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Regehr gives Sabres a tougher look

by Lindsay Kramer
Robyn Regehr could do all the homework he wanted, but he wouldn't be certain Buffalo was the right place for him without some personal market research.

That sampling came before the start of training camp, when he and goalie Ryan Miller hand-delivered season tickets to some lucky fans as part of a team promotional campaign.

"We hit up three places," Regehr said. "Every single place, people were excited about the hockey team. That was good to see. Now, it's up to us."

And Regehr is all-in when it comes to using his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame to pull his share of the rope.

Robyn Regehr
Defense - BUF
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 17
SOG: 72 | +/-: 2
The 31-year-old blueliner is the most-noticeable -- and easily most-weathered -- face on a Sabres team that's re-modeled itself. It's a new look the team hopes is a lot meaner when it comes to Regehr's end of the rink.

Mean is one of the words that pop up most when discussing Regehr's play. So is aggressive. But words are just that. Sometimes you have to hear something to fully appreciate it.

Like when Sabres forward Derek Roy, during the team's first preseason practice, turned his head toward the thunder along the boards and saw Regehr doing his thing. Oh yeah, Roy was reminded after a summer of slower-paced training, you're allowed to hit in real hockey.

"On the ice, he's definitely a mean guy," Roy said. "You have to be ready around him. That competitive edge, he's always going out and finishing checks. That wears off on the kids."

That was the Sabres' motivation in prying Regehr from Calgary in the June 25 trade in exchange for defenseman Chris Butler and center Paul Byron. The only catch -- Regehr had a no-trade clause and initially refused to waive it.

His hesitation was understandable. He had spent his entire NHL career in Calgary and had never lived in the United States. But after talking to some players who were familiar with Buffalo and coach Lindy Ruff, he agreed to the move.

"I had some homework to do," Regehr said. "I was talking to all different players I knew, trying to find out what kind of place Buffalo was. To make an informed decision, I needed a few days to gather information. The players I talked to all really enjoyed playing in Buffalo. I heard it was a nice place to live."

It was a welcoming one before Regehr even arrived in town. Ruff and Sabres owner Terry Pegula took time away from the draft to fly to Regehr's home in Prince Albert, Sask., to thank him for changing his mind.

"The approach was to just basically (get him) to understand how good an organization we have," Ruff said.

"I feel energized," Regehr said after his first practice with the team. "I'm really looking forward to starting the year. There's so many firsts for me."

The juxtaposition of Regehr and the rest of the Sabres is astonishing and quickly apparent with a glance around training-camp practices. Young players with thick mops of hair and the dawn of a career in their eyes bustle around stretching or riding exercise bikes. Even the team's few veterans show very little tread wear.

Regehr, with his buzz cut and a face full of experience, is a neon example of what someone looks like after a decade of grinding it out at the highest level of the sport.

"It's nice to have him on your team and nice not to have to worry about him when you go against his old team," said Buffalo forward Jason Pominville.

"He'll help calm us down. He's an honest, hard player," added Sabres forward Ville Leino. "We need that. We have a lot of young guys on this team. When things go south, they can look around the room and see this guy's been here before. It brings more energy and confidence."

Regehr fully understands how the Sabres look at him. He did the same thing all those years ago when he was a Colorado Avalanche prospect.

"I remember when I was 18, I had a chance to step into a dressing room with Joe Sakic, Adam Foote, Patrick Roy, just to name a few," he said. "That really helped. That (veteran leadership) makes you feel part of the team. I'm going to try to offer tips to young guys to help them along."

What Ruff and the Sabres hope most is that nastiness is not just a way of playing, but something that can be taught and absorbed.

"I like to hear that when it comes from the opposition," Regehr said. "I try to play the game as hard as possible. I'm looking forward to (spreading) it. When you set the attitude physically, maybe your teammates follow you."
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