First it was Henrik Tallinder who went down with an injury. Then Tyler Myers was suspended.
The Buffalo Sabres defensive unit was down two big, experienced defensemen. Which meant it was time for Mike Weber to step up.
He’s made a positive impression on interim coach Ted Nolan, who made him an assistant captain on Thursday in place of the injured Tallinder.
“This guy, he competes all the time,” Nolan said.
“It’s an honor to get an extra letter stitched on your jersey especially in the National Hockey League,” Weber said after learning he was named assistant captain. “I’ve tried to be a leader without it for a long time. I’ve always tried to play the same way, play a hard game and be hard to play against and the most important thing is to be a good teammate in the locker room.”
Weber had eight hits in Thursday night’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, playing over 22 minutes.
It was just a few seconds shy of his season high in minutes which came Oct. 23 against Boston (22:14) and was the fifth time this season he’s played 20 or more minutes in a game.
But it hasn’t necessarily been a pretty season for the 26-year-old defender in his sixth season with the Sabres. At least in the plus/minus category.
Through the first five games he was a minus-eight, including a minus-four against Columbus on Oct. 10.
He ranks third last in the NHL in plus/minus rating for the season at a minus-20, which is also the worst among all defensemen in the league.
“The beginning of the season was just so rough for everyone. I took the brunt of that,” Weber said. “It was one of those things where I was always raised to play the game one way. I just kept with it, stuck with it, battled through it. Find your own game. Don’t try to do too much.
“When it was really bad, I maybe got caught trying to help out too much and that’s not my game. I’m just trying to slowly get back into my game and into my role and what I need to do. We’ve been having some decent success so far.”
Weber’s game has improved lately. He attributes the evolution during the season to simplicity – getting back to his game and not trying to be anyone else.
“I think my whole career I’ve tried to be a hard-to-play-against player,” Weber said. “If I’m not hard to play against, I’m pretty useless. I wouldn’t be here. So that’s my job. That’s what I’m trying to bring to the team. Ted talks about it a lot. You’ve got to bring one little thing to the game to help your teammates win and I’m just trying to help us win.”
The win did not come Thursday and the overall effort in front of goaltender Jhonas Enroth was disappointing. The Sabres took a 1-0 lead in the second period and killed a number of power plays, including 31 seconds of 5-on-3 time, but failed to find a way to close out the win.
“I thought we got off to a sluggish start,” Weber said. “We picked it up through the first. The second period we had a couple of back-to-back kills and the 5-on-3 gave us a little boost. We had a strong second.
“Again, it’s going to come back down to we’ve got to find a way to score goals. We’ve got to find ways defensively in the third period when we’re up goals to really step on guys’ throats and then end it.”
New general manager Tim Murray made the media rounds on Friday, going on a variety of sports talk radio and TV shows.
In his interview with SN 590 The Fan in Toronto, Murray indicated that the “interim” label in front of head coach Ted Nolan’s title may be removed in the near future.
When asked if the interim tag was still on Nolan, Murray said, “Today it is. Right now it is, yes. I talked to Pat” LaFontaine “like twice for 15 minutes yesterday and today. I went into his office today just to finalize my contract. So yes, the interim tag is still on but I could see where we probably will do something for him there where it won’t be going on too long.”
A pair of goals were disallowed for the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. Turns out neither were deemed reviewable.
In the third period, the Panthers scored the go-ahead goal but the referee stopped play due to an injured Florida player at the other end of the ice, making the play unreviewable. In the shootout, the referee determined that Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau used his stick to push Jhonas Enroth’s pad and the puck across the goal line.
The Sabres had Friday off as mandated in the collective bargaining agreement. ... The team returns to practice today before traveling to Washington for a 3 p.m. game Sunday against the Capitals.