Shanny likes Sabres

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

BUFFALO -- Brendan Shanahan believes one team has been quicker than most to fulfill the vision of a new National Hockey League, as championed by members of his competition committee.

It's the Buffalo Sabres, the second-round opponents of Shanahan's New York Rangers. But that couldn't stop Shanahan from tipping his helmet in the direction of his state rivals.

"Out of the lockout, there's no better example of what a team can do than the Sabres," Shanahan said. "Give (long-serving Buffalo coach) Lindy Ruff credit. They had a vision, they worked with what they had, players who played a certain style. Then they drafted and traded for players who fit that style.

"It shows what a little patience and belief will do."

But Shanahan, who turned 38 this season, said there is a long way to go before the whole league's mindset changes. He says younger players and developing referees must be in lock-step with what the NHL has been trying to do, if they weren't already doing it all along.

"People were trumpeting (success) after just two weeks (in the 2005-06 season)," the Mimico-born winger said. "But it will take time. Each year, I expect it to get better and better, for players and officials. You learn how to play the game without using your stick as an obstruction tool."

When he broke in to the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, Shanahan remembers being severely hampered by slow-footed defencemen.

Shanahan agreed that the art of body checking has come back in vogue.


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