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THOMAS VANEK CONFERENCE CALL

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Thomas Vanek (Photo: Bill Wippert)
The following is a transcription of select questions asked during Thomas Vanek's conference call today. The winger was named NHL Player of the Week, and addressed the media regarding his production this season - collecting eight points, six goals and two assists in four games, helping the Sabres post a 3-0-1 record.
           

When you're a goal-scorer, is there a lot more weight put on you than if you're a point producer? Is there a lot more pressure on guys who are known as goal-scorers?
 
"Sure, I mean, just like you said, I mean, it's a good label and a bad label at the same time. I think if you're known as a goal-scorer, you want to be the one putting up the goals. Guys who are just known as point guys sometimes get away with I think a lot of maybe second assists or so.
           
"But at the same time I think it is a team sport. Like myself, I'm not too worried about goals and points. Always at the end of the year you look back and you obviously want to be up there in the top 20 or top 15 in goal scoring."
 
What changed it for you in the last several weeks last year when you were scoring every game, and now you're scoring again? Anything that turned it for you?
 
"I don't know if there's necessarily one thing that I would point back to. I think I was usually a pretty slow starter, which I did last year again. It took me a while to get going. I think the second half of the year, coach Lindy Ruff gave me a little bit more ice time, a little bit more responsibilities. With that my minutes went up and I kind of stayed in the game better, got a better flow of the game. I think that helped me.
           
"I think that has been a tremendous help for me the first week of the season, getting some ice time on the PK penalty kill playing a lot of minutes. It makes the game a little easier. Even on the PK, I got rewarded a few goals.
           
"It's nice to stay in the game, stay in the flow of the game, not sit on the bench for maybe four, five, six minutes."
 
When I ran into Ryan Miller before the season, we were talking about the season you had. He made the point, as you did a moment ago, he felt you really just put too much pressure on yourself. Did you feel when you looked at your season afterwards that was an issue? Did coaches or teammates talk to you about being a little less harsh on yourself this season?
           
"No, no one talked to me. I put the same pressure on myself this year than I did last year. And this year it's working out.
           
"Like I said, I think it's just my personality. I don't think anyone's going to tell me to settle down or something. I have high expectations of myself. I think until I lose those expectations, I don't have 'em any more, I think I'm taking a step back.
           
"Like I said, obviously it's just the type of player, type of person I am, I guess."
 
There's been a lot of talk recently since the NHL started the season whether the NHL will soon end up in Europe with NHL franchises. What are your thoughts on that? Do you see that would be successful over there? Do you think it would be difficult for NHL players who play most of their games in North America to make a trip or two over there every season?

"I think it could work. I definitely think it could work. I think hockey's growing and growing in Europe. It's getting bigger every year. Obviously I think the first few years would be tough with the travel and stuff. But I think after that, I mean, teams and players will get adjusted to the travel and the scheduling. I think it would work.
           
"Obviously it would take some time to, like I said, get used to all the circumstances. But, you know, I think like everything, it takes a little time. If it ever happens, there's going to be lots of negative things about it. But in the end, I think everyone just needs to kind of see the positive of it and more teams and better exposure for everyone. I mean, that's what every player wants.
           
"So, yeah, I can see it happening. It might take a few years to really get it going."
 
How old were you when you left home to come to the United States?
           
"I was 14."
 
Austria is ranked 16th in the world right now. Will you be in the Olympics?

"We have a qualifying tournament in February. I think we're in with Germany and two other teams. The winner of that tournament goes to Vancouver. I'm hoping." r.
 
When the game is over, do you still watch every shift before you leave, every shift you played?

"The next day. Not right after. I usually try to. If it's a good game, I try to get over it. If it's a bad game, I'll try to get over it even quicker.
           
"But I think the next day, for all of us, we go back to work. We look at what we can do better, you know, how to improve."
 
You mentioned the increased ice time, getting into the flow of the game. You look at your start this season. Lindy mentioned your play away from the puck, your effort there. What other things on the ice, differences, are you seeing so far this year in your play?

"I don't know. I think that's for other people to judge. But I feel good. I've always had good streaks, and I had a bad streak. So right now I'm just trying to work on consistency. You know, it's been only five games. I've been doing good so far.
           
"The biggest thing, impact I can see, is obviously the ice time. And it's not to say that if I play the rest of the year 20 more minutes I'm going to keep this up, because there's going to be a lot of nights where nothing's going to go in, nothing's going to go my way. But it makes it a little easier to stay in the game and stay focused over the 60 minutes."
 
Not only you personally, but the team is off to such a good start. Last year you were swimming upstream after starting slow. Can you talk about the difference a good start like this makes in a season?

"Well, I think it's huge. I think our mentality changed in training camp. I think the coaches have done a good job of harping on us winning tight games, playing good defensively, not giving up a lot of scoring chances, where I think last year we went on streaks where we lost five, six, seven games. I think guys started to realize after that, Hey, we got to stop this, we got to start winning again.
           
"As I said earlier, I think we got spoiled a couple years before. Last year we thought it's going to be February, March, we're going to put in 10, 12 in a row, be in the playoffs. It doesn't happen in this league. I think definitely we're doing a good job of defending and winning tight games."
 
You look at some of the guys that got taken care of long-term in offseason. That was what Buffalo's focus was. Is it now you can just focus on winning as a team, moving forward?

"Well, it was great to see. Honestly I'm here locked up for a while. Four, five, six other guys are here for a while. So I think we know our core team is going to be here for a while, which makes it nice. It makes it easy to go to practice and see the same guys each and every day, work hard, play hard for them."
 
Before the first game there was some talk about who might center the line with you and Jason Pominville. I think Dan Paille was in that and Derek Roy. How has Lindy used you? Lindy pretty much always changes lines around. Tell me about why it works with Derek and Dan.
"Well, I think I've been with Derek pretty much ever since I came into this organization. I think I've been with Derek in Rochester. And ever since I came up here, I would say 90% of the games I've been playing with Derek.
           
"I think with Dan, me and him have done a good job on the PK. I think we kind of know where each other are at. It's good to have. So I'm finding good chemistry with both guys."
 
One of the things I noticed about that first game, last year you missed the playoffs by a little bit, this year you started off with Montréal, the division winner. Not only did you beat them in a shootout, but you skated with them all night. Your forwards haven't changed much this year, but you've added Craig Rivet, Sekera is improving, and Numminen is back. Is that where the difference may be in terms of being able to play with Montréal?

"I think it's a huge difference. I think if you look at our last year's numbers, we scored enough goals; we just gave up too many. I think with Craig back there, big, tough, right?handed defenseman, with Teppo back, another right?handed defenseman, I think it makes a difference.
           
"I think last year, our D, we had six left?handed defensemen. That makes it tough to break out the puck sometimes. Now having both of those guys here, both right?handed defensemen, I think it does make a difference. It makes it easier for them to move the puck out and for the forwards to get going easier.
           
"But I think at the same time I think every line's doing a good job of coming back, helping them out, helping them out, and helping Ryan Miller and Patrick Lalime out."
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