The Buffalo Sabres have earned points in three of their past four games and goaltending has been a big reason why.
Anders Lindback has appeared in each of the past seven games, starting the last four in a row, and has played more in this stretch than he has at any other point in the season. With the increased playing time, he’s improved his numbers.
In those seven games, he has a .934 save percentage and a 2.41 goals-against average. He’s coming off a 2-1 shootout victory over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday in which he made 44 saves.
However, Lindback is only really focused on improving one statistic: his win total.
It’s one thing to play good for a little while and for me, I want to be good every night and I want to give the team a chance to win every night. - Anders Lindback
“I only care about winning. That’s why you play hockey,” he said after practice Thursday at First Niagara Center. “You can have the worst save percentage, [but] if you’re winning and you’re playing on a winning team, that’s all that matters, really. Sometimes it’s just about making the right saves at key moments.
“That’s how funny this sport is, but obviously it’s always nice [to have] big numbers and this, but in the end, what it comes down to is winning. If you’re a winning goalie, you’re going to be successful in this League.”
He wants to keep it up and prove he can sustain this level of play over a longer period of time.
“It’s one thing to play good for a little while and for me, I want to be good every night and I want to give the team a chance to win every night,” he said. “I can’t say I’m still there. I’ve got to get better every day.”
With more playing time, Lindback has been able to get into a bit of a groove and he feels that has certainly helped him develop some more consistency between the pipes.
“I’ve just been keeping on working on small things, try to pay attention to details,” he said. “But it’s hard to replicate a game in practice. I learn so much by playing every game, too. You start to read the game a different way than if you just play once in a while. It’s hard to get that feeling in.”
Goaltending coach Arturs Irbe has received a lot of credit for the work he’s done with Lindback over the course of the past month. Lindback has been receptive to Irbe’s recommendations and that’s gone a long way in elevating his play lately.
“Confidence is a big thing with any athlete. His work ethic when he got here was outstanding,” Nolan said. “He paid attention to a few minor adjustments to his game. He adjusted and last game, if he didn’t have that one bad break, it could’ve been a shutout for him. But he’s doing everything we ask.
Buffalo has three games in four nights coming up starting on Friday at home against New Jersey. The team then embarks on a two-game road trip that sees them in Nashville on Saturday and in Dallas on Monday.
With 12 games remaining in the season, many players like Lindback are trying to take advantage of the opportunity at hand.
“There are 720 some-odd jobs in this League to grab a hold of. If you’re lucky enough to be presented with one of them in a situation like we’re in, you want to play your heart and soul out,” Nolan said. “You want to give everything you have every game to prove that you can. Lindback has certainly taken to a level for sure.”
Zach Bogosian was absent from practice again on Thursday. He’s missed the past three games with a lower-body injury. He will not play Friday night against New Jersey but Nolan is hopeful that Bogosian will be healthy enough to make the road trip and play in Nashville on Saturday.
Chad Ruhwedel remains with the team due to the injuries and he may stick around as well depending on the status of Andrej Meszaros, who has missed the past two games with a hand injury.
3-ON-3 COMING SOON?
General managers from around the League are meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. to discuss various changes that could be made to improve the game for the 2015-16 season. One recommendation agreed to be presented to the NHL Players’ Association involves 3-on-3 play in overtime in order to cut down on the number of games decided in the shootout.
While 3-on-3 is a rare occurrence in games now, Sabres captain Brian Gionta is open to the possibility of seeing it in overtime.
“We’ll see how it plays out. I’ve been part of, I think, one 3-on-3 in my career in the NHL,” he said. “They’re pretty exciting. It’s a different dynamic for sure, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Three Sabres prospects were among the final leaders when the results of the 2014-15 Ontario Hockey League Coaches Poll were announced on Wednesday.
Jean Dupuy of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds was named the Western Conference’s Best Penalty Killer with 22 votes, three ahead of Saginaw’s Dylan Sadowy. The 20-year-old Dupuy also finished second in voting for Best Defensive Forward, two votes behind the 29 received by Jason Dickinson of Guelph. The Sabres signed Dupuy to a three-year entry-level contract in November.
Erie Otters winger Nick Baptiste (2013, third round) was third in voting for the Best Shot in the Western Conference. His 14 votes trailed only London’s Max Domi (20) and Nikita Korostelev (16) of Sarnia.
Sault Ste. Marie’s Justin Bailey (2013, second round) received 12 votes to finish third in the Western Conference as Best Shootout Shooter, behind Domi (25) and Guelph’s Tyler Bertuzzi (15).
Each team submits one nominee per category, and coaches then vote for the top three players for each category within their conference. Players receive five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote, and one point for a third place vote. Clubs are not permitted to vote for players from their own team allowing for a maximum of 45 possible points for each winner.
26 Matt Moulson – 22 Johan Larsson – 63 Tyler Ennis
82 Marcus Foligno – 84 Philip Varone – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 59 Tim Schaller – 19 Cody Hodgson
49 Jerry D’Amigo – 37 Matt Ellis – 20 Zac Dalpe – 36 Patrick Kaleta
6 Mike Weber – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
61 Andre Benoit – 24 Tyson Strachan
51 Nikita Zadorov – 5 Chad Ruhwedel
41 Andrej Meszaros
35 Anders Lindback
31 Matt Hackett