Sabres' youth has powered playoff push



What a win for the Sabres, that 1-0 blanking of the New York Rangers Wednesday night. Not only for the present, but the future.

Say what you want about General Manager Darcy Regier. This corner's been known two second-guess the man once or twice ... or dozens of times. Who's keeping score?

But even the most vociferous Regier-haters—you know, the clods who still blame him, quite astonishingly, for the whole Ted Nolan thing—have to concede that the kids he's brought to town have been a major factor in the team's resurgence. Exhibit A and B might be Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis, whose elevated play has earned the Sabres more than a few points.

But it was Jhonas Enroth who stole the season's two biggest points Wednesday. The smallish but acrobatic young Swede was at his worst solid, at his best spectacular, and grabbed a win whose importance can't be understated. Buffalo headed into the game on the heels of a lackluster night in Toronto, then woke up to the news that Ryan Miller has an "upper-body" injury.

How they would react was a complete unknown. Yet this team, full of surprises since 2010 gave way to 2011, got a huge win to keep pace over Carolina, who will be as easy to knock out as a steel-jawed, bare-knuckled, whisky-drenched streetfighter on St. Patty's Day. It was in so small part due to the clutch performances of the organization's striplings, with Enroth obviously leading the way. And don't forget, it was Enroth who starred in the 3-2 shootout win February 15 in Montreal.

That game was clearly when the boys hit their stride and raised their game to its current lofty status. Now, with injuries to Miller, Mike Grier, Jochen Hecht, Jordan Leopold and other key vets, the youths' meddle will be tested even further. Can they beat Carolina on the road Sunday? Will the graybeards return for playoff time? And if not, how will the kids react to the pressure of the postseason.

No matter what happens in April, or perhaps beyond, the Sabres have taken some important steps toward developing their future identity. It involves guys like Tyler Myers, Gerbe and Ennis, and just maybe, someday, Enroth.

Let's agree that Regier still has some work to do in turning this crew into a Stanley Cup contender. But his detractors, myself included, should have to applaud his work at the draft table.

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