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Sabres Central

Sabres end successful preseason
By Willrus
October 4, 2000

Mike who? That has been the mantra that many local Sabre fans have been carrying during this whole preseason, as the Sabres boasted a 7-1 record. Sure, the preseason means nothing but you have to be impressed. The vacation to the Carolina's surely built team unity and confidence. Everyone seems to be on the same page and the veterans are as hungry as ever. Listening to Dave Andreychuck "you can feel the hunger in the locker room."

The good showing in preseason was also highlighted by a change of heart by Doug Gilmour. Doug publicly stated he plans on playing another season which will only benefit the team. He is signed for this season at 6 million (Hawks pick up half). Dominik Hasek also could be playing the change of heart game; he refuses to answer questions regarding his planned retirement instead saying "ask me at the end of the season." Looking ahead, next offseason could get rather wild.

The team showed some promising signs, especially on the power play. Above all the units showed a lot of organization, something they seriously lacked last year. Ruff has the power play working in 5 man units, which is sure to increase the chemistry and effectiveness of the PP. Dave Andreychuck has showed he still may have another productive year. Once he gets to the front of the net, opposing defenseman will have a very difficult time removing him. Alex Zhitnik apparently has found his shot. He looked good in camp with getting the puck on net. Of course this will only help the power play production even more. Brian Campbell, who was sent to Rochester, looks like a potential gem. His power play ability is unmatched by any current Sabre, including Jason Woolley.

Team toughness is another issue that was seriously improved this preseason. Part of this was due to the addition of Eric Boulton. A farmhand from Rochester, this guy showed he is the heir apparent to Rob Ray's enforcer role. Boulton possesses surprising skill, and perhaps could take a regular shift if he continues to develop. Although it's only preseason, the coaching staff seemed willing to play the "change of pace" 4th line. I would still like to see more toughness on the blueline, but the team has enough to get by.

Another youngster who really impressed in camp was Norm Milley. Mark my words, this guy will be a star player in the NHL. He plays the typical North American scorer's game. He doesn't play with much flash, he just takes the puck at full speed and makes things happen. See's the ice well and drives hard to the net. Milley played well in traffic, although he will have to bulk up to handle the rigors of the professional game. If it were not for Buffalo's depth and philosophy, this guy would be playing in the NHL.

The sky is the limit for youngster JP Dumont. Acquired in the Gilmour deal, this guy has shown the goal scoring ability. It is no surprise hockey experts once projected JP to be a 50 goal scorer. His hands, skating, puck handling and creativity are all top notch. Playing on a line with Eric Rasmussen and Vaclav Varada have covered up any physical deficiencies he has. Watch for him to score 20+ goals.

Barret Heisten, Buffalo's first round pick in the '99 draft, also showed some positive signs. Standing at 6-1, 190 pounds, this Left Winger proved to be a type that fits the Sabre mold. In the limited action he did see, he showed a good amount of hustle, energy and grit along the boards. Heisten's offensive skills are nothing overly special, but he is a very fluid skater. Barret Heisten also showed he will be nothing more than a very good third liner, which isn't bad.

Getting Heisten's name a contract will prove to be difficult, however. After failing to reach a pro contract, he has gone to play with Seattle of the WHL. Due to the current stipulations in the collective bargaining agreement, Barret can become a UFA on June 1. The Sabres have the option of trading his rights or risk losing him to the highest bidder. It is probable that he will NOT sign, although the Sabres would receive a 2nd round pick as compensation.

The Sabres appear to be set to begin a successful season. Everyone player is rearing to go and the team seems to be hungrier than ever. The team also has a great mix of youngsters and seasoned vets. I am optimistic for the coming year. Surely the team will have its highs and lows, but I expect a playoff berth. Let's ride Hasek to a Cup! GO SABRES!

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