UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Evander Kane has been proactive in the early stages of this gruelling road trip and the results have been positive for both the rugged winger and the Winnipeg Jets.
Thrust into the hot seat after internet rumours suggested he was unhappy and perhaps wanted a trade, Kane took action by addressing those reports head on before the Jets opened this seven-game swing against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Kane, 20, quickly shot them down and expressed happiness about where he was playing and what he thought of the organization, bringing home the point by saying he expects to be with the Jets for a very long time.
Skeptics could say he was coached on how to handle the situation, but Kane seemed genuine in his remarks and the subject was quickly put to bed.
His play has been improving the past several games and he’s finding his groove while playing on a line with youngster Alex Burmistrov and veteran Nik Antropov.
You could easily make the argument that he played his best game of the season on Monday night in a 4-3 shootout victory over the Florida Panthers.
Kane was a force in the contest, showcasing his wide array of talents.
He delivered a power play goal that got the Jets on the board in the first period and then forced overtime with 49.9 seconds left in regulation time.
The most impressive thing about the tying goal is that Kane actually tipped Zach Bogosian’s point shot on the way to the goal and the rebound was first touched in the air by Kyle Wellwood before Kane swatted it into the net, keeping his stick virtually parallel to the crossbar, allowing the goal to stand up.
Kane also showed toughness by shaking off a high check to the head from Panthers forward Scottie Upshall, returning later on the same power play to deliver the first goal of the game.
Kane showed he was able to take a hit and made the Panthers pay on the ensuing power play.
Throughout the contest, Kane was skating well, relentless in his pursuit of the puck while taking the body on a regular basis.
These are the traits a bona fide power forward must show consistently and it’s clear Kane has the tools to flourish in that type of role.
Could that be a typical Kane performance?
“I think so,” said Kane. “I like to play physical and, first and foremost, I like to score. That’s what I’m counted on to do.”
Jets head coach Claude Noel has taken notice of Kane’s improved play and has given him a reward, frequently double shifting the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
“He’s physical, you notice him and he shoots the puck a ton,” said Noel. “He finds ways to find the back of the net. That’s exactly what we’re looking for from him.”
Kane welcomes the extra ice time.
“I consider myself in pretty good shape, the more I play, the more comfortable I feel and the more in the game I feel,” said Kane. “I like being out there.”
There was plenty of talk going into the season about how big a jump Kane was going to be able to make in his third NHL season.
He placed high expectations on himself and the organization is clearly expecting him to take a big step in his development.
Kane isn’t being asked to carry this team, but he’s certainly going to need to do a lot of heavy lifting.
And while Kane has been a little slow out of the gate in terms of production, Monday was another sign of just how good he could eventually be.