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Teammates ready to celebrate Gionta's 1,000th career game

It's a phrase that's been echoed around the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room all season to describe captain Brian Gionta.

"He's the only guy that's won," they say.

In 2003 Gionta won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils. Monday night he will play in his 1,000th National Hockey League game. He's been captain of the storied Montreal Canadiens franchise and found his way back to Western New York three years ago to captain his hometown team.

When Gionta speaks, the players listen.

"It's all about example," second-year pro Sam Reinhart said in KeyBank Center Monday morning. "Obviously when he's talking he's going to own the room. The way he prepares himself every day. The way he conducts himself on a daily basis is the biggest thing. He's the one guy in this room that's won. If he's doing something, other guys take notice."

Along with winning, his current teammates see a player who is meticulous in his preparation and professional in his demeanor.

"He's the definition of a professional and that sums it up," Marcus Foligno said. "The way he prepares, keeps his body in shape. He's great in the community, great as a leader. Everyone in this room looks up to him. I have a tremendous amount of respect for that guy. It's an honor to be a part of his 1,000th game.

"He's always had skill. He's always had a lot of grit, doesn't like to be pushed around," Foligno continued. "He's a smart player out there, does things the right way all the time and that's what's got him to 1,000 games. He's won a Stanley Cup. His work ethic goes to show you if you put in the time, put in the commitment you can have as long as a career."

Gionta will be honored with an on-ice pregame ceremony involving his family members.

He grew up in suburban Rochester, played four seasons with Boston College, then crafted his NHL career with the Devils, Canadiens and finally the Sabres.

He will become the 10th player to appear in his 1,000th game with the Buffalo Sabres and first since Mike Grier reached the milestone on Nov. 3, 2010.

For Gionta to reach the milestone while being with the Sabres and in Buffalo is particularly meaningful to him.

"It's the team you grew up watching. It's the team you fell in love with," Gionta said of the Sabres. "You dreamed of being in the NHL and to have lasted this long, I would have never imaged. To be able to come here and play was pretty special."
Gionta is the Sabres nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, as selected by the Buffalo chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

The award is given each year for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Each chapter makes a nomination and the 30 names are entered into the vote for the honor. The trophy is presented at the NHL Awards ceremony in June in Las Vegas.

Other fun facts about Gionta's 1,000th NHL game:

He is the 312th NHL player to play in 1,0000 games and the 43rd American player to reach the milestone.

Gionta made his NHL debut on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2001 with the Devils. On that day, the No. 1 song in the country was "How You Remind Me" by Nickelback while the No. 1 movie was "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring." And oh, on that Sunday Alex Van Pelt led the Buffalo Bills to a 14-9 win over Vinny Testaverde and the New York Jets.

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