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Home sweet home for Patrick Kane
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/15/2007 11:56 PM

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- If not for the fortunate bounce of the pingpong balls last May when the Blackhawks won the NHL draft lottery, this might have been just another game against the Sabres here Saturday night.

But it was much more than just another game because of Patrick Kane, the rookie the Hawks took first overall in June thanks to that lottery win.

Kane returned to his hometown of Buffalo, where he was a youth hockey sensation, leading the Hawks and all NHL rookies in scoring as the season approaches Christmas.

And as if scripted by the hockey gods, Kane scored a goal 2:35 into the first period to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.

But that was the extent of the Hawks' offense in a 3-1 loss to the Sabres at HSBC Arena that stretched their road losing streak to four games.

"It was a fun day, but it was a tough game to play," Kane said. "It was probably one of the best nights of my life, a night I'll always remember."

Kane's goal was his first in 14 games, a drought that dated to Nov. 11. Kane said Thursday that maybe it was meant to be that his goal slump ended in Buffalo.

Kane was cruising the slot when he took a pass from Patrick Sharp and beat Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.

"I thought that line (Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp) played a heck of a game," said Hawks coach Denis Savard. "They gave us a chance to win."

The 1-0 lead held until early in the second period, when Thomas Vanek scored on a power play with Dustin Byfuglien serving a hooking penalty.

The Sabres went ahead 2-1 at 10:18 of the second period when Drew Stafford beat Nikolai Khabibulin from between the circles after the Hawks got caught running around in their own end.

The Sabres added an empty-net goal in the final minute.

The Hawks went 0-for-7 on the power play and once again played a perimeter game, letting another one of the league's better goalies in Miller see too many long shots.

Miller did make the night's best stop on Tuomo Ruutu with six minutes to play.

"The power play was horrible. That's one of the reasons why we lost," Ruutu said.

"It wasn't very good," Savard said. "We lost a lot of battles and lost a lot of pucks; it's as simple as that."

At least there was Kane to keep the night from being a total waste. He was named the game's third star.

"I thought he was great," Savard said. "Nothing rattles him."

Kane has been everything the Hawks hoped he would be when they took him with their first ever No. 1 pick overall.

After winning the lottery, Kane was the guy they wanted all along despite general manager Dale Tallon's coyness leading up to the draft when he said it would be a tough choice between Kane, Kyle Turris and James vanRiemsdyk.

Kane was really the one everyone wanted after his dazzling Ontario Hockey League season with London in 2006-07 when he scored 62 goals and dished out 83 assists.

Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky, whose team took Turris with the No. 3 pick, jokingly said a few weeks ago that he wished the Coyotes had won the lottery and got Kane.

The Coyotes wanted Kane, and so did the Philadelphia Flyers, who took vanRiensdyk with the second choice.

The St. Louis Blues desperately tried to work a trade with the Hawks for the No. 1 pick and Kane, offering two of their three first-round choices and defenseman Barret Jackman.