Found January 20, 2013 on
Queen City Sports:
New York Rangers
Pat Kaleta (#36) puts a hit on Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux during Buffalo’s 5-2 win over the Flyers.
The message from the coaches and players in the Buffalo Sabres organization was the same throughout the offseason and during training camp: become a much tougher team to play against.
Last season, much was made of the infamous Milan Lucic hit on Ryan Miller when no one on the Sabres truly came to the defense of their franchise goaltender. National and local pundits harshly criticized head coach Lindy Ruff and his players for them not doing anything about their star getting run over like that.
A simple dropping of the gloves by an unlikely player on Sunday showed that the Sabres do, in fact, mean business when it comes to becoming more of a “sandpaper” team.
After watching Flyers forward Scott Hartnell take a couple of, what the team viewed as, cheap shots on Jason Pominville and Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford took a run at Hartnell which lead to a fight between the two. Stafford may not have gotten the absolute best of the Flyers grinder, who is much more experienced in fighting, but he sure enough held his own.
Stafford coming to the aid of his teammates didn’t go unnoticed by his head coach or teammates.
“What Staff did was awesome,” said Ruff. “Right away he addressed it; didn’t wait for somebody else. He did a great job.”
New teammate Steve Ott, who the team acquired, along with John Scott, for this very reason back in July, said the he felt Stafford’s decision helped change the momentum of the game in their favor.
“The team stepped up from what Staff did,” he said.
Stafford said it’s just him living up to the new mentality of the team. He wanted to prove that everyone on the roster, no matter what their role on the team is, has to stand up for one another.
“If another player on the other team is going to take liberties, and run around — I mean it really shouldn’t matter who it is — you got to stick in there for each other,” Stafford said.
Ruff said that although it’s early in the season, what Stafford did is something that can bring the team closer together. Especially during a season as condensed as this.
“Those are the types of things we talked about,” said Ruff. “We finished our year on a better note with that last year, but to start the year like that…”
The Sabres are sure to have their toughness challenged more and more as the season progresses, and they continue to play the likes of Boston, New York Rangers, and Philadelphia. Though, if Sunday was any indication, they will be up for it.
*Photos courtesy Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images*
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