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Mike Schopp's Blog

Schopp: Any love for Sabres' players?

So you like Terry Pegula. Bought the team, showed you that he knew its history, convinced you that he's here to win.

And you like Ted Black. He's painting the walls, handing out programs, changing the music. So far, so good.

You always did like Lindy Ruff. Why wouldn't you like him now? He's taken a group of players that you think lack for talent and heart, and put them into a playoff position.

But what about the players? That's my question.

I think the Sabres' players deserve a lot of credit. They don't get much. Once fans make up their mind that a team is soft and leaderless, then it's very difficult to convince them otherwise.

I haven't been discouraged by the Sabres' effort this season at all. Likewise, I don't think they're winning more in the second half of the season because they're trying harder. I think they're playing better.

Tyler Myers has improved dramatically in the last month or so. Andrej Sekera's improvement is also significant but I would say more gradual. Drew Stafford went on a scoring rampage to help give the team confidence in itself, and hope. Jochen Hecht is someone whose effort I think has become more reliable, although he's been injured. Jhonas Enroth has given the Sabres solid backup goaltending.

To me, this is enough to account for the change in their record. When they were losing it wasn't by much. And their winning lately isn't by much either. (I need to be careful when I refer to their recent winning. The Sabres have won nine of their last 18 games.)

Myers is the biggest key of all. At his best, he's a beast of a player, capable of almost anything, even an end-to-end rush. His reach again is foiling many a scoring chance, and he's added a physical element to his game that wasn't present last year. They say in sports that you're as good as your best players. Myers might be their best player again, and this bodes well.

I think they'll make the playoffs. Once there, I'm open to them winning. I really like the way Myers and Sekera have been jumping up into the play, and Steve Montador and Jordan Leopold are also open to providing offense from the back.

Playoff games are so close, I don't think you can ever count out a team. And I'm not at all counting out this one.

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People : Andrej SekeraDrew StaffordJhonas EnrothJordan LeopoldLindy RuffSteve MontadorTed BlackTerry PegulaTyler Myers

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