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SABRES CELEBRATE IN STYLE OVER THE WEEKEND

Monday, 04.11.2011 / 11:06 AM / News
By Rob Crean  - Public Relations Director
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SABRES CELEBRATE IN STYLE OVER THE WEEKEND
The Buffalo Sabres’ six-month roller coaster of a regular season culminated Friday night with a memorable celebration of the franchise’s 40th anniversary.  By night’s end, the Sabres had secured a berth in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs and given the fans an awful lot to cheer about.

More than 85 former Sabres accepted an invitation to come to Buffalo for the largest alumni gathering the team had ever held.  Generations of Sabres reunited on Thursday night at a reception in the HSBC Arena Harbour Club and spent the evening catching up and reliving memories.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to not only see some old faces that we haven’t seen in a while, but to meet some new faces who really have laid the path of the Sabres organization.  It’s great to catch up with those guys, it’s great to catch up with guys you were teammates with.  It’s a great thing that Mr. Pegula did and I hope it’s something that he continues in the future,” said Brian Holzinger, who played over 350 games with the Sabres from 1994-2000 and was a member of the ’99 squad that went to the Stanley Cup Finals.

ALUMNI INTERVIEWS
Video: Mike Hartman Interview
Video: Joe Daley Interview
Video: Brian Holzinger Interview
The bond shared by former Sabres has always existed, but Joe Daley, a member of the inaugural 1970-71 team, said that notion was reinforced by owner Terry Pegula on Thursday night.

“So many of the players obviously came after my career here, so it’s nice to meet a number of players who were part of this organization, and it was nice to hear Mr. Pegula say that ‘if you played three minutes or three shifts or three games, you’re part of the fraternity of the Buffalo Sabres.’  I’m proud to say I am, too,” Daley said.

On Friday, several of the alumni watched the Sabres take part in their morning skate before the entire group attended a special Power Play Luncheon at the Arena, where the keynote speakers included Larry Playfair, the team’s director of alumni relations who also appeared in nearly 600 games in a Buffalo uniform, as well as Team President Ted Black and Terry Pegula.

Later in the day, the alumni returned to HSBC Arena for the crucial game between the Sabres and Flyers, and they arrived in style, walking a red carpet into the building.  Thousands of loyal Sabre fans lined the street and the red carpet to take photos and get autographs from the former players amid a party atmosphere.  Fans even stood in various levels of the parking ramp adjacent to the Arena in order to get a view of the festivities from above.

Just prior to the game, the alumni group was honored once more as they were introduced by decade on the ice in front of a sellout crowd and received a rousing standing ovation from the 18,690 fans in attendance. 

“The alumni is excited to be back in this fashion,” said Pat LaFontaine, a former team captain who registered 385 points (158-227-385) in just 268 games with the Sabres, which included the highest single season point total (148 points in 1992-93) in franchise history.   “I’m so proud to wear this jersey and so proud to be able to tell stories of good days and great times in Buffalo and we’re rooting this team on; we’re behind them.  It’s a great feeling to be back in this fashion. It’s everybody – it’s the community, it’s the ownership, it’s the players, it’s the coaching staff, it’s everybody pulling in the same direction.”

Once the alumni received all of the well-deserved recognition, it was time for the current crop of Sabres players to take center stage.  It began with the presentation of the 2010-11 team awards, which were voted on by the players.  Cody McCormick received the Unsung Hero Award after recording career-highs in goals (8), assists (12) and points (20) this season while also leading the team with 142 penalty minutes. 

Tyler Ennis was named Rookie of the Year in a season in which he collected 20-29-49 to rank fifth on the team in scoring and also ranked among the NHL rookie leaders in the major offensive categories.  He scored his 20th goal of the season Saturday night in Columbus, becoming the first Sabres rookie to reach the 20-goal plateau since Thomas Vanek netted 25 goals in 2005-06. 

Ryan Miller was selected as the team’s Most Valuable Player by his teammates.  The reigning Vezina Trophy winner dealt with injury issues early and late in the season, but posted a 34-22-8 record with a 2.59 goals against average and a .916 save percentage, along with five shutouts.  Miller has now achieved the rare feat of winning 30 or more games in six consecutive seasons.

All of the pregame festivities would seem hard to top, but the game itself between the Sabres and Flyers did just that.  Needing just one point to secure a playoff berth, the Sabres engaged the Flyers in a back-and-forth affair.  After falling behind 1-0, Buffalo came back to take a 2-1 lead in the second period.  Philadelphia promptly responded and took a 3-2 lead after two periods of play.  Sensing his team needed a boost, Lindy Ruff inserted Miller into the game to begin the third period.

Midway through the third, Nathan Gerbe scored on a spinning backhand shot from the right face-off circle for his second of the game, tying it at three.  Miller, meanwhile, stopped all eight shots he faced as the Sabres hung on to force overtime and clinch the 29th playoff berth in franchise history.

Thomas Vanek then capped off the day-long party in highlight-reel fashion as he scored on an end-to-end rush in overtime to give Buffalo a 4-3 win in the final home game of the regular season.

“This atmosphere was tremendous,” Lindy Ruff said following the game.  “I told the players, ‘it’s going to feel like a playoff game, you’re going to feel the intensity.’  You felt it, you knew you were in a game that meant a lot to both teams. I got to the rink around 4:15 and there was already 500, 1,000 people around… so it really had a feel that you were in a playoff match.”

As the final special event of the evening, each player gave his game-worn jersey to a winning fan on the ice at the conclusion of the game.

“That was a lot of fun,” said Miller when asked how loud the Arena was on Friday night.  “Great time to have all the alumni out here, giving our fans the shirts off our back, and it really felt like a really involved game.  The crowd got a lot out of it and got to be excited and you could feel it.”

The Sabres traveled to Columbus after the game and closed out the 82-game regular season with a 5-4 win over the Blue Jackets, extending their winning streak to a season-long four games.  Now, an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Playoff series against Philadelphia awaits, and the Sabres hope the good times can roll on.

SCHEDULE

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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