(The questions below were submitted by fans through Sabres.com and the Weekly Report, a weekly recap that is delivered to Sabres Insider's email.)
Alicia, West Seneca, NY Q: How did you get into hockey? When was the first time you started playing? How did you know this is what you wanted to do?
A: It's kind of a family tradition. My dad played, my grandpa played, my great uncle and my cousins played. I just grew up around hockey. It was introduced to me when I was young and I was taken to games. I got used to the sport and got into it and it ended up being something that I loved to do.
I started playing as young as I can remember, but I started playing organized hockey when I was about 5 years old.
I just love to do it, I love being on the ice and playing. I always thought going to college and playing for the Spartans was the biggest thing you could do. Then my cousins graduated and went to play in the NHL and I realized, "oh you can make a living doing that!" I must've been around 8 or 9 years old.
Jordan, Niagara Falls, NY Q: What is your most memorable start as a goalie?
A: My first NHL game. It's something that I worked towards my whole life, and to get that first opportunity is such a fresh feeling. You're anxious, excited, a little nervous, just all these emotions rolled up into one thing. We lost in over-time but by the third period, I figured out where I was. It's one of those things that I'll never forget.
Kristin, Hilton, NY Q: What is going through your mind as a player crosses the blueline on a breakaway?
A: Paying attention to what hand they shoot with, and if it's anyone in particular whether they like using a certain move. I ask myself, who is it? What can I do? I try to be aware of them but play it like I normally would. I'm more aggressive on breakaways and just want to challenge the guy.
Josh, North Tonawanda, NY Q: What is the hardest shot to stop as a goalie? I've heard it's low and to the stick side, is there any truth to that?
A: Placement is everything. There are a lot of different hard shots, it just depends on the situation that unfolds in front of you. Generally speaking it's true. A guy that puts a shot low and to the stick side, it's hard to reach and get at.
Melanie, Tonawanda, NY Q: What is your favorite part about Buffalo so far?
A: I haven't had a chance to really get out that much, but I really like the restaurants and the food. They're original and different. Where I'm from, the only places that are original are bars and bar-style food. I like how they have more cuisine style food. You can go out and have a nice meal without it being a chain place. At home, it's always the Olive Garden and stuff like that. You can only have breadsticks and salad so much.
Jeff, Avon, NY Q: What was it like for you the first time you saw yourself on a hockey card?
A: I collected cards when I was a kid and my first time on a card was pretty cool. In college, we were all just kind of like "oh, yeah, whatever," but my first time on an NHL trading card was cool. To have cousins and kids in my family all having cards of me, it feels really good.
Aaron Perry, NY Q: So far in your career, what team do you like beating the most?
A: I like beating any team. I don't think I've established too many rivalries.
Chris, Orchard Park, NY Q: Who was your favorite goalie growing up as a child? Who is the toughest player on the team to stop in practice?
A: Growing up, Curtis Joseph. My cousin played for the Blues when Joseph was breaking in at the time. He was only playing for a year or two, and I could really identify with him. Even Hasek, before he got into his groove, he just wouldn't quit and was a guy who really played hard. I don't think I play anything like him but I like how he pushes himself in the game.
As far as the hardest guy to stop in practice, there are a few. I don't want to give anyone too much credit. They'll get big heads and get cocky.
DJ, Buffalo, NY Q: How big of an influence did cousins Kip, Kevin, and Kelly have on you?
A: A tremendous influence. I got to watch them train when I was younger, and as I moved up in my levels of hockey, I got to work with them and take shots. My favorite memory was being a little kid and being a goalie.
My cousins were pretty good and local guys would come out and skate with them or guys they went to college with. They would have me out on the ice in the summer time at eight in the morning with two buckets of pucks and dump them in the corner. They would take turns being the guy shooting from the center.
Each would catch a pass, take a one timer and tell me to just stand there. The pucks would be flying by me for a few years, ringing by my ears and past my head. I'd catch one or two and make a few saves. They never took it easy on me, and I think that's what really helped. They always challenged me and made it fun by accepting me and making me feel a part of it. It's something that I won't forget and it's how I handle my younger cousins and other kids. I try to make them feel accepted when playing.
Alexander, Vienna, Austria Q: What are the biggest differences between playing in the AHL and the NHL for you?
A: It's hard to say. I think hockey's hockey for the most part. The skill level rises a little with one-on-one situations, as there are tremendous skaters and shooters. It's increasingly important in the NHL to focus on every single shot.
John, Salamanca, NY Q: Shootouts have become very important in accumulating points in the standings. Do you keep a book of the tendencies of the top shooters on each team?
A: Just mentally. I call it, cataloging the shooters. It's being aware of what hand they are even if you can't see them on the ice. Try to catch a glimpse of them, where is the puck going to go if he gets the pass. When you get to a shootout, if he's left-handed, then he's more likely to shoot certain places and make moves that will put him in a better spot.
With right-handed shooters, they will place themselves in other spots. I try eliminating options in my head, but that's where it gets tough. Guys are so creative at this level and you can't really think too much. I try to just pick out the left-handed and right-handed shooters as best I can.
Kevin, Buffalo, NY Q: In your opinion, who is currently the best shooter in the NHL? Who has the hardest slapshot? If you were a coach, who would you choose as your three shooters in the current NHL and in history?
A: Best shooter for getting shots off from basically anywhere, Ilya Kovalchuk. Best slapshot, that I've faced, Zdeno Chara. Three Current Shooters: Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic, Jaromir Jagr Three in History: Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier
CJ, Victor, NY Q: What is your favorite kind of ice cream?
A: Mint chocolate chip.
Liz, Olean, NY Q: As a guitarist myself, I was wondering whether you preferred playing acoustic or electric more? What is your favorite artist to play?
A: Acoustic, it's what I associate with. I take it on vacation with me, up north to Michigan. I like Jack Johnson, just strumming his stuff go's over well.