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Roy shows signs of his go-to persona

Derek Roy stood before his stall in the Sabres' dressing room long after the game ended Sunday afternoon and talked about better days earlier in his career. He could go back to the earliest days of his career and find coaches who pointed toward him as a common denominator for success.

"I was a go-to guy in Kitchener when we won the Memorial Cup my last year," Roy said. "I played in the world juniors. It was a great year. I played in Rochester and was the go-to guy right away. It was fun. When we lost Danny [Briere] and [Chris] Drury, I had a good season. I just tried getting better and better."

Check the record, and you'll find accuracy in his account. Roy was a dominant player while climbing the ranks and a good one in the NHL. He had 20 points in eight games in Rochester before he was summoned to the Sabres for good in 2005-06, finishing the year with 15 points in 18 playoff games.

The Sabres a year later pointed toward his success with Thomas Vanek when they decided Briere and Drury, their top two centers while reaching the conference finals in consecutive years, were expendable. Roy's response was 32 goals and 81 points in 78 games, a point total that left him ninth among NHL centers.

And when things turned sour, when he vanished in the 2009-10 playoffs against Boston, when the Sabres took off last year on an incredible second-half run and made the playoffs without him, when their scoring fell off and players looked stale this year -- he was the guy people pointed toward as a common denominator for failure.

"It comes with the territory," Roy said. "When you're supposed to be scoring goals and you're not scoring goals, it's your fault. If you want to be that guy in the spotlight that's your job. It's fun to be in that position when things go right, but it's not fun to be in that position when you lose games. I like being the go-to guy."

Roy was a guy worth going to Sunday, a rarity this season. He rediscovered what made him successful early in his career with a three-point effort in a 6-2 victory over the Penguins in First Niagara Center. He set up Jason Pominville early in the game, added a goal a few minutes later and scored short-handed in the third period to end any doubt.

Who knows if it will continue?

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff wondered where Roy's game had been all season and wasn't sure if it would return Tuesday against the Islanders. It's not a good sign when a coach isn't certain of what to expect from a player after watching him for 526 games. It's impossible to determine if Sunday's effort was merely a flash of brilliance or total recovery.

Naturally, Roy's at the center of whether they should shoot for the playoffs or use him as an asset to reload. The NHL trade deadline is a week from today, and Roy could be down to his final days in Buffalo. His contract has a full season with a $4 million cap hit, which makes him attractive trade bait. There's an argument to keep him on a team emaciated down the middle.

Buffalo is clinging to slim playoff hopes. The postseason remains a possibility if he continues playing well, but they face long odds in the first place partly because he failed to perform.

The Sabres have said nothing to him about the possibility he could be moved. He claimed he didn't know his name had been mentioned in trade rumors and said he wants to stay. He disputed his reputation as a self-absorbed player who butted heads with Ruff about his defense and unwillingness to put team victories over individual achievement.

"Right now, this is my team," Roy said. "I'm not a GM. I have no idea what they're going to do. All I can do is play for my team, play for my linemates, go out every night like it was my first year and play as hard as I can every game."

email: bgleason@buffnews.com