Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Kane not paid to pass

But sometimes he does, and by golly, sometimes it actually works

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The Winnipeg Jets did not put Evander Kane on a new six-year, $31.5-million contract last September for his passing.

The 21-year-old left-winger, the youngest player in last season's NHL to reach 30 goals, has a lot of other priorities ahead of playmaking.

And yet, four games and two goals into this season, there have been some glimpses of what might be in the power forward's overall package.

 

Jets fans were exceptionally pleased with the creative feed he gave linemate Blake Wheeler for a goal Tuesday in Washington.

And there, in the potential panic of the dying moments of Friday's 4-2 win over Pittsburgh, with the Pens pressing with a sixth attacker, along came the vision again.

Under pressure with the game on the line, Kane gobbled up the loose puck that was mishandled by Pittsburgh's Kris Letang.

Instead of taking his own shot at the empty net and risking icing, Kane found an open Wheeler for a much higher percentage play and the empty-net marker.

"Just in terms of vision, reading the play and experience, it just ties into timing and getting used to the pace of play," Kane said on Saturday. "I remember when I was 18, you're coming into the NHL and the pace is so much quicker and guys are making decisions so much faster than junior... once it kind of slows down in your mind and you've gained some experience, get comfortable in that setting, you start seeing the ice the way you used to.

"You do get more comfortable."

Now into his fourth NHL season, nobody has questioned Kane's skating or his shooting ability, nor his willingness to go to some of the hard areas that yield the scoring points.

"I've tried to get better as a player each and every year," he said.

"I think I've always had that element of making the right plays in my game. I think I've showed that in the past.

"But at the same time, it's just part of becoming a more mature player, getting every year a bit more confidence in your game."

There is no doubt whatsoever that being paired with Wheeler on the same line, now flanking veteran Olli Jokinen, pleases the young Vancouver native.

"You get comfortable being with pretty much the same guys for the last three-and-a-half years. Me and Wheels, we're two guys who really work well together with our style of play.

"He's more of a pass-first guy, good vision, can skate, move the puck or hang onto it. I just try to get open, find spots.

"He made a great play to me on the goal (Friday) and it's easy when a guy's playing with speed and you're playing with speed.

"It's nice to be able to have somebody who can keep up. It just makes it that much easier to find him; you're not looking back over your shoulder at times, wondering where everybody is."

The level of comfort experience brings is also showing up in his aggressive, take-charge kind of approach to forechecking.

"I think I've always been a guy who likes to hunt pucks down on the forecheck and in the neutral zone," Kane said. "As a forward and as a line, we all want to get the puck back as quick as possible.

"With the speed we have, getting on the puck and hunting it down and trying to get on offence quick is key. I like to kind of take charge and sometimes I'm a little bit more aggressive on the forecheck than the coach might like, but I think it pays off more times than it doesn't.

"It's something I enjoy doing. Even when you might not get the puck back, you might cause a turnover for an opportunity."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 27, 2013 B2

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