Thanks to an NHL schedule quirk, Tyler Myers had a very merry Christmas in his hometown.
Because the Buffalo Sabres make a rare visit to Calgary to start the post-Christmas portion of their schedule, Myers was able to spend some time at home during the short break.
Instead of arriving Sunday for a practice at the Saddledome, as was the case with the rest of his teammates, Myers travelled from Buffalo to Calgary after his team’s Dec. 23 game against the Florida Panthers and met the rest of the crew in the Stampede City.
“I got lucky,” admitted the big blueliner whose family lives in DeWinton, just south of the city. “It was nice to get some home-cooked meals and spend some time with them.”
With the way things have gone this season, some happy times are well deserved.
A year ago, the 6-foot-8 defenceman, who’ll turn 21 in February, was on his way to winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie.
He certainly defied the odds by being an impact defenceman at such a young age, racking up 11 goals and 48 points to go with a plus-13 rating for a Sabres team which won the Northeast Division title.
This season, though, life hasn’t been as good. Heading into Monday’s clash with the Calgary Flames, Myers has five goals, 15 points and a minus-8 rating for a Buffalo squad on the outside of the playoff picture.
“Coming into this year, I’ll admit I was feeling a lot of pressure,” he said. “Last year, I set the bar so high and felt a lot of pressure trying to match that bar coming into this season.
“As of late, I feel more than comfortable with my game. The last 10 games, I feel I’ve played like I did last year and I’m trying to exceed that now.
“Just trying to stay consistent.”
The plus-minus statistic can be dubious at times, but Myers started off on the wrong foot. He was minus-6 in the first week and has struggled to reach the break-even mark.
However, life has gone more along the lines of expectations in the past month, save for a minus-3 night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I don’t know if there was a specific moment. It just took time to adjust,” he said. “I’m feeling comfortable, so I just have to keep going.”
The defensive struggles really shouldn’t come as a surprise. For starters, Myers is being given more responsibilities than last season, so there are growing pains to expect.
Not that anyone with the Sabres had any doubt he’d pull out of them.
“He understands he’s a really good player with a lot of potential, and being young, that’s one of the challenges — having a great game every night and consistency is a big thing,” said fellow defenceman and former Flame Jordan Leopold. “He’s not even 21. Look at the potential and what’s there, and it’s something special.”
Speaking of special, the game will also be a big moment. It’s the first time Myers has skated in the Saddledome since helping the Kelowna Rockets to the 2009 WHL title.
“I don’t know if that comes into this, but it brings back good memories,” Myers said.