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Connolly's Return a Success

Saturday, 04.07.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
Buffalo Sabres

April 7, 2007
by Brian Wheeler

Tim Connolly may have been the happiest player to see 13 minutes of playing time during a game in franchise history.

Sidelined for the opening 80 games of the 2006-07 season, Connolly skated and scored in his first game action in 334 days, a 2-0 victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon.

Audio: Derek Roy

Connolly's effort and goaltender Ryan Miller's second shutout of the season helped earn Buffalo its first Presidents' Trophy as the league's top team during the regular season. Miller made 26 saves in his fourth career shutout..

"It feels really good," said Derek Roy of the Presidents' Trophy. "The guys really played well and Miller really shut the door tonight.

"Just to see [Connolly] out there was great. He brings so much presence to the game and has so much skill and talent."

Buffalo secured home-ice advantage through the duration of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 113 points and a franchise high 53 victories. Buffalo will close out the regular season tomorrow in Philadelphia (NBC, WGR 550-AM, 1 p.m.).

"Our goal is to minimize teams to two goals a game," said Roy. "We're pretty close to that right now. We're on a winning streak. We just want to win the last one and take some momentum into the playoffs."

Connolly recorded his first point of the season and first goal since Apr. 12, 2006 as his across-ice pass intended for Daniel Paille deflected off Boyd Gordon's stick and past Olaf Kolizg at 9:51 of the first period to put Buffalo up by two goals.

"With a lot of guys coming back, it's huge for us," said Roy. "The guys that came up were playing really well, but the veterans that are coming back from injuries are a huge boost for the playoffs."

Connolly's on-ice output exceeded the original estimate given by the coaching staff.

Entering the game, head coach Lindy Ruff had predicted the 25 year old would see around nine minutes of action in a limited role, most likely as a special teams specialist. Connolly skated on 16 shifts for 13:06 TOI, fired two shots on goal, won 50 percent of his draws and finished the game with a plus-one rating. Just over three minutes of his ice time came on Buffalo's two power plays.

"He's just coming into his own," said Roy of Connolly. "It's his first game and we need to give him a couple of games, and he'll be unbelievable for us."

Utilizing his speed, Maxim Afinogenov setup Roy for the opening goal of the game. Cutting around defenseman Steve Eminger, Afinogenov's five-hole attempt was turned away by Olaf Kolzig, but Roy converted the rebound at 1:36 of the first to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead.

The goal made Roy the seventh Sabre this season to score 20 or more goals: joining Thomas Vanek (42); Chris Drury (37); Jason Pominville (33); Daniel Briere (32); Dainius Zubrus (24); and Maxim Afinogenov (23).

"Max just brings that extra bit of speed," said Roy.

Eight minutes later Connolly gave Buffalo the 2-0 lead at 9:51 with his 63rd goal of his career.
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Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.

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