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Blackhawks' Patrick Kane is a star, and he's matured, too

Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks shoots the

Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks shoots the puck against the Boston Bruins in Game 5 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals at United Center. (June 22, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

Patrick Kane is a former No. 1 overall draft pick, a two-time Stanley Cup winner and one of the top scoring threats in the NHL.

The Blackhawks star also has been involved in some off-ice episodes that might lead one to assume he would fall into the motif of cocky but talented athlete, or that he'd have trouble working with linemates such as Brad Richards and Kris Versteeg who lack his cache.

But Kane, 26, obliterates those notions when asked about the key to his success this season (he is on pace for a career year).

"I think I've been fortunate enough as of late to play with two great players, with Richards and Versteeg" on the second line, he said. "It seems like we've had some chemistry and been able to score some goals . . . I think you figure out some things every year. I think it always helps when the team is successful, and on this team, you're going to play with good players no matter where you are in the lineup."

Those are some mature words for a player who, in recent years, seems to have established himself as a leader both on and off the ice.

Kane was involved in a well-publicized 2007 altercation with a taxi driver in Kane's hometown of Buffalo that resulted in charges of second-degree robbery, fourth-degree criminal mischief and theft of services. Although felony charges were dropped, Kane and his cousin, James M. Kane, eventually pleaded guilty to non-criminal disorderly conduct charges. Both were given conditional discharges.

The two apologized to the cabbie and avoided further penalties by staying out of trouble for a court-mandated year.

Now the only penalties Kane has to worry about are on the ice, and those have been few and far between. In fact, he's been assessed only one two-minute minor. Other noteworthy stats for the right wing: 14 goals and 14 assists in 30 games, nearly a point a game, with a 15.0 shooting percentage.

Kane scored a snazzy goal on a backhand to the top shelf to give Chicago a short-lived one-goal lead 3:46 into the third period of the Islanders' 3-2 win Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.

He's already netted four game-winners, two shy of his career high. He helped the Blackhawks out of an early-season swoon and led them to an eight-game winning streak that ended Saturday night.

Even better, Richards and Versteeg, both of whom joined Kane on the second line early this season, are along for the ride. In 63 games last season, Versteeg had 10 goals and 19 assists. This season, he has 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 26 games. Former Rangers center Richards has six goals and 12 assists in 30 games.

That type of chemistry has caused plenty of agita for opposing coaches, and that wasn't lost on Islanders coach Jack Capuano.

"I don't think you can neutralize elite players in this game," Capuano said of Kane. "I've always said that you gotta try to contain them. They're going to get their opportunities . . . You just gotta try to take away their time in space . . . and try to contain them when you can."

Kane, naturally, has other plans.

"Hopefully this continues and we can keep it up," he said before Saturday night's game. "It always makes things a little more fun when you're winning."

A former first-round pick, hotshot rookie and two-time Stanley Cup winner would know.

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