Kane worth the wait

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

For most London Knights fans, the name Pat Kane was just that, a name.

They were familiar with the Knights pursuit of a player drafted two years ago who opted to stay in the United States and enter that country's national team program.

They knew he had talent and could score but that was pretty much it.

There was one other thing they could be fairly certain about. If Mark and Dale Hunter were pursuing him with such vigor, they could surmise he was worth it.

Two months into this Ontario Hockey League season, everyone knows a lot more about Kane. The Knights finally ran him to ground in the summer and put a London sweater on him. Kane came as advertised.

Kane is third in the league in scoring with 11 goals and 18 assists. He's much more than just a name now.

Kane is indeed a scorer, one of those quick-strike guys. He's like a cobra, who suddenly raises its head and strikes. An opening appears and so does Kane, usually followed by the puck.

There was some question about his skating ability. While he may not be the swiftest player on skates, he has what a scorer needs to survive, quick acceleration. Give him a small opening and in two steps, Kane is through it.

And he has something all great scorers need . . . confidence.

"Coming in, I think I started too hot and I had a little slump for five games and I didn't score," Kane said. "The way I started out scoring, I thought it would continue all season. You're always going to have your slumps during the season and that was the toughest adjustment."

He doesn't expect to score every game, does he?

"Yeah, I do actually," Kane said. "Either that or a couple of assists. Looking back at the game if I didn't score, maybe it was a bad game. But if I had a couple of assists . . . that's what I'm here for."

Kane played with the United States team program for two years. It plays a schedule against university teams. It was a tough decision for the Buffalo native, who was chased hard by a number of universities. But Kane believed coming to London would help his chances of becoming a professional player.

With the addition of Sam Gagner and David Meckler, the Knights have found a way to fill some holes no one believed they could fill this year.

"Playing college hockey, the competition is very similar to here," Kane said. "But here, the high-end players can slow the play down so they can make a play. That suits my style a little more because I like to slow it down to make plays."

Gagner is his centre and the playmaker's strength is holding the puck to gives Kane a chance to use his talent to find the right place to snipe from, knowing Gagner will get him the puck.

Kane also gives the Knights flexibility. A natural centre, he's played the wing the past two years. When Gagner missed the last two games with a groin injury, Kane stepped into the centre's role. Not a big deal for Kane.

"I feel like I'm never really out of position for me," Kane said. "I feel comfortable, left, right or centre."

Kane will have Gagner back this weekend when London plays the Rangers in Kitchener Friday and when they are at the John Labatt Centre to Guelph on Saturday night.

Gagner has been skating for two days.

"It feels fine," Gagner said. "It's the first time I've pulled a muscle of any kind, but I've been skating and I'm ready."

It will be a day or so before the Knights know if Jordan Foreman will play. He took an elbow to the jaw in Barrie. He skated by himself yesterday and will participate in non-contact drills today.

Meanwhile, Kane looks back the stress and worry he felt about making a decision about where to play last summer, and feels great comfort he made the right choice.

"I was talking to my dad the other day at dinner, I said to him that this is the only place I want to be. I'm so happy with my decision. This is really where my heart was. I just wanted to play hockey. There's more games to play here. I'm a gamer."

There's no doubting that.


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