|Craig Rivet (Photo: Bill Wippert) |
It didn’t take Craig Rivet long to fit into the Buffalo Sabres lineup.
In his first game donning the Blue and Gold, the seasoned blueliner not only earned the respect of the coaching staff - coming out on the ice with an ‘A’ emblazoned on his jersey - but also quickly received approval from the fans by battling Toronto Maple Leafs’ centerman Ryan Hollweg just 10:48 into the game.
“That’s just part of the game,” Rivet said. “Obviously when you’re battling in front of the net and you hear a whistle go and all of a sudden there are a few extra jabs, things are going to happen. You just want to protect your goaltender.”
If that matter-of-fact attitude weren’t enough to win Sabres fans over, Rivet may have sealed the deal by adding an assist on Paul Gaustad’s game-tying goal with five seconds remaining in the game, en route to a 3-2 overtime victory against the Leafs.
“The fans are loud, there is no doubt about that,” Rivet said. “We gave them a little bit of a heart attack, but it’s a nice way to win. The guys never quit.”
His outlook toward Buffalo wasn’t always so friendly. As part of the Montreal Canadiens for more than a decade (1994-2007) before being traded to the Sharks, Rivet was not fond of going up against the Sabres.
“I hated playing here. To be honest with you I hated playing in Buffalo,” he said. “It was an extremely difficult place to play with the style that they played. They are very aggressive they are always very tough to play against.”
After being traded from San Jose on July 4, Rivet has since adapted to his new surroundings.
“I had to warm up to the idea of going anywhere,” he said of leaving the Sharks. “I was an unrestricted free agent, I signed a contract in San Jose thinking I would be there for the duration. But as you know that’s not always the case in professional sports. I had to move on.
"I talked to Mike Grier, Curtis Brown, I talked to single guy [Brian] “Soupy” Campbell… they all had great things to say about Buffalo. They said it’s going to take you a little bit of time to get used to but once you’re there you really love it.”
He is not off to a bad start.
Buffalo Sabres 2008 first-round draft pick Tyler Myers
also wore a Sabres sweater for the first time Saturday night.
"It was really exciting for me," Myers said. "It took me that first period to adjust to the speed, but I thought I adjusted well."
The 6-foot-7 defenseman registered 16 minutes of ice time in his debut, with two hits and two blocked shots.
"The first period he looked like a rookie playing his first game, which is very understandable" head coach Lindy Ruff said. "He was pushing pucks instead of passing them. I thought the second and third period he found himself a nice groove with five defensemen and played well.
"It's not easy playing that first game, but I thought he got through that first period and did a nice job for us."
Ruff addressed Thomas Vanek
's play on special teams in his post-game comments, stating the winger will be used in all situations throughout the remainder of the preseason.
"If you want to get the elite ice time that the top players in this League [get] those guys typically kill penalties because you go stretches in the game where there are maybe eight minutes in penalties," Ruff said. "If you are sitting for that you are going to lose maybe four minutes of ice time. That may take him from 15-16 minutes up around 19-20 minute mark. He has to earn it too. He has to do a good job and tonight was a real good step in the right direction."
The Sabres kicked off their first home preseason match of the year with a Red Carpet Event prior to the game.
Fans gathered outside of HSBC Arena to see some of their favorite players as they filed into the rink to take on the Maple Leafs.
Click here to watch a video
of the event or see a photo gallery
In addition, the Sabres celebrated September as Deaf Awareness Month prior to the game, inviting three students from St. Mary’s School for the Deaf to join Doug Allen, signing the national anthems.