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Bringing Back Old Memories

by Brian Wheeler / Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere looked around at the different line combinations during practice and couldn't help but notice the obvious. His line was the only one that didn't have a stranger skating on it.

While Briere was cruising around the ice at HSBC Arena on Monday and Tuesday flanked by Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville, the remainder of the Sabres were playing "get to know my linemate."

"It feels like a different team a little bit," joked Briere of the Sabres recent call-ups.

Multiple injuries have led to Buffalo's overhauled roster and promotion of Drew Stafford, Clarke MacArthur and Michael Ryan from the Rochester Americans.

With so much youth in the locker room, Briere, 29, couldn't help but think of the days when he wasn't sure his name would appear on the lineup card.

Briere began his career, following four years with Dummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, in the Phoenix Coyotes' farm system with the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League in 1997-98.

Like the trio recalled in the past week, he received his first opportunity in the NHL by way of injuries. Another player's misfortunate was his windfall, and he appeared in his first NHL game against Colorado in America West Arena the day after he was assigned to Phoenix on March 18, 1998.

"I try to put myself back when I started," said Briere, who is a veteran of 428 games over eight seasons. "There was a lot of excitement but at the same time I was so nervous. You're afraid to make a mistake or embarrass yourself. You're thinking you are making the team lose."

Briere understands the mental strain on a prospect that is not only trying to make a contribution to the team, but assimilate himself to a new environment. His career was anything but a smooth ascension to an NHL starter, as Briere spent five seasons fighting to stay in the league before being waived by the Coyotes during the 2000-01 season.

That vulnerability taught the Gatineau, Quebec native a valuable lesson that he willingly will pass along.

"Your first game only happens once," said Briere, who scored his first goal in his second career game. "After that, you have to relax and have fun. If you want to stick around, you can't play scared, you can't be nervous all the time. You have to enjoy yourself and play relaxed, the way you were playing before.

"There was a reason that [Stafford, MacArthur and Ryan] got here. It's because they were playing well in Rochester."
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