Nathan Paetsch has been a power-play specialist for most of his life. He quarterbacked the unit back in his junior days for Moose Jaw. His first point as a professional came on a power-play assist in Rochester.
Now he's helped bring the Buffalo Sabres' power play up from the depths. Paetsch, inserted as a regular on the man-advantage unit the last two games, had assists in both of them as the previously stagnant power play struck three times over the weekend.
"It's difficult for me to come in and see such great players not playing it," the rookie defenseman said, "but I definitely love being on the power play. It's something I've done in the past quite often."
Paetsch's power-play contributions have earned him a chance to stay in the lineup. Paetsch has been subbing for injured defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who is in position to return Tuesday when the Sabres face Boston in HSBC Arena. Before the power-play surge, it was assumed Paetsch would return to the sidelines. But it would be illogical to yank someone who is playing so well on a unit that had been so bad.
"We're going to have to give some serious thought to maybe dressing seven defensemen," coach Lindy Ruff said after Sunday's practice in the Amherst Pepsi Center. "Nathan had a year [in Rochester] where he played forward. We could maybe utilize him as a fourth-line winger and a power-play guy on the back end. He seems to have made a difference for us, and it's something that we'll have to give strong consideration to."
Paetsch has succeeded by doing something the Sabres often preach but just as often ignore. He keeps it simple. He's been dumping the puck in deep to avoid neutral-ice turnovers, and he's been getting his shot at the net. The Sabres' power-play goal Saturday against the New York Islanders came when Jochen Hecht scored off a Paetsch rebound.
"On power plays a big thing is just getting your shot through," Paetsch said. "I may not have a cannon, but I like to shoot for a rebound."
Tallinder, out since Jan. 3 with a sprained right ankle, was put through rigorous tests Sunday and seemed to pass.
The defenseman had to keep control of a puck and stay in the faceoff circle while hulking winger Andrew Peters continually tried to push him out.
Tallinder was able to use the ankle to maintain his leverage.
"I think there's a good chance that Henrik will play," Ruff said. "He had a good workout [Sunday], and if there's no bad ramifications of what he went through, hopefully a real good practice [today] will allow him to play."
Defenseman Teppo Numminen skipped Sunday's practice with "lower-body soreness" that Ruff said was nothing serious. Left wing Thomas Vanek was excused because of illness.
What they missed was a mass of autograph seekers.
The Sabres skated in Amherst because "Disney on Ice" still had control of HSBC Arena.
The team's weekday practices in the Northtowns usually encounter little attention because people are at work or school. But with the rink in full weekend mode, a mass of children and adults bombarded the Sabres.
Chris Bandura, the team's coordinator of media relations, should have had the title of "body guard" added Sunday. He had to maneuver the Sabres from the ice to the dressing room to the training room to their media obligations while about 70 people blocked the doors and walkways.