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Pride becomes the motivating factor for Matt Moulson

This has been the most challenging stretch in Matt Moulson's professional hockey career.

The 34-year-old has been a regular in an NHL lineup since the 2009-10 season when he played all 82 games for the New York Islanders.

He played 81 games the past two seasons for the Buffalo Sabres.

But now, the forward has become the routine healthy scratch in the Sabres lineup.

Wednesday's game against Minnesota was his 10th game as a healthy scratch this season and fourth straight out of the lineup. He last played Nov. 14 against Pittsburgh where he had no shots, one penalty, and was a minus-1 in 8:57 of ice time. In his 12 games this season he has no points with eight shots on goal.

If the Buffalo Sabres collectively have first-class tickets on the struggle bus, Moulson is in the front row.

He's heard the chatter. Maybe the Sabres put him on waivers and send him to Rochester. Maybe the Sabres try to buy him out. Maybe they try to trade him. Maybe that five-year, $25-million contract they gave him 2014 was a really bad idea.

Moulson tries to block out the noise, tries to focus on what's important, on what he can control. It's not an easy task, but it's essential if he wants to keep his head in the game and work his way back into the Sabres lineup.

"Yeah, I think it's hard to sometimes," Moulson said about ignoring the chatter. "But I think once you start worrying about that, then you've got a little more problems than just hockey. I think you're at home thinking about a lot of things. Obviously you want to do well. I think any athlete that's competitive wants to do well in a team environment and personally.

"Once you start listening to everything else, I think that comes back to just knowing yourself and what you do. I think a lot of people say things that don't know what I do on a daily basis as a person. I don't really let that bother me. I think what my family thinks of me is probably the most important."

Moulson's best offensive season came with the Islanders in 2011-12 when he scored 36 goals with 33 assists.

Last year he scored 11 of his 14 goals on the power play and recorded 18 of his 32 points on that unit.

But this season, Moulson hasn't had a chance to get any rhythm on the power play. Or any rhythm at all. In his 12 games he's averaging 1:24 of power play time per game. Overall, he's averaging 10:25 per game and just 14 shifts, ranking ahead of only Jordan Nolan, Nicholas Baptiste and Kyle Criscuolo in average ice time.

"It's been tough," Moulson said. "I haven't played too many games in a row so it's tough to get confidence and consistency in your game. Obviously the team's struggling. I think for myself all I can really control is how hard I work. I think people that know me know I'm not a sulker. I'm going to come in and do everything I can to keep working which I think I've done a good job of.

"It's definitely challenging. It's hard at times. I think you have to find things mentally to motivate you. For me it's my pride and how hard I work on the ice and off the ice and what type of person I am as well."

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