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February 11, 2013 | 10:22pm ET
Blackhawks, Kane back and better than ever
By Molly Melissa Mandell

DALLAS, TX -- In 12 games, the Chicago Blackhawks have won 10, and they have yet to lose in regulation.

They just ended a six-game road trip with their first regular-season shutout since March 23, 2011. Chicago currently leads the league with 22 points.

Basically, the Blackhawks are killing it (literally, too -- they also rank first overall in penalty kill percentage).

The team's hot start can be attributed to many things. After all, according to Sports Illustrated, last week Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville uttered words we rarely every hear from an NHL coach: "We're happy with everything."

One thing, however, that the team can be especially happy about is Patrick Kane's performance. In Sunday's game against Nashville, Kane extended his five-game goal streak recording his seventh goal, and his ninth of the season, early in the third period.

The Blackhawks took Kane first overall in the 2007 NHL Draft. Kane has in no way been a disappointment. He won the Calder Cup Trophy as rookie of the year in 2007-08. In 2009-10, Kane registered 88 points, and ended the season scoring the game-winning goal against the Flyers to take home the Stanley Cup.

Unfortunately, Kane also earned himself a reputation off the ice, one that caused many to question his maturity and dedication to the game. Whether it's confrontations with cab divers, partying in limos, or getting kicked out of bars and fraternities, Kane has been featured on Deadspin one too many times.

Since his Stanley Cup winning goal, Kane's production, along with his reputation, had declined. In 2010-11, Kane registered 73 points. He ended last season with 66 points and during the summer, became the center of much trade speculation.

During the lockout, Kane played in Switzerland for EHC Biel, and perhaps it was the best thing to ever happen to him.

"We only have five imports on a team," EHC Biel coach Kevin Schlapfer told ESPN. "It's important they have a big role. They have to lead the team. Patrick is still a young player, but I told him, 'You have to lead the guys. You have to talk to the guys. Every guy wants to talk to you.'

"In Chicago, you have other superstars on his level. Here, he's the only one. I think it was a little new to him. As time went on, he did more of that. He was really the leader not only as a hockey player, but as a person, too. I think he can take something from that."

Kane registered 13 goals and 10 assists in 12 games with the Swiss team. He returned to Chicago seemingly more focused and mature.

The 24-year-old seems to have finally realized his potential. Kane is playing like one of the best players in the NHL right now, and those once rampant trade rumors now seem a faint memory.

This is the Patrick Kane we've all been waiting for.

Molly Melissa Mandell is a contributing writer for The Fourth Period.

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