You could almost carve an entire lineup out of the list of linemates that Evander Kane has played with over the past 10 games. Sam Reinhart and Kyle Okposo both played on the wing opposite him when he had Jack Eichel as his center, before he switched to a line with Zemgus Girgensons and Nicolas Deslauriers. Most recently, since the third period against Carolina on Saturday, he's skated with Johan Larsson and Brian Gionta.
For as inconsistent as Kane's linemates have been, all it's meant lately is that he's had more faces to celebrate with. Kane has scored nine points, including six goals, in his last 10 games, including game-tying goals in both of the Sabres' shootout losses during their recent road trip to Carolina and Florida.
His current hot streak comes on the heels of a 12-game goalless drought to begin his season. Nearly a month separated games No. 1 and 2 in that stretch thanks to the cracked ribs that he sustained when he crashed into the boards on opening night. Kane was eager to return as early as possible from that injury, but he admitted Wednesday that getting back to his normal self was an adjustment.
"I've played 20 games now," Kane said. "It takes a while to get back into the game. I was coming off of a pretty serious injury and I'm just kind of starting to find my rhythm and feel better about my game.
"For me I think it's just about being consistent. I'm a guy that wants to make a difference and wants to have the puck on his stick and wants to be the guy, and we have a few guys like that on the team. That's part of my job and for me I just hope to be put in a position where I can have the opportunity to do that."
He was "the guy" in Carolina when coach Dan Bylsma moved him to a line with Larsson and Gionta with the Sabres trailing 1-0 in the third period. Bylsma said he thought Kane's first shift with his new line energized the team for the remainder of that period, and it paid off when Kane tipped in a shot by Rasmus Ristolainen to tie the game with 2:37 remaining in regulation.
Kane played with Larsson and Gionta again in Florida on Tuesday, and this time he tied the game at 2-2 after Gionta collected a rebound on Cody Franson's shot from the point and fed Kane with a pass through the crease.
"I think moving him next to Larsson in the Carolina game with Gionta has added a lot to that line," Bylsma said. "I think Evander's done a great job of checking on that line as well. He's playing against the other teams' good players, he was last night again, and doing an excellent job with that line in the speed but checking part of the game as well."
Video: BYLSMA: After Practice
Kane's goals helped the Sabres earn two points during their two-game road trip, giving them 15 points in their last 10 games. They had to come back to earn points in a handful of those games, be it in the third period at home against New York, or the second period against Los Angeles, or in those last two games against Carolina and Florida. In the process, Bylsma said he's seen his team develop a greater sense of confidence when they find themselves trailing.
"I think we have started to develop that with our team," he said. "Unfortunately we've had to do it from behind, but we have and we've fought back. The Florida game last night, they score the power-play goal to make it 2-0 nothing and roughly from the 10-minute mark on or probably the eight-minute mark, we took over that game and I think we had a good feeling we were going to come back.
"Especially when we get the power-play goal from Sam, you felt it coming from our team. The guys were jumping over the boards, wagging their tails and kind of had the belief we were going to win that game."
The Sabres now trail the Bruins by five points in the Atlantic Division with three games in hand, a fact not lost on the players.
"If we win those games, we're in the playoffs," Kane said. "We see that, we're aware of that. We've been picking up points pretty consistently these last 10 or so games and we know before the Christmas break we have to make a push. These next two games coming up are games we need to win and that are going to put ourselves in a really good position to have a good second half.
"I think we're a pretty confident team right now. I think that can still grow. We're starting to find our swagger a bit as a team but I still think we can improve on that."
The Sabres will play two more games before taking that three-day break for the holiday, at home against Carolina on Thursday and in Brooklyn against the Islanders on Friday. On the other side of the break, a road game in Detroit and a home-and-home set with Boston to close out 2016 await.
There's no time for Kane, or any of the other Sabres, to slow down now. If they make the most out of those games, the Sabres could very well be looking down from third place, not up at it.
Sabres looking for answers on the shootout
The Sabres would be even closer to a playoff berth if not for their record in shootouts this season, which stands at 1-5 after their two most recent losses. How to remedy that problem was the focus of today's Sabres in :90 with Brian Duff, which you can watch below.
Video: Sabres in :90 (12/21/16)
Win a suite experience through My One Buffalo
Sabres fans, don't miss out on your chance to upgrade your seats for the game against the Hurricanes on Thursday, Dec. 22 to a suite experience, including food and non-alcoholic beverages! A select number of suite upgrades will be awarded through My One Buffalo in the Sabres mobile app when you enter the arena.
To be eligible to win:
- You must be a My One Buffalo member logged in through the Sabres Official Mobile App. If you are not currently a member, there's still time to register!
- Before you get to the game, make sure that you've enabled Bluetooth AND set location services in the app to "Always On" to receive a digital scratch ticket and a chance to win.
- All winners must follow the instructions on their winning digital scratch ticket to receive their suite tickets.
My One Buffalo is available in the Sabres Mobile app. After you download the app, click "MyOneBuf" at the bottom. Tap any tile and you will be prompted to register for the program. For full tutorials on how to use My One Buffalo, click here. (myonebuffalo.com)
To download the Sabres Mobile app on an Apple device, click here.
To download the Sabres Mobile app on an Android device, click here.