THE BLOG is an inside look at hockey that comes right from the players themselves. Each installment will feature a player talking about whatever is on their mind. THE BLOG is a "behind the scenes" look at professional hockey.
DECEMBER 18, 2006 -- Toni Lydman
So far this year, we've scored a lot of goals, but in the past couple games we have had to shift our point of attack. We've had to play a more patient, defensive minded game.
New Jersey is a good a team and they don't give up a lot of opportunities. So far this season, not many teams have been successful against them and scored a lot of goals. We had to fight very hard for those two points.
Florida always plays us tough and it was no different last night, as they played another good game. Nothing comes easy in this league.
In a league where a team can come out on top with scores of 5-4 or 6-5, you shouldn't get used to allowing four or five goals and still expect to win on a consistent basis. Every time you only let the other team score two goals or less, you are putting yourself in a position to win and there's always a better chance to win.
Teams have tried different things to try and slow our team down, but so far we've done pretty well against any sort of trap or forecheck that teams have thrown at us. We don't focus too much on what other teams are doing to try and stop us, because the most important thing to worry about is just doing our jobs.
Usually a team will get scored on because they give up turnovers and play carelessly. We try to eliminate those mistakes as much as possible and try to keep the puck away from possible bad situations. Whenever we are running our system and playing sound defense, we won't give up too many of those opportunities.
If I had my choice of winning 2-1 or winning 5-4, I have to say that I really don't care what the final score is as long as we end up on the winning side of it.
It's good to get our longest road trip of the year out of the way so early in the season. Those long trips are not fun. We've been lucky in the scheduling of games so far in that we don't have these stretches where we are on the road for a while.
I don't mind the short trips, but the long road trips can be brutal. I'm not much of a packer so I don't like packing my bags for longer trips since it can be a hassle to figure out what to bring on those trips. Another drawback to going on long road trips is that every two days we're switching cities. It's just not fun to always be on the move.
We got home late at night after the New Jersey game, so I pretty much went straight to bed. When going on those long road trips, that’s something you find you miss, your nice comfy bed.
With five of our next seven games at home, it's really nice to play in front of the home crowd and in our own building, especially over the holidays. Most of the guys have relatives and friends coming to visit over the holiday period. It's always great to have some home games during the holidays so we can see our family and friends.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------NOVEMBER 30, 2006 -- Derek Roy
The most frustrating part about being out with an injury is not being around the guys. When you can't contribute and be a part of a winning team, it's very trying on a player. I just can't sit out and watch the games. While I was out, I would try and skate without a stick. It is a little boring but you do what you have to do to get back into the lineup as soon as possible.
Finally getting back to practice is great, especially just being around the guys. It was very exciting for me to get back on the ice on Wednesday. I just wanted to get on the ice, hold a stick, and shoot pucks. That day was just a test to see how the hand feels.
The toughest game for me to miss during the time I was out had to be the game against Toronto on November 22. The thing that made it tough was that it was a really good game. It was back and forth, and the crowd was really into it the whole game. When playing against Toronto, it's just one of those games that you hope you don't miss because it's that big of a game. But things happen. You just have to roll with what comes your way.
Even with the hand injury, I don't believe I have lost any stick handling skills or other skills in general. If for some reason I did lose some skills, then I will work out after practice on those little things that I may have lost to regain them.
Max (Afinogenov) and Thomas (Vanek) have been pretty successful while I was out. Playing again with them should get me back in the flow of things quickly. Those two are really creative hockey players. That creativeness makes it easy to skate with them. If I just go out on the ice, do my job and move the puck, then I should have no problems rebounding from the injury because Thomas and Max will make me look good out there.
Hopefully, I'm in the lineup soon. When I am, hopefully, I can make an impact for the team, even on the power play. If I'm out there on the power play, I'm just going to try and do my job and move the puck. I'm also going to try and jump the holes, and be quick on my feet. That’s all you really can do when playing on the power play.
NOVEMBER 24, 2006 -- Paul Gaustad
It was nice to set career highs in points against Tampa Bay, but I was more excited that we got the win. It was kind of a big game for us. We lost a tough game at Ottawa, so we had to bounce back against Tampa and we did. Don't get me wrong, it was fun getting the personal success but it's more fun getting the team success. I think the whole team is like that in the locker room. We put team success first and personal success will then come with that team success.
I actually did not know that I was named the first star of nhl.com for the game against Tampa Bay. Someone in the locker room told me the news. The award is nice but it is just a one-night thing. Night in and night out we have tough games. It really is a cool honor to receive but it is definitely quick lived.
I don't know what happened or where I just found my scoring touch. My whole line has been getting chances, and for a while they just weren't going in. That happens in hockey where you almost work too hard to get goals after you have struggled. When they start going in, it seems like all of those opportunities end up going in. We weren't getting too frustrated when we weren't converting because the team was winning. As long as we get the opportunities to help the team win then its fine if we don't score.
Just like anything else in hockey, scoring is all about confidence. When you start scoring it seems like the net is a little bit bigger. I'm not going to get too caught up in the constant scoring but it is definitely fun getting some goals on a nightly basis. I won't challenge for the league lead in goals in the near future, but who knows, things change.
Head Coach Lindy Ruff has given me more ice time by having me play on the power play as well as the penalty kill. When they give you those extra responsibilities, you just want to perform and play well for them because they showed that confidence in you to execute. It's something that I take pride in, and in those specific situations, I just try to play them the best I can.
Almost nightly, I find myself playing on other lines besides the fourth line. It can sometimes be difficult to be switched on the fly but with the team we have in here, all of the guys are pretty good players. That makes it pretty easy to play with any of them. It really isn't too hard when you get switched to play with guys like a Daniel Briere or a Max Afinogenov.
In some game instances it may be difficult to gel on the fly, especially since I don’t practice on the same lines as some of them. Even though we aren't practicing together, I still try to watch the other guys and pick up on their tendencies. That way, I know what they are going to do, where they're supposed to be, and where I'm supposed to be when or if I do get thrown on their line. It's all about being aware of those other players and being predictable.
Daniel Paille has played on my line some and he is a very good player. He is a strong skater and hits as well. He just does everything right. It is fun playing with him. In the Tampa game on Tuesday, it seemed like he had a lot of energy. Just his presence in that game out there was great for our team.
NOVEMBER 17, 2006 -- Brian Campbell
It is pretty incredible on how many games that Teppo Numminen has played so far in his career. I would love to have his longevity, play for 18 years and over 1200 games. Anybody would want to play that many years if you love the game as much as Teppo or I do. For someone to play that long, there has to be a lot of things that go right. Teppo has deserved all his success.
Teppo has been a great addition for our team. The rest of the guys have a lot of respect for him because of how many games he has played in this league and how he has played at such a high level throughout his entire career. He has been one of our go-to guys, which says a lot about him.
For Teppo, the fact that he is so steady on the ice makes him an asset to our team. He never seems to panic, even when the situation is bad.
What the people from the outside don't see on a daily basis is how he is as a person, particularly in how easy going he is. His calmness in his daily manor makes everyone else relaxed around him in the locker room. Obviously he is a great player, but the person he is off the ice makes it that much more enjoyable to deal with everything we go through on and off the ice.
To tell you the truth, I never thought that I would be nominated as an all-star. In a lot of senses, I just don't see myself in that category. Those defensemen that are of all-star status are people that I look up to, especially with me being a big hockey fan.
It really is crazy on how I have been nominated for the all-star game and that I could possibly represent the Eastern Conference. Looking back at where I have come from, I've had to work hard to get where I am now. I've had a lot of time to develop and I've been through some rough times where I've had to fight to just get into the lineup and log minutes.
A lot of my hard work has paid off and has gotten me to where I am today. But I can't forget that the coaches and other players have put in a lot of hard work to help me become successful. Being an all-star nominee isn't something I think about too much but it definitely is a nice honor, especially knowing that people are recognizing my dedication.
With the loss of Toni (Lydman) and Henrik (Tallinder), I've had to log a lot more minutes in games. I love getting the extra ice time and I love being put into positions where I can succeed. It's nice to be given the extra responsibilities because it tells you that the coaches are depending on you to help the team be successful. I'm prepared for all the minutes that the coaching staff gives me and I can definitely handle the extra time.
If I was to get that extra ice time, night in and night out, I don't see myself getting tired from the additional work. Every player wants more ice time. I mean it's obvious that the best situation is when everyone is healthy and we can all be playing similar minutes, but when something happens such as an injury, then you have to step up and take on more responsibility. I played a little over half the game against Ottawa and that is a lot of time. But when you look at the league leaders in ice time and you look at a guy like Scott Niedermeyer and Chris Pronger, they are playing around 27 minutes a night. You always want to strive to be the best. I look to always keep improving and get up to that upper tier of defensemen so you can log more minutes.
Although it seems like I attempt the 360 spin at least once a game, I don't make a point to try and do it. It's really a situational move that I will use. In the Ottawa game last night, I used it on the power play. I was actually going to pass the puck over the Jaroslav (Spacek), but one of their players took away the passing lane. With the lane closed down, I figured the only thing I could do was to spin off the guy and hopefully have a free lane to the net.
I've practiced the spin move my whole life with my dad and almost every day. We would work on a lot of different exercises so I could become quick on my feet. It is normally tough to defend against and it can release you from a lot of pressure when used. I try to use the move when I can, especially when it can be the most effective.
It wasn't my move to begin with as I learned the move from watching Denis Savard when I was growing up. It has always been called the Savard spin.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------NOVEMBER 8, 2006 -- ALES KOTALIK
I've scored on my last two shootout attempts with a backhander. There's nothing subtle that I do to get the goaltender to go down before I shoot the puck. While others may think there's something there, I don't see anything special about that particular move.
After faking the goaltender low and trying to get him to protect the bottom part of the net, I'm just trying to get the puck to the top half as fast as I can. If I do it correctly, the goalie doesn't have a lot of time to react and protect the high shot. This makes that particular move a potent shot selection for me to have, because it is usually very successful. I've been practicing that particular move everyday since I started playing youth hockey, so I've gotten pretty good at it.
In the shootout, players have been successful using all kinds of other moves. Brian Rolston was even successful with slapshot in a game the other night. I don't think any goaltender expects someone to fire a slapshot in the shootout. Don't expect me to try a slapshot though. I'm not as comfortable as Rolston with taking one in that setting. I have confidence in the shootout scoring with the move I am currently using. It has paid off for the team and myself so far, so I'm not going to try something new unless I have to.
Since I've been here, Jiri Novotny was chosen as a first-round pick for the Sabres. We have been friends since we were little kids and I had always hoped that we could one day play on the same team and even on the same line. You could say that playing alongside Jiri has been a dream come true.
He's battling really hard right now through his rookie year, and I know from my own experience, that your rookie season in the NHL can be tough. Jiri will have some struggles, but that is normal for any player. He'll be fine over time. He's one of those players who doesn't get down on himself if he is struggling.
Jiri has improved from last year to this year in many ways, especially his strength. When he came over from the Czech Republic, he wasn't as strong as he is now. He was battling through some injuries, and he had some trouble keeping up with the speed and the physical aspect of the NHL game. But now he is a complete player because he has worked hard over the past couple of summers. With his attitude and his work ethic, I'm pretty sure he will be a leader in the future for this organization.
I really like skating on a line with Chris Drury because he is just a professional player. He gives one hundred percent effort in everything that he does. If I try to learn anything from him and model my game after his, it is definitely how he goes out and gives that same effort day in and day out, both on and off the ice.
Our line has been giving a hundred percent effort on every shift and hopefully we can start doing more damage on the scoreboard soon. It is frustrating because you think you are doing well as a line by generating offensive chances, but those chances aren't turning into goals. The good thing about our current situation is that the other lines are scoring for the team. But we don't want to rely on the other lines to score. We want to start connecting on our chances.
We can't get too comfortable with our lines and the chemistry that we have created because if the team starts to lose, our lines could be shaken up at any time. When things are going well and each of the lines are chipping in with solid play and goals, then we can really look to build line chemistry. This is because the coaches and players don't like to mess with success.
Playing three games in four nights can be tough on the body. When you do play a lot of games in a short period of time, it just can show how physically prepared or unprepared you are as an individual and as a team.
When that third game comes around and everyone is tired, we just have to persevere through that fatigue and try to beat our opponents. I'll admit that it's definitely not easy and there isn't much time for rest, but every team has to face those kinds of stretches so you just have to dig a little deeper.
We want to go out and win each and every game. It doesn’t matter if there are practices in between or if we have to play consecutive games. We just have to be prepared for anything that is thrown our way.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------NOVEMBER 1, 2006 -- DEREK ROY
Everyone's playing as a team right now and buying into the system that Lindy has installed. That's the main reason for our success. We're all friends here on the ice and off the ice, which helps.
I'm not surprised we've had this good of a start so far in this season. We started off with a good camp and followed that with some good exhibition games. Everyone has that much more experience from last year's playoff run and with the bad taste that was left, the guys are that much hungrier early on this season.
A lot of people have asked if we wanted the pressure of the winning streak off our backs. We didn't. We've been playing well and wanted the wins to keep piling up.
We really weren't talking about the streak when it was happening in the dressing room though. Everyone was just going out, playing their game, and having fun. The streak's over now and we're hopefully going to start a new one. You have to remember, we still have a zero in the loss column. We have to stay focused for each and every game.
My line with Max (Afinogenov) and Thomas (Vanek) has developed a good chemistry that has been quite a few seasons in the making. I played with Max my first season in the pros and then spent a year on a line with Thomas during the NHL lockout. Last year at times I centered one or both of them, so to reunite us again this year is a pretty comfortable fit. We are able to use our speed, pass the puck, and just play off each other's movements.
Max has so much speed that it's hard for the other defenders to contain him. He has been playing really well for us, being able to move the puck and create a lot of offensive chances. That's what we need him to do. He led our team in scoring last year so he's obviously a great player and finisher, but he's a really great guy as well.
Thomas has great individual talent. He moves the puck well and has great strength. He has got a good shot and he just plays to his abilities and talents. When we get rolling - having fun on the ice and looking for each other with the puck - we are successful.
As for myself, I think I'm more of a playmaker than a scorer. I like to move the puck, and see the other guys score the goals. It doesn't matter to me if my line has a combined 50 goals and I only have five. It's fine as long as we work together, get points, and help the team win games.
I guess people call us the best third line in the league, but I don't know about that. Our team rolls three and four lines every night. I don't know if there really is a first, second, or third line on our team, but if we are considered a third line then that's fine by me. Every game for us is all about playing a lot of minutes, getting some goals on the board, and drawing some penalties for the team.
There is a little bit of competition between the four lines. It good because it keeps us honest, keeps us working hard, and keeps us working as a team altogether.
It is important to win all of our battles, but especially against Eastern Conference teams. We are mainly battling for the Northeast Division so we can get that spot in the playoffs and get home ice advantage.
Our main goal is to finish in first place and it doesn't matter what team we're playing that night, we want to beat them. The division opponents are our biggest rivals because we play them so often and the point swings are bigger when you play head-to-head.
Looking at the World Series that just ended, the Cardinals have a good team. I'm surprised that Detroit didn't do as well as they could have. They have some good bats in Detroit, but I think that errors cost them a lot of losses that they had. Give credit to the Cardinals because everyone was just stepping up for them like Albert Pujols and David Eckstein.
I didn't do anything special for Halloween. I used to get dressed up all the time when I was little but I think that stopped when I was 12 or 13 years old. It lost its fun for me around that age. I just handed out candy when kids came by my house last night. Halloween is one of the best holidays for kids. Anytime you're young and able to come home with a pillowcase full of candy, it's a good day.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------OCTOBER 25, 2006 -- JASON POMINVILLE
It's always fun playing in Montreal, with me being from that area and all. A lot of my family and friends were able to see the game either by going to the arena or by watching it on television. My parents and a couple of friends actually got tickets for the game. It's always fun for everyone to top the Montreal game off with a goal.
I was excited about scoring a goal in the game, but I'm sure my parents were pretty happy about it too. They live a half an hour away from the arena which makes it easy travel for them. They don't get to see too many of the home games because it's a five or six hour drive.
Even though I've scored in five of the first nine games, there really is no secret to my success so far. I guess it's more of being in the right place at the right time if anything. I'm just trying to work hard and things have been going pretty well. Being able to play with Danny (Briere) and Jochen (Hecht), I'm in a little more of an offensive role in the past, which is probably the biggest reason for my offensive success.
Jochen is such a good all-around player. He does so many things out there that most people might not recognize. He's a very smart player as well. Danny is just so talented offensively that he makes plays for us and he ends up making my job easy. The chemistry between the three of us is working well so far and hopefully we can keep it up going down the road.
To think about it, it's actually good that we can role four lines and be counted on by Lindy. It's tough to play 20 minutes each night in an 82 game schedule in the NHL. By rolling four lines, we may lose some playing time now, but towards the end of the season, we will be fresher and ready to go.
It's fun to see production from everybody. No matter who is out there, it seems to be working right now. Just for example, Soupy (Brian Campbell) has been playing great on the back-end. Our power play and special teams in general have been going well for us so far. It's just fun to see everybody helping out the team win.
We've played some really good teams and it was a tough early schedule for us, but it's always fun to go against other teams that were in the playoffs the past year. Coming out of the first nine games like this (9-0-0) is really fun. You try to have fun when you play, and when you win it's always fun. Of course on the opposite side, when you don't win it's never fun. Fortunately for us, we have been having a lot of fun.
Playing on the road isn't that different from playing at home. I mean other than the sleeping arrangements and the travel; it's all the same. When we play at home, we get to sleep in our own beds and things are a little more familiar to us. At home, the fans are great as they actually root for you and that’s enjoyable. But we take a lot of pride in our road record. Last year, we were one of the best road teams in the league. When you're home you're expected to win, but by winning on the road, we get those extra "unexpected points". Come towards the end of the year, points earned on the road are valuable, so we're going to go after them early.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------OCTOBER 19, 2006- PAUL GAUSTAD
To tell you the truth, I really didn't expect that many people would show up against the Rangers last Saturday. It was a tough week for all of Buffalo, still is. The Sabres fans are the toughest group in the NHL, so it was great to see everybody out there.
I lost power. I'm living at a hotel right now. I did get power back as I only lost it for a short time, but I'm staying there because I bought a house and I'm closing next week.
Guys in the locker room dealt with the same thing as the fans in Buffalo. Everyone's just helping each other out, and just doing what we can to help ourselves and our neighbors. It's kind of a weird week so I'm still trying to get over it.
My personal favorite blackout story was just seeing Sabretooth go through the glass against the Rangers. It was pretty funny because I was in the hallway at the time because I got kicked out of that game. I'll make sure I give him a hard time about it later on. It was weird how the whole thing happened. I was walking to the locker room and I looked back and saw it happen. I was just like what the heck? I didn't know what he was doing. It was pretty funny as long as nobody got hurt. The Rangers game was just a great game altogether.
The fourth line got a couple of scoring opportunities against the Flyers on Wednesday, and hopefully we can score goals in the future. I don't really think that's our role however. Our role as a line is to provide energy. When we do get scoring chances, I think we need to start putting them in a little bit more. We want to add offense but also be good on defense, so in terms of the Flyers game, I think its just kind of one of those games that we got extra ice time and tried to capitalize on those opportunities, unfortunately we couldn't get a goal.
It was good for us to get a little bit more ice time as a group together. We kind have been separated at times during the season so far, so it was good to get some solid minutes.
Chemistry on the fourth line is something that we had a little bit of last year when guys were injured and played together. Mair and I kind of had chemistry from last season, and Andrew (Peters) has stepped in and played pretty well for us on the line. He's done a great job in his position. I think that throughout the year our chemistry will get stronger and better.
I don't think we really focus too much on the success from last year. We just wanted to go out and start strong this year. We have some different guys on the team that add a lot of different character, so it's been fun so far this year winning. Again, it's a long season so we just try to take it a day at a time.
It's funny, last year when we were on a winning streak, we really didn't know we actually were. We're not really focusing on winning streaks, as it really is just game by game. We don't look five games ahead. We just take it a game at a time keep focused on the short-term stuff.
On the lighter side of hockey, the newly renovated locker rooms are really nice. It's really a good setup and the organization really did a good job to everything that they renovated. The pool is great. It's just getting started up so the guys are just starting to jump in to it more. Everything that they have done for us is great. I would have to say that the showers are the best part of the renovation. They redid the showers and it's like a rainfall shower now. The guys are really enjoying that.