Peca To Coach Junior Sabres

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Peca to coach Junior Sabres

Former Buffalo Sabres captain Michael Peca will step into the role of head coach for the Junior Sabres at the conclusion of this season, the team announced Tuesday.

Peca, who is in his first season as the team’s general manager, will finish the campaign as an assistant coach under Russ Certo. Certo was named interim coach after head coach Grant Ledyard stepped down from the post effective immediately.

"Grant has passionately coached this team and has done all he can to help us move this program forward over the past five years," said team president Larry Playfair.

"Hopefully, me coming in I can pick up where [Grant] left off and can continue to [build the program]," said Peca, who has coached youth hockey in the area since retiring from the NHL in January 2010. "If I didn’t feel I was capable [of doing the job] I wouldn’t have accepted the offer."

The Junior Sabres (15-16-7), the only U.S.-based team in the 27-team Junior-A level Ontario Junior Hockey League, will likely end a two-year playoff drought this season. The top two in each of the four divisions receive byes into the division-round semifinals while the teams that place third through sixth play a best-of-five preliminary round series. The Junior Sabres are in third place in the West with 11 games left in the regular season.

But the team entered Tuesday’s game at Northtown Center against Georgetown, Ont., having lost seven of their last nine. That forced Playfair, a former Sabres defenseman like Ledyard, into a tough spot.

"We had a conversation and he agreed to step down," Playfair said of Ledyard before the Junior Sabres lost 6-2 to Georgetown. "The team had gone into a bit of a tail spin and we all agreed there was more talent here than was shown on the ice. … We wanted to make changes before it was too late.

"The Junior Sabres are still in Buffalo in part because of Grant’s commitment [to the team]. It was not [an] easy [decision]."

Peca, a former Selke Award winner, was one of the NHL’s top two-way forwards during a 13-year career. Besides playing for the Sabres, Peca also played for Vancouver, the New York Islanders, Edmonton, Toronto and Columbus.

Peca also works as a television hockey analyst for the NHL on TSN in Canada.

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