© Dan Hickling
Coming into the 2013 season, Mike Weber wasn’t a player that many had high on their list for the category of most impressive. But in a season in which there hasn’t been too much to be excited about, Weber has become one of the bright spots for the Buffalo Sabres.
The 25-year old Pittsburgh native has been a full-time member of the Sabres roster since the 2010-2011 season. However, he has mostly used as a 7th defenseman since being promoted from the American Hockey League nearly three seasons ago. It wasn’t until Ron Rolston took over as head coach in February, and General Manager Darcy Regier traded away a few defensemen that Weber really became on constant presence in the Buffalo lineup.
Weber has become a dominant presence in front of the Buffalo net, not allowing opposing skaters to easily control the puck around the Sabres crease while he’s on the ice. His play in front of his own net has resulted in him being even or better on the plus/minus scale in 18 of the last 20 games. And while plus/minus is not the most reliable statistic in the world in terms of a players impact on the ice, it’s saying something when a player has been on the ice for just one even strength goal against in the last nine games; two in the last 13.
A big reason for such few goals against with him on the ice has been his ability, and willingness, to lay his body out in front of shots. Entering Sunday, Weber is tied with Christian Ehrhoff for the team lead in blocked shots with 69. Something that he says is just part of the game.
“That’s just my job,” Weber said. “A lot of it requires me to watch back door guys who often get the wide open shots. I’ve watched Millsie (Ryan Miller) in practice a couple times (with that) two pad stack.”
Teammate, and close friend, Steve Ott has noticed a much more focused Weber since the rugged defender was inserted into the every day lineup.
He’s really starting to come into his own,” said Ott. ” He’s a tremendous defensive defenseman, and he’s ready to take that next step.”
It’s been a season that has many discussion just what type of contract Weber will demand over the summer when he becomes a restricted free agent, but that’s something, he says, he’ll worry about after the season is over. The thing that’s front and center on his mind right now is getting his team to the postseason.
“Our whole goal is we need to win 10 more here,” he said. “Our whole goal from the beginning of the season was to make the playoffs; it still is. It’s still mathematically possible; we’re still right in it.”
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