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Pekar scores twice in Prospects Challenge win over Bruins

Forward continues to impress with blend of offense, physicality

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Matej Pekar seemed to blush as he attempted to concoct an answer that was safe for the cameras. 

The question: What is it that you do that gets people so angry at you? 

"I don't know," Pekar said, grinning from ear to ear. "I'm cute?" 

One night after he brought the Harborcenter crowd to its feet with a third-period fight against the New Jersey Devils, Pekar once again proved to be a thorn in opposing players' sides against the Boston Bruins on Saturday. This time he mixed in some offense, tallying a pair of goals in the Sabres' 4-3 victory. 

Rasmus Asplund and Victor Olofsson also tallied goals, while Jonas Johansson made 36 saves.

Video: Prospects Challenge: BUF vs. BOS Highlights

For those unfamiliar with the story of Pekar, he was a fourth-round draft pick by the Sabres last summer who stood out at development camp for his relentless quest to antagonize the team's top players in Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Dahlin.  

He showed his offensive capabilities that week as well, then continued to produce with 36 points in his first 33 OHL games with Barrie. His season came to an end in January due to a broken collarbone, and he waited more than seven months before returning to game action against the Devils on Friday. 

If there was any pent-up aggression, he let it out against New Jersey. He scrapped and jawed after whistles until he finally dropped the gloves with 6-foot-3 defenseman Michael Vukojevic in the third period, a fight he won decidedly. It garnered the loudest crowd reaction of a victory in which the Sabres scored six goals. 

Despite the fan approval, Pekar was disappointed with his performance. He spent Friday night clearing his head and mapped out a plan with linemate Lukas Rousek to communicate more and win every battle possible, which he felt they accomplished against the Bruins. 

"I have to say I enjoyed the game a lot," Pekar said. "My teammates helped me a lot. They were great. My linemates were going, they were winning every single battle. Every single guy was buzzing today. It was great today."

Video: POSTGAME: Pekar

Pekar tallied his first goal with a one-time shot on a crossing feed from Kyle Olson - a camp invite who's brought a similar mix of physicality and offense through two exhibition games - at 13:33 of the second period. He tallied another less than two minutes later on a nearly identical play, this time fed by Rousek.
 
He found himself heading to the penalty box alongside Boston forward Jack Studnicka on the very next shift, the pair having received matching roughing minors for a post-whistle scuffle. 

If that mix of offense and irritation sounds uncomfortably familiar, it should. Pekar models his game after Boston's Brad Marchand - the kind of player you love to play with but hate to play against.

"I think it's the best feeling ever, to be honest," he said. "I think it's great when I go on the ice and I feel like the guys are already giving me the looks or saying something to my face. I'm like, Great, I'm in their head. I can focus on my game now. I don't even have to worry about them, you know?

"If they have bad thoughts back in their mind that they're going out there and they're going to get hit and something's going to happen, it obviously helps. It's easier to get the pucks."

Yet Pekar is as affable off the ice as he is irritating on it. He exudes a genuine appreciation for the position he's in during scrums with the media and speaks glowingly about the city of Buffalo. Fans are beginning to reciprocate that feeling - he was even cheered as he skated to the box for a slashing minor in the third period, a penalty he later admitted he shouldn't have taken. 

"I'm trying my best," he said. "This city is great. The fanbase is unbelievable. I've never seen this before. If I would be loved by the city, it's even better. I enjoy being here and I'm trying to just give back to the people. The support we get here, it's unbelievable. 

"I'm just trying to entertain them."

 

Up next

The Sabres conclude the Prospects Challenge against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday afternoon. The Penguins are 1-1 following a win over New Jersey on Saturday. 

Puck drop on Monday is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. The game will be streamed in-market on Sabres.com and Facebook Live. 

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