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TOP LINE IS TOP NOTCH

Thursday, 10.18.2007 / 9:09 AM / Features
By Erin Pollina  - Sabres.com
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TOP LINE IS TOP NOTCH
Jochen Hecht
The way Buffalo’s top unit has been playing lately, it is hard to believe this is the first season the trio has played on the same line.

Forwards Jochen Hecht, Tim Connolly and Jason Pominville have had some palpable chemistry together, combining for 16 points in five games this year.

RELATED LINKS
Video: Jochen Hecht Post-Practice
Video: Lindy Ruff Post-Practice
Video: Jason Pominville Post-Game






While Hecht and Pominville have had some time to develop some familiarity, playing on a line with Daniel Briere at times last season, Connolly has provided a smooth transition at center for the wingers.

“Jochen and Pommer [are] two guys that have played extremely well,” Lindy Ruff said. “You’re throwing Tim in the mix there who, before he got hurt, was a guy that we relied on in every situation.”

“They are similar players,” Pominville said. “[Connolly and Briere] are both great weapons offensively, both [have] good hands and see the ice really well. To be honest it wasn’t that big of an adjustment for us.”

It shows.

Not only has the line capitalized on opportunities, but they also continue to create chances in the offensive zone. In Monday’s game against Toronto alone, the trio had 15 shots on goal.

“Last night they could have had five or six goals, and they only ended up with a couple,” Ruff said Tuesday morning. “On the Island [Oct. 6] they had six or seven great scoring chances and they only walked away with a little in that game.”

It has not been solely what the line has been creating offensively for its team that makes it so valuable.

Hecht, Connolly and Pominville have shut down their opponents in the past few games, facing the likes of scoring phenoms Alexander Ovechkin and Mats Sundin.

Prior to Monday’s game Sundin entered HSBC Arena scoring at least one point in every game this season. He left the building scoreless, ending the six-game streak, and finishing with a minus-4 rating on the night.

“From the standpoint of playing against the other teams’ top lines, they had the Sundin match-up most of the time… and that is a line that has been very good.”

Sundin’s line, with wingers Jason Blake and Alex Steen, combined for a minus-11 in the 5-4 overtime loss to the Sabres.

Ovechkin suffered a similar fate when Buffalo beat Washington 7-3 last Saturday. Although he added a power play goal late in the game, Ovechkin ended the night with a minus-1 rating. His linemates did not fair much better with Viktor Kozlov and captain Chris Clark combining for a minus-3.

“It’s a line that looks like it should do some real good things together,” Ruff said.

At least it has so far.

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