Sabres defenseman Myers a big concern for Flyers

Tyler Myers , a former first-round pick, figures to pose problems at both ends of the ice.
Tyler Myers , a former first-round pick, figures to pose problems at both ends of the ice.
Posted: April 13, 2011

Like the vast majority of NHL players, the Buffalo Sabres look up to Tyler Myers, not only because the 21-year-old stands 6-foot-8, but also because he's clearly their best defenseman.

Flyers followers wringing their hands over the injury status of Chris Pronger as Thursday's Game 1 of a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Sabres approaches can take comfort: Even without Pronger, the Flyers' corps of defensemen is significantly stronger than Buffalo's.

Yet, Myers figures to pose problems - at both ends of the ice. In his second season with the Sabres, the Texas-born, Calgary-raised 2008 first-round draft choice (No. 12 overall) has the wingspan of a condor and plays the angles like a veteran. He doesn't have Pronger's mean streak or ability to control the tempo of a game, and he doesn't hit like Boston's 6-9 Zdeno Chara, but Myers is considered a rising star.

"He has good offensive instincts, and he should be a premier defenseman for a long time," said Keith Jones, game analyst for Flyers telecasts and a studio analyst for Versus.

Nicknamed "The Big Easy," Myers emerged as the Sabres' top blue-liner when he won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. His first season he had 11 goals, plus a game-winner during a shootout, and 37 assists. In a regulation game against Ottawa that season, he was on the ice for 28 minutes, 32 seconds, and he averaged 22:27 this season, when he had 10 goals and 27 assists.

"He was a little inconsistent this year, but that's not unusual for a sophomore," Jones said.

After Myers had a poor start to the season, Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff cut down on his minutes. But Myers finished strong with a plus-10 during the final 24 games as the Sabres went 16-4-4.

Myers' initial playoff experience was forgettable as he scored one goal in six games last season. He attributed his play to nerves.

"I wasn't too nervous during the season last year," he said in an NHL.com report. "But going into my first playoff series, I'll admit it was a little nerve-racking."

Two other Buffalo defensemen can be troublesome for the Flyers. Jordan Leopold averaged the most ice time (23:19), but his status is questionable because of a broken finger. His strength is in reading the rush. Steve Montador is highly competitive, an in-your-face kind willing to lay it all on the line. Both Leopold and Montador are well-traveled, but they've prospered under Ruff, a smart defenseman in his day.

Andrej Sekera played well the second half of the season and was impressive in the Sabres' last trip to Philly, but he's also questionable. He missed the last two regular-season games with an upper-body muscle strain.


Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

 

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