Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Kane stresses progress

Sees growth in his play over the season beyond stats

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He is their youngest front-line player and Evander Kane did not hesitate Thursday night to declare the shortened 2013 season a year of growth.

It was the end of the line for the Jets in their 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, eliminated from playoff contention while they still held a 2-1 lead in the second intermission.

Kane, 21, scored 17 goals and 33 points in the truncated season. His goal production extrapolated over a regular, 82-game season, would have been 29, about matching the 30 he put up in his first year in Winnipeg.

"I think there was definitely growth in my game this year," Kane said after the game. "Stats are a way you can show growth but there are a lot of other ways you can show growth as a player.

"I think I improved this year and I want to improve next year. It's tough when you have half a season in terms of judging stats. Guys can get hot for 30, 40 games then cool off for the next 50. You never know what'll happen.

"This is a season that was 48 games, half a season, and you can't really judge (stats). You just go out and play and my job is to contribute offensively."

Asked if he felt like he was in a better place as a player with the stability of a new six-year contract averaging out at $5.25 million per season, signed last September, Kane nodded quickly.

"I think I've become more a leader in the room and on the ice each year I've been here," said Kane, now with 80 career NHL goals. "Next season is my fifth season. I'm still a young guy but not the typical young guy anymore.

"I've been around and I'm comfortable with the league now and I feel comfortable with the guys in here and that's definitely something I want to become, more of a leader on this team and get this team into the playoffs a lot sooner than later."

That leadership element showed itself a little on Thursday night.

Kane refused to talk about the level of his health or what injury he might have been dealing with late in the season.

He scored four of his 17 goals over the last 14 games, but only one in the last six.

On Thursday, as in many days in recent weeks, his right wrist was tightly taped but Kane refused to talk about it.

"I don't have too much to say," he said. "Like I said before, nobody's 100 per cent at this time of year when you're playing every other night. You have to battle through some things."

Pressed on the matter, he refused to say.

"I'm not going to comment on it," Kane said.

The fourth overall pick of the 2009 draft happened to be right next to Montreal's P.K. Subban when the final buzzer sounded Thursday.

There were quick pats exchanged, and Kane offered good wishes for his friend in the playoffs, but he wasn't eager to be positive about the conclusion of the Jets' season in team terms.

"It (the late run of 6-1-1 coming into Thursday's game) was positive," he said. "We knew we needed to pretty much run the table with those nine games left. We came up short, didn't get the job done.

"We didn't make the playoffs. We had an opportunity to win the division and get into the playoffs and we didn't get the job done."


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 26, 2013 C2

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