BUFFALO – Sabres winger Evander Kane, the subject of a sex offense investigation by Buffalo police, declared his innocence Monday morning prior to playing in his team’s 2-0 loss to the Washington Capitals.
“There’s not a whole lot I can say,” Kane told a throng of reporters and cameras inside the First Niagara Center. “I just want to say I’ve done nothing wrong. I look forward to clearing my name.”
In a 25-second statement, Kane, 24, also said he respects the legal process. He refused to answer any questions.
Kane hasn’t been charged with a crime. The Buffalo News first reported the investigation into an alleged incident Sunday morning at a downtown hotel. The team later confirmed it in a statement.
According to the paper, police seized Kane’s sport utility vehicle and also searched his suite inside the Marriott HarborCenter, the hotel connected to the First Niagara Center where Kane lives.
Kane skated with his teammates Monday morning. Prior to taking the ice, Kane addressed his teammates with Sabres coach Dan Bylsma present.
Following the Sabres’ skate, Kane left the ice, went to the dressing room and exited before returning about 20 minutes later to speak.
Bylsma wouldn’t comment on Kane’s situation or what he said to the team.
“We’re obviously aware of the situation and the allegations,” Bylsma said.
Bylsma did, however, acknowledge he was worried about Kane’s mental state for the game. But Kane looked engaged while registering four shots on goal in 20 minutes, 20 seconds of ice time. Capitals goalie Braden Holtby robbed Kane in close with his glove with one minute left in the game.
“I think he was eager to get on the ice and be with his team and play with his team tonight and it showed,” Bylsma said.
Kane added following the game: “I enjoy playing hockey. I enjoy being around the rink, around the guys, playing in this league. I don’t take that lightly.”
Kane was given Sunday off for “personal reasons.” Bylsma said Kane “was happy to be on the ice with his team” Monday morning.
The Sabres clearly wanted to have Kane speak before he became a distraction.
Captain Brian Gionta said the Sabres “have to worry about hockey.” Still, he worries about Kane.
“At the same time, lots of things happen,” he said. “That’s for him to deal with. It’s part of being a professional is trying to separate things.”
Gionta also said: “They’re serious accusations. But at the same time, that’s what it is at this point in time. Until things change, he’s our teammate.”
The Sabres acquired Kane from the Winnipeg Jets in a blockbuster deal Feb. 11. His Winnipeg career soured for good shortly before that, when his former teammates reportedly threw his tracksuit in the shower after he violated the team’s dress code. Kane responded by not showing up for a game that night and later having season-ending shoulder surgery. He was traded days later.
Kane has become a visible member of the Sabres during his short time here. He invited two teammates on a helicopter trip to a Toronto Blue Jays playoff game in October and chronicled the night on Instagram. He took a group of children out for dinner and Christmas shopping earlier this month.
While Marcus Foligno has recovered from a left elbow cut he suffered Dec. 14 in Detroit, the winger must wait to play again, Bylsma said. Foligno sat out his fifth straight game Monday. He has been available the last two.
Foligno said he needed stitches to repair “a pretty nasty gash” and had to take antibiotics.
The Sabres also scratched defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (healthy) for the eighth straight game.
Capitals defenseman John Carlson (lower body) was scratched, ending his consecutive game streak at 412.