Toni lands on his feet

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:23 AM ET

The writing was on the wall but that didn't soften the blow for Toni Lydman.

Traded from the Calgary Flames to the Buffalo Sabres last summer for a third-round draft choice, Lydman admitted yesterday he didn't want to see what was about to happen even though he knew the direction his career was headed.

"At first it was a shock but I saw it coming," he said upon arriving at the Saddledome for practice. "At least a couple of weeks before the trade, I already pretty much knew.

"I wasn't sure which team it would be and wasn't sure it would happen before training camp or after, so it was a hard time but I knew after they signed (Roman) Hamrlik, there wasn't going to be much ice time for me."

Things have worked out just fine for the defenceman.

Personally, he and wife Heta welcomed a second daughter, Ellen, into the world last May to join four-year-old Amanda.

Professionally, he and the Sabres are one of the NHL's biggest surprises.

A team that finished last in the Northeast Division in 2003-04, the Sabres arrived in Calgary for tonight's meeting with the Flames within hailing distance of powerhouse Ottawa.

More than a few people around the league are wondering why they're in the upper echelon.

Even Lydman, with one goal and 10 assists through 40 games, doesn't have the answer.

"You want me to say it's because of the summer additions, that's what you want to hear. I don't think so," he said, showing his wit.

"We've got some good young guys and experienced guys like Teppo (Numminen) and Dru (Chris Drury), who's been on good teams.

"Just a good mix, I guess."

Like the Flames, the Sabres don't light up the scoreboard. Drury, another former Flame, leads the pack with 38 points in 45 games.

Like the Flames, the Sabres are strong defensively, sitting eighth in the NHL in goals against thanks to stellar seasons from rookie Ryan Miller and Martin Biron.

Moreover, Buffalo's special teams have been superb, second-best in both powerplay and penalty killing.

"I think people were predicting us to be the last team in the NHL, I remember reading the previews," Lydman said. "But it's just past the half-way point."


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