Ehrhoff Has Earned His Monster Minutes

BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Christian Ehrhoff #10 of the Buffalo Sabres streches during warm-ups prior to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center on September 24, 2011 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

When the Buffalo Sabres acquired two big-name defensemen this offseason, everyone was wondering which one of them was going to be lucky enough to play with Tyler Myers on the de-facto top pairing.

Maybe we should have been asking who would play with Christian Ehrhoff instead.

Ehrhoff signed a monster deal in the offseason, and he's been earning every penny of it over the past few games. Since the parade of injuries began, The Hoff has been seeing more and more ice time each game, culminating with a whopping 32:48 against the Islanders on Tuesday. Over the past five games, he's averaging almost 28 minutes per game, and has 3 points to go along with his +1 over that stretch.

Lindy Ruff clearly trusts Ehrhoff right now more than any healthy blueliner (as the TOI shows) but even when the team is at full strength Ehrhoff plays on the top powerplay unit and the number two shorthanded unit. And when on the ice, Ehrhoff has been productive - despite a brief lull in scoring a few weeks ago, Ehrhoff is on pace for at least 7 goals and 40 assists, which would most likely put him in the top 15 in scoring amongst defenseman come season's end.

Ehrhoff's cannon shot, smooth skating, and cool-headed decision making have already earned praise from the local media and fans alike, and he seems to play well no matter who he's paired with, whether it be Myers, Leopold, or most recently, Gragnani.

The only downside to Ehrhoff's campaign this season is his -4, which is a far cry from the +19 he put up last year in Vancouver, but much of that can be explained by the fact that he's now on the top pairing in Buffalo by default (where he often played on Vancouver's second unit) and that he's had to cover extras ice time thanks to the Old Testament-style injuries Buffalo has sustained. Oh, and he's +2 in November, so things are trending in the right direction.

Even though the excitement over The Legend of Joe Finley has helped temper some of the recent frustration among Sabres fans, those who are down on the team should take solace in the fact that they did at least one thing in the offseason that's turned out to be very, very right.

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