Sabres Report: ’99 Training Camp Wrap-Up

By Ken McKenna

With the start of the Buffalo Sabres’ 1999-2000 season just hours away, it would probably be a good idea for this writer to tie up the loose ends left over from a mildly interesting training camp. Some new faces will be with the club to start the season, due mostly to the fact that four players are still holding out, but the 99-00 edition of the Sabres will still be pretty much the same team that made it to the 1999 Stanley Cup finals.

Sabres “Improve” On Last Year’s Pre-Season Effort

Okay, maybe improve is stretching things a bit, since the Sabres finished the exhibition slate with a 2-4-1 record. The Sabres coaching staff appeared to adopt the “Marv Levy Approach” to pre-season games, which means they used veterans sparingly while taking a long look at several younger players. While this approach virtually guarantees a losing pre-season record, it also gives the coaches a good idea of where their younger players are at in their development. Players such as Maxim Afinogenov, Cory Sarich, Brian Campbell and Domenic Pittis received plenty of playing time throughout the exhibition schedule, with some of those players making good use of the opportunity, and others making it clear they are in need of more playing time in the minors.

One trend from recent seasons that continued to rear its ugly head is a lack of offensive firepower. The holdouts of Miro Satan and Curtis Brown certainly contributed to the problem, but the fact that no player stepped up in camp to pick up some of the scoring slack suggests that the Sabres will continue to be a team that ekes out 1-goal victories while relying on strong defensive play and stellar goaltending. This approach was good enough to get the Sabres to the finals last season, but it remains to be seen whether they can repeat that performance this season.

And now, a brief wrap-up of the exhibition schedule:

Detroit 4, Buffalo 1

The Red Wings, icing a lineup that will likely be similar to the one the Sabres face on opening day, dominated early in this game and coasted to a victory. The most impressive performance by a prospect in this game was the shutout performance by G Martin Biron. He stopped all 15 shots he faced, as he continued his impressive work in the pre-season. C Domenic Pittis chipped in a goal, while D Jason Holland handled himself well in a spirited battle with Red Wing tough guy Martin Lapointe.

Washington 2, Buffalo 1 (OT)

The big news from this game was the fact that G Dominik Hasek logged his first action since the Stanley Cup finals, showing no ill effects from his off-season surgery. Just as impressive in the nets was Martin Biron, who stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced, although the one that got by him was the OT winner. D Jason Holland played well, as he contributed an assist on Buffalo’s lone goal while turning in a solid performance at both ends of the ice. RW Maxim Afinogenov had a couple great scoring chances, but was not able to bury them.

Boston 3, Buffalo 1

This was a fairly close contest for the first two periods, but the Bruins pulled away in the third period to defeat the Sabres. D Brian Campbell turned in a strong performance, including a coast-to-coast rush to set up the Sabres lone goal by Stu Barnes. RW David Moravec had a couple good scoring chances, but was not able to find the net.

Buffalo 3, Toronto 2

In a spirited finale to the Sabres pre-season, Buffalo broke out of their offensive slump to defeat the Maple Leafs. D Brian Campbell turned in another strong performance, scoring the game-winning goal on a second period PP. C Domenic Pittis was solid, contributing an assist and some deft playmaking. RW Maxim Afinogenov turned in an uninspired performance, which led Lindy Ruff to bench the flashy Russian for most of the second half of the game. As was the case in most of the Sabres pre-season games, the Sabres were outshot by a fairly wide margin.

Buffalo Sabres 1999 Pre-Season Statistics

Player Team Gp G A PTS +/- Pim Pp SH Gw Gt S Pctg
Stu Barnes Buf – 3 1 4 – 2 3 0 1 0 – -
Domenic Pittis Buf – 2 2 4 – 6 0 1 0 0 – -
Brian Campbell Buf – 2 1 3 – 2 2 0 1 0 – -
Michael Peca Buf – 1 2 3 – 6 0 0 0 0 – -
Dixon Ward Buf – 0 3 3 – 6 0 0 0 0 – -
Maxim Afinogenov Buf – 1 1 2 – 2 1 0 0 0 – -
David Moravec Buf – 1 1 2 – 4 1 0 0 0 – -
Wayne Primeau Buf – 1 1 2 – 6 0 0 0 1 – -
Brian Holzinger Buf – 0 2 2 – 2 0 0 0 0 – -
Michal Grosek Buf – 0 2 2 – 14 0 0 0 0 – -
Erik Rassmusen Buf – 0 2 2 – 0 0 0 0 0 – -
Rob Ray Buf – 1 0 1 – 17 0 0 0 0 – -
Jason Woolley Buf – 1 0 1 – 4 0 0 0 0 – -
J-L Grand-Pierre Buf – 0 1 1 – 24 0 0 0 0 – -
Jason Holland Buf – 0 1 1 – 9 0 0 0 0 – -
Geoff Sanderson Buf – 0 1 1 – 0 0 0 0 0 – -
Richard Smehlik Buf – 0 1 1 – 2 0 0 0 0 – -
Martin Biron Buf – 0 0 0 – 4 0 0 0 0 – -
Eric Bolton Buf – 0 0 0 – 2 0 0 0 0 – -
Denis Hamel Buf – 0 0 0 – 2 0 0 0 0 – -
Dominik Hasek Buf – 0 0 0 – 0 0 0 0 0 – -
Paul Kruse Buf – 0 0 0 – 5 0 0 0 0 – -
Mika Noronen Buf – 0 0 0 – 0 0 0 0 0 – -
James Patrick Buf – 0 0 0 – 2 0 0 0 0 – -
Dwayne Roloson Buf – 0 0 0 – 0 0 0 0 0 – -
Cory Sarich Buf – 0 0 0 – 6 0 0 0 0 – -
Chris Taylor Buf – 0 0 0 – 2 0 0 0 0 – -
Darren Van Oene Buf – 0 0 0 – 5 0 0 0 0 – -
Pre-Season, Minor League Style

Buffalo’s farm club, the Rochester Americans, played a brief 3-game exhibition schedule that saw them post a 2-0-1 record. Following are brief re-caps of these games:

Rochester 4, Syracuse 1

The Amerks received offense from a surprising source, as tough guy W Craig Brunel chipped in a goal and assist in Rochester’s victory over the Crunch. Also scoring for Rochester were LW Darren Van Oene, LW Ales Kotalik and rookie free-agent C Adam Calder. Mika Noronen turned in a strong performance in goal, stopping 24 of 25 shots.

Rochester 6, Hamilton 4

LW Denis Hamel scored 3 goals in helping the Amerks to a victory over the Bulldogs. RW Jeremy Adduono scored the game-winner, while C Adam Calder chipped in another goal. In this game, the Amerks scored three PP goals and one SH goal to help them to their victory.

Rochester 2, Hamilton 2

G Mika Noronen starred for the Amerks in this game, stopping 34 of the 36 shots he faced. Goal-scorers for Rochester were D Doug Houda and LW Darren Van Oene (SHG).

Following their pre-season slate, the Amerks received reinforcements from the Sabres. Sent down to Rochester were RW Maxim Afinogenov, RW Matt Davidson, G Martin Biron and D Mike Hurlbut. The Sabres also signed Dimitri Kalinin to a 3-year deal, which ensures that Kalinin will start the season with the Amerks. Unsigned draft picks include LW Ales Kotalik, C Kamil Piros and C Brad Moran. Moran has returned to the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, where he hopes to boost his bargaining power by helping lead the Hitmen to the Memorial Cup finals for a 2nd consecutive year. Should the Sabres not sign Moran by June of 2000, he will go back into the draft pool. Kotalik and Piros both made favorable impressions in camp, but they would both return to the Czech Republic should the Sabres not sign them.

Sticking With The Big Club

Heading into the regular season, the Sabres have to pare down their roster by one more player to reach the maximum roster size of 23 players. Forwards Domenic Pittis and David Moravec, and defensemen Jason Holland, Brian Campbell, Cory Sarich and Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre are the players most at risk of being sent to Rochester. With the return of holdouts a virtual certainty, the players most likely to end up with the Amerks in the near future would be Pittis, Campbell and Sarich. Pittis has shown that he will provide good depth for the Sabres at the center position, while Campbell and Sarich need the experience that would come with the increased workloads they would have in the minors.

Now, enough about the pre-season, lets drop the puck on the 99-00 regular season!