Niagara Gazette

Sports

October 6, 2011

Pominville named Sabres captain

BUFFALO — In the unflappable Jason Pominville, the Sabres named their first permanent, homegrown captain in two decades. Not since Mike Ramsey in the early 1990s has the franchise awarded the prestigious letter to someone it drafted and developed.

It wasn’t a coincidence, either.

“This guy epitomizes who we are,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said about Pominville at a team dinner Thursday night in Helsinki, Finland. “He’s fought through a lot of adversity. He’s been in our system for a long time. He grew up playing in Rochester.”

So did the Sabres’ four rotating assistant captains — Paul Gaustad, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek.

By picking five players who’ve been Sabres since Day One, Ruff sends a clear message the core group that came up together now has full ownership of the team as they open the season tonight against the Anaheim Ducks.

When they all arrived post-lockout, Daniel Briere and Chris Drury co-captained the Sabres. Later, Craig Rivet, an outsider, was chosen as captain before he even played a game.

“This whole group — from Gaus, to Van, to Roysie, to Staff — you guys gave grown up together,” Ruff said in the video, posted by the NHL Network. “As a group, we have to push ourselves to higher levels.”

Pominville has always pushed through. By now, seven seasons into a steady career, the 28-year-old’s story is well known.

The Sabres selected the winger 55th overall in 2001. In 2005, despite some huge AHL seasons, they cut him. The 29 other teams passed on him during waivers, something Pominville has never forgotten.

Pominville became a NHL regular two months later, and in May 2006 scored the overtime winner to clinch the Eastern Conference semifinal in Ottawa, one of the biggest goals in franchise history.

He’s possessed captain qualities for years. When Ruff rotated the captaincy in 2007-08, he served in March and April.

Pominville’s been arguably the Sabres’ steadiest two-way presence for a long time, playing in every imaginable situation. He’s also durable, having played 336 straight games from April 2006 until a concussion sidelined him briefly last October.

The Montreal native rarely gets rattled, showcasing an even-keeled demeanor on the ice. Off it, he’s thoughtful and always available, win or lose.

Pominville’s averaged 25 goals and 66 points in his five full NHL seasons. While his numbers have decreased a bit in recent seasons — he had 34 goals in 2006-07 and 80 points a year later — he’s never had less than 20 scores or 52 points. A notoriously fast finisher, Pominville always goes on a second-half tear.

n The Sabres have signed 20-year-old forwards Riley Boychuk and Jonathan Parker to three-year, entry-level contracts.

Boychuk, the 208th pick in 2010, had 14 goals, 30 points and 157 penalty minutes with the Portland Winterhawks last season. He compiled 39 goals, 83 points and 389 penalty minutes in 194 Western Hockey League games over four seasons.

The undrafted Parker had 45 goals and 86 points with the Prince Albert Raiders last season. He had 77 goals and 155 points and 140 penalty minutes in 205 games over three WHL seasons.

Both players should start the season with the Rochester Americans.

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