December 12, 2006
By Glenn Odebralski
Rookie defenseman Andrej Sekera
got his first taste of NHL action in Buffalo's 3-2 shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, as he replaced Teppo Numminen in the lineup. Buffalo's third round selection from 2004 saw six minutes and 10 seconds of action, and it was an experience that he won't soon forget.
"It was pretty amazing, playing with such a big crowd," said Sekera. "I tried to keep my game simple and work as hard as I could."
Sekera was the third rookie defenseman to be called up from Rochester in an attempt to fill the Sabres depleted blueline as Numminen, Henrik Tallinder, Jaroslav Spacek, and Toni Lydman have missed a combined 30 games this season. Fellow rookies Mike Card and Mike Funk were called up earlier in the year to fill the void on the backend.
As a defenseman in the Ontario Hockey League, Sekera won the Max Kanisky Trophey as the OHL's most outstanding defenseman in the 2005-06 season. After attending training camp in October, Sekera started his pro career in Rochester where an injury limited him to just five points in 11 games.
Sekera had little time to adjust to the NHL game as he was thrown in against stiff competition in Montreal, who handed Buffalo their second overtime loss of the season, a 2-1 defeat on November 24.
"I knew that this was the best game in the world," said Sekera. "I expected everything to be harder as people would be stronger and the game would be faster. I prepared for it and hopefully I did good things."
Head Coach Lindy Ruff couldn't have asked anymore from the rookie.
"I thought he held his own," said Ruff. "It's not easy playing your first game. The first game is always a tough one."
The Bojnice, Slovakia native made some nice plays throughout the game. In one instance, he showed a defensive presence of mind in the second period, as he broke up a two-on-one rush. Sekera did make some mistakes, but he knows that everyone can't have a flawless first game.
"I just have to learn from those mistakes and don't make them the next time," said Sekera. "Hopefully it will happen for me and I will just be playing my game as simply and as hard as I can."
Where as Funk and Card saw limited action when they played, Sekera was on the ice throughout the third period. Ruff showed confidence in Sekera in choosing to utilize him instead of rolling just five defensemen as he did in the past.
"I think if you look at it, we're at a point where I think we've maxed out," said Ruff. "There are some guys that have some fatigue playing the number of minutes they've played. You have to give Brian (Campbell) a lot of credit for playing 30 minutes a game. I think some of that has taken a toll on his game. We would like to back off those minutes and freshen his game up a little bit and get it as strong as we need it to be."
If Ruff wants to give Sekera more minutes, the rookie would gladly take as many as he can get.
"Every single guy who plays hockey is dreaming about playing professional hockey," said Sekera. "I get a chance to play, so I have to prove that I belong here and do all the things I can to stay up here."