Patrick Kane prepares for first trip back to Buffalo as NHL player

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Patrick Kane established a link to Buffalo's HSBC Arena long before he ever made it to the NHL.

The 19-year-old grew up about 10 minutes away from the rink and got to sign the last piece of steel that went into the arena before it was opened in 1996. Kane's aunt was a councilwoman at the time so he and some cousins were part of the opening ceremony.

"We just loved the Sabres at that age," Kane said Tuesday on a conference call. "I remember showing up in my blue Hasek jersey with the old uniform. I'm not sure what I signed on the steel, I think I just might have signed my name. I'm pretty sure it was next to (original Sabres owner) Seymour Knox.

"It's funny how one thing leads to another and things work out."

Kane will play in the rink as an NHLer for the first time ever on Saturday night.

The standout rookie has been looking forward to the game since cracking the Chicago Blackhawks lineup out of training camp. All of the people closest to the 19-year-old will be in attendance.

"Buffalo is pretty much where my life is," said Kane. "It's where my family is, it's where my life started, it's where I started playing hockey, it's where I go back to in the summer and where all my friends are too.

"It's going to be awesome. I'm not really sure what to expect right now."

Kane has done nothing but live up to expectations since being selected first overall by the Blackhawks in the draft earlier this year. He leads all rookie scorers with 28 points (7-21) in 29 games and has found himself playing important minutes alongside fellow rookie Jonathan Toews.

That's not to say it's all been easy. The Blackhawks are mired in a four-game losing streak heading into Wednesday's game against Los Angeles and Kane concedes that he's been struggling personally as well.

Like a lot of rookie players, he's kind of hit a wall.

"I think I'm kind of going through that right now," said Kane. "It's been a little bit since I've been comfortable with my game ... I think the biggest thing is probably just to keep working hard in practice and (not) get down on yourself.

"It's a tough league, it's the best league in the world. You're going to go through these things."

One benefit Kane has had this year is playing alongside Toews, who is currently second in rookie scoring. The two became fast friends and often kid one another about being in competition for the NHL's rookie of the year award.

They've also been able to share a lot of new experiences over the past couple months.

"It's cool," said Kane. "I'm grateful coming in at a young age with him. We can relate to each other with on-ice things and off-ice things as well. We're usually with each other anyways.

"I think it's been good for both of us. ... It's definitely good to have him here with me."

Kane will have more than his share of support when he returns home this weekend.

He only had to secure about 15 to 20 tickets for the game but there will be a lot more people there to cheer for him than that.

"A lot of my friends went out and bought the tickets early," said Kane. "They didn't really know I could get tickets."

In a year already full of great moments this might turn out to be the best.

Even though Kane is still just a teenager, he'll be reflecting on a lot of things when he takes the ice against the team he grew up loving.

"It's funny how a lot of things have worked out," said Kane. "I know (it will be special) going back to Buffalo and that rink, where I watched so many games and played mini-sticks in the hallways. Just little things like that.

"I finally get to play on the ice after being there so often."



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