April 2, 2007
By Glenn Odebralski
All Drew Stafford
wanted was an opportunity to show that he belonged in the NHL. Stafford did more than just accept his latest opportunity; he took off and ran with it.
The rookie from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has shined for the Buffalo Sabres the past month, netting nine goals and adding four assists in 15 games.
He has also scored two game-winners, both with Buffalo facing their archrivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs. For his efforts, he has been named NHL Rookie of the Month for March.
"It's an honor to be recognized for that," said Stafford about the award. "It's a pretty big deal, but I'm just glad I've been given an opportunity to be a part of the guys here."
"We said that in the absence of a lot of key players, there's been some young guys that have stepped up," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "And in Drew's case, he had a tremendous month for us. I thought it was well deserved."
When Buffalo was hit with a multitude of injuries in the middle of the season, Stafford was finally given an extended opportunity to show the Sabres and the league that he was ready to be an NHL player.
He was called up five times this season before finally landing a concrete role, playing on a line with center Derek Roy
and left wing Thomas Vanek
"I had expectations for myself to at least get a chance to play up here," said Stafford. "Being a first-year guy, I was just trying to make an impression in Rochester if I could.
"They gave me an opportunity to come up here so I was very grateful for that. I just tried to take advantage of it and enjoy the moment."
Although Stafford received the award, he is quick to recognize his teammates for his own personal success.
"Playing with Vanek and Roy makes things a little easier out there for me," said Stafford. "I have to give them all the credit for helping me out when I'm having trouble."
And hopefully his production and his improvement can be a continuing trend.