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Sabres Ignore Belak's Banter

Monday, 01.08.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
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Sabres Ignore Belak\'s Banter

January 8, 2006
by Brian Wheeler

Sticks and stones may break their bones, but pre-game chatter won't bother the Buffalo Sabres.

Prior to Buffalo's 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, Toronto's Wade Belak insinuated that the Sabres could be manhandled into submission. The menacing six-foot-five, 221-pound defenseman compared Buffalo's brand of hockey to that which children play in their spare time.

"A team like Buffalo that's got so many small, skilled players, the only way to stop them is to start hitting them," Belak told the Buffalo News. "They have a lot of guys that's not a part of their game to be bangers. They got more goal scorers and danglers.

"When you're playing a team that's not willing to respond as far as the physical part and you're all over them and dominating them, you're going to win 95 percent of the games.

"You can't play river hockey out there with 20 guys that aren't going to hit and try to play at the end of their sticks and just try to poke pucks out. It's not going to work every night. If you face a good, physical team that's willing to hit you, you're not going to win as many games."

The comments were made before Buffalo's second win against their Northeast Division rivals, and served as a small preview of Toronto's game plan. The Leafs did hold a slight 33-27 edge in hitting during the contest but were defeated after allowing four even-strength goals.

On Monday morning, the blueliner's comments were met with a lot of eye rolling and half smiles in the Sabres locker room.

"First of all, I don't need to worry about what Wade Belak has to say after 36 seconds of ice time," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "We are a skilled team and we play a skilled game. Teams think at times that they can run us out of the building. At the same time, if you try it, that will open up other avenues where we can expose teams.

"I don't think our team would ever back down from any physical challenge."

Enforcer Andrew Peters shrugged off Belak's comments as just banter to stir the rivalry pot. Buffalo will take on Toronto in the tail end of back-to-back games this Thursday in HSBC Arena (MSG, 7 p.m.).

Toronto is 0.500 in the "Queen City" during the season series, winning a 4-1 decision on November 4 before a 7-4 Sabres blowout 16 days later. The Sabres square off with the Chicago Blackhawks in the United Center on Wednesday night (MSG, 7 p.m.).

"I don't have any rebuttal to that comment," said Peters. "We are team tough. I don't think you'll ever see anybody on our team fold-the-tent."

"It's funny to hear him say that," said Jason Pominville. "He can say whatever he wants but we still came out and won the game. We'll be ready for them come Thursday."

Belak's comments more than anything showed a shift in mindset.

Opposing teams are less willing to get into skating wars with Buffalo, instead opting to get creative, physical or just plain tricky when trying to slow the Sabres pace on the ice and in the standings.

With two games in hand, Buffalo trails the Anaheim Ducks by a single point to stand top the NHL. Buffalo has lost back-to-back games only twice this season and are averaging a breathtaking 3.76 goals per game.

Ask any hockey analyst and you'll discover a pair of sure fire ways to distinguish good teams from those who are just mediocre, winning percentage in one-goal games and road record. Buffalo's 8.33 win percentage and 16-4-1 record away from HSBC Arena lead the league in both categories.

"Guys are going to shoot at us and try to knock us off," said Paul Gaustad. "We're the best team in the Eastern Conference right now, so we expect people to come at us hard. Every team plays physical against us and we've been able to battle through that.

"We may not have the toughest team but we stick together. We're not individuals. There's not one guy on an individual line that won't stick up for another one. If we stick together, there is no team that will really push us around."

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Hodgson 72 20 24 -26 44
T. Ennis 80 21 22 -25 43
D. Stafford 70 16 18 -19 34
C. Ehrhoff 79 6 27 -27 33
C. Stewart 63 15 11 0 26
C. Conacher 79 7 19 1 26
T. Myers 62 9 13 -26 22
Z. Girgensons 70 8 14 -6 22
M. Foligno 74 7 12 -17 19
J. McBain 69 6 11 -13 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Neuvirth 4 8 2 .921 2.78
J. Enroth 4 17 5 .911 2.82