By John Vogl
ROCHESTER -- There has been a lot of shoulder slumping lately on Buffalo's minor-league team. A long-awaited victory -- and big saves from Andrey Makarov -- has guys feeling better.
The Amerks ended a nine-game winless streak Wednesday with a 5-2 win over Syracuse. While the offensive breakout certainly helped, coach Chadd Cassidy says the goaltending of Makarov had a big effect.
"More than he’s played well, he’s been the guy that’s given our team a shot in the arm here when things weren’t going well," Cassidy said today after practice in Blue Cross Arena. "Our team played well in front of him, and our team felt he gave us a really good chance of winning hockey games. He was making a lot of big saves.
"All of a sudden a guy gives you a couple big saves and it’s, ‘All right, we’re in this thing.’ You only need that one break to get you going, and I think he did a good job of providing that."
Makarov is getting the chance with Connor Knapp out and Nathan Lieuwen and Matt Hackett playing for Buffalo.
"It’s all about opportunity," Cassidy said. "He’s really taken advantage of that."
Cassidy, who was a longtime coach in the U.S. National Team Development Program, will keep an eye on the NHL debut of Jake McCabe tonight when the Sabres visit St. Louis. Cassidy coached McCabe for two seasons with USA Hockey.
"I really like Jacob a lot," Cassidy said. "I thought he was a great pick. He’s a guy that’s got a little bit of offense. He’s very similar to Brayden McNabb. He’s got some offense there, but he also likes the physical game. He likes to get involved and plays the body really well. He’s not quite as big as Brayden, but he plays that similar type of game.
"He’ll be nervous. That’s a tough jump," said Cassidy, while noting Chad Ruhwedel jumped from college to the NHL at the end of last season. "Rudy did a really good job with it last year when he came from Lowell, but it’ll be interesting, especially in St. Louis on the road against one of the best teams in the league. Tough test."