How much of a relief is it for you to not only sign a contract extension, but a long-term deal with the Buffalo Sabres? And does it allow you to focus on hockey?
"It does help you focus on just hockey. There are going to be some unique challenges with it from the public perspective and media side as far as expectations, but for me it’s a commitment from the team that says they want to go with the core group of guys that we have and try to build a winner.
"I think we have a good group of guys so the decision to stay was easy."
How important was it for you to get a deal done prior to the start of the season?
"It was important to me because the kind of person that I am, I don’t want any distractions or talk about it every day.
"I didn’t want to have anything hanging out there if I could help it. I was comfortable staying in Buffalo and they wanted to have me here so it is great to get a deal done."
Looking at the upcoming season, what was your reaction to the Sabres signing Patrick Lalime, and what do you know about him as a goaltender?
"I don’t know Patrick personally, but I do know him as a goaltender just from watching him. He is a great goaltender and, from what I heard, a great person. I’m always excited to meet great people in hockey and it sounds like he is one of them."
Coming off such a big season playing 76 games, how has this long offseason helped you to recuperate?
"I feel good. I feel like I’m in good shape. I’ve had a little bit longer to work out and get myself back to neutral. Before I was really pushing it to get back into shape at a peak level, but I feel ready now. Plus the season even starts a little bit later this year, we’ve got an extra probably six days before we get underway, which will help too.
"I always feel like I’m in good shape but this time, I feel a little more rested and I got a little more stuff taken care of this summer. I’ve addressed some on-ice and off-ice issues to make me a better player in the long haul.
What issues have you addressed and what else have you been doing in the offseason?
"I started with a new trainer here and I’ve been focusing a little more on nutrition. I think it will help me with my energy level. I’m also identifying some things with [Sabres goaltending coach] Jim Corsi and my good friend Terri Barbeau who has been my goalie coach since I was 16 years old.
"We have been going over some things to work on monthly during the season so I have some goals outside of just winning hockey games- performance goals and skill goals- to work on to become a better goalie. Getting back to some of those basic attitudes and looking to improve on certain skills that have treated me well in the past will help me throughout the year."