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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Chris Butler (Photo: Bill Wippert)
When you look back at the 2008-09 season, did you really expect to have the amount of success that you’ve achieved your rookie year?

It really didn’t hit me until the summertime when you kind of sit back after the season is over and reflect on the way things went.

I had a pretty good understanding that I was going to start the year in Portland. The idea there is to get better, improve and do what you have to do to be a complete player. Did I expect to get called up and stay here for the rest of the year? Absolutely not. But there were a lot of things that kind of fell into place at the time.

Teppo [Numminen] got hurt, Toni [Lydman] got hurt, Reggie [Sekera] got hurt; everything kind of fell into place for me. I guess you could say it was definitely a little bit of luck but at the same time it was good for me. I was thrown into the fire right away, got to play some big minutes right away and while there were definitely some learning curves - some good games and certainly some games you do forget about - I certainly wouldn’t trade it for much.

Were there any moments that you even surprised yourself?

I think I always knew I could skate at this level. I think the biggest thing is being a good partner, making sure you’re always an outlet and making plays just a hair quicker. The American League is just a step slower than the NHL. I think the first couple of games were definitely an adjustment for me. My partners, usually Teppo and Craig [Rivet] made life a lot easier on me.

What kind of influence has Rivet been for you?
[Craig Rivet] is one of those guys that at the end of my career, when I kind of look back and reflect on everything, is on the top of my list as one of the most influential people. - Chris Butler
He’s been great. He took me out to dinner on the road my first couple games here. I’m probably the last guy he wants to go to dinner with, he knows nothing about me. We’ve kind of developed a pretty close bond, kept in touch over the summer.

He’s one of those guys that at the end of my career, when I kind of look back and reflect on everything, is on the top of my list as one of the most influential people. Craig, Teppo and Andrew Peters, who took me into his home, are probably the three most influential people in making me comfortable and giving me that little bit of extra confidence, letting me know that you can play at this level and don’t be afraid to try things.

What was it like playing with Teppo?

He’s just that calming presence. After 20 years in the League, you know what you’re going to get out of him. Everyone thinks he was very quiet, but he was very vocal with me on the bench one-on-one as far as saying ‘ok this was good, maybe next be here instead of over there.’ It was very comforting to have him there during your first game when your heart is beating about a million beats per minute. He’s there saying just relax, you’re going to be fine. That meant a lot to me coming from a guy with that kind of experience.

Do you feel a similar responsibility in helping Tyler Myers adjust?

I think everyone has done a good job of letting him know that he belongs here and making him feel like a part of the team. I pick him up every day, bring him to the rink, drop him off and go eat lunch with him.

Coming here, I had the luxury of knowing guys like Tim [Kennedy] and Nathan [Gerbe] my first training camp. We kind of all got sent down together. I guess you could say Tyler is the biggest new addition. It’s his second training camp, but I don’t think he knows as many faces as some of the other guys that have kind of been around a time or two.

I guess I can put myself in his shoes and kind of remember where I was. You kind of come to the locker room, be quiet and do your own thing. I think if you get him out of his comfort zone though, he’s a pretty funny kid. Good to be around.

How do you continue your growth this season?

More minutes, more responsibility and contribute more offensively – as well as getting more physical. That’s the type of stuff that comes with training in the summer time, getting a little bit stronger. You almost know how to train for the length of the season now. You know how strong guys are going to be. The first time you get called up I think you get caught off-guard how strong some of these guys are going to be. When they’re 230-240 pounds, that’s a mountain of a man to move.

You are also going to be getting more time playing point on the power play. What are the challenges in that?

Keeping things simple. I think last year we didn’t shoot the puck enough. We got too fancy and kept things on the perimeter. Thomas Vanek is a very underrated guy in front of the net. If you watch some of the things he does in practice… we were talking today about how nobody understands how he tips the puck and gets it moving in that direction with that accuracy. He gets his stick on everything. He’s a great tool to utilize and I feel like a lot of times we didn’t do that last year. We didn’t get enough pucks toward him and simplify things a little bit.

As far as playing the point, I’ve been on the power play in Portland as well as college and was the top man there. It’s not a foreign concept for me, it’s just something I haven’t done at this level yet.

I’m just ready to get started.

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