BUFFALOING PECA COY ON SABRES
By PETER BOTTE
Daily News Sports Writer
Michael Peca already has proved himself to be an ideal leader, a
better-than-anticipated offensive player and a friendly guy in his
few months helping to reshape the Islanders.
What he is not, though, is a good liar.
Peca predictably downplayed tonight's home match against Buffalo, his
first against the team that kept him out of the NHL all last season
before his draft-weekend trade to the Island over the summer.
Asked if burying a few goals represented his dream scenario tonight,
Peca replied, "No, it's just winning the hockey game."
Right, and Tino Martinez truly wishes the Yankees luck in their
pursuit of Jason Giambi.
"It's like it was getting up for Detroit for Chris (Osgood) and I'm
sure it will be the same with Ottawa for Alexei (Yashin)," Peca
said. "But we're just trying to get the two points. ... The big thing
is we're in first place and want to stay there."
Peca once wanted to stay in Buffalo, just not solely on the club's
terms. Sabres ownership and GM Darcy Regier had a difficult time
agreeing with Peca on his value as team captain and one of the NHL's
most reliable defensive forwards, mostly because his career-high in
points was 56 in 1998-99.
So Peca watched the entire 2000-01 season as a restricted free agent
until Isles GM Mike Milbury obtained his negotiating rights in a
June24 swap for promising forwards Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt.
With Peca on pace to shatter his career-best offensive numbers - at 6-
16-22 through 23 games - his five-year, $20 million contract has
resulted in an immediate return for the Isles (15-5-4-1).
Connolly, fifth on the Sabres in scoring (4-10-14), eventually might
become the offensive visionary the Isles thought he'd be when they
selected him sixth overall in 1999. Pyatt hasn't played an NHL game
this season; he has just three goals in 21 games for the Sabres' AHL
"I'm not looking for any do-overs right now," Milbury said recently.
And neither is his team's new captain.
"There's always that little bit of awkwardness," Peca allowed about
tonight, "but you'd be surprised how quickly you get over it."
Injured Isles: D Roman Hamrlik (sprained left knee) is questionable
after missing Thursday's tie against Montreal. LW Shawn Bates (groin)
has resumed skating, but remains doubtful. ...