The last thing the Buffalo Sabres need to deal with right now is another injury.
Just before the first period ended in Buffalo’s home game Sunday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, Tyler Myers fell awkwardly in the corner behind his own net. He skated off under some duress, putting little pressure on his right leg.
He returned to start the period on the power play and ended up finishing the game, logging 24:08 of ice time.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said afterward that they would re-evaluate him in the morning. Come Monday, Myers was not on the ice with the team at practice at First Niagara Center as he was given an extra day to recover.
Nolan expects him to play Tuesday night when the Sabres host the Nashville Predators at 7 p.m.
“Actually, it was a really good sign that it wasn’t as serious as it looked last night, but you never know overnight,” Nolan said. “He had a good night’s rest and he feels pretty good so it was just more of a maintenance day for him. …Lucky stars were on our side, so he’s good to go.”
Once the NHL Trade Deadline passed at the end of last week, the Sabres had a hole to fill at alternate captain. Nolan decided to give the extra “A” to Sabres forward Drew Stafford, who is now in his eighth season with the team. He had served as an alternate captain prior to the start of this season.
Stafford is one of several players including Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis and Tyler Myers that Nolan is looking to step up into more prominent leadership roles. Stafford and Nolan had a long chat on the ice after practice about where the team is at both mentally and physically.
“The leadership has really changed. The dynamic of the team has really changed and through change, you see some rise to new challenges and some that don’t,” Nolan said. “Right now, it’s a great opportunity for some of these younger guys. You can see it in several of them. They really took it upon themselves.”
Stafford has 11 goals and 26 points on the season and has, along with his center Ennis, really picked up the pace as of late. Stafford has 13 points (7g+6) in his last 14 games while Ennis has 10 points (4+6) in his last 11 games and 18 points (8+10) in his last 21 games.
Ennis and new linemate Cory Conacher assisted on Stafford's goal on Sunday.
The ability to cancel out any outside distractions and focus on hockey again, particularly after Nolan was brought in to coach in November, is one reason Stafford believes that he and Ennis have been maintain their recent high level of play.
“We’ve been able to play with a little bit more freedom,” Stafford said. “We were given a bigger role and then treated with some respect. Confidence can build off that. I think all the external things aside, basically our heads kind of cleared up and we were able to play.”
The beginning of the 2013-14 season didn’t start well for Stafford. He had only three points in October, but since the start of the new calendar year, he’s picked up 13 points (7+6) in 16 games and his averaging .813 points per game in that span.
Nolan has said that, particularly since the team traded away many of its veteran players over the past two weeks, Stafford has really taken on a bigger leadership role.
“Maybe at the start of the season, he didn’t start the year he wanted to but the way he’s stuck through it and they way he’s battled through it, some people question his work ethic once in awhile and he just persevered,” Nolan said. “That, to me, showed real good leadership on his side.”
Nolan was also asked about his future with the Sabres and said that a representative of his and Buffalo general manager Tim Murray are having ongoing discussions about a contract extenstion.
"I put it into my representative’s hands and I guess him and Tim will be talking soon if not have talked already,"
Nolan said. "So, just formalities and getting a couple things ironed out and doing all the legal versus that. We’ll leave it in their hands for now."
88 Cory Conacher – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 27 Matt D’Agostini
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 23 Ville Leino – 65 Brian Flynn
32 John Scott – 24 Zenon Konopka – 37 Matt Ellis
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