Like everyone else in Buffalo, Dainius Zubrus thought this was his year. Unfortunately, the six-foot-four, 224-pounder's dream of winning the Stanley Cup was ended when the Sabres fell to the Ottawa Senators, 3-2, in overtime on Saturday.
"This was as good of a shot as I have had," said Zubrus during locker clean out at HSBC Arena on Monday. "Realistically, this team is always going to change some things or make changes from year to year.
"You just never know when you're going to have a chance like that again."
The added sting for Zubrus was being sidelined for the finale of the Eastern Conference Finals. After appearing in Buffalo's first 15 playoff games and registering eight assists, Zubrus missed the final two games of the season with what was then deemed a lower-body ailment, now disclosed as a knee injury.
"That adds [to the hurt], when you feel you can make a difference," said Zubrus. "To finish a season that way, it's still sore."
Zubrus aggravated a prior injury in the final game of the team's second-round series against the New York Rangers. He fought through the pain in the opening three games against Ottawa, but left Game Four after just four minutes of work and was scratched for Game Five.
"[The injury] was something that I had a couple of years ago, and it started to hurt again in the last game against the Rangers," said Zubrus. "It started to do downhill when I started to play against the Senators.
"I tried to get ready for the games, it was my only chance. It's tough."
The 11-year professional didn't give many specifics, instead opting to simply state that it was a cartilage problem inside the knee itself.
A free agent this summer, Zubrus is completely open to the prospect of signing with Buffalo next season. As time wears on, Buffalo has grown on Zubrus.
"Why not? Right now I'm a Sabre," said Zubrus. "I'm a Sabre till July 1st. Honestly, I enjoyed it here. I honestly didn't know what to expect when I was coming here. But from day one the coaches, guys in the locker room and everyone around the area made me feel very comfortable.
"Everyone has been good to me, so there is no reason why not."
Chris Drury wouldn't mind extending his stay in Buffalo a little while longer. Drury, who sported multiple stitches on his lower lip, reiterated on Monday that he would return to Buffalo next season if given the opportunity.
"I would love to," said Drury. "It's been a great three years for me and my family. We've won a lot of hockey games and I still think we could be even better next year."
******************* QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"If the Sabres are interested, they are going to have the first chance. They're going to have the best chance," said co-captain Daniel Briere regarding his free agent status this summer.