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by Chris Ryndak / Buffalo Sabres

Evander Kane admitted that it is a little strange to be focused on next season when there are still 23 games remaining on the schedule.

The Buffalo Sabres' newest offensive threat met with local media for the first time Saturday afternoon at First Niagara Center with his left arm in a sling. The former 30-goal scorer had surgery this month on his shoulder and will miss the rest of the year while he rehabs at his home in Vancouver.

“For myself, individually, it’s a unique situation,” he said. “I’m already looking forward to next year, but the team’s still playing. So it’s kind of tough to balance that a little bit. But it gives me an opportunity to get healthy and finally get my body back to where it needs to be so I can perform at my best.”

Kane, 23, had been battling multiple injuries this season, the biggest perhaps, being that torn labrum in his shoulder. The surgery was a little more complicated than doctors first thought it might be – they actually found a hole in the shoulder that had to be repaired – but he expects to be fully healthy by the time training camp rolls around in September.

Buffalo acquired Kane, defenseman Zach Bogosian and goaltending prospect Jason Kasdorf from the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 11 for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, prospects Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux and a first-round pick. The Sabres expect Kane, who has 222 points (109+113) in 361 career games, to play a very large role in their future plans.

“I’m definitely excited to have a fresh start. I’m looking forward to moving on to bigger and better things here in Buffalo,” Kane said. “The organization has been fantastic in how they’ve treated me so far and the way they’ve brought me in. I’m really happy. My parents are happy and that’s always a good thing as well.”

He played his last game for the Jets on Feb. 2 in Calgary and was scratched from their next game in what was called a “coach’s decision” by Jets bench boss Paul Maurice. Not long after that, Kane elected to have shoulder surgery, ending his season.

There were rumblings in media reports of disagreements with teammates that ultimately led to the trade, but Kane called all of that speculation.

“I’m not really going into the details of what happened,” Kane said. “I wasn’t wearing a track suit. No. But it’s something that tends to get blown out of proportion, especially playing in a Canadian market. There have been numerous things that have happened in the past that are completely false so we’ll leave it at that.”

Buffalo currently sits in last place in the League and will likely have a very high pick in the upcoming NHL Draft. To help accelerate the rebuild and put the team back on the winning track sooner than later is extremely appealing to him.

He already knows a few players on the team as well from playing with them at various stages of his career. He played with Chris Stewart on Canada’s IIHF World Championships team in 2011 and he won gold with Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship.

“Before I got to the NHL, I won at all levels. I won a lot,” Kane said. “So it’s definitely been tough not winning at this level. That’s something I want to change for sure.”

With the Sabres, he’ll be counted on as a leader on the team next season and that’s a role he can’t wait to fill as well.

“I’ve been ready to do that for a while now. That’s one of the exciting things that I think the opportunity in Buffalo here brings,” he said. “To be able to do that, that’s something I look forward to as well.”

Kane was at Buffalo’s game on Saturday where he was able to meet his new teammates, coach Ted Nolan and his staff and general manager Tim Murray.

He will also attend Sunday evening’s game against the Nashville Predators. The Tops Game Night pregame show begins at 5:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell with puck drop slated for just after 6 p.m. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.

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