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Fresh Face Draws Lots of Cameras

by Brian Wheeler / Buffalo Sabres
Rookie Mike Ryan saw the horde of media amassed around his locker in the Buffalo Sabres dressing room and he had to laugh.

"What is this Sidney Crosby on TSN?" joked Ryan of all the attention.

No, Pittsburgh wasn't in town, but Ryan was, and that makes him the popular kid in class for at least a day. Ryan joined Drew Stafford and Clarke MacArthur as the third reinforcement for a lineup that has seen five of its starters knocked out of the lineup due to injury.

The six-foot-one, 191-pound center was recalled from the Rochester Americans on Sunday night to fill in the void left by Ales Kotalik's knee injury. The recall is Ryan's second this season and could be for an extended period of time as Kotalik will be out for an estimated four- to six-week span.

"This is a little more comfortable and not so much of a rush," said Ryan, who appeared in three games for Buffalo this season in his first stint with the team. "I was able to get here a couple days in advance and get some practice days in, which is always helpful.

"The first call-up, it's like you're trying to get your feet wet. That's not how I feel anymore. I want to come here, make plays and score goals."

Ryan earned the trip down the I-90 by doing just that, combusting for a pair of hat tricks and eight points in his last three games for the Amerks.

It's a run that both he, and the coaching staff, hopes can continue at the next level.

"Things have been going well for the last month or so," said Ryan, who skated on a line with MacArthur and enforcer Andrew Peters during practice. "The last two weeks have been good in terms of goal scoring.

"The pressure is still there. We're one of the top teams in the league and conference so [the call-ups] really need to fill some shoes here. We might not be able to do it in certain ways like Al [Kotalik] or Max [Afinogenov] can, but we'll find ways to help this team win."

"He's got great speed and he's hot right now, so we were looking at maybe moving him up in the lineup," said head coach Lindy Ruff. " You've got to take a look at how the lines are operating when we start tomorrow night. A guy like Mike has a lot of confidence in scoring goals right now. It's a good thing for us."

Averaging a point a game for Rochester, Ryan has already set AHL career highs in goals (20) and points (41) this season. When looked at from a macro perspective, the left-winger from Boston, Mass. posses all the traditional attributes of a model Sabres forward.

His biggest weapons are his speed and soft, quick hands.

"You have to play to your strengths and that's obviously one of mine," Ryan said regarding his quickness. "If I can put pressure on their defense, be fast on the puck and use my speed to get to the puck, things will happen."

"A guy like Mike Ryan, I don't consider young," said Ruff. "He has tremendous speed and can play with a little edge with him, too. "
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