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Young Kane develops quickly for Blackhawks

CHICAGO - Patrick Kane is soaking it all up, a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals as a 21-year-old in only his third NHL season. And if you think he's nervous on the game's biggest stage, forget it. Having trouble sleeping? Not really.

"I've said it before; I don't really get too many butterflies as far as hockey goes," the young and confident Blackhawks star said before Chicago faced the Flyers in Game 1 last night. "You get excited thinking about it. You might toss and turn a bit, but I've never really had a problem sleeping. I'm too young for that."

Both franchises are trying to end long championship droughts. The Blackhawks are searching for their first title since the days of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita in 1961. The Flyers are looking for their first championship since the Broad Street Bullies socked their way to the second of back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1975.

Chicago's appearance in the Finals is its first since 1992. Kane barely remembers what he was doing in those days.

"I was 3 1/2 years old. I was either getting ready for preschool or playing mini-sticks with my mom and dad on the rug," he said. Kane came to the Blackhawks after a pingpong ball took a lucky bounce as Chicago won the lottery and moved ahead of the Flyers - who had the worst record that season - to get the No. 1 pick in 2007.

Kane was an easy choice for the Blackhawks and became rookie of the year, and the Flyers took James van Riemsdyk with the second pick. Now both are in the Finals. They are also close friends, who dined together this season when the Blackhawks visited Philly for their only meeting with the Flyers.

Kane emerged as a star, a consistent scoring threat with his speed and handling skills. Van Riemsdyk took a different route, heading off to college first, then signing with the Flyers a little more than a year ago.

"We were both put in different situations and we were in different stages of our hockey development and, you know, I did what I thought was best for me to be a better player," van Riemsdyk said. "He was obviously ready to make that jump right after the draft. He's done a good job for himself."

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