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The Hockey News

Mike Ribeiro’s game sure got a lot bigger in Texas.

Still slim enough to make the most form-fitting jersey look baggy, the talented center is on pace for a 92-point season in his second year with the Stars. When former Dallas GM Doug Armstrong, dismissed in November, is applying for his next gig you can bet he’s going to put, in bold type, “flipped Janne Niinimaa for a 90-point pivot” at the top of his resume.

It’s not that the Canadiens traded Ribeiro because they thought he was devoid of talent; more like because he never displayed the consistency, determination and maturity to be a big-time producer in the NHL. But a little anonymity has gone a long way for Ribeiro, who’s clearly more comfortable in Dallas than he was toiling under a huge spotlight in his hometown of Montreal.

At 27, Ribeiro is entering his prime years and could give the traditionally offense-starved Stars the front-line center they’ve lacked since Mike Modano was truly capable of filling that role…about five years ago.

Losing Chris Drury and Daniel Briere as free agents last summer definitely hurt the Sabres and their fans.

But one Buffalo boy who could benefit from their departure is pending unrestricted free agent Brian Campbell, who after one day of play in 2008 sat eighth in scoring among NHL defensemen.

At the moment, Campbell is getting by on a salary of 1.5 million. But with the exception of Dion Phaneuf, who is still on his entry-level contract, every blueliner with more points than Campbell makes at least $4 million a season. The one he’s tied for eighth with, Andrei Markov, signed a four-year deal worth $5.75 million annually.

After watching his co-captains blow town mere months ago, I have to think Buffalo GM Darcy Regier is a little sensitive to the notion of another one of his top players wearing a different jersey next season. That, and the fact he’s one of the most creative offensive defensemen in the league, should translate into a very healthy raise for Campbell next season.

Speaking of Buffalo, the cherry on top of a very fun outdoor game was the strong fashion statement made by both teams. Pittsburgh’s fantastic powder-blue uniforms combined with the Sabres’ classic throwbacks made the snowy spectacle that much cooler.

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