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by Kevin Sylvester / Buffalo Sabres

*Yesterday was Groundhog Day, and Punxsutawney Phil and Dunkirk Dave had differing opinions on winter. Phil saw his shadow and predicted 6 more weeks of winter, while Dave didn’t and says it will get warmer soon. Either way we win, because this has been the winter that wasn’t.  

*The last three games have felt like Groundhog Day (the great movie starring Bill Murray) with great goaltending from Ryan Miller and excellent defense. It’s also no coincidence that his better play coincided with the return of Christian Ehrhoff to the lineup. The reason Ehrhoff was coveted, rights acquired, and subsequently signed was for his offensive and puck handling skills. He can eat up minutes, taking some of the load off of Robyn Regher, thus making him more effective. I also think the pairings Lindy Ruff has been able to put together on the back end have made a big difference at both ends of the ice. Tyler Myers and Ehrhoff are both offensive threats and able to carry the puck the entire length of the rink, helping with puck control. Mike Weber, to me anyway, is a more confident and aggressive player when paired with Regher. Jordan Leopold is the unsung player on this team, and if all stay healthy, he could add some stability to Andrej Sekera and hopefully get #44 back to his early season form.

*Back to groundhogs for a moment. The next time you drive the I-90 between Buffalo and Rochester in the morning, pay attention to how many you see standing along side the banks of the thruway. I’ll bet you’ll stop counting at 20.

*I was asked quite a bit how the latest long road trip was. My last blog touched on a good deal of it, but here are a few more items. The team went 2-5-0, losing the first five and winning the last two with the All-Star break as a buffer. We’re in and out of cities so quickly that results are how I judge trips. But I do remember a few off-ice items, and here they are. The Buffalo streets department needs to send someone to St. Louis and teach how to handle freezing rain, especially on the sidewalks. The restaurant that most of us dined at two weeks ago was one block from the hotel, but it was the toughest walk in the league. The sidewalks were as smooth as Ken Johnson (aka “Slick-The Doctor of Style” – a wrestling reference for Kevin Snow). I witnessed a group of players trying to maneuver crossing the street like a pack of penguins, bunched together using short choppy steps, arm in arm to prevent a fall. It worked, as they made it without mishap. The same cannot be said for the broadcast crew.

Brian Duff and I are in the clothing business. Yes, we try to look our best on the show (with a great assist to Napoli’s), but research is required too. So, during our stay in New Jersey, we talked our way into a men’s clothing show at an adjacent convention center to our hotel. Oddly enough, we were the main attraction. Why? We didn’t know it was predominantly a street style show, so we stuck out like sore thumbs in our tailored suits and black overcoats. One vendor asked if we were feds making sure things were legit.  We took the hint (along with more stares) and left. Duffer did snag one free sample: a pair of burlap cargo shorts. They’re beyond sweet.

I tweeted and mentioned on the air during the Montreal game that we took a cab from our hotel to the Bell Centre. That’s usual practice in most cities, but not for the two blocks that separate these two entities. For the record, I was willing to walk despite the snow and cold. It was Danny Gare that made the call. Also for the record, it was the right call and I’m glad I went. I was able to witness Danny’s incredible ability to communicate in French with the cab driver, despite barely knowing a word of the language.

*One note from the game in New Jersey, and it’s a high one. I heard some discussion on the radio as to why we just didn’t say Tyler Myers was struck in the groin when he blocked the initial shot that lead to Patrick Elias’s goal. Two reasons: (1) We were so high up and couldn’t call for exact replays to see where it actually hit him, and (2) There was no need to be crass or exact in what was obviously an agonizing moment. We’ve all been there. I did ask Myers after the game if the puck did indeed catch him where we thought it did. His answer was that it just missed, but was close enough. Still ... ouch!

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