Derek Roy plays on one of the most exciting lines in the NHL. He combines with Maxim Afinogenov and Thomas Vanek to bring gasps from the crowd nearly every game, as they use their dazzling, free-wheeling skills to streak up ice.
Funny, then, that the biggest ovations for Roy lately have been for standing still.
Roy has received a pair of standing ovations for his penalty-killing prowess during the Buffalo Sabres' four-game winning streak. He got the puck along the boards and held it . . . and held it . . . and held it, wasting the opponents' precious power-play time before skating off to rousing applause.
"It's always fun when you can get recognition for playing defense," Roy said Tuesday. "Usually, the recognition comes if you score goals or something like that, but whenever you can get recognition for playing defense, it's always good. I know the team always appreciates it when guys are going down, blocking shots, doing the little plays to win the game."
Roy plays in his hometown tonight as the Sabres face the Ottawa Senators in Scotiabank Place. He returns as part of a penalty-kill unit that has gone five games without allowing a goal. The Sabres have killed 17 straight. Roy helped create two of the more memorable ones.
"It's great to see," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "You've got to take a lot of pride in those areas. Penalty killing is just something that takes a lot of hard work.
"I think that when a fan looks at it and you're outnumbered, and you can put on a show that Derek's put on or create the pressure that he's created, our fans realize that a lot of work went into it and they're appreciative."
The Sabres' short-handed units have achieved lately by backing off. The two forwards had been challenging the point men, and opponents were taking advantage. Ottawa and Montreal both went 2 for 4 in the two games prior to the run of success.
Now the forwards are more concerned with positioning than players. They're passive up top and challenge more near the net.
"We changed it up a little bit," Sabres forward Jochen Hecht said. "We try to be more in the shooting lanes, not be too aggressive up top, and it's working out right now. The other teams that we played now had a tough time coming in, and if they get it set up they don't get many shots on net."
It helps to have players who like killing penalties. Chris Drury teams with Hecht, Roy skates with Jason Pominville, and Jiri Novotny joins Paul Gaustad. The last time Roy and Pominville allowed a goal was Dec. 9 against the Canadiens, 11 games ago.
"It's good to have Jason with me," Roy said. "Me and him feed off each other pretty well. We know where each other's going to be on the ice. We talk a lot on the bench about things. It's fun when you can get the same guy out on the ice because it's so much easier."
Roy has been on short-handed units since his junior days.
"I like the role," he said. "I just like blocking shots or being on the defensive side once in a while."
Roy's little games of keep-away are more impressive considering he's not the most imposing player. It's one thing for the 6-foot-4 Gaustad to fight off the opponents. But Roy's been able to control the puck at 5-9 and 186 pounds.
"I just try to utilize my speed out there and my quickness and use my stick as much as possible," Roy said. "Sometimes you can catch the other team off-guard. Since they have the power-play mentality, they can get a little bit lacksy-daisy coming up the ice, and sometimes you can catch them just by working a little bit harder than them."
SABRES VS. SENATORS: Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. * Scotiabank Place
TV: MSG * Radio: 550 AM * Season series: Senators lead, 3-1