Niagara Gazette

Sports

October 21, 2006

TIM SCHMITT: Remember, Sabres fans — moderation is crucial

COMMENTARY

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Their eyes are finally ready for sunlight.

They’ve clicked off Comedy Central, finished a glass of OJ and are ready to hop off the couch.

That’s right, a few weeks and a couple of Advil into the NHL season, the hangover is finally wearing off for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Even though the ’Canes left Friday night’s playoff rematch with a record under .500, there are reasons aplenty to think they’ll shake their senses from a season-opening bender and join the Sabres near the top of the Eastern Conference standings soon enough.

Sure, Glen Wesley, Bret Hedican and Rod Brind’Amour are longer in the tooth than John Elway, but they find a way to work it. Teppo Numminen is no spring chicken, either, but the Sabres are a different team when he’s absent.

Realize, this isn’t supposed to stop the music at this party — the Sabres keep finding new and exciting ways to win, Friday’s 5-4 thriller included. As problems arise, Lindy Ruff’s team takes them mid-stride, throwing caution to the breeze behind Maxim Afinogenov.

But the ‘Canes did something for the better part of three periods that few others have done through seven games — they hung with the Sabres at their own game.

Math translation: Speed equals speed.

Buffalo’s playoff downfall wasn’t simply a lack of blueliners without crutches, but a bitter realization that another team matched their wheels. In Eric Staal, Erik Cole, and Justin Williams, Carolina has pieces that match everything the Sabres bring to the table.

Does that mean Carolina is a better team?

Absolutely not. The Sabres are atop every power ranking for a reason — they’re deep, speedy and hungry.

But an Ottawa team that manhandled the Sabres through the first few meetings last season was in the same precarious position.

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