Not Another Sim Hockey League

Two Weeks In, Buffalo Riding High

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Miroslav Satan and the Buffalo Sabres have been doing a lot of celebrating lately.

Buffalo, NY (AP) - The first two weeks of Season 3 have seen many new faces at the top of the Eastern Conference, and the current standard beares are the team in Buffalo. After finishing with the sixth seed last year, the Sabres have been rolling on the strength of superb play between the pipes as well as some pleasant surprises elsewhere.

Nikolai Khabibulin was singled out by their new GM as the player the team would be built around and the netminder has repaid his boss' faith in spades. Among all starters, he is currently first in save percentage and second in goals against average 12 games into the season. “Nikolai has been our best player and a true leader on and off the ice,” said Buffalo GM Gary Mok. “He has singlehandedly won us games and kept us in others that we didn’t deserve to be in.” The key for the Sabres' rapid rise to the top has been having the league's best penalty kill despite giving up the third-most powerplay opportunities to opposing teams, and Khabibulin deserves the most credit for that.

Although their netminder has been their top contributor as expected, the other stars of the first place Sabres have been more surprising. Vitaly Yachmenev and Pavel Kubina were expected to provide grit and the occasional offence, but the two youngsters are the current point leaders for the best team in the East. While Yachmenev is currently tied for second in the league in goals, it is Pavel Kubina who has been an even bigger surprise. The bulky two-way defender is currently third in the whole league in points for defencemen and has been a key cog for the league’s sixth-best powerplay.

The team has been able to manage this impressive record despite league average underlying numbers, and that’s why GM Mok was seen tempering expectations. “Our special teams have been superb but there are a lot of good teams in this league. We are only six points away from being out of the playoffs, and there will be a lot of ups and downs throughout the year as we fight to make the playoffs again.” 

Up next for the Sabres in their fight for springtime hockey is hosting the Dallas Stars at home in front of what will likely be a sell-out crowd. Miroslav Satan will hope to ride his hot four-point game against the Avalanche into the match against the defending Stanley Cup champions. "We deserve to sit in first place right now," said the Buffalo captain, "but it's something you have to prove every day, and in every game. The Stars will be a great test."