Experience can go a long way in the National Hockey League, especially during playoff time.
|Rob Niedermayer |
The current Sabres’ roster has combined for nearly 700 games of NHL Playoff experience, led by Rob Niedermayer’s 109 career postseason outings. The 17-year NHL veteran will be playing in the postseason for the 10th time in his career this year. He has played in three Stanley Cup Finals (1996 with Florida, 2003 and 2007 with Anaheim) and won the Cup as a member of the Ducks in 2007.
A look at Buffalo’s roster shows 12 more players with at least 25 games of Stanley Cup Playoff experience in addition to Niedermayer. Mike Grier has played in 94 postseason contests. Jordan Leopold
and Steve Montador were both members of the Calgary Flames team that advanced all the way to Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. Jochen Hecht
, Jason Pominville
, Tim Connolly, Paul Gaustad, Thomas Vanek
, Ryan Miller
and Derek Roy
were all members of the Sabres teams that went to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals in 2006 and 2007, gaining valuable experience. Grier was a member of the 2006 Sabres squad, as well.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is 23-year-old Mike Weber
, a veteran of 81 regular season NHL games and zero playoff appearances. Weber will likely make his NHL playoff debut Thursday when Buffalo opens its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series at Philadelphia.
We’ve got a chance, with an elite group of teams right now, to go chase a childhood dream right now and try to win a Stanley Cup. It’s pretty special and the intensity will be pretty high.” - Defenseman Mike Weber
“It’s really exciting,” Weber said. “Just making the playoffs and being involved in the process of getting into the playoffs was pretty exciting, so I’m really looking forward to it. I wish we were starting today – kinda tired of practice, ready to get after it here. It’s very exciting and I think this is going to be a good matchup.”
Weber, who sits neat Pominville in the Sabres’ dressing room, said Pominville has been sharing stories with him about past playoff battles, including Buffalo’s 2006 series against the Flyers, which the Sabres won in six games.
Pominville has appeared in all 40 of Buffalo’s playoff games dating back to 2006 and shared his thoughts on what it takes to be successful in the postseason.
“Guys are going to have to play out of character,” Pominville said. “If you’re a goal scorer, you’re going to have to do different things than what you normally do… be good in every area because every shift is important. It’s not good to get overhyped, either. You don’t want to get too excited or get nervous and not be able to do your job on the ice. I think focus is a big part of it.”
In addition to Weber, the other Sabres who have yet to appear in an NHL postseason contest include Jhonas Enroth
, Chris Butler, Mark Mancari and Marc-Andre Gragnani.
|Tyler Ennis battles with Boston's Zdeno Chara during the 2010 Playoffs (Photo: Bill Wippert) |
Younger players such as Tyler Myers
, Tyler Ennis
, Nathan Gerbe
, Patrick Kaleta
and Andrej Sekera
made their playoff debuts last season during the team’s six-game loss to Boston in the first round.
Head Coach Lindy Ruff said players without playoff experience won’t know what it’s like until the game starts.
“(The intensity) is something that once you get in the game you get a feel for it. Being in the Flyers’ building, you get another perspective on the whole thing. It’s a whole different experience,” Ruff said. 4/12 - Lindy Ruff Interview
The Flyers’ roster has accumulated a combined total of nearly 1,100 career playoff games, led by defenseman Chris Pronger’s 170 career games, due in large part to the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season.Drew Stafford
, who has 13 career playoff games under his belt, recognizes the amount of experience that the Flyers have, but also likes the mix of experience and youth on the Sabres.
“Their whole team went on that huge run last year so they’ve all had a taste of it, but we have a few guys in this room that have made it to the Conference Finals a few times. We have the experience in here along with a lot of new guys, fresh faces who are getting their first taste of playoff experience. Guys are excited, guys are looking forward to it, and we’re just looking forward to getting going,” Stafford said.
While Weber is a newcomer to the NHL’s second season, he is well aware of its magnitude.
“We’ve got a chance, with an elite group of teams right now, to go chase a childhood dream right now and try to win a Stanley Cup,” said Weber. “It’s pretty special and the intensity will be pretty high.”
Tim Connolly and Andrej Sekera
were both on the ice for practice Tuesday after missing Monday’s session. Connolly had been given an extra day off to rest while Sekera is coming back from an upper body injury that caused him to miss the final two games of the regular season.
“It felt good to be out on the skates after a while. It’s progressing everyday and hopefully it will get better and better. I am doing everything I can to get ready for Game 1,” Sekera said.
While Ruff acknowledged that Connolly was “good” and Sekera “got through (practice) good,” he did not comment further on his lineup for Game 1 of the series.