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ALL-STAR BREAK

Thursday, 01.27.2011 / 12:05 PM
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres "Hockey Hotline" Host / SLY NOTES
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SLY NOTES
ALL-STAR BREAK
- I say or write this every year, but I can’t believe it’s the All Star Break already!  It’s a desperately needed one, too, for both the players and staff of the Sabres.  With the World Junior Championship and whirlwind schedule for the team, everyone needs time to recharge.  It also gives everyone a chance to take down the holiday decorations, pay months of bills that have been neglected, clean off messy desks, and learn our kids’ names again.  Ok, that last sentence was just for me.

Drew Stafford (Photo: Bill Wippert)
- The Sabres are 9-4-1 since Christmas, and now sit six points back of Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with three games in hand.  That stretch doesn’t make up for the horrible start to the season, but it’s close.  The only complaint that any fan should have during those 14 games is losing twice to the New York Islanders.  You could see losing one of the three, but not two of the three.  However, winning all three games in Ottawa this season makes up for it a little.  The BIG question for GM Darcy Regier is what to do on or near February 28?  That’s the NHL trade deadline, which increasingly has become the most interesting day in the league.  Teams do one of three things that day: 1.) Acquire player(s) for a playoff push; 2.) Trade away players for prospects and draft picks because they are not going to make the playoffs; or 3.) Stand pat because there aren’t deals suitable to make.  In my opinion, and this goes for any team in any league, teams should try to make the playoffs because you never know what may happen.  Now, that doesn’t apply to the Islanders and Devils, but it does to the Sabres, Hurricanes, Avalanche, Wild, etc.  The Sabres also have a great chance to improve their position with an advantageous schedule in February.  The team has a total of 12 games next month, with half of them against current playoff teams and eight of them on home ice.  It’s not unreasonable to think the team can make up those six points before the deadline and put Regier in position to make suitable deal(s) if they are presented. 

- On the eve of the NHL All Star Fantasy Draft, I have to admit I’m more intrigued by the idea of it.  I think every fan that tunes in to watch Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom select their squads schoolyard-style will say more than once “No, he should have chosen_______”.  Should be fun, and I hope the game is, too.

- I am rooting for the Coyotes deal to be completed for the fans in Arizona, but how many people am I talking about?  We were there for our game on January 8, and if not for the legion of Sabres fans that showed, it would have been empty.  And that was a Saturday night.  I just don’t know how the team can and will survive there.  It’s a great building with an awesome entertainment complex attached for pre and post game activities.  But it’s on the wrong side of the Valley, making it a hassle of a drive from the more heavily populated areas.  That’s not my opinion, but the thoughts of several ex-Buffalonians that moved to the Phoenix area and would attend more games if it were more convenient.  It will be a shame if it doesn’t work out for all of the people that have gone to great lengths to make hockey work in the desert, and for all the kids that started playing because of the Coyotes.  Plus, it’s a great road trip for all of the teams from cold weather cities to hit the heat during the grind of the season.

- Finally, thank you for all of your positive feedback on my recent stint filling in for R.J. in his play-by-play chair.  It’s an honor to call games for the Buffalo Sabres, and in the NHL.   It’s been the fourth year I’ve filled in and I’ve had goose bumps each time.  Kudos also goes out to Mark Jeanneret and Dan Dunleavy.  It’s not easy jumping into any broadcast for a game or two, but even tougher when filling in for a legend like Rick.  They were both very good and handled it with professionalism and class. 

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