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October 14, 2009 - Matt Spielman
BUFFALO -- "Don't Stop Believing" blared out of the stereo as the Buffalo Sabres locker room opened up to the media Tuesday night after the home team's 6-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings at HSBC Arena.
It was a fitting song to be playing as the Sabres try to get their fans to start believing after two straight non-playoff years. Despite a 2-0-1 record entering the night, Buffalo looked to be offensively challenged on the young season. The Sabres proved to be quite the opposite against one of the NHL's premier clubs Tuesday.
"We weren't getting the goals in the first few games, but that's what we're capable of in this system," goaltender Ryan Miller said.
Only a few players have changed from the roster of the past couple of years, but management has put its faith in its core and that small group of players seems to have grown by leaps and bounds over the offseason. Gone are Maxim Afinogenov and Ales Kotalik, in are Mike Grier and Tim Kennedy. Gone are two players who seemed to take shifts, periods and many times games off at a time. Into the lineup are two players who are responsible in their own end of the ice, won't back down from anybody in the other sweater and who give 100 percent every second they are on the ice.
"I see a lot of great support all over the ice and that's been the difference," Miller said. "With this system, we have the puck on our stick -- a solid system like Detroit -- we had good puck pressure and that's what caused a lot of the goals in the second period."
Also added to the lineup is the 19-year-old phenom defenseman Tyler Myers whose star may have shined brightest Tuesday. With the score tied 1-1 in the second period, Myers took the puck in his own end on a delayed offside, darted through the neutral zone, glided down the offensive zone wing and sliced through the net, leaving a juicy rebound for Patrick Kaleta to slide into the net and put the Sabres up for good.
"I noticed that the puck was sitting there so I decided to go with it," Myers said. "I'm feeling more and more comfortable out there each game. I definitely didn't have the confidence three weeks ago that I do now."
It was one of several solid players by the teenager, who after the game sounded in awe of several players on the opposite team, but never showed it on the ice during the game.
"Look across the ice and see guys like Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Zetterberg, that's pretty shocking for me," Myers said. "But I'm having a lot of fun and tonight was a big win for us."
Tuesday's dominance was a good sign, especially knowing that Thomas Vanek will be out for "weeks" with an upper-body injury. Vanek's absence will test the organization's depth with Nathan Gerbe the most likely forward to be called up from Portland.
"We're not gonna get to high on this. That game is behind us," head coach Lindy Ruff said. "It's tough, but we've got extra players. Every team is going to have to deal with injuries. I think we have enough depth."
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Buffalo Sabres' Drew Stafford scores on Detroit Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood during the first period of an NHL hockey game Buffalo, N.Y., Tuesday Oct. 13, 2009. (AP Photo/ Dean Duprey)