December 16, 2014

Evander Kane left Winnipeg on rough terms about a year ago, and his reception upon return might not be any less rocky.

Kane will try to help the Buffalo Sabres beat Winnipeg for just the second time in 11 tries on Sunday in his first game there since a seven-player trade ended his deteriorating relationship with the Jets.

Kane's time with the Winnipeg organization - two seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers and 3 1/2 with the Jets - included several reported tiffs with his former teammates and what he said were yearly trade requests during the offseasons in Winnipeg.

What led to his departure was a February feud with Dustin Byfuglien after Kane allegedly violated Winnipeg's dress code by wearing a tracksuit to a team meeting. Byfuglien allegedly then threw the tracksuit into a cold tub to send a message, and Kane left the rink and missed the Jets' home game that night. Kane then opted to have season-ending shoulder surgery and was traded to Buffalo a week later.

Kane downplayed his return - which also includes Buffalo's Zach Bogosian and Winnipeg's Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford, who all swapped teams in the trade.

"Ah, just another game," Kane said. "I'm going into it preparing as if we were playing any other team in the league. We're on a six-game slide here, so I'm looking for two points."

Kane wasn't sure about what type of reception to expect from fans, some of which are planning to wear tracksuits as part of "Tracksuit Night."

"I don't know," he said. "I guess we'll find out together."

Buffalo (15-22-4) could desperately use a win after going without a point in six consecutive losses. The Sabres combined for eight goals while Kane has gone without a point during the stretch.

Kane has just eight goals and five assists in 31 games this season with a minus-10 rating for a team that ranks toward the bottom of the NHL with 2.24 goals per game. Stafford is tied for Winnipeg's team lead with 14 goals with eight assists, while Myers has five goals and 13 assists as the Jets fall in the middle of the league with 2.66 goals per game.

Winnipeg (19-19-3) is 4-2-1 in the last two weeks and wrapped up a 2-2-1 road trip with Thursday's 2-1 shootout loss at Dallas. The Jets play nine of their next 10 games at MTS Centre, where they are 11-5-1 and have won eight of their last 10.

"Everyone's on the same page," Byfuglien said. "It's a big part of being a good team is everyone pulling on the same rope."

Byfuglien had little to say about Kane's return.

"It's just like any other game, any other teammate that's been traded," he said. "It's business. We've got to go and do our job."

Winnipeg - 9-1-0 in this series since Jan. 7, 2012 and winners of six straight home games over the Sabres - has used rookie Connor Hellebuyck in net almost exclusively since mid-December since Ondrej Pavelec was lost to a knee injury.

Hellebuyck is 9-4-1 and has been outstanding in his last three starts, posting a .969 save percentage.

Chad Johnson has lost his last three starts for Buffalo with a 3.39 goals-against average. He has suffered shutout losses in his only two career starts against Winnipeg despite a 0.92 GAA.

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