MONTREAL -- Mention to Evander Kane that he's scoring more goals around the net, he smiles and shrugs his shoulders.
Going to the net is nothing new for the forward. But the clip at which he's been scoring for the Buffalo Sabres certainly is.
Kane has 14 goals in his last 25 games, making him the most productive Sabre since Dec. 3.
"I mean, I’ve always gone to the net so I can’t really say it’s something new," Kane said Monday afternoon in Bell Centre as the team held its first practice after the NHL All-Star break. The Sabres face the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night. "I think I can score goals in a lot of different ways – going to the net, using my shot, finishing plays in tight. I am just playing right now the way I know I’m capable of playing. I’ve done it before. I kind of went through an injury couple of years. If I can stay healthy and continue to feel good with my body, I feel like I can do this at a consistent rate."
That consistency rate is what's turning heads.
Kane was goalless through the his first 12 games of the season, which included 11 games after suffering four cracked ribs in the season opener.
It took Kane some time to find his offensive groove, but he has. And he's done it at even strength. Kane leads the team with 13 even-strength goals.
Some more streak numbers:
- Kane has nine points (five goals, four assists) in his last nine games.
- Kane has points in his last three games (two goals, four assists).
- In the period since scoring his first goal of the season on Dec. 3 against Boston, he is tied for fourth among all NHL skaters in goals (14) and leads the league in even-strength goals (13).
The Sabres last game in Dallas provides a good example of what Kane has been able to do offensively. His first goal was a product of using his speed along the wing to beat the defense down the ice, charge to the net with the puck and use his shot to score. His second goal was a shot from the blue line, using linemate Brian Gionta as a screen.
"You look at his goal against Dallas when he’s a straight line like that, moving his feet up and down the wing, he’s a tough guy to stop," Gionta said of Kane's first goal. "Those are the assets that we have to kind of highlight for him."
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said that in the last scoring streak for Kane he has seen "a speed game, a powerful game, a power-forward type of game from Evander. One of the things and one of the reasons why he’s scoring at a high clip here at even strength is that he’s gotten them around the net. It’s not just the great shot that he does have. He’s gotten them in and around the cage. … He’s gotten pucks by going to the cage, getting rebounds in that area and it’s tough to do, it’s tough to score five-on-five in this league."
And here's the other interesting Evander Kane scoring fact: His shooting percentage is at a career-best 11.5 percent for the season, 15.1 percent in the last 25 games.
His best shooting percentage for a season was 2011-12 when he recorded a 10.5 percentage with 30 goals. Meanwhile last in Buffalo he shot 7.4 percent with 20 goals in 65 games.
For Kane, the statistic can be read many different ways, but at heart it shows what he needs to do to be successful, and what he's never really shy about -- shooting the puck. In his last nine games he's averaging 4.6 shots a game including a season-high eight against Nashville on Jan. 24.
"It’s kind of like plus-minus in a way," Kane said when asked about his shooting percentage stat. "You can step on the ice, take three strides and be a minus on that shift. So it’s kind of all relative but I look at my first four games and how many shots I had an it wasn’t up to the level that I’ve had through times when I've scored consistently. I feel like the last 25 games I’ve been having three, four, five, six, seven, eight shots a game. That means I’m getting opportunities. That means I’m playing the way I need to play and if I get six or seven shots a game, the odds of me scoring a goal, I like my chances. That’s kind of my mindset."