Stempniak: Trade was a welcome change

Stempniak1.jpgLee Stempniak has been set loose, like a man escaping prison after
years of purgatory. After every goal he scores for the Coyotes, I
picture Andy Dufresne
raising his arms to the sky
in the pouring rain after slogging 300
yards through filth to freedom.

Since being traded to the Coyotes,
Stempniak has 13 goals and 16 points in 14 games, with an outlandish
30% shooting percentage. He’s been named the NHL’s player of the month
for March, and has become an integral part of the Coyotes’ improbable
push for the top seed in the West. His plus-7 rating is what is most
impressive, by far the best of his career.

It’s the perfect
example of a new environment and a new team
freeing a frustrated player.

“I think (being
traded) was a welcome change,” Stempniak said Friday
after a Coyotes practice. “I certainly wasn’t ready to give up on being
in Toronto or quit on that team. … To come to a team like this was
really, really exciting. It’s a good team and a fresh start, and I’ve
been fortunate to have some success and find chemistry.”

27 goals, Stempniak has tied his career high for a season and has five
games to add to that total. It’s not just scoring goals though, coach
Dave Tippett says.

“He’s been tremendous. … He’s meshed very well with our guys. He’s
kind of a quiet personality, which is not bad having a quiet personality
and carrying a big stick.”

I’m sure being a quiet guy, an underwhelming personality of sorts,
fits much better in Tippett’s locker room in Phoenix. The pressure in
Toronto is tremendous, and making a move to a team like Phoenix can
really free a player up to just focus on what he does best: play hockey.
Ask Mike Ribeiro how that’s worked out for him.

Stempniak’s story — along with the Coyotes — is certainly one of
the highlights of the season. Who would have even contemplated a
sentence like that six months ago?

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    Derek Roy continues his career in Switzerland

    Alex Tanguay, Derek Roy
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    Derek Roy will continue his pro career overseas, as he has signed a contract with Bern in the Swiss League.

    Roy attended training camp on a professional tryout with the Washington Capitals, but he was unable to claim a spot on their roster.

    The 32-year-old had some great years in the NHL, but since the 2011-12 season Roy had suited up for six different teams (excluding his PTO with the Caps).

    His best season came in 2007-08 when he scored 32 goals and 81 points in 78 games with the Buffalo Sabres.

    Roy will leave the NHL with 189 goals and 524 points in 738 career games.

    He will join former NHLers Cory Conacher, Andrew Ebbett, Chuck Kobasew, Simon Moser and Sean Bergenheim in Bern.


    Sabres place Lehner on IR; Recall Lieuwen

    Connor Brown, Robin Lehner

    They’re just one game into their regular season, but the Buffalo Sabres have already had to shift things around in their crease.

    The Sabres announced that they have placed starting goaltender Robin Lehner on injured reserve after he was knocked out of Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury.

    In a corresponding move, the club has recalled Nathan Lieuwen from their AHL affiliate in Rochester.

    The 24-year-old didn’t play in the NHL last season, but he did have a 1-4-0 record with a 2.98 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage in seven games during the 2013-14 season.

    Lieuwen was Buffalo’s sixth round pick, 167th overall, in the 2011 draft.

    The Sabres also announced that they have loaned defenseman Jake McCabe and goaltender Linus Ullmark to the Rochester Americans (AHL).

    McCabe was a healthy scratch in Thursday’s game against Ottawa, while Ullmark is being activated off I.R. after having double hip surgery during the off-season.