Daily Herald
More mature Kane returns to face his hometown fans
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 12/11/2009 12:00 AM

Blackhawks game day

Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena, 6:30 p.m. Friday

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WGN 720-AM

What to watch: If the Hawks thought Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was tough to beat, now they must face the Sabres' Ryan Miller, who is having a Vezina Trophy season. Miller leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.82), save percentage (.938), shutouts (4) and is second with 17 wins.

The Hawks rank first in the league in team defense and the Sabres third.

Last season: The Hawks beat the Sabres 4-1 last Jan. 14 behind Cristobal Huet.

Next: Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center, 6 p.m. Sunday.

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A lot has happened to Patrick Kane since he made headlines throughout the hockey world in August for a late-night altercation with a taxi driver in his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y.

And unlike some predictions that followed the arrest that his image might be tarnished, only good things have happened to Kane.

The Blackhawks' winger appeared on the cover of the popular NHL '10 video game and signed a lucrative five-year, $31.5 million contract extension. He also has taken his game to another level on the ice and is a lock to make the U.S. Olympic team.

Along the way Kane turned 21 and has shown a more mature side, a direct result of the humbling experience that was his arrest.

Kane plays his first game back in Buffalo - where his arrest was front-page news - Friday night against the Sabres and he is expecting to hear some boos at HSBC Arena.

"I don't know what reaction I'm going to get," Kane said Thursday. "Hopefully it's positive. If not, I'll just worry about playing hockey. There's been a lot of support, but there's going to be your haters out there."

More than 100 of Kane's family members and friends have secured two suites for the game, but it will be interesting to see what kind of reaction he receives from those people who aren't close to him, the media included.

"There was a lot of support from different people, but at the same time I think the media beat me up pretty good there," Kane said. "Hopefully it's a little bit different this time. I've had different papers and guys that wrote stories call and apologize."

Kane and the cousin he was with him that night eventually pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, and the incident has followed him to some degree.

A couple opponents have cracked jokes about it to Kane during games, a few fans have taunted him on the road, and on Thursday several of his Hawks teammates were asking him loudly in the dressing room if he knew a good cab company to call in Buffalo.

"You're going to have to deal with it," Kane said. "Whatever city you go to you're probably going to hear a few things about what happened. That's the nature of what happened this summer and something I'll have to deal with for a long time."

It has been a more mature Kane on and off the ice so far. He said before the season he wanted to learn from the arrest and be a better person.

"Obviously things like that, I think they help you grow up a little bit faster," Kane said. "It could be one of those things where you take a positive from a negative situation.

"As far as being a kid and being a hockey player, when I'm on the ice I'm out there to play hockey. In the locker room or whatever, I still feel like I'm the same kid but probably just a little bit more mature in different situations.

"You've got to realize the microscope is on you and with that comes responsibility," Kane said. "As far as what I do, even walking down the street going to dinner, you try to treat everything like it's going to be publicized. In situations like that, I think it has helped me grow up a bit."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville believes Kane has handled everything since the incident in an exemplary way.

"We really liked his whole approach into the season," Quenneville said. "From the outset this year you could see progress and his maturity, be it on the ice or as a young kid.

"Everybody goes through stretches where you learn and become a better and stronger person. I thought he handled a tough situation well. His focus was in the right place and I think he got the message."

Kane's return home in the aftermath of last summer's incident might take much of the spotlight off defenseman Brian Campbell, who returns to Buffalo for the first time since being traded to San Jose almost two years ago when the Sabres realized they couldn't re-sign him as a free agent.

While Campbell expects boos, he thinks people should remember all the good things Kane has done for youth hockey in the Buffalo area.

"They should be very proud of Pat and what he's done," Campbell said. "He is the biggest player to come out of there through their system and he should get a warm reception. He's paved the way for a lot of kids coming out of Buffalo. They should be proud to have him as a native."