BUFFALO — Some players thrive with extra ice time. The constant action and extra pressure helps them find a groove.
Don’t count Sabres defenseman Mike Weber among them. The 24-year-old struggled when a slew of injuries pushed him over 20 minutes a night.
Weber played 19:58 or more in 12 of 13 games recently, including a career-high 26:58 on Jan. 14. He compiled a minus-4 rating one night and a minus-8 overall. The tough, stay-at-home defender even played the power play.
Now that the blue line’s back at full strength, Weber’s minutes have leveled off to about 17 and he’s playing a steadier, tighter game.
“That’s been the biggest, to get back to playing the minutes he seems suited to, that’s he’s not trying to do too much, that when he gets out there he’s fresh,” coach Lindy Ruff said Tuesday prior to the Sabres’ 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils inside the First Niagara Center. “His game is a lot of times energy. It’s playing hard in a short period of time, and I think when we’ve overplayed him he’s just tried too much.
“He’s overhandled some situations. He tried to make plays into areas he doesn’t need to make plays. I think that part of his game has really cleaned up.”
Weber, whose cross-checking penalty Tuesday led to Petr Sykora’s winner, agreed playing less has helped him.
“It’s just getting guys back healthy and focusing in on what my job is, what my responsibilities are – and that’s just a solid defender and move the puck quick and do all the little things right like blocking shots, trying to play physical,” he said.
The depleted defense corps forced Weber “to play out of my comfort zone a little bit.”