Buffalo Sabers | A useful morning workout for Devon Levi

The last time Devon Levi set foot at the Bell Center, “I was watching Carey Price play.” Thursday evening, it will be him who we will watch play.

The Quebecer will indeed defend the Sabers net against his childhood team. Levi faced the Canadian on December 9, at KeyBank Center, in a 3-2 shootout loss.

“It was fun in Buffalo, and it will be more fun here, in this arena. I’m very excited,” Levi said, in front of the dozen journalists waiting for him in front of his locker.

They’ve waited a long time for him, considering he’s the starting goalie. The Sabres’ practice began at 11:30 a.m., and normally, the starting goalie returns to the locker room after about twenty minutes on the ice. But while Tage Thompson, Owen Power and Zach Benson took off their equipment, the Sabres’ masked man’s locker remained empty. Even his assistant, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, left the ice before him, a situation we don’t remember seeing in living memory.

Levi finally appeared in the visitors’ locker room at 12:20 p.m.

That said, Levi is known for his own habits, such as his short meditation sessions on the ice during commercial breaks. Are long morning workouts also part of his habits?

” Not always. It depends on how I feel, replied the Dollardian. Today I wanted to be on the ice to enjoy it. It was special. I wanted to get this out now so I can focus on the game tonight. »

“It was just to enjoy the moment. I really want to remember this later. »

Levi positioned himself somewhat halfway between the cliché of “a match like any other” and recognizing the special side of the evening that awaits him. After all, it was in this same arena that he came to watch his younger childhood team play. “My brother, my father and I often came against Boston. They were good matches, everyone was booing Zdeno Chara, it was fun! »

And tonight ? “It’s the same goal, I have the same intentions. But it’s a little more special to be here. There are very good goalkeepers who have played in this crease-there before me. It’s certainly cool. I just took five or ten minutes to appreciate this moment. »

Levi comes to Montreal in the middle of a trying sequence. In his last four starts, he is 1-2-0, with an average of 4.44 and an efficiency of .850. In his previous four starts, he had registered three victories, with an average of 1.71 and an efficiency of, 942.

Levi, remember, has just turned 22, which makes him the youngest full-time goalie in the NHL this season. He also made the jump directly from the NCAA to the big leagues last spring, and has only played two games in the American League this season. The Sabers have just given him a vote of confidence, by the band, by submitting goaltender Eric Comrie to waivers in order to sell him to Rochester.

In Buffalo, we therefore seem to believe that his transition to the pros will go through the NHL.

“There are things that are the same as in college. It’s the same match. Nothing changes on the ice, he assures. It’s more off the ice that changes: being a pro, having more time, not going to school. There is more noise around, more media, more people talking. It requires having a tunnel vision and just concentrate on the match. I learned this at the beginning of the year. This is the biggest change I have noticed. »

However, he is making this transition in a losing environment. Expectations were high this season in Buffalo after an encouraging 2022-23 campaign. But the team has failed so far with a record of 15-19-4, eight points from the last place giving access to the playoffs. The specter of a 13e exclusion from series continuation seems more and more real.

Wise decision

All is not gloomy around the Sabres, that said. Young Zach Benson, 1er choice of the team last June, continues to arouse enthusiasm, and not only because of his hair which is reminiscent of that of Denis Savard in 1990.

Benson has seven points in his last nine games and is entitled to fifteen minutes on the ice per game.

His progression at this time of the year is particularly interesting, because the Sabers had the option to do like the Bruins with Matthew Poitras and loan him to Junior Team Canada for the World Championship. Benson is still only 18 years old.

General manager Kevyn Adams ultimately preferred to keep him in Buffalo.

“Kevyn spoke to me maybe three times in the month leading up to the decision,” Benson said. At the end of the day, he told me he wanted me to be here, that the team needed points and that I wanted to help them every night. I would have been happy with either scenario: living a dream representing my country, or continuing to live my dream in the NHL. They still asked me what I thought, but I was happy not to have to make the decision, because it would have been difficult to decide! »

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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