|Tim Connolly (Photo: Bill Wippert) |
Tim Connolly’s vision may be what distinguishes him on the ice, but it’s his ability to see the task at hand that may be the root of his success.
It’s no secret the centerman has been plagued by injuries over the last four seasons. Connolly has missed 167 games out of a possible 298 contests for the Sabres.
But consider this: he has also averaged almost a point per game in that span, registering 114 points in 131 games.
That includes the 2008-09 campaign in which Connolly has tallied 10 goals and eight points in 18 games despite injuries (he has missed 34 games with a pair of fractured vertebrae and a broken rib).
The key is staying focused on the immediate goals.
“The only thing I can control is when I’m in the lineup to play as hard as I can and to the best of my ability,” he said.
His peers are not surprised at Connolly’s pace. His recent scoring stretch includes eight goals and 11 points in the last eight games, heading into tonight’s contest against the Montreal Canadiens.
“People tend to always think about Tim’s bad luck he’s had in the last two years here in Buffalo,” Craig Rivet said. “But three or four years before that he was playing 82 games for three or four years in a row. Timmy is playing really good hockey for us now and is a really big part of our offense.”
“I’m not really surprised because that’s the pace he was kind of on when he was playing,” Head Coach Lindy Ruff said. “It’s been tough. He’s gone through a lot. But it’s in the past. Hopefully that’s the extent of it and he can keep playing. He’s a good player for us when he’s healthy.”
Connolly has worked hard to get back into game-shape after his latest injury, a broken rib he suffered in November. But he is also getting help from his linemates in Thomas Vanek
and Drew Stafford
In the last five games, the trio has combined for 14 goals and 23 points.
“He’s such a great player… just watching him now when he’s coming back how much skill he has, how much potential he has to be the game-breaker,” Stafford said. “He plays with a whole lot of savvy. Everyone knows that, everyone has seen what he can do with the puck on his stick when he’s in a scoring position or has the opportunity to make a play. It’s a lot of fun.”
But ask Connolly about his recent success and it seems more of a game of chance than product of hard work.
“Pucks just seem to be bouncing the right way,” Connolly said. “I’ve had them bounce the wrong way before. I’m just getting a lucky few bounces and being in the right place at the right time.”
He is also in the right frame of mind and continues to center his attention on the task at hand.
“It’s personally just great to be back there… like I said the main focus for us right now is winning hockey games and trying to make the playoffs.
“It’s going to be a tight race all the way until the end.”