Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Kane man of the match, but he gushes over fans

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IT was a first taste, a sample sip. And Evander Kane will tell you this right now: The flavour is so exquisite he can't wait to drink up playing at the MTS Centre all season long.

"It was great. I haven't played in front of a crowd like that probably since the gold-medal world junior game (in Ottawa in 2009), to be honest," Kane said after Wednesday's 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in front of a sold-out crowd of 15,004. "That was great tonight. I'm looking forward to all 42 (home) games -- all 82 games -- this season. It's going to be like that all season and it's an encouraging thing to see.

"The fans here are just getting warmed up, to be honest. A packed house for a pre-season game back to back... and Friday's going to be no different. It's a fantastic atmosphere to play in, the best building I've ever played in, and it's only been one game for me. I'm looking forward to starting the season."

Yes, if Wednesday's win over Carolina and last week's 6-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets are any indication, the Jets' Oct. 9 home opener against the Montreal Canadiens will be pure bedlam. And Kane can't wait.

"As good as the pre-season games are, that Oct. 9th game is going to be a helluva game and something a lot of people are going to be tuned in to watch," he said. "It's going to be a night when history is made."

Playing in front of the Jets' home fans for the first time -- he was in Columbus last week as part of the split squad sent to Ohio -- Kane was clearly the team's best player on the ice. He finished with two goals, including an empty-netter, while leading Winnipeg with nine shots and six hits in the kind of energetic, all-round effort that offered glimpses of the upside that has most NHL observers convinced he is about to morph into a 30-goal man. Or better.

Kane's two goals give him three on the pre-season and they came on a night when he was working with Jason Gregoire and 18-year-old rookie sensation Mark Scheifele. The Jets' first-round draft pick drew one assist and now has seven points in four exhibition games.

"Like I've been saying all the time, Scheifs has some real good vision and he's a real smart hockey player," Kane said. "Even though things weren't going our way early on, we just continue to work and find a way to win and find a way to produce offensively, and we did it again tonight.

"Through our roster, we've got a lot of scoring... a little bit more than people think. If we can skate and play with speed and play fast, we're going to create those opportunities and we've got the guys in here to bury those.

"Any time you're getting a lot of opportunities, it's a good thing. Even when they're not going in, you can't look at it in a negative light. You've got to continue to push through."

Jets head coach Claude Noel said no cuts can be expected ahead of Friday's game against Nashville, but with 36 players still in camp, it won't be long after the pre-season finale before the roster gets sliced down to manageable numbers.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2011 C3

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