kane will be out of the doghouse and back on the ice Friday when the Sabres visit the Columbus Blue Jackets. The left winger’s benching for missing practice is over after one game, and he insists he received the message sent by the organization.
“It’s always good when you can get back on the ice and get back to doing what you love,” Kane said Thursday. “I don’t think you’re going to find a guy in the league that enjoys watching a hockey game when you have the ability to be playing. It’s something that obviously you don’t want to have happen very often, if at all.”
The Sabres, of course, never want it to happen again.
“I have great optimism that it’s a lesson learned, to be quite frank,” coach Dan Bylsma said in First Niagara Center. “He also has to start to show, continue to show, that he has learned that lesson. I’m extremely optimistic that that’s the direction he’s heading in.”
Just as he did earlier in the week, Kane expressed regret and vowed not to repeat his mistakes. His teammates intend to hold him to that.
“Guys make mistakes,” forward Jamie McGinn said. “He’s apologized to the guys. It’s all in how he takes it from here.
“If he’s serious about it and he works hard, which he is right now, and he’s very humble and he wants to get better and he wants to be a teammate, we’ll move forward from here and welcome him back for sure.”
Kane apologized to the group, but his actions will need to match or trump his words.
“We have a really good group of guys in here,” Kane said. “It was tough to let those guys down the other day, but I’m going to make sure that I’m the best player I can possibly be for these guys. That will start in Columbus moving forward here.
“It’s not a trend I want to be a part of. For me, it was definitely a lesson. I’m going to make sure it is a lesson learned.”
Kane ran afoul of teammates in Winnipeg, which led to his trade to Buffalo. He says this situation was different. This one was all his fault. No one else contributed to him not making it back from the NBA All-Star Game in time for Monday’s practice.
“It was 100 percent my responsibility to make sure I’m at the rink and I’m on time,” the 24-year-old said. “I take full responsibility for my actions, and I’m accountable for those. I paid consequences.”
The Sabres paid, too. Buffalo managed just one goal during Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout loss in Ottawa. They could have used their hottest scorer.
Kane exited the lineup during his best stretch as a Sabre. The winger has eight goals in his last 13 games, boosting his season totals to 16 goals and 24 points in 47 games.
Kane is expected to slide back into his role on the top line alongside center Ryan O’Reilly and right wing Sam Reinhart. O’Reilly has nine assists in the last eight games, while Reinhart has five goals in seven outings.
Their offensive skills will be needed in Columbus. Buffalo is 2-0-1 in its last three games, but the Blue Jackets are on a 6-1-3 run.
“I’m looking forward to getting back on the ice and helping the team win,” Kane said. “Going forward here I’m going to be focusing on hockey, as I always have, and trying to be at my best each and every game for the remainder of the season.”