|Chris Butler (Photo: Bill Wippert) |
PROVIDENCE, RI -- It didn't take Chris Butler long to evolve from a rookie into a leader.
To be precise, it took exactly 47 games.
Entering the 2008-09 season as a first-year player in the American Hockey League, Butler started out adjusting to professional hockey with the Portland Pirates.
But after a string of injuries hit Buffalo Sabres' defense corps, Butler soon found himself on a different stage in the NHL. And he has yet to look back.
The blueliner impressed the coaching staff enough to earn a full-time role on the team, logging a plus-11 rating and six points (2+4) through nearly 50 games in his rookie year. Head Coach Lindy Ruff wants his progress to continue, and opted to send Butler back to Portland following the Sabres' season finale in Boston.
He now finds himself in a different role with the team.
"It's kind of neat to come back with experience and talk to some of the guys and share and compare stories," Butler said. "It's funny to think I'm more so looked at as a leader now that I have been fortunate enough to gain experience at the NHL level."
Pirates' Head Coach Kevin Dineen argues Butler carries inherent qualities of leadership.
"I think our fan base in Buffalo knows what he has done for the organization this year," Dineen said. "Frankly, I wasn't surprised at all that he was called up for three games and was there for the rest of the season. He has a maturity about him that has NHL written all over him, so it's great and a real benefit to have him back in the lineup for the playoffs."
"I know a lot of the guys here and I kept in touch with them throughout the year," Butler said. "I knew what was going on down here and how everyone was playing. I don't think it's going to take me long to adjust and I'm happy to get some playoff experience. It's my first post-season berth as a professional so I'm excited to see how far we'll take it."
Butler is expected to be paired with Matt Generous in Game 2 against Providence. Game-time is 7 p.m.
Former Boston College star Nathan Gerbe
isn't finding the New England area as friendly as he used to.
After amassing 71 goals and 133 points with the Eagles, Gerbe is now on the less favorable side with the AHL Pirates when he faces the Providence Bruins.
"You get booed instead of cheered," Gerbe laughed. "I'm used to that now though. That's the way it works. It's like when Johnny Damon comes back to Fenway Park. He's always going to get booed. But that's what makes it fun."
Follow tonight's game in Providence with a LIVE Sabres' blog on Twitter. Go to twitter.com/sabresdotcom to keep up with Buffalo's top prospects as they try to gain a 2-0 series lead over Providence in the Atlantic Division Semi-Finals.