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NOTEBOOK: UTILITY FORWARD

Wednesday, 11.21.2007 / 10:40 PM / News
By Brian Wheeler  - Sabres.com
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NOTEBOOK: UTILITY FORWARD
Ales Kotalik (photo: Bill Wippert)
Jason Pominville may be the Sabres most versatile forward and his abilities are allowing the team flexibility when it comes to its power play combinations.

In Buffalo's 4-2 victory over Ottawa on Wednesday night, Pominville moved from his position near the net to the blueline.  He's made the switch before and is comfortable with the situation.  But more importantly, the team is comfortable putting five forwards on the ice with an opposing player in the penalty box because of Pominville's defensive skills.

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"We're 20 games in - knock on wood - and he doesn't get beat defensively," said head coach Lindy Ruff.  "He's as good playing in defensive situations as any defenseman we've got."

There is a yin and yang to Pominville's responsibilities on the power play.  He's the team's general on a unit that features Maxim Afinogenov, Ales Kotalik, Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek in front of the net and the squads last line of defense against an odd-man rush.

A long rebound or quick outlet pass could leave the skilled forward to fend for himself.  The trick is not becoming too focused on just one aspect or assignment.  That was especially true against Ottawa, who ranks second in the NHL with five shorthanded goals.

"Where I'm playing now - up top in the middle where I used to be the guy on the backdoor - it does maybe put on a little more pressure [defensively]," said Pominville.  "You never want to get caught.

"On the other hand, you're out there to help the team score goals.  You want to be thinking offense but against team's that pressure hard and score goals shorthanded, you have to make sure that you're aware." 

Scoring goals isn't the winger's first priority.  Getting shots through traffic and "causing havoc" in front of the net is.  Redirections and deflections have become one of his best friends.

"I'm pretty much the furthest guy from the net so it's more a position where I have to get shots through," said Pominville.  "I'm probably not going to score as much as I would if I were closer to the net.  Hopefully, I'll get a bounce or two and some will find lines."

Pominville's unit was credited with a PP score off a end-to-end effort by Ales Kotalik.



Despite being on the good side their last two games, the Sabres are not on a winning streak according to Ruff.

"I don't really count two games as a winning streak," said Ruff.  "It is better than one, but less than three.   We're going to work on putting on a real good run."



Ruff sprouted another one of his classic retorts when asked the difference between facing each of Ottawa's netminders.

"[Martin] Gerber seems like a bigger goalie," said Ruff.  "He plays bigger and looks bigger. 

"Reaction wise, [Ray] Emery is very athletic. Good fighter.  Probably better than Gerber there."

The longest tenured coach in the league was referring to Buffalo's line brawl with Ottawa last season on Feb. 22 when Emery was challenged first by then Sabres goalie Martin Biron and then enforcer Andrew Peters. 

Large for a goaltender at  six-foot-two, 196 pounds, Emery looked like he was having the time of his life, sporting an ear-to-ear grin all the while punches were being thrown.

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