April 03, 2015

Despite a turbulent summer in Buffalo, Patrick Kane returns to his hometown playing the best hockey of his career.

Back for the first time since he was the subject of a lengthy sexual assault investigation there, Kane tries to help the Chicago Blackhawks to an eighth consecutive victory over the Sabres on Saturday.

It's been a little more than four months since Kane was accused of those allegations at his suburban Buffalo home while celebrating Chicago's third Stanley Cup in six seasons. In the end, Kane wasn't charged and never played like the entire situation was a distraction.

He leads the NHL with 47 points, though his club-record 26-game point streak ended Tuesday.

Considering what Kane endured through the investigation and the pressure of the streak, coach Joel Quenneville doesn't believe his return this weekend will be anything the 27-year-old can't handle.

"He's gone through (several) months of being under a lot of attention, (and) he's gone through a really busy stretch here," Quenneville said. "I don't know if it's going to be much different."

Kane appeared to receive plenty of support from his hometown during those troubling times, and is likely to receive a warm welcome at the First Niagara Center on Saturday. He's scored in his last three games against the Sabres (14-16-3), and has five goals with four assists in nine all-time. A broken clavicle kept Kane from playing in Chicago's 4-3 win at Buffalo on April 3.

The Blackhawks (18-11-4) have averaged 4.0 goals during a six-game winning streak against the Sabres, and scored that many to conclude a 3-1-0 homestand with Thursday's 4-0 victory over Edmonton.

Kane got back on track with an assist, Corey Crawford made 33 saves and the line of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Teuvo Teravainen combined for three goals and six assists.

"I liked our game," Quenneville told the NHL's official website. "We didn't give up much, and that's the first step when we measure our team performance, and we generated enough (offensively)."

Toews, who had a goal with two assists, recorded one more point than in the previous 10 contests. He has five goals and two assists in the last five against the Sabres.

Crawford has recorded a shutout in three of four starts, and allowed four goals while posting an 0.67 goals-against average to win five of the last six.

"I feel good right now," he said. "I'm really focused and I'm seeing the puck well throughout the whole game and getting a lot of help too from everyone."

Crawford is 5-0-0 with a 1.80 GAA against Buffalo but with Western Conference foe San Jose in town Sunday, he could sit while the Blackhawks try to avoid a fourth consecutive road defeat. Backup Scott Darling has started two of the last three on the road, where he's 0-3-2 with a 3.60 GAA as a starter.

A winner in four of five at home, Buffalo has allowed four goals while winning three of four overall. Chad Johnson made 44 saves and Evander Kane snapped a six-game point drought with his seventh goal in Thursday's 3-0 home win over Anaheim.

''We're playing a lot better defensively in front of the crease and boxing guys out than we did at the beginning of the year, and you see the results,'' Johnson said.

Following his first shutout since March 2014, Johnson has won three straight at home and owns a 1.23 GAA in his last four starts there.

Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has six points in the last five games.

Chicago forward Marcus Kruger, a key player on the penalty kill, will be out four months after he had surgery to repair a dislocated left wrist suffered against the Oilers.

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