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Patrick Kane says rehab on track, 'getting back to my old self'

NHL free agent forward Patrick Kane told The Associated Press on Thursday he has been on the ice about 20 times already and is on track, if not ahead of the initial four-to-six-month projection, in returning to play since having hip resurfacing surgery on June 1.

"It's just exciting to see progression and just feeling better on the ice," Kane said by phone. "Kind of getting back to my old self, so it's pretty exciting."

The 34-year-old, three-time Stanley Cup winner says he has an upcoming doctor's appointment during which he hopes to be cleared for contact.

Kane elected to have surgery to repair a nagging injury that hampered him over the past year with the Chicago Blackhawks and then down the stretch and in the playoffs after being traded to the New York Rangers.

Though eager to resume playing, Kane said he intends to stick with the six-month rehabilitation timetable.

"I think we're at the point now where, I mean, could I come back early? Yeah, probably," Kane said. "But does it make sense? You know, it might be better to take the full time and just make sure I'm at 105-110% instead of just 90-95. But it's a lot better than I was last year."

As for where he'll be playing, Kane is staying patient while expecting to field offers once NHL teams open training camp in three weeks.

Then again, he added: "If someone wanted to come and give an offer that I was excited about, and a situation that I'm excited about, it's not like I wouldn't be listening just because of the situation I'm in."

Kane's production dipped last season, when he finished with 21 goals and 57 points in 73 games. Part of that was a result of his injury, with another spending the first 54 games on a Blackhawks team already retooling for the future.

His production went up upon being traded to the Rangers, with whom he had five goals and 12 points in 19 regular-season games, and adding a goal and five assists in New York's seven-game, first-round series loss to New Jersey.

From Buffalo, New York, Kane is second only to Mike Modano in scoring among U.S.-born players with 1,237 points. Kane was one of the centerpieces of Chicago's Stanley Cup-winning teams in 2010, '13 and '15 and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 2016.

The NHL's No. 1 draft pick in 2007, Kane joined Washington's Nicklas Backstrom and Carl Hagelin as players to have the invasive hip surgery over the past year. It involves dislocating the upper end of the thighbone, trimming it, capping it and removing cartilage before putting it back in place.

Backstrom, who also was seeking to fix a lingering hip ailment, played seven months after the surgery and finished the season with 21 points in 39 games. Hagelin announced his retirement on Wednesday, citing an eye injury that has sidelined him for nearly a year and a half.

Before Backstrom, the only NHL player to come back from hip resurfacing surgery was longtime defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who got into 37 more games before calling it a career.