Sabres Take Advantage of Road-Weary Ducks

This post was originally published for The Late Nick Mendola Program on WECK 1230 AM.

By Chris

(WECK 1230) The Buffalo Sabres found an early Christmas present under their tree last night in the form of a very tired Anaheim Ducks team. The Ducks looked like they had punched their plane tickets back to the West Coast before the horn sounded the end of the second period.

But good for the Sabres. Coming off a two-game road trip in which they earned no points, this was a win they really needed. They came out strong, worked the corners in the offensive end, exploited the exhausted Ducks defense and walked away with a 5-2 victory.

This wasn’t the same Sabres team we saw play in Florida over the weekend. Well, on paper it was pretty close to the same team, but they looked like a team that was hungry and smelled blood. They played a lot closer to the team that had a five-day break earlier this month. I was reminded a lot of the trouncing they put on Columbus on Dec. 5.

“I think we took advantage of a team that’s energy level was low,” said head coach Lindy Ruff. “…We’ve had a few of (those situations) this year where we have taken advantage of them. I think we’ve had a few where we’ve been taken advantage of. And you’ve got to get while the gettin’s good.”

I’m not sure how much of an impact Craig Rivet had in the game. He did get on the scoresheet with a goal and an assist, but only played 12:54 and got virtually no work shorthanded (0:00) or on the powerplay (0:30). He’s a player who’s play hasn’t been good enough to keep him in the lineup despite the “C” on his chest.

For Rivet, at least for one night, he could avoid being labeled a lame duck captain, resigned to watching his team from the press box.

“Obviously there’s been mixed emotions that I’ve had in the last month, month-and-a-half. But those are things I’m going to work through. That’s the type of person I am,” Rivet said. “…I was happy I was able to come out and help our team tonight a little bit. If I can continue that then that’s all I can ask for.”

Ruff didn’t seem completely convinced with Rivet’s game. However, in Ruff’s mind he couldn’t be worse than Chris Butler.

“I thought (Rivet) was better,” Ruff said. “I thought there was some defensive zone stuff I’d like to clean up, but I thought, overall, he did a good job for us.”

Ruff juggled the lines once again. Remember when it looked like the Tyler Ennis-Derek Roy-Thomas Vanek line was clicking and then Ruff broke them up and swapped Ennis for Niedermayer before the Boston game? And when that didn’t work, Ruff put Stafford with them and he scored a hat trick?

Something similar happened last night. Nathan Gerbe started with Roy and Vanek but the experiment didn’t last. About half-way through the first period last night, Ennis was back on the top line and Gerbe was skating with Paul Gaustad and Pat Kaleta.

The result: Ennis finished with two goals (albeit one on the second powerplay unit) and Gerbe netted his first of the year.

Other things worth noting:

  • Stafford is skating with a ton of confidence. He’s strong with the puck, keeping his head up and looks like the guy the Sabres projected him to be more and more every game. He’s had a fine season so far (when he’s healthy) and could force the Sabres to make some interesting decisions in the offseason when it comes to their personnel up front.
  • Jochen Hecht is snakebitten. On a night when Rivet can score two points, Hecht couldn’t score on either of his two glorious chances in the third. Notably, he missed a near breakaway late in the period. He only has three goals this season and has registered just two points in his last eight games.
  • Great to see the Sabres drop the gloves again. Cody McCormick tussled with Ryan Getzlaf literally one second into the second period. Five seconds later, Paul Gaustad and Kyle Chipchura were mixing it up and later in the period, Mike Weber dropped the gloves against George Parros’ mustache. Parros got the better of him for sure, but good for Weber to stick his nose in there.

The Sabres will look to avenge Friday’s embarrassing loss to Florida when the Panthers come to town. The Sabres longest winning streak this season is two games so they can look to match it tomorrow night.