It's been a difficult season for Williamsville native Todd Marchant. A severely broken pinkie cost him nearly a month. He had just two goals in 51 games, none since Oct. 23.
All he needed apparently was a trip home. Marchant's short-handed goal midway through the second period snapped a tie and turned out to be the game's key play as the Anaheim Ducks held off the Sabres, 3-2, in HSBC Arena.
Marchant played in his 1,000th career game Dec. 22 at Vancouver, becoming the 31st American in NHL history to reach that mark. But that's one of the few highlights the 35-year-old had until Tuesday.
"Anytime I get a chance to come back here and play against a team I grew up listening to on the radio is certainly special," Marchant said. "You always get a little more geared up. It's been a struggling season for me offensively but I knew it was bound to go in one of these times. What better place and what better time."
"It's always nice for a guy to come home," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. "He must have fueled up on chicken wings or something because he was flying."
Not the case. Marchant did have a postgame plate of wings waiting next to his locker when he was finished with reporters. But Monday's off-night choice with his parents, brother and his brother's family was chicken parmesan at Chef's.
"We're all the way on the West Coast and it's really nice to come back here," Marchant said. "It's tough to describe and I don't know what it is. Every time I play in this building I have a little extra jump in my step. I wish I could bring that every night and I wish the puck would go in every night."
Even though Marchant had not scored in four months, it's hardly unusual for him to do damage against his hometown team. He has seven goals and six assists in 17 games against Buffalo.
Tuesday's goal was the 24th short-handed tally of Marchant's career. He took a pass from Scott Niedermayer, moved across the Buffalo blue line, cut to his left past Jaroslav Spacek and fired a quick wrist shot past Patrick Lalime.
The puck appeared to deflect, either off teammate Chris Kunitz or Buffalo's Jason Pominville but the goal was still credited to Marchant.
"Scottie [Niedermayer] made a nice outlet pass and that kind of made it a one-on-one," Marchant said. "I waited and the guy who made the play was Chris Kunitz cutting through the middle. I cut off his back and got a shot on the net and Chris kept going and it found a way in."
Marchant probably would have liked to have found a way into the remnants of Memorial Auditorium the last couple of days. He said it was eerie to see the demolition of the Aud well under way.
"That was pretty neat to see inside again," he said. "My brothers and I would ride the subway down and my mom and dad had seats in the reds. Or when I was home, I would sneak in my room and put the radio on to listen to Gilbert Perreault and Danny Gare."
Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera just returned two weeks ago after missing 12 games with a high ankle sprain after taking a hit Jan. 14 in Chicago. So Sekera knows what Ryan Miller is going through.
One positive Sekera and coach Lindy Ruff have mentioned: Sekera's ankle was much more swollen than Miller's.
"I don't feel any pain at all," said Sekera, who played nearly 19 minutes Tuesday. "I've been fine and I feel like I'm skating like I was before. Goaltender is a different position, different movements. But I think [Miller] will get better and better every day because that's how it went for me."
The Sabres were 1 for 4 on the power play and barely missed getting credit for another as Paul Gaustad's goal came one second after Steve Montador exited the box. They are 6 for 16 in the last four games and have scored at least one goal in each.
Anaheim star Ryan Getzlaf suffered a possible broken nose with 15 seconds left after a collision with Gaustad inside the Buffalo blue line.