Niagara Gazette

October 7, 2006

TIM SCHMITT: Pominville proving he was no fluke

COMMENTARY

By Tim Schmitt

If anyone was poised for a sophomore slump, it was Jason Pominville.

With just 58 NHL games under his belt, Pominville had to hear all summer long how his short-handed playoff goal was one of the greatest in Sabres history, not to mention that many are ready for the Sabres to break the city’s championship jinx.

Understanding and feeding off hype is one thing. Believing it wholeheartedly is another.

But Pominville, shy yet crafty, seems too numb from the last eight-or-so months to know he’s not supposed to do this again. Not supposed to start dumping goals in the net nearly every start, becoming a first-line threat, even if he’s on the third line.

A scoring change on Pominville’s first goal of the year gave credit for the tally to Dmitri Kalinin. The call was a good one as the puck deflected off a Carolina defender instead of Pominville’s stick.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Pominville is making an impact — his ice time is up and he’s getting more important shifts. Lindy Ruff is using him with more than just Thomas Vanek and Jiri Novotny, too.

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Speaking of the Sabres, their schedule is murderous through the season’s first few weeks, although it’s yet to bother them.

Games against Detroit, the Rangers, Philly and another meeting with Carolina — all teams that easily made last year’s playoffs — are on the horizon. If Buffalo can survive until Halloween, the road gets much smoother.

•••

Last thing on the Sabres, Vanek’s pass to Novotny in the second period of Friday’s home opener seems to have been glossed over. I’m not sure why.

Vanek, who came to camp with a different edge, threw a behind-the-back pass while circling behind the net and put it right on Novotny’s tape, cutting Montreal’s 2-0 edge in half.

His development changes the team’s complexion, especially if Tim Connolly stays on the shelf. And he likely will.

•••

Joe Torre’s decision to pull Jason Giambi from the lineup backfired in a big way. Sure, Giambi was struggling, but so were others.

It’s sacrilegious to say so around here, but Torre’s moves were suspect, especially in light of the gigantic egos in the Yanks’ locker room. The idea that A-Rod would spring from his slump after being demoted to eighth in the lineup is ridiculous.

Either play the reigning MVP where he should be played or send him a message by pulling him from the lineup altogether. Going halfway didn’t help anyone.

•••

You wonder if Turner Gill now understands the tremendous battle he faces.

UB wasn’t just bad against a weak Ball State team on Saturday, it was completely overmatched at nearly every position.

Welcome to the real Buffalo, Turner.

Contact group sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, Ext. 2266.