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BTB BLOG: SHOOTOUT FEVER IN BUFFALO

by Brian Wheeler / Buffalo Sabres
Beyond the Boards is written by the Buffalo Sabres Website Manager, Brian Wheeler. Joining the Sabres prior to the 2003-04 season, Wheeler is the main contact and content editor for Sabres.com. He has worked in the NHL, NFL, AHL and NLL over the past 11 years.  Click here to send him an email.


 
Mike Ryan (photo: Getty Images)
Jan 14, 2008, 3:13 PM EST

The Buffalo Sabres resumed practice on Monday morning after taking off Sunday.

Losers of three consecutive shootouts, the lengthy workout was concluded with an extensive inter-squad competition focusing on just that.

Mike Ryan and Drew Stafford were the finalists in the competition after each scored a pair of times.  Ryan ultimately skated away the victor when Stafford's backhander against Jocelyn Thibault dinged of the right post.  

Ryan has not taken part in a shootout during his NHL career, but you could see him in the next one.

"You get ideas on other guys you may use," said head coach Lindy Ruff.  "We're going to continue [to work on shootouts].  We did the same in Ottawa and we're going to continue.  

"It's good for the goaltenders and it's good to give us options.  Some people may see some faces in there that they haven't seen before, but it will only be dictated by how well they've produced in practice."

Buffalo has scored just two goal in its last 11 shootout attempts.

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Columbus head coach Ken Hitchcock implemented a similar policy when the Blue Jackets dropped their first four shootouts this season.  But Hitchcock went one step further by offering a $500 of his own money to the winner of their shootout practice session one day.  

Former Sabre Jiri Novotny claimed the purse, but couldn't cash out when it mattered most.  He's failed to score on two attempts this season.

Hitchcock's extra investment has somewhat payed dividends.  The Blue Jackets are still floating around the bottom of the league with a 2-5 shootout record but have posted a 2-1 record in their last three.

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The Sabres went a little green today prior to the shootout portion of practice.  Instead of gassing up the Zambonia, Ruff had assistant coach James Patrick and goaltenders coach Jim Corsi clean the ice surface by skating up and down the full length rink with shovels.  

The seemingly ageless Patrick finished ahead of Corsie by a good quarter of the ice.  The duo received a smattering of applause - mostly from associate coach Brian McCutcheon and goaltender Ryan Miller - upon the completed task.

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Jocelyn Thibault showed his fiery side today by pulling a Dominik Hasek like move.  Thibault snapped his stick in half by spiking it off the left post after being beaten by Henrik Tallinder in the shootout.

Tallinder paid homage to a fellow Swedish national when he used a move closely resembling Peter Forsberg's classic backhander that defeated Team Canada in the 1994 Olympic Games.  That goal will forever live in Sweden's hockey lore because it earned the country's first ever Gold Medal in ice hockey.



NOTE:
  If you have time, take a look at Washington Post writer, Johnette Howard's account of the game.  It's pretty interesting to read about NHL stars like Paul Kariya and Forsberg when they were only 19 years old and unknown.

Here's a taste:

"...that heart-stopping shootout that was ended on the seventh go-round by a kid center named Peter Forsberg, who spends much of his time insisting he'd rather pass than score."

 
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