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by Kevin Sylvester / Buffalo Sabres
Henrik Tallinder (Photo: Getty Images)

I’d like to write something about Ryan Miller and the great season he is having, but you can read that everywhere else. So...

♦  Give the defensemen a lot of credit for Monday’s shutout in Toronto.  They did a great job of clearing loose pucks and rebounds in front of Miller. 

The back six have been a strength this season due in large part from the Tallinder/Myers pairing.  Craig Rivet and Steve Montador have been solid, while Chris Butler continues to impress despite a few hiccups with his new responsibilities. 

This unit will only get better with a healthy Toni Lydman starting to get into a rhythm, and you have to like the way Andrej Sekera has been bringing the puck end to end lately.  If Sekera continues to show that spark, it’ll be interesting to see who sits when Rivet makes his return from getting banged up in Philly last week.

♦  That game in Philadelphia last Friday felt like a playoff game, at least at ice level anyway.  Great skating, checks, fights, and some dirty goals.  Here’s hoping the Sabres and Flyers meet in the playoffs… in any round.

♦  Give Lindy Ruff credit for the line switch against Carolina.  He flopped Jochen Hecht for Thomas Vanek and it worked for both lines. Hecht and Pominville have great familiarity with one another from seasons past, and Vanek was a beast in the box with Grier and Kennedy. 

♦  I’m not worried about Vanek’s numbers.  He’s a smart, determined player.  He is going to go on a tear, and I think it’s going to be soon.

♦  This month is brutal with 15 games. However, nine are on home ice which provides a great opportunity to grab points.  The Sabres were 4-3 on home ice in November, with one loss in OT.  The visiting teams will be challenging with Montreal, the Rangers, Devils, Caps, Blackhawks, Senators, and Penguins visiting twice.  The Maple Leafs are the other team, but it’s hard to call them a tough test after a 3-0 shutout win. 

Pat Kaleta (Photo: Getty Images)
♦  Did Patrick Kaleta deserve a two-game suspension?  I am still not sure and here’s why:  Alexander Ovechkin was not suspended for his boarding major and game misconduct for hitting Kaleta last Wednesday.  Kaleta was cut, but not helped off the ice. 

Kaleta delivered a heavy hit to Jared Ross and Ross had to be helped from the ice. 

Here’s the grey area: Ross knew Kaleta was coming and should have expected to get hit.

I can also see why the five-minute major was assessed since Ross was hit in the back and deemed vulnerable.  But that play occurs in every game as forwards are coming hard on the forecheck, and asking them to back off at the last second when a player turns his back to the check is nearly impossible.  And many players turn their back hoping to draw that penalty. 

I think Kaleta’s suspension served as a warning for all players.  I also think the NHL is on the right track in protecting players by calling stiffer penalties and game misconducts.  Atlanta’s Colby Armstrong received a five-minute major and game misconduct for a high hit on Flyers forward James Van Riemsdyk on Saturday.  And Alex Ovechkin was called for another major and game misconduct for his knee-on-knee collision with Tim Gleason of the Hurricanes. 

Ovechkin was hurt on the play and it’ll be interesting to see if the league decides to make an example of a marquee player too.  He attacked Gleason and should forfeit a few paychecks too. 

♦  Back to a Flyers/Sabres playoff match-up for a second.  If that happens, here’s hoping I have better luck in the Wachovia Center hallways than with the intermission sets.  I’ll take you behind the scenes for a bit here.  

Each broadcast team in the League uses the technical crew from the city they are visiting.  These are hard working professionals who work all the events in that arena; NHL, NBA, or college basketball broadcasts. Just like the folks here in Buffalo, most are friendly and excellent at what they do. 

The people you can count on, the equipment not so much. 

Back on November 14th, right before the second intermission report was to start, the light kit popped.  That is not a rare instance.  What is rare, is to have that “pop” result in a firework effect and have a piece of the red hot bulb land in the announcer’s mouth.  I was that announcer. 

I spat out the piece immediately and grabbed a bottle of water to douse my burned tongue.  Painful? Yes. So much so, that Paul Gaustad could tell something was up before his intermission interview, but the show went on. 

The bad luck continued on the Friday after Thanksgiving when another lighting kit crashed (no explosion this time) and caused a sponsorship banner to fall on top of me 30 seconds prior to a return from commercial.  Ron and Mike did a great job to recover with five seconds to spare.  Mike commented after “you must hate Philly”,  my response “I’m getting close”.
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