Craig Rivet, after more than a month of watching, finally got a chance to rejoin the Buffalo Sabres' lineup. He's now looking for more consistency, both from himself and the players around him.
The Sabres' captain dressed Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks, his first game since Nov. 20. The defenseman, who assisted on the Sabres' second goal and scored their fifth, had been scratched in 11 straight games.
"There's a lot of good and bad emotions that I've had over the last month, month and a half, but tonight is not about me," Rivet said. "It's about me fitting into a team that I want to try and help these guys play better. I want to play better. Things are not going to happen in just one game, but I'm going to start with tonight to try and build some momentum. I'm going to give everything I have."
Rivet was playing for just the sixth time since Oct. 26. He missed two games with the flu and an additional 16 because coach Lindy Ruff made the captain a healthy scratch. He spent his days participating in intense on- and off-ice workouts and his nights chatting with the teammates who continued to view him as one of their prime leaders.
"I can honestly say it's not an easy situation for me to be in," Rivet said. "It's not one that I want to be in, but I think that's what leadership is all about. If you're not playing, there's ways of handling things.
"I have been questioned about my leadership and should I be captain, and those are always the people that are looking from the outside in, trying to find things or ways to figure out what's going on with this team. With me not playing, I'm still going to try and help these guys as much as I can. There's been a lot of things that I've tried to say to certain players to help them out, things that they're doing well. You want to keep hearing the things that you're doing well."
The Sabres entered HSBC Arena on a two-game losing streak, so things hadn't been going well. They've been up and down while Rivet has been out, piling up two four-game unbeaten streaks and also a pair of winless runs.
"We just have to have some sort of consistency in our game," Rivet said. "That's kind of what we've lacked a bit. We've seen games and I've watched games where the guys are putting the effort in. It comes down to the amount of work that you're going to put in.
"We've got a world-class goaltender. We've got a talented hockey team. You know what? We need to work. We need to work defensively and we need to work offensively to have success."
Nathan Gerbe also made a return to the lineup, dressing in place of injured center Tim Connolly (reconstructive nose surgery). The left winger, who had been scratched for three straight games, scored in the opening period. The goal was his first in his 21st game of the season.
"You want to get back in, play well and stay," he said. "The lineup changes so much that you just try to be ready whenever. You just work hard every day and hope to get back in."
The Sabres were without right wing Patrick Kaleta for the final two periods, though coach Lindy Ruff said he was cleared to return after taking a shot to the head. Anaheim's Jason Blake boarded Kaleta on a hit from behind with 6:24 to go in the first period, earning a five-minute major and game misconduct.