|Tim Connolly (Photo: Getty Images) |
It didn’t take long to gauge the Buffalo Sabres reaction. As players watched TSN in the locker room following the NHL trade deadline, applause erupted as an announcement was made: Tim Connolly agreed to a two-year contract extension.
“That’s pretty funny,” Connolly laughed after hearing his teammates’ response. “I wasn’t in the locker room but I got a few texts from the guys so I knew they must have announced something… It’s a tight-knit group of guys and I get along tremendously well with everyone on the team… There’s a lot of great chemistry.”
“It’s great news,” linemate Thomas Vanek
said. “I think a center like him is tough to find; His creativity, his passing, his movement and everything. I’m really happy that he’s here for the rest of the season and two more years beyond… that should give everyone a boost.”
Connolly has 26 points (11+15) in 29 games this season, including three game-winners. Scoring 66 points (18+48) in 77 games over the past two seasons, Connolly is averaging .86 points per game.
“For us it is better than a trade when you look at anything that is available in the summer, anything that is available right now on the trade market,” Sabres GM Darcy Regier said. “This is an important step in the progress of this hockey club… Even coming into the trade deadline this was the most important thing that we could accomplish.”
Connolly joined the Sabres in 2001, acquired from the New York Islanders along with Taylor Pyatt in exchange for Michael Peca. Now in his sixth season with the team, he maintains that staying in Buffalo was his main priority as he entered the final season of his contract.
“This is what I wanted. I’ve been here for a while now and it’s a great group of guys with a chance to win for years to come,” Connolly said. “It’s a great hockey town, a great place to play and… I’m just looking forward to the rest of the season and doing what we can to make the playoffs here.
“On the ice I’m feeling as good as I eve have, and just looking forward I’m just going to try to stay positive and continue to work harder each day.”
Regier also commented on the acquisition of goaltender
Mikael Tellqvist from the Phoenix Coyotes.
“We felt it was very important given the schedule and the uncertainty of Ryan [Miller’s] situation [high ankle sprain],” he said. “We have an understanding of what is the best case scenario [for Miller’s return to the lineup], which isn’t out that far. We have a worst-case scenario. When we looked at it and we looked at our schedule, we looked at four sets of three-in-four game nights coming up over the next month. We wanted to make sure that we brought back support for the hockey club and in specific, Patrick Lalime.”
Regier also stated that the trade does not mean that Miller will be out for the remainder of the season.
“He will play,” Regier said. “It’s just a question of when.”
will be in the lineup tonight
for the first time since he fractured his jaw Feb. 7 in Ottawa.
“It’s exciting,” Vanek said. “It kind of was like training camp all over again for me. I feel fresh, I feel ready to go. It’s been a while and I’m real excited for tonight.”
Vanek will likely play alongside Connolly and Drew Stafford
as the Sabres host the Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m. at HSBC Arena.
“I took a few bumps. I’m sure some of the guys in the other dressing room will try to go after me early on or all game, but it’s nothing new. I know I’m going to get hit but I feel good and I’m ready to take hits,” he said.