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Sabres In Focus – Andrej Sekera

Slovakian blueliner Andrej Sekera has played parts of four seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, but has yet to prove anything to anyone. Sekera is a talented skater and passer and could be the offensive defenseman the Sabres have needed since Brian Campbell left in 2008. Sekera is currently penciled in as the Sabres’ 6th and final defenseman, but it is in his hands to maintain that role going into the 2010-11 season.

Sekera spent six years in the Dulka Trencin in the Slovak league before moving to North America to pursue a career in the NHL. He played Major Junior hockey with the Owen Sound Attack before being drafted in the 3rd round (71st overall) in the 2004 entry draft. While in the OHL he was named to the all Rookie team in 2005 and the First All-Star team in 2006 as well as being named the leagues top defenseman.

Sekera began the 2006-07 season, his first as a pro, in Rochester but earned a 2 game call-up by the end of the season. In 2007-08 he again started in the AHL, this time in Portland, but when injuries struck the Sabres backend he ended up a featured blueliner for 37 games, performing admirably. In that season he showed poise and talent and was considered the “next Brian Campbell”.

However, upon earning a roster spot at the start of the 2008 season Sekera began to regress. Without his partner from the season before, Mike Weber, Sekera looked lost and inconsistent. Sekera admitted to losing confidence down the home stretch and became a healthy scratch during the 2009 push for the playoffs. Hoping it was a sophomore slump the Sabres placed him back in the starting lineup during the 2009-10 season. Serkera’s inconsistency persisted.

Once again in Lindy Ruff’s doghouse, Sekera was a frequent healthy scratch during the season. Playing in only 49 games, Sekera was plagued by positioning errors and a lack of confidence that affected his ability to succeed on a nightly basis. A log jam at the defensive position didn’t do him any favors as the Sabres frequently had eight NHL defensemen competing for a starting spot. Sekera even saw several games as a 4th line forward.

When Sekera is on his game he can be a very dominant force for the Sabres. His incredibly smooth skating and smart play make him a player that can take over shifts. Sekera can go end to end and make things miserable for opposing defensemen. He has also developed a surprising physical aspect to his game considering his relatively small stature (6’0” 197 lbs.). Furthermore when asked who has the hardest shot on the team Steve Montador and Patrick Lalime have both mentioned Sekera.

This effective Sekera was never more apparent than during the Olympics, playing for the “little train that could” Slovakian team. Scoring a goal against Sweden and playing responsible minutes paired with behemoths Kristian Kudroc and Zdeno Chara. Sekera impressed. Many fans thought that was the end of his troubles. Unfortunately upon his return to Buffalo he played his way into a rotation with Chris Butler.

Sekera reestablished himself during the 2010 playoffs. Paired with Captain Rivet he didn’t have the solid reliable defenseman to fall back on, but still played an unassuming brand of hockey. Finishing with a +2 rating and even getting in the first fight of his NHL career, Sekera was quietly impressive.

The question for Sekera, who his teammates call “Reggie”, is can he stay in the lineup this season. That means adding consistency to his play and making sure he’s playing smart. His knack for serving breakaways on a silver platter once a game has to stop. Chris Butler will look to overcome his sophomore slump and Mike Weber will want his roster spot as well. Even Marc-Andre Gragnani is pushing him as an offensive defenseman.

One thing working in Sekera’s favor is that the Sabres’ roster finally has some players that could pair well with him. Sekera works best with big, physical, shutdown players. Can you name a player that has done that the past two seasons? Me neither. This year an ideal partner could be Shaone Morrisonn and his elaborately spelled name. He could also regain the spark of his rookie season with Mike Weber.

The time is now for Sekera. He needs to put it all together and be the player that the Sabres hope he can be or risk becoming the new Nathan Paetsch. Sekera will not lose the number 44 this season (even though both Jordan Leopold and Rob Niedermayer have used that number in the past) but it’s entirely possible he could lose his roster spot.

Lindy Ruff has stated that he wants Sekera to take on a bigger role next year and after the Olympics Sekera had this to say about playing time: “I will get a chance, I hope, and I’m looking forward to it.” Sabres nation hopes he makes the most of it.

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