It's a Reunion on Ice
Peca will face his ex-mates for first time
By Alan Hahn
December 1, 2001
After just two months on Long Island, Michael Peca
feels more like an Islander than an ex-Sabre. After
all, his last game in a Buffalo uniform came in April
2000, following a first-round playoff loss to the
"I'm more than a year removed from playing with them,"
said Peca, who sat out the entire 2000-01 season
without a contract before he was traded to the
Islanders in June, "so I don't think I have any
immediate memories of anything to get over."
He faces his former team Saturday night when the
Islanders host the Sabres at Nassau Coliseum. He said
he was looking forward to seeing some old friends, but
is aware that one player, Rob Ray, decided to take a
shot at him earlier in the season. Ray said the Sabres
shouldn't make the same mistake in choosing their next
captain as they did with their previous captain,
meaning Peca. Ray felt the Sabres catered to Peca when
they gave him the captaincy in 1997 following a
"I know Rob," Peca said, "and I know sometimes he says
things he wants to get attention for."
Consequently, Ray, an assistant captain, was passed
over in favor of Stu Barnes for the "C". But the
comments by Ray won't start a war of words similar to
Buffalo's recent battle in the media with the Rangers
and Theo Fleury.
"I think the important thing is that it's a part of my
career and my life that's now behind me," Peca said.
"Obviously things are going real well now. I'm just
looking forward to seeing old friends."
Old friends who have a different look than in years
past, when the Sabres were an annual playoff contender
and had the league's best goalie in Dominik Hasek. But
many of the familiar faces - Hasek, Doug Gilmour and
Dave Andreychuk - are gone.
"Just talking to guys on the team, a lot of them felt
they were losing a lot of important pieces," Peca
said. "It's been a bit of a transition for them, but
those guys have a tremendous amount of resiliency. I
don't doubt that they'll still be one of the teams
that makes the playoffs."
Which makes them just another opponent Saturday night.
Of course emotions might be a bit different when Peca
and the Islanders make their first visit to Buffalo on
March 12. "There's always that little bit of
awkwardness, seeing all those familiar faces on the
other side," he said. "But you'd be surprised how
quickly you can get over it."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Peca trade is Tim
Connolly, who has four goals and 14 points in 27 games
and a plus-2 rating, but the Sabres want more from the
talented young center. Recently, coach Lindy Ruff
criticized Connolly for not shooting enough (sound
familiar?), and lately Connolly has been putting the
puck on net more often.
Sabres at Islanders 7 p.m.
TV: Ch. 55
Radio: ESPN (1050)