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Kane's game continues to sizzle

by Phil Coffey /
Winning the Calder Trophy marked a pretty impressive start to Patrick Kane's NHL career, and the start of this season has been equally sensational. In his first 19 games, Kane has 11 goals and 14 assists, so he has a realistic chance of surpassing his rookie totals.

"I think probably I am more confident this year," Kane told Tim Sassone of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald Times. "I'm doing more with the puck and scoring more goals. Now I just have to keep it up. Last year I went into some funks, and this year I just have to stay consistent throughout the year. If I go two or three games without scoring, I have to make sure I score in that next game."

Kane said he worked on his shot all summer and is being rewarded for the sweat equity.

"I'm way more confident in my shot than last year," Kane said. "A lot of my goals have been from 10-15 feet right in front of the net when I get myself open. Last year I was more of a set-up guy. My mentality last year was pass first instead of taking the shot. I've been a goal scorer my whole life pretty much up until last year. I feel that's one of the best aspects of my game, and I’m just trying to prove it now."

Cut him some slack! -- Normally it isn't a good idea for a player to take on his team's fans, but after the lousy way Montreal Canadiens defenseman Ryan O'Byrne was treated by the Montreal "faithful" the other night, several Canadiens were not happy with the paying customers, and said so.

To refresh your memories, Monday night against the Islanders, O'Byrne didn't realize a delayed penalty had been called on New York. When he was being forechecked, O'Byrne sent the puck back toward goalie Carey Price. Of course, Price had bolted for the bench and an extra attacker, so the puck slid into the Montreal net. The mistake tied the game 3-3 in an eventual 4-3 shootout loss.

Yes, you can rest assured that this will top the most embarrassing moment in O'Byrne's life. And if it had been a road game you could understand the crowd getting on him. But the home crowd? Come on, people!

"When you're playing at home, you kind of expect some support," Price told the Montreal Gazette. "When you make an honest mistake and you get run out of the building, it's kind of tough to swallow."

"I was upset," defenseman Josh Gorges said. "It was just one of those things. It happens. Nobody in the world feels worse than the guy who puts it in his own net.

"I don't know if mock is the right word, but to ridicule him like that ... I thought that since we were at home and he's one of our players, he'd get some support."

Coach Guy Carbonneau told reporters he already has turned the page.

"We lost in a tough way, but we have more games to go," Carbonneau said. "Ryan is a strong guy, that's why he’s in the NHL. He made a mistake and he turned the page. You're a zero one day and a hero the next. I learned that a long time ago."

'Pepe' on patrol -- Don't look now, but Claude "Pepe" Lemieux, all 43 years of him, soon may be skating at an NHL arena near you.

The noted uber-pest signed a tryout deal with the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. He will start with the club's American Hockey League team, the Worcester Sharks, with the aim of returning to the NHL, where he was one of the most disliked yet productive players in NHL history, winning four Stanley Cups and one Conn Smythe Trophy.

"I would like to thank Wayne Thomas and the Worcester Sharks for the opportunity to show I can still play this game at a high level," Lemieux said. "I look forward to meeting my new teammates and helping Worcester on the ice."

"Claude called and inquired about resuming his hockey career and we have given him an opportunity to pursue it with Worcester," Thomas, the Worcester GM, said. "He is here to help this team win games."
Uncertain times -- The Toronto Maple Leafs welcomed Lee Stempniak to the club Tuesday and said goodbye to defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo and forward Alex Steen.

With the Leafs coming off a 6-3 home loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, other current Leafs are wondering if more changes are coming, especially with talk of Brian Burke signing on as the team's new general manager running rampant.

"It crosses your mind," defenseman Ian White said. "I don't think about it, I don't dwell on it, but it seems like it's the current trend. Who knows what's in store for the future? Who knows where this ends? This is probably just the beginning."

"That's the hardest part of the game, saying goodbye to your friends," coach Ron Wilson said. "But it's a new beginning for the two guys who left and obviously for Lee a new beginning as well. ... It's part of the business. Every team goes through this all the time. There's always turnover."

In Stempniak, the Leafs get a player who can score and who also is happy to be coming to the Leafs.

"This has been easier than I thought it would be," Stempniak told reporters. "I spent four years in St. Louis and enjoyed my time there, (but) it quickly went to excitement to come here, a team that's going in the right direction and a great organization. Everything that comes with playing in Toronto -- it's the capital of the hockey world and who wouldn't want to play here?"

Stempniak scored 27 goals for the Blues in 2006-07, but dropped to 14 last season. Chances are he will get a lot of ice time in Toronto.

"Over the last three or four weeks, he has been St. Louis' best player," Wilson said. "He's found his confidence."

Go for it -- Alex Ovechkin figures there is no time like the present, so he rejects any suggestion that the Washington Capitals are too young to become a serious challenger for the Stanley Cup.

"We want to win everything," Ovechkin said. "And our goal is not just to be playing, but we want to be the top team in the League."

As the Eastern Conference presently is constituted, the Bruins, Rangers, Canadiens and Penguins appear to be the primary threats to "AO's" desire.
"It's just the beginning of the year," he said. "We have a goal and we want to go there, and we don't care about a team like Montreal or Pittsburgh. They have a great team, great young guys, great talent, but we think about ourselves and we think about our game."

But the Caps' kids will have to make an adjustment, one Ovechkin has made quite successfully, staying on a strong pace and avoiding slumps.

"You go to the team and you know this is the NHL and probably all the young guys dream to play in NHL and it's hard to realize that you're in the NHL," he said. "It's no more little kids, no more take the puck, beat five guys and the goalie and put it in the net.

"It's hard work here, and nobody gives you easy ways. You have to fight. You have to live for this."

On the radar -- The Boston Bruins have made a strong move up the ladder in the Eastern Conference. They sport the best goals-against in the conference and are right there with the top scoring clubs, too.

Well, so much for hiding in the weeds. The Bruins now are a marquee attraction.

"Now that we know teams are coming for us, they're going to be ready every night," center Marc Savard said. "Claude (Julien) keeps us pretty honest on that side, that we've got to be ready every night."

"This is uncharted territory for a lot of us," defenseman Dennis Wideman said. "There's definitely a learning process to being in first place. You watch a team like Detroit, they’ve been doing it a long time. They're used to having every team get really excited to play against them. ... That's something you have to learn. It's going to start happening here for us. I guess we'll see how we handle it."

"The best thing about our hockey club right now, we're obviously a confident group," Savard said. "We know what we have to do to win games, and that's work hard and stay with the system and play at both ends of the ice. We've been able to do that. Obviously we're getting great goaltending, and we're getting different guys stepping up every night. We're getting a good mix of things right now. Like you say, we know it's only 20 games in, so we're not getting too high right now and try to keep an even keel. Things are going well."

Hi Sid -- Fun item in the Atlanta Journal Constitution the other day about coach John Anderson and his first trip to Toronto as Thrashers coach. Anderson played the bulk of his NHL career with the Leafs, and current Leafs coach Ron Wilson was a teammate. Anderson told the paper about how the two were hazed as rookies.

"Instead of shaving our heads, they kind of cut pieces out of it, so we looked like the Sex Pistols," Anderson said. "They called me Johnny Rotten. They called him Sid Vicious. I said hello to Sid today."

"Every Wednesday and Saturday night my whole family would get together and we'd watch the Leafs play. It was like a big event."
-- John Anderson

Anderson admitted returning to Toronto was pretty emotional.

"I grew up with a Maple Leaf tattooed on my rear end," Anderson said. "Every Wednesday and Saturday night my whole family would get together and we'd watch the Leafs play. It was like a big event."
Do the right thing -- Kyle Quincey presented a dilemma to the Detroit Red Wings and General Manager Ken Holland. The Wings didn't want to lose the young defenseman, but the realities of the salary cap forced Holland to put Quincey on waivers. But there was another reality in Holland's mind -- namely, Quincey had earned the chance to play in the NHL, which he has done most effectively with the Los Angeles Kings.

"He was just putting me on waivers to get cap room," Quincey recalled. "He said, 'Selfishly, I don't want anyone to pick you up, but at the same time it's not fair to you, because we know you can play in the League.

"We kind of left on the best terms possible. I told Kenny when we left, down the road I'd love to come back. But I'm very happy right now."

Honoring the past -- Who says today's kids have short memories?

Well, maybe they do as a whole, but not Derick Brassard of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
As Aaron Portzline reported in the Columbus Dispatch this week, Brassard, the Blue Jackets' young speedster, discovered a DVD of Danny Gare's number retirement ceremony in Buffalo while living at Gare's home. The DVD included some career highlights and Brassard was impressed. Gare is the team's TV analyst.

"Danny was a great player," Brassard said. Impressed, he asked Gare for an on-ice tutorial.

"You can always get better," Brassard said. "I want to reach my potential. I want to get a little better every day. I started to shoot the puck more last season (at AHL Syracuse). In junior I was always playing on the outside, trying to make a play with the puck. So I asked Danny to show me a couple of shooting things."

Gare was surprised and happy to be asked.

Brassard and Gare spent about 25 minutes together. Gare told Brassard that he'll chart his shots on goal for the next several games, and the two could work together again soon.

Brassard later critiqued his coach: "It was pretty funny, but he was not able to shoot. Everything went (high)."

"That little bugger," Gare said. "He said that?"
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