Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

March 23, 2012

Sabres newcomer Sulzer relishing regular duty

Weber looking to get back in lineup

BUFFALO — The plan’s to get Mike Weber some ice again soon, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. With seven healthy defensemen, someone had to sit Wednesday, so Weber, a team-worst minus-19, watched the 3-0 win over Montreal after playing 44 straight games.

Ruff could utilize all seven tonight in New York against the Rangers and drop a forward. He could also scratch Weber and skate him Saturday at home versus the Minnesota Wild.

Despite the awful rating, Ruff said Weber’s “played rock solid” and “been a physical force” recently.

Whatever Ruff does with his defense, don’t expect him to bench impressive newcomer Alexander Sulzer, a throw-in to the Cody Hodgson trade with Vancouver.

“I think that his game has been that good,” said Ruff, whose ninth-place Sabres could pass Washington tonight and move into the final Eastern Conference playoff spot for the first time since Dec. 20. “It’s tough to take him out.”

The steady German, a spare part with the Canucks all season and briefly following his Feb. 27 arrival, has possibly secured a regular NHL spot for the first time.

Sulzer, who appeared only 12 times this season prior to joining the Sabres, has played eight straight games beside countryman Christian Ehrhoff, averaging 18:41 of ice a night.

“I definitely haven’t had that much fun playing hockey in a long time,” said Sulzer – who has one goal, three points and plus-2 rating – Thursday inside the First Niagara Center. “I’m really excited about the opportunity.”

Ruff and others have admitted they knew little about Sulzer, who was swapped for Marc-Andre Gragnani, the Sabres’ extra defenseman much of the winter.

Sulzer appeared sparingly over parts of three years in Nashville, and then was dealt at the trade deadline last season to Florida, where he played nine games.

It was expected the 27-year-old, an unrestricted free agent following the season, would have a similar run in Buffalo. Perhaps he would occasionally fill in before quietly departing.

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