Newcomer Robyn Regehr and Tyler Myers have quickly jelled on the ice for the Buffalo Sabres. Right now, just two games into the season, they look like a formidable No. 1 defense tandem for the team. The duo hasn’t spent much time together away from the rink, though. So earlier this week, Regehr invited Myers over for dinner.
He figured they’d bond. Myers could meet his family, see his new home in Buffalo. But Regehr called too late. Myers was already cooking for himself.
“I think we’re doing a rain check,” Regehr said Thursday after the 2-0 Sabres prepared for tonight’s home opener at the First Niagara Center against the Carolina Hurricanes.
They’ll eventually enjoy a dinner. Heck, in a few months, the two might know each other like brothers. If Sabres coach Lindy Ruff gets his wish, Regehr will rarely leave Myers’ side.
“I would like them to last together a whole year together like (Henrik) Tallinder and Myers stayed together,” Ruff said about his top duo two years ago. “That would be ideal. There may be some offensive situations where you may see two offensive (defensemen), (Andrej) Sekera or (Marc-Andre) Gragnani going with Myers if we’re down or if we need some offense.
“But that’s a pair that we’d love to see stay together.”
When the Sabres acquired Regehr, 31, from Calgary in June, Ruff said he wanted the respected veteran to play with the talented Myers, 21.
During his Calder Trophy campaign, Myers dazzled beside Tallinder from Day One. Then, after the Swede left in free agency, Myers stumbled much of last season with several new partners.
By March, Myers had regained his old form beside youngster Chris Butler, who was later dealt for Regehr. Clearly, though, Myers thrives with a permanent, veteran partner.
“To play with Hank all 82 games of the year, it helped me out a lot (as a rookie),” Myers said. “It made it easier for me to get used to playing with one person. Last year, we were switched around the entire season, so I kind of got used to that. I’ve kind of had a taste of both, but it’s definitely nice when you have a constant partner to develop that chemistry with.”
Despite their hulking size — Myers is a lanky 6-foot-8 and 222 pounds, while Regehr is a thick 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds — the defensemen have different styles.
Myers is a dynamic skater and puck-rusher, an offensive defenseman by any definition. Regehr is more of a stay-at-home defender, someone who’s a beast for opponents in the defensive zone.
Together, Ruff believes he’s created “a defense pair that we think has some offense to it and a pair that can play against any top line.”
“I told (Myers), ‘If you want to get up ice, go ahead, feel free if you think the opportunity is right for you,’” Regehr said. “I think for me I feel more comfortable around the back and making sure everything’s OK and protecting that middle of the ice.”
Myers began showcasing a fearless, rough-and-tumble game during the postseason. Now, Ruff hopes Regehr’s attributes — his stick work, how hard he is on skills players down low — will further Myers’ development.
“I understand he’s a bigger, stronger man than Tyler right now,” Ruff said. “But the small things in the game are the things you want to rub off.”
Regehr’s style has been rubbing off on Myers for more than a decade. As a boy growing up in Calgary, Myers looked up to Regehr. Why?
“It’s just the same thing that I see now,” Myers explained. “It’s just the intensity he brings when he plays, especially in the D-zone. I think he’s one of the most hardworking, intense players in the D-zone that I’ve seen. I think that’s something I can really learn from.”
Myers even attended a Christmas party last decade with Regehr and three other future Sabres teammates — Jordan Leopold, Toni Lydman and Steve Montador.
Regehr felt “a little bit old” when he found out.
“I said to him, ‘Wait about 10 years and you’ll probably be in the same situation dealing with younger players coming in,’” Regehr said. “It was flattering to hear that from Tyler. ...It’s something we had a good chuckle about.”
It probably won’t be their last, either.
“To have a chance to play with him after watching him all those years in Calgary, it’s pretty funny actually when you look at it,” Myers said. “I’m very lucky to have a guy like that next to me.”
Some quotable Ruff:
On the excitement in the city surrounding the team: “There’s a buzz everywhere, it doesn’t matter where. Anybody you bump into is talking about the team, expectations. I don’t know if it’s ever been this high before. I think it’s probably a little bit out of proportion, but it’s great to have. It’s a great place to be.”
On the high expectations: “We’ve talked about as a team, wrap your arms around what’s going on, embrace it. At the same time, we have to be a team that wants to continue to get better night to night.”