Niagara Gazette

Sports

October 7, 2006

TIM SCHMITT: Briere keeps making his case for deal

COMMENTARY

BUFFALO — He argued. And pointed. And shook his fist. Then argued some more. And when Daniel Briere realized his energies were being wasted on referees Kevin Pollock and Stephane Auger during the third period of Friday night’s home opener with the Montreal Canadiens, he did what big money players are supposed to do.

After arguing a succession of Sabre penalties, Briere calmly took a pass from Dmitri Kalinin, streaked down the middle of the ice, pulled away from Sheldon Souray like he was tethered to cement, then buried a textbook five-hole lamplighter through the legs of Cristobal Huet.

And the Sabres were back in it.

Despite spotting the visitors an ungodly number of power play chances in what became a symphony of whistles — although many, to be frank, were well-deserved — Buffalo eked out a heartstopping 5-4 shootout win over Montreal in front of a sold out crowd that wasn’t sure if it was June or October.

Maxim Afinogenov’s tally with 14.9 seconds left to tie was a big one, obviously, but it paled in comparison to the one Briere scored when the club level ticket holders were racing for their SUVs.

Briere is quickly becoming that guy — the one who sticks up for teammates when necessary, who offers the team a boost of adrenaline when the lights are starting to dim.

In other words, Briere is worth the money he’s making — and the money the Sabres will have to pay to keep him.

Mark it down: Buffalo will sign Briere sometime before the season is through, whether the deal encompasses two, three or four years. He’s become too integral to let go.

Briere was simply a victim of timing, getting to the feed trough before the Grade A stuff was dropped down the chute. He’s the heart and soul of a team that’s got plenty of both and Friday’s goal was another example of the kind of leadership he can provide on a daily basis. Buffalo is good, loaded with young guys who can motor, but while last year’s playoff experience will give the new hands plenty of motivation, it hardly makes them grizzled vets. Briere, who’s remade his body, his attitude and his worth, still has plenty of lesson plans to share.

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