When the Buffalo Sabres acquired Steve Ott and Adam Pardy from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Derek Roy, most people in Western New York had heard of Ott but didn't know anything about Pardy.
His 183 NHL games had been spent in either Calgary or Dallas – not exactly the top two teams on Sabres fans' radar. He probably didn't know much about WNY either having come 1,800 miles from home in Newfoundland and played minor league hockey in Omaha, Las Vegas and Quad City.
It's only been a few weeks since Pardy began calling the Eastern time zone home, but he's played a major role in the Rochester Americans' post-lockout success. Since Pardy – almost inexplicably – passed through waivers, the Amerks have won six of the seven games in which he's suited up. They had won his first six before a 3-1 loss to the Houston Aeros on Friday night.
To Sabres fans, he's still somewhat unknown. The 6-2, 220-pound stay-at-home defenseman, who was waived to Rochester after a one-week training camp, has only played one game with the Sabres so far this season. But fans who have seen him in Rochester will tell you the Sabres' defensive depth is in good hands. In fact, many would argue the organization's fifth or sixth best Dman is in the Flower City – not the Queen City.
“It's tough,” Pardy said after Friday night's game. “Sometimes you wonder when this marry-go-round is going to end. It's always a difficult thing to deal with mentally because over the last two years, it feels like I haven't been part of one team. It's challenging, but you have to roll with it.”
The seven games Pardy has played in the American Hockey League are the most since he's played in the minors since 2007-08. He's been an NHL regular in between, but his time in Dallas included a shoulder injury that held him to only 36 games last season.
All hockey players are aware that they only have so many years to live the dream. For an NHL regular to be traded then sent to the minors, it's more than just a demotion, it's a day, month or year wasting away. It's easy – and human - to float a little more or zone out at practice.
Thing is, Pardy knows he's one blocked shot or twisted knee away from going from wasting away to playing a crucial role in the NHL. His effort in Rochester insists he isn't leaving anything to chance when the Sabres decide on who should be called up first.
“It's kind of painful sometimes,” the Amerks' D-man said. “But I have to use it. I have to use it to get better. There's only one way I'm going to get back to the NHL and that's improving my game. Sitting and sulking about it or crying about it or pouting isn't going to get me anywhere.”
The road to the highest level of hockey has never been the easiest. Pardy has had to earn every ounce of playing time in the NHL – it never came for free with pedigree or status. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2004 draft. Only six players from that round ever made the NHL and only two – including Patrick Kaleta – have played more NHL games.
How rare is he? On his 2005-06 ECHL team, only four of his teammates ever ended up playing a game in the NHL. The rest stayed in the minors or played over seas. As a competitor, however, he won't settle for just having made it farther than his counterparts. After a tough loss on Friday night, the D-man said he will have trouble sleeping.
While Pardy is frustrated, the Sabres are pleased to have him as defensive depth – a player clearly too good for the AHL. General Manager Darcy Regier said on WGR he would be interested in making a deal involving defenseman if possible because he's so confident in that depth. After Pardy's first game, Regier made a special trip into the locker room to congratulate his new defenseman on a job well done.
Don't be surprised if Pardy is somewhere in the NHL by the end of the year – whether it's in Buffalo because of injuries or a trade or he's the one that is dealt.
“I've been in professional hockey now for eight years,” Pardy said. “I've seen a lot of things go both ways. It's a crazy game, it's a crazy life. You just have to roll with it.”
But for the time being, he is making the Amerks' defense look a heck of a lot better than it was before the lockout.
Brian Flynn – Went down with what looked like a head injury. Ron Rolston said it didn't appear to be a long-term injury, but you never know after that type of hit. Flynn would be a big loss.
Zemgus Girgensons – Was still out of the lineup, but is expected to be back in within the next week or two.
Nick Tarnasky – Would fit in pretty well with Patrick Kaleta and Cody McCormick on the fourth line. He scored the Amerks' only goal Friday night. He has some skill and is tough. Really tough
Matt Ellis – Has his excellent reputation for a reason. Despite his recent send-down, he was putting in a full effort in an Amerks uniform
David Leggio – Was strong stopping 30 of 32 in the loss. He's up to a .917 save percentage this season and .949 in February.
Mark Pysyk – Has looked calmer in his own zone over the past month. He also fired an impressive quick slap shot that rung the post.
Phil Varone – Is getting more ice time and scoring more of late. Since the exit of Hodgson, he's gotten more opportunity. He didn't score Friday, but was around the puck often.
Mark Mancari – Had six shots and an assist. He is one of the veterans whose efforts have to have younger players working harder all the time to keep up with him.