Niagara Gazette


September 17, 2006

SABRES Q&A: Are they ready to make another run?

Take a quick peek at the Buffalo Sabres’ preseason schedule, which kicks off tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre, and you realize there’s no room for the whining that went into the often laborious National Football League training camps.

The Sabres play four times in the next six nights, leading up to the regular season opener at the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 4.

Not much time to answer some important questions.

Let’s try anyway:

QUESTION: Who’s going to fill the roles of departed veterans Mike Grier, Taylor Pyatt, J.P. Dumont and Jay McKee?

ANSWER: McKee is the easy one, obviously. With the free agent signing of Jaroslav Spacek, the Sabres showed they want to get even more offensive. Coach Lindy Ruff calls Spacek a “good puck mover,” whose one-timers from the point should make the speedy Sabres even more dangerous. Whether they’re as capable of stopping opponents remains to be seen.

Up front, many expect Daniel Paille, who came into camp leaner and lighter, to grab one of the vacant roles and Jiri Novotny is probably a good bet for another. But Drew Stafford might make his presence felt, even if it’s not right off the bat. Remember, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville started last season in Rochester, but stepped up quickly.

Q: Will the Sabres suffer from a sophomore slump?

A: If anyone can keep a team from doing so, it’s Ruff. The length of his tenure earns built-in respect, but his no-nonsense approach — firm, but not inflexible — means young players love to play for him. The Sabres know they didn’t finish the job and they sense they’re a part of something special.

The team put a picture of the Stanley Cup in the training room, the locker room and throughout other team areas. And everyone got a T-shirt that reads “one team, one goal” with a prominent picture of the Cup.

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