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An Opportunity To Leave A Mark

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
The pessimistic view towards the Sabres current state would be that the latest injuries to Maxim Afinogenov and Jiri Novotny will ultimately cost the team points in the overall standings. Both forwards suffered injuries in Thursday's victory over the Edmonton Oilers at HSBC Arena, adding to the growing list of players already out of the lineup, which already included Paul Gaustad and Jaroslav Spacek.

But Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff is one of those people that likes to view the glass as half full. Ruff sees the injuries as an opportunity for players like Drew Stafford and Clarke MacArthur to gain valuable experience and show that they can contribute.

"I don't have a doubt in my mind that they can step in and play really well for us," said Ruff. "I think you're going to see a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of excitement because they're looking at being here for an extended period of time, which gets any young player excited to prove that 'I'm the player you're looking for.'"

MacArthur and Stafford were actually watching the Sabres' 2-1 overtime victory together, and therefor, received the call to report to Buffalo at the same time. The opportunity is an exhilarating thought for the duo.

"Anytime you get up here at all, it's a great feeling," said Stafford, who has two goals and three assists in 19 games for the Sabres this season. "It's just the first step. You have to take advantage of it, no matter how long it is."

"I'm really excited to be up and I really hope that I can help the team win," said MacArthur, who has registered three shots in his two career NHL games. "The pressure's on a little bit (to perform), but I think that makes a guy a better player too. I'm going to work hard in whatever role I'm playing."

The Sabres have dealt with injuries before, dating back to last season. That previous experience, and the success that followed, helps the team to remain optimistic despite barrage of setbacks.

"The fact that last year when we needed players, those guys stepped in," said Ruff. "And I think we surprised a lot of people with the way a lot of those players turned out and performed for us in the playoffs.

"The initial frustration with injuries is the fact that you're going to miss some good players. But the excitement about injuries is players stepping in. You go back to last year and you look at Jason Pominville. You look at what Nathan Paetsch has done for us already this year. It's funny that when guys get opportunities, they take advantage of them, and I think we have got some guys that will take advantage of big opportunities."

And while MaArthur and Stafford were called up from Rochester before, the team is expecting them to step in and play some important ice time down the stretch. Stafford could see time on the power play, while MacArthur could become a staple on both special team units.

"It's what you sign up for," said Stafford. "All the work that you put in, you have to be prepared for anything."

"They're going to expect a lot of me, right off the bat," said MacArthur. "I have got to work hard and show them that I can stay."

Relying on young talent such as MacArthur, Stafford, Paetsch, and Daniel Paille, the Sabres could ultimately become a better team overall in their march towards the playoffs. Growth comes with experience.

"If you look around, there's been a lot of cases where teams that have lost key players yet they have been better at times," said Ruff. "If you scout our team now, you might say that we may be lacking in the experience area, but I think in enthusiasm and creativeness, we're as good as a team we were last week."
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