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Sabres say Neuvirth needs to ‘feel some love again’

Mar 6, 2014, 10:42 AM EDT

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders Getty Images

Often the odd goalie out in Washington over the last few years, Michal Neuvirth has a fresh start waiting for him in Buffalo following yesterday’s last-second deadline deal.

To hear Sabres GM Tim Murray explain it, all Neuvrith needs to succeed is a little love.

“For whatever reason, he’s a backup [in Washington] and he’s just not as important as he wants to be,” Murray said, per the Buffalo News. “I think when he gets to feel some love again or whatever you want to call it and has an opportunity, then he can get his game back.”

At 25, Neuvirth has a curious resume. He’s played in nearly 150 NHL games but has been used sparingly over the last two seasons, making just 13 appearances last year and another 13 this year as well. It’s a far cry from his breakout 2010-11 campaign when, at the age of 22, he went 27-12-4 with a 2.45 GAA and .914 save percentage, posting four shutouts.

Neuvirth has one year left on his deal (with a reasonable $2.5 million cap hit), so it stands to reason he’ll be given plenty of chances to revive his career in Buffalo. With Ryan Miller gone and Jaroslav Halak heading to Washington, the Sabres are now in the midst of a young goalie battle featuring Neuvirth, Jhonas Enroth and AHL netminders Matt Hackett and Nathan Lieuwen.

(This isn’t ruling out the possibility of drafting another goalie, as the Sabres have a boatload of picks in ’14 and ’15.)

For now, though, the goal is to throw Neuvirth into the mix in the hope that all the goalies will get better by fighting for the No. 1 job.

“We have to create inter-competition,” Murray explained. “This is the start of it.”

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