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Myers working his way through sophomore slump

by Mike G. Morreale
PHILADELPHIA -- No one ever said the game gets easier in the wake of a Calder Trophy-winning season.

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers is learning that lesson the hard way.

Truth is, Myers has been pressing a bit from the outset in 2010-11, perhaps thinking too much about outdoing a splendid rookie campaign that concluded with the NHL's rookie of the year award. Not only did Myers win coach Lindy Ruff's heart and earn a roster spot as a 19-year-old last season, but he led the team in ice time (23:44), shared second place in plus-minus (plus-13) and was fifth in scoring (48 points).

But the 6-foot-8, 227-pound Myers has hit the proverbial sophomore slump through nine games this season.

Despite leading the team in ice time (23:34), Myers' minus-8 rating ranks second-to-last in the League and he's actually tied with Chicago's Duncan Keith for the most giveaways (17).

"It's only my second year in the league, so it's kind of hard to say (what the problem has been), but this year is definitely different," Myers told "I don't have the element of surprise anymore. I thought our last game (a 6-1 victory over New Jersey) was good for us and it was a step in the right direction for me (one goal, plus-1 rating on 26 shifts). I'm just trying to stay as consistent as I can. I just want to make sure I continue to work hard.

"For me, it's just continuing to do what I can to help this team. Just keeping it simple is the biggest thing for me."

Keeping it simple is something Ruff is hoping to see more of from his star defender.

"He's played a good game, bad game, good game, bad game," Ruff said. "He's made some tough mistakes and he's had a tendency to press when things haven't gone well. Or he's made a mistake, pressed and has forced himself into tougher situations. What we're trying to get him to do is not press so much. When the game is 2-2, we're not looking for him to make that play that'll make it 3-2 immediately ... just take what comes along."

The Sabres (3-5-1), who are 3-1-0 on the road this year, visit Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday to take on the Philadelphia Flyers (3-4-1).

Myers ranked at or near the top in several rookie categories last season, including average ice time (first), shorthanded time (first, 3:04), assists (first, 37), blocked shots (first, 137), plus-minus (T-second) and points (third). He also was one of four rookies to play all 82 games.

"I wanted him to try and maintain that same level of play entering this season, but maintaining is tough," Ruff said. "The whole League has a read on him. The League knows how to play him better and they know what to expect from him. They've had a full year to look at him, so while I think he's played tougher in some situations, he still needs to learn that the easier play is sometimes a better play."
In addition to pressing a bit, Myers might also be feeling the effects of losing the only defensive partner he knew from a season ago in veteran Henrik Tallinder, who signed with New Jersey in the offseason.
"(Tallinder) was really good for me last year, on and off the ice," Myers said. "It was sad to see him leave, but I wish him all the best in New Jersey. But Leo (Jordan Leopold) and Mo (Shaone Morrisonn) back on defense this year are two pretty good additions to our team. It's exciting to play with anybody on the back end here."
Myers, taken with the No. 12 pick in 2008, became the first defenseman to win the Calder Trophy since St. Louis' Barret Jackman was honored in 2003. He was only the third player in franchise history to win the award, following Gilbert Perreault in 1971 and Tom Barrasso in 1984.
Myers admitted doing plenty of offseason work, realizing his second tour of duty would be even tougher.
"I had the World Championships right after the season and that took a bit out of me (playing for Team Canada), but I came back, got a little rest, hit the gym pretty hard and gained some weight (10 pounds)," Myers said. "I tried to get stronger and felt like I did. I felt really good entering camp."
Now, it's just a matter of regaining that form that earned him so much praise a season ago.
"We focus a lot on getting the puck back and creating opportunities offensively down low," Myers said. "I think it's not just getting the puck deep, but the retrieval of the puck. That's also very important to us."
For the season, Myers has 2 goals -- both game-winners -- and 3 points for the Sabres. The Buffalo defensive corps has accounted for 4 goals and 18 points.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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