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Sabres Central

Sabres Preview: A brighter future
By Rick Anderson
February 8, 2003

The Sabres embark on a whole new season and direction Thursday when they play their regular season opener in Philadelphia. With a new owner, B. Thomas Golisano and managing partner, former Sabres President, Larry Quinn, the Sabres are trying hard to forget their recent past.

Under the ownership of John Rigas and sons, the team got worse every year until last season when they were forced to declare bankruptcy and were run out of the NHL headquarters.

The Sabres have added a few new players and have signed all the free agents, making this the first year in quite a while that there are not any holdouts going into the season. That itself is a sign that the new ownership means business when it says it wants to produce a winner.

Sabres acquire Drury, Delmore and more

The addition of Chris Drury was the big addition. The Sabres had to relinquish one of their top defensemen, Rhett Warrener to get him, but his playmaking ability and his scoring touch may be just what the Sabres need to take them over the top.

"I believe that we have a player now that will make a difference," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "Chris is a guy who has experience winning. He has been a game-breaker and a great all-around player."

Drury was a restricted free agent and the Sabres got him to ink a 4-year deal. When Drury first entered the NHL back in 1998-99, he won the Rookie of the Year award, the Calder Trophy. During his 5 years in the NHL, he has 108 goals and 167 assists, getting over 20 goals a season. In the playoffs, Drury is a money man, as he has hit the net 26 times for 50 points.

The Sabres also acquired a quarterback for their powerplay, defenseman Andy Delmore. Delmore scored 18 goals and 16 assists last season with the Predators.

"Andy is a defenseman who continues to grow," commented Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier when the Sabres acquired him. "At least to start he'll fit in nicely into the fifth or sixth spot. We'll still have our top four guys playing in key defensive roles, but this generates more flexibility on our power play."

Delmore led the NHL defensemen with 14 power-play goals and it is hoped that he will revitalize the Sabres stagnant powerplay.

"From the point I get a lot of my shots through to the net," described Delmore. "I try to get them through quickly so the goalies don't have a chance to set up. And with players in front of the net, the forwards are always making sure goalies don't see the puck."

The Sabres acquired Daniel Briere at the trading deadline last year and he proved to be quite valuable in his short stint with the Sabres at the end of the regular season. He also was one of the top players for Canada as they won the World Championship last spring. He along with Drury and Delmore should have a huge impact on the Sabres offense this season.

Satan gets two year pact

Miroslav Satan was content holding out and playing hockey in his native Slovakia when the Sabres finally offered him what he wanted to begin with, a 2-year $10 million deal. Not only that, but the Sabres have offered him the first "C" in their rotating captaincy this season. Satan will be the captain for the first month and maybe more.

''For us, Miro needs to step up,'' Ruff commented. ''We need leadership from him not only on the ice but off the ice. He's in that position.''

Miroslav was ready to step up to the plate.

''I feel like I'm going to be more responsible for the result of the team,'' Satan predicted. ''There's going to be expectations but it's something I'm used to.''

Ruff has been playing Satan on the line with Drury in hopes that the two will complement each other. In the preseason it was a success.

Three's a crowd?

The Sabres are planning on starting the season with 3 goalies on their active roster. Martin Biron, the No. 1 goalie since Dominik Hasek left for the Motor City, has not really lived up to expectations. Mika Noronen has been also not performed the way the Sabres had hoped.

Ryan Miller, the former Hobey Baker winner from Michigan, played a few games last year but appears ready to go to the next level this year. He has been the best goalie in camp and may even be sticking with the team for awhile. Ruff has decided to keep all 3 goalies up in Buffalo for the short term. Miller is the only one who can pass through waivers and be sent down Rochester, while Biron and Noronen would have to clear waivers. That alone may finally result in Miller going back down to Rochester before long.

No matter who plays in goal or if the Sabres rotate all 3 goalies, Buffalo has to get much better goaltending than the past two years. If the Sabres are to make the playoffs, consistency between the pipes is a must.

High hopes

The Sabres have reversed their downward slide and are now heading in the right direction. Whether this translates into a playoff spot remains to be seen. The additions of Drury and Delmore should help. However other fringe teams like the Islanders and Carolina have also gotten better so the Sabres will have a major battle on their hands.

PREDICTION: Sabres will finish 9th in the Eastern Conference

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