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Sabres rookie Myers impressive in debut

by John McGourty
MONTREAL - Normally, you'd be a little concerned if you found the No. 3 star of an NHL game, a rookie, wandering around in the rain outside his hotel shortly after dawn the next morning.

But Tyler Myers wasn't stumbling back to his hotel after a night of partying.

No, Myers and a few hundred other residents of Buffalo's Adam's Mark Hotel were rousted by a fire alarm Sunday morning.

Myers, 19, the Buffalo Sabres' first selection with the 12th pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, is staying at the hotel through the first 10 games of the 2009-10 season. The Sabres have that long to make a decision to keep Myers for the year or return him to his junior team, the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, for a fourth season.

Myers was asked how he could top being the third star of his first NHL game.

"I don't know," he said. "Honestly, I really am just taking it game by game and we'll see what happens. But it was a lot of fun."

The only downside for Myers of being the No. 3 star was that the Sabres lost their season opener to the Montreal Canadiens, 2-1, on Brian Gionta's goal at 2:42 of overtime. Gionta was named the No. 2 star and teammate Carey Price, who made 34 saves, was the No. 1 star.

"We were unlucky. We had a lot of chances but we couldn't score again after the first goal," Myers said.

Buffalo took a 1-0 lead on Tim Connolly's power-play goal at 2:40 of the first period, but Price stopped everything else the Sabres threw at him. They dominated play, but the Canadiens were adept in front of their net and did a great job of clearing their zone.

Buffalo's dominance was also greatest during the first half of each period, an indication that frustration with Price perhaps led to mental fatigue.

There seems to be little chance Myers is going back to Kelowna. He attended Buffalo's training camp last summer and then was returned for a third season in juniors, in which he had nine goals and 33 assists. He's 6-foot-8 -- the second-tallest player in the NHL -- and 220 pounds, and nobody pushed him around in his debut. He also drew two penalties and looked like a long-established veteran when he handled the puck.

"I thought (Myers) was really good, made a lot of good decisions and made a lot of good plays," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.

Ruff surprised everyone in the HSBC Arena when he used rookies Myers and Tim Kennedy on the first penalty kill of the season.

"I think if you're going to have young players, you have to play them," Ruff said. "They have to feel like they are part of the game. I tried to give them a really good feel for the game."

Myers was paired with Henrik Tallinder, the usual partner of Toni Lydman, who was scratched.

"Lydman's got a little bit of an injury, not bad," Myers said.

In addition to Tallinder, he figures to learn a lot from veteran defenseman and Sabres captain Craig Rivet.

"Absolutely," Myers said, with emphasis. "Both of them. Rivet has been great with me, talks to me all the time, right from the beginning."

And although Jaroslav Spacek is now gone, departed for Montreal over the summer, he had his impact on Myers as well.

"I didn't miss him. We were at training camp together a year ago," Myers said. "I did learn from him, too."

That's good because Myers will be counted on more and more this season to fill Spacek's role as the offensive leader of the defense corps. Myers made great progress in that area last season, as evidenced by his performance in the WHL playoffs. Myers had five goals and 15 assists in 22 playoff games.

Myers said he was looking forward to Buffalo's next game on Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes.

"Yeah, I might get a chance to play against my old Kelowna teammate, Colin Long, who just signed with the Coyotes. That should be fun," Myers said. Long, Kelowna's leading scorer last season and the No. 99 pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, signed an entry-level contract Thursday.
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