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ON THE ROAD: WEST COAST RECAP

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Ryan Miller (Getty Images)
The longest road trip of the season was just that, although because of the amount of games squeezed in, everyday is either a game or travel day.


Atlanta, Long Island, Phoenix and Southern California were a little cold. We had a steady rain almost every day, except for when we left Vancouver for Buffalo. So much for over-packing for the trip with polo shirts and shorts.

We logged a lot of miles and crept over the 7,000th mile with a 2-3-2 record. Not too bad, but a few shootout losses aren’t a huge consolation when you are trying to gather as many points as you can before the break.

I guess a quick recap of the trip would work the best to keep the reading short and the writing shorter!

Atlanta- The team finally broke the streak against the Thrashers with an overtime victory when Derek scored the game wining goal on a one-timer that he “called” before the faceoff to Tim Connolly.  He told Tim to set him up for a one-time shot on the draw and that exactly how it played out. The win gave the team a great start to the trip. Most of the talk around the media and rink was about Ilya Kovalchuk…Is he going to be re-signed or traded?  It was odd to have members of the home team media asking our players like Ryan Miller what they thought of Ilya and if they thought he was going to be dealt, especially because it was mid-January. Who says Atlanta doesn’t talk about hockey!

New York- We had a day to practice before the game in Long Island after our post-game flight from Atlanta. The flight was a little bumpy and made a few of us remember a flight we had during the first round of the 2006-07 playoffs when we rocked back and forth pretty violently as we tried to land on the Island. We were traveling through extremely high winds and heavy rain. That was probably the worst flight that we have had since the lockout. Of course we all spent a great deal of time talking to Isles goalie Marty Biron in the hallway and locker  room! No trip would have been complete if we didn’t get the Marty updates!

We had a ceremonial faceoff before the game with former NY Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry. He was there to gain awareness to his foundation that helps to fight Autism. For our captain, this one was cool, but not as good as puck drop in Florida with Darth Vader! All the talk surrounding the game was again about an opposing player… the home return of Rick DiPietro. “DP” played a solid game and picked up the win in shootout. Oh well, at least Ryan got a quick break about talking about the Olympics and got to share his opinion on something else. Rick is a good guy and it was great to see him back in goal. It could have waited a game but what can you do.

Phoenix-
The morning after the game, we flew to Phoenix. A lot of books, Sudoku, crosswords, movies and makeup sleep on the flight.  When we got to the desert it was surprisingly chilly. After practice, the boys went on their way to relax. One of the cool areas in Glendale is Westgate which surrounds the Jobing.com Arena. It is a great outdoor shopping area with some great restaurants. (I.e. a good place to unwind for a bit)

As for the game, there were thousands of Sabres fans in the house! It was so loud for our team when we scored. And with nine total goals scored, they saw plenty of action. One funny note, we once again had a ceremonial faceoff before the game. This time, it with a member of our military. However, I wasn’t notified of the faceoff and didn’t go over it with Craig as I always do. When they started to announce it was taking place over the PA, Rivs had to scramble to get off the bench and out to center ice first the stick was caught under the bench, then gloves dropped on the bench, not to mention no helmet. Plus, he was adjusting his gear at the time. It was a little delayed but eventually done. Let’s just say I owed him one and leave it at that.

West Coast-  In Anaheim, and Los Angeles, the colder weather and rain continued. There were evacuations and flooding through the region. I was seriously sensing that we were traveling with a black cloud behind us. There was not a lot of off time for the boys and staff to relax, but after our game in Anaheim, we had a day off. It would be safe to say that almost our entire team went to the movies at least once on the trip in either Phoenix or in LA, with Avatar 3-D garnering the most viewers. Mixed reviews followed.

One of the cool things about our team that always blows my mind is how many fans we have that follow our team. I had the opportunity to meet Mike and Ryan Brady from Boise, Idaho. The boys traveled to our games on in Anaheim, LA and San Jose to cheer us on. This is the closest the team played to their home state this year, so this was their chance. We also had Mike and Tim from Buffalo who followed our team starting in Buffalo and ending after the San Jose game. Talk about logging miles.

Vancouver- The home to the 2010 Winter Olympic is getting all dressed up in their Olympic attire. Everywhere you look you see Olympic rings, banners and Team Canada gear and signs. Although once again chilly and raining, it’s hard to imagine that in two weeks, all eyes of the world will be watching a city that didn’t have any snow falling! I guess as long as the mountains have it, that is all that matters.

Heading to GM Place, there were tons of autograph seekers floating around trying to get Ryan, Jochen and the rest of our Olympic players to sign a puck or poster. Once inside, there was a swarm of media ready to grab some early sound from Lindy and Ryan. It almost felt like the playoffs with all the cameras and reporters. The talk was not all Olympics though as Tyler Myers got his share of attention. Returning to BC where he had starred in juniors, Tyler was surrounded for a while. One thing that followed us on the trip was talk of Tyler joining the race for the Calder Trophy.  There was a lot of buzz that he didn’t want to talk about.

It is always fun when we get to play teams and visit cities on the West Coast. Our fans in the West are awesome and really represent the blue and Gold proud.
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