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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Clarke MacArthur (Photo: Bill Wippert)
For Clarke MacArthur, the key is versatility.

Move from left wing to center?

Why not?

Change linemates?

No problem.

He is even spending time on special teams.

As a forward who was questionable to make the roster in the beginning of the season, MacArthur’s flexibility and recent production are helping him make yet another transition on the team - to a player that is nearly impossible to take out of the lineup.

“He is a talented player,” linemate Jason Pominville said. “He’s been doing good things offensively and going to the net and getting rewarded that way… For me, I don’t think there was ever a doubt how good Clarkie could be and he is playing really well for us right now.”

With six goals in 14 games for the Sabres, MacArthur trails only Thomas Vanek (12) on the team for the most scores. He also ranks fourth on the team with nine points.

It wasn’t always that way for the winger.

Last season he registered eight goals and 15 points in three separate stints with the Sabres totaling 37 games. He was reassigned to the AHL for the fourth time on March 6 and finished the season with the Rochester Americans.

Heading into training camp this season, MacArthur’s status was uncertain with plenty of depth at forward. But after a flurry of injuries at center - Tim Connolly (back), Paul Gaustad (thumb) and Jochen Hecht (finger) – the team quickly became depleted down the middle prior to opening night.

MacArthur stepped forward.

“After the first few games there I really started to like it,” MacArthur said of playing center. “There is a lot more skating involved and you have to be aware a lot more to just find those holes, but it’s a challenge and that’s what you want.”

Previously spending time at center with the Amerks, the winger was a likely candidate to fill in. But he has been so successful in the role, the transition may be a permanent one.

Even with the return of all three centermen to the lineup, MacArthur has remained in the middle, practicing between Dan Paille and Afinogenov on Tuesday morning at HSBC Arena.

“It’s a good asset for him to have,” Pominville said. “But more than that he can play the power play, he can kill penalties and he can play in every situation. He’s a skilled player as much as he’s a guy that’s able to play in both ends of the ice. That’s definitely a guy you want to have on your team and we’re glad he’s here.”

MacArthur is quick to give credit to teammate Paul Gaustad, who has been tutoring the 23 year old on his new position.

“We take a lot of draws after practice,” MacArthur said. “He has been really good for me. He’s such a good defensive player and getting tips from him, especially with the faceoffs, helps…. that is something I definitely need to work on.

“There is more to it than dropping the puck and swinging your stick at it. I’ve been working on my backhand a lot and I’ve actually been using my backhand for every draw now instead of the forehand, so it’s little things like that.”

Gaustad claims he just needed some reinforcement.

“It’s tough for a winger to come in at center and take some draws,” Gaustad said. “I helped him with a couple keys, but he’s a great natural center and his faceoffs have improved steadily throughout the season. His confidence is up.

“I think sometimes he wasn’t getting low enough. He has great hand-eye coordination so I just basically told him to use his strengths.”

MacArthur’s ability to adapt continues to be among them.

“I think I just have to keep working hard,” he said. “That’s one thing I don’t want to lose track of. That’s how I’ve been able to stay in the lineup so far and that’s what I have to continue to do.”
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