DENVER -- Jaroslav Spacek is one of the Buffalo Sabres' best talkers. His loud, deep voice carries through the dressing room, usually with comments that make people chuckle. For Andrej Sekera, Spacek's words carry more than comedic value. His is the voice of knowledge and reason.
"I'm pretty happy with Spach because he's like my teacher and I'm like his student," Sekera said Friday. "I'm learning as much as I can from him, and hopefully it will work out."
It is so far. They have become the go-to defensive pairing for the Buffalo Sabres, averaging more than 25 minutes per game in the past week. If they continue their solid play, it's sure to continue tonight when the Sabres visit the Colorado Avalanche in Pepsi Center.
"The last couple of games we've played a lot," Spacek said. "I think the confidence has gone up. We're doing good stuff there. We don't have too much trouble in the defensive zone: the breakouts, the backcheck, the forechecks. It's just working out right now."
When Craig Rivet was forced to have knee surgery this week, it meant two of the three defensive units were changing. Coach Lindy Ruff had no plans to break up Spacek-Sekera, which he foresees becoming as good as last season's Spacek-Brian Campbell pairing.
"We liked that connection of Spach and Campbell, and we really feel Andrej is that same kind of player, except we're harping a little more on staying at home and being solid in your own end first, which he has been," Ruff said. "It's picking your spots to join offensively. Gradually, I think he's getting better and better at finding the right spot to get involved."
Sekera found the right time in Thursday's 4-3 victory in Minnesota. He skated deep into the Wild zone and found Thomas Vanek for the tying goal.
"He can skate with the puck, make good decisions, can play physical," Spacek said.
And though he can talk with anyone, Spacek is using the right words with Sekera, who's in his first full season with the Sabres.
"I'm trying to prove that I can be there, and Spacek is helping me a lot," Sekera said. "He's talking to me on the ice, on the bench. He makes my life easier out there."
The Sabres have dug themselves out of two-goal deficits in the past three games, usually by riding their top three lines. But when the game is tied or the Sabres are in front, the fourth line gets its share of duty.
Matt Ellis and wingers Andrew Peters and Patrick Kaleta are getting regular shifts in the early part of games, and they're making the most of them. They haven't given up any goals.
"I've liked them. I told them that," Ruff said. "I think that line has given us much-needed energy. I thought they gave us some real good shifts."
Ruff couldn't resist one more shot at goaltender Ryan Miller.
The Sabres sometimes have a drill at the conclusion of practice in which a player has to score from his own zone into the far net. If he misses, the team skates. Ruff called on Miller to do it Friday. But as a jab, he said the goalie had to score on his own net from a couple of feet away like he did against Minnesota.
Miller made it again, and his teammates were free from laps.