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Kane's young career coming full circle with Buffalo homecoming @NHLdotcom

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - For everything Patrick Kane has done over the past six months - scoring against idol Dominik Hasek in a shootout, leading NHL rookies in scoring and throwing out the first pitch at a Cubs game - he's had difficulty putting it all into perspective.

Maybe everything will fall into place Saturday. That's when the young Chicago Blackhawks rookie star will play his first game at Buffalo, where Kane spent much of his childhood rooting for the Sabres from his father's rink-side seats.

"It's a big day for me," he said. "I think that might be the night where it all sinks in and comes to me."

Buffalo is where it comes full circle for Kane, who celebrated his 19th birthday last month and has so far lived up to his advance billing, producing at a point-a-game pace after being selected No. 1 in the NHL draft in June.

Kane grew up about 6 miles from the Sabres' HSBC Arena. One of the beams in the building, which was completed in 1996, even sports his signature, penned right next to former Sabres owner Seymour Knox.

A few blocks away, the Sabres' old home, the shuttered Memorial Auditorium, is where the hockey light went on for Kane, who was captivated watching Hasek, now with Detroit, and former captain Pat LaFontaine electrify the crowd.

Now it will be Kane's turn, playing in a hockey-mad town and before a crowd that will feature some 500 members of his immediate family and close friends.

"It's funny how things have worked out," Kane said. "Going back to Buffalo, that rink where I watched so many games and played ministicks in the hallways, and I finally get to play on the ice after being there for so long."

It seems like yesterday that Kane, at 14, was packing up and moving to play in an elite youth hockey program in Detroit, where he would live with his coach and former NHL star Pat Verbeek. It was only last year that Kane, playing a 2-hour drive away for the London Knights, was leading the Ontario Hockey League with 145 points (62 goals, 83 assists) in 58 games.

On his bedroom wall is a poster of LaFontaine. On his jersey is the No. 88, the year he was born. On his mind is an underdog's mentality that reflects his blue-collar Buffalo roots, allowing Kane to overcome the questions about whether he could succeed in such a rugged game at only 5-foot-10.

"You look at the people in Buffalo that are successful, they worked hard," Kane said. "It's a hardworking city, and that's what I want to keep with me the most."

Kane has seven goals and 23 assists to lead his team with 30 points in 30 games. Overall, he's tied for 12th in assists and 31st in points.

Better still, he and fellow rookie Jonathan Toews, have provided a spark to a downtrodden franchise that has reached the playoffs only once in the past nine seasons. The Blackhawks are 15-13-1-1 and Chicago fans are noticing.

Kane and some teammates spent nearly three hours at a recent autograph signing in Chicago when the session ended with hundreds of fans still lining out the door.

"I think things are starting to turn around," Kane said. "Hopefully we can turn the buzz into a real contender. If I'm a piece of that puzzle, that's great."

Donna Kane couldn't be more proud or excited, eagerly looking forward to watching her son play in Buffalo. She's also amazed by how Sabres fans are reacting after one suite holder offered the Kane family their seats for Saturday's game.

"It's very touching," Donna Kane said. "This will never happen again. The next time Patrick comes to play the Sabres, he's not going to get this kind of homecoming. We think it's wonderful."

Imagine if Kane scores?

"You know what, for him, I hope he does, because that's very, very important to him," she said. "To us, so long as he plays well and has fun and enjoys himself, that's all we need. But to him, it's going to be very important."

Patrick Kane doesn't know yet how he'll react should he score.

"Hopefully, I can get one," Kane said. "I've had some visions of what it's going to be like, but I'm not sure what to expect yet."

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