Lindy Ruff has had it. He benched Tim Connolly for most of the third period of tonight's 2-1 loss to Montreal. The Sabres' coach then said he'd go down to 2 1/2 lines Saturday in Chicago if players aren't competing for ice time. Here are his comments.
Greetings from HSBC Arena, where the natural order of jerseys has been restored. The Sabres took their pregame skate in white, the visiting Canadiens whirled around in red. I never used to mind what teams wore, but my good buddy J.A. Schneider has railed about the NHL's decision to have the home team wear dark for years, and he finally convinced me it's just plain wrong.
Of course, the way the league sees it, teams can have regular and third jerseys in dark colors, and if the home fans see them both, they might like them both and buy them both.
Well, Milt Ellis just introduced the Sabres' starting lineup, and Ronan Tynan is about to do the anthem. We'll be back.
7:40 p.m.: Ronan is light's out, as usual, and this was the first time he's ever done the national anthem. I was hoping he do both that and "God Bless America," but you can't get everything. Take the Sabres, for example, they can't get a sellout tonight. There are more than 1,000 empty seats.
But they can get local stars. Rick Azar is taking the ice now, followed by Frank Sedita Jr. and Seymour H. Knox IV. Floyd Smith and Henri Richard are coming next. The first standing ovation of the ceremony goes to Richard.
And the second standing ovation, and the loudest, goes to Rick Jeanneret.
It's a little quieter as B. Thomas Golisano gets introduced to do a 40th puck drop with Craig Rivet and Brian Gionta. A deserved ovation for Rip Simonick.
7:49 p.m.: And the next 40 years are under way.
7:53 p.m.: The Sabres dodge a bullet as Montreal fires wide an open net -- created just 1:20 in when Andrej Sekera takes out his own goalie, Ryan Miller behind the Buffalo net.
7:57 p.m.: Montreal defenseman and Rookie of the Year candidate P.K. Subban almost took Nathan Gerbe's head off at center with six minutes gone, with almost being the key word. He just missed, then got a whack from Derek Roy for the effort.
8:01 p.m.: And we hit the first commercial break with 10:04 left with no score. Took awhile to get to that commercial, could take only five seconds to get to the next one. For those who haven't timed their bathroom breaks or beer runs through the years, the commercials come at the first whistle after the clock hits 14:00, 10:00 and 6:00. Unless it's an icing. Just thought you should know.
8:05 p.m.: Sabres get first power play with 9:16 left as Benoit Pouliot goes for hooking, according to Voice of the Aud Milt Ellils.
8:08 p.m.: No shots for the Sabres on the power play, which is now 2 for 18 this season.
8:09 p.m.: It's the Habs' turn to on the power play as Paul Gaustad goes off for hooking with 6:54 to go. Montreal is 0 for 9 with the man advantage through three games.
8:10 p.m.: I just looked at the date, so J.A. if you're still reading this, put me down as a yes to attend the wedding. And tell Dana sorry I forgot to mail the reply card today (since it's due tomorrow). I'm such a slacker.
8:12 p.m.: Sabres catch a break as Tomas Plekanec, who seems to always strike against Buffalo, shoots his backhand wide while staring at an open net with 5:48 to go.
8:15 p.m.: Nice little bump by Jaroslav Spacek along the boards as the final TV timeout of the period hits at 3:39, with the score still tied at 0-0. Was having a conversation with soon-to-be-ex-Sabres.com star Erin Pollina (tonight's her last night with the team) this morning about how much we missed having Spacho around the dressing room. It got me thinking of my favorites through my nine seasons, and they're all defensemen: Jay McKee, Brian Campbell, Toni Lydman and Spacho. They made the room a fun place to come every day.
8:22 p.m.: The teams head to the dressing room with a 0-0 tie, though the Sabres almost made it 1-0 in the final minute. Drew Stafford fed Ennis for a partial breakaway, with Carey Price making the stop with 35 sesconds left. Tyler Myers just missed on the rebound attempt. The Sabres have eight shots, Montreal has six.
8:40 p.m.: Game on, with a chant of "Go, Habs, go" ringing through the 300 Level.
8:43 p.m.: Welcome back to the lineup, Chris Butler. The Sabres' defenseman gets a quick dose of bad luck with Montreal scoring off his skate with just 1:29 off the clock. Alexandre Picard's shot from the point was blocked, and Picard recovered and pushed it toward the front, where it hit Butler's foot and went past Miller. It's 1-0 Montreal.
8:49 p.m.: The Habs will go back on the power play with 13:37 left after Ennis interferes with Price. The shots are 3-2 this period in favor of Montreal, with the teams combining for just 19 shots. The Sabres introduce Air Force Capt. Anthony King, the recipient of Butler's Tickets for Troops program.
Another year goes by, and this is still the only rink in the NHL that doesn't give a standing ovation to the introduced military personnel.
8:54 p.m.: Sabres kill the penalty while facing three shots.
9:02 p.m.: Long time with no whistle. It's 1-0 still with 3:51 to go.
9:05 p.m.: The Habs are going back on the power play with 2:25 left after Steve Montador roughs Jeff Halpern. The Sabres blew two glorious scoring chances with about 6:30 left. First, Mike Grier's point-blank deflection of a Rob Niedermayer pass went over the net. Then, Grier had Thomas Vanek wide open in the slot but missed him with the pass. Grier went to the bench and went Paul Bunyan with his stick, giving it an overhead two-hand smash over the boards.
9:09 p.m.: The Habs get their first power-play goal of the season as Josh Gorges rings one of the post and in from the point with 1:05 left. It's 2-0 Montreal.
9:10 p.m.: The teams head to the dressing room with Montreal holding a 2-0 lead and an 18-15 edge in shots. The Habs have allowed 37 shots per game, but the Sabres seem intent on bringing that down. The Sabres haven't scored in 115:29. The last time they were shut out in back-to-back games was to start the 2003-04 season when Philly and the Islanders sent them on their way with nothing.
9:28 p.m.: Game on.
9:33 p.m.: Derek Roy raises his arms and looks skyward as the Sabres finally rediscover the net with 16:34 to play. Price stopped Drew Stafford's wraparound, and the puck moved to Roy at the opposite side of the crease. The center whiffed on his first attempt but had time to recover and make the score 2-1.
9:34 p.m.: The Sabres' goalless drought ends at 118:55.
9:38 p.m.: It's still 2-1 with 13:52 to play.
9:48 p.m.: Montreal holds its 2-1 lead with 6:17 to go. The Habs have a 9-5 shot edge this period.
9:54 p.m.: It's still 2-1 Montreal with 4:40 to go and 17,264 actually making some noise.
9:58 p.m.: Clock has ticked down to 2:28 with the Sabres trying to push for the tie.
10 p.m.: The Sabres try to get Miller to the bench with 34.8 seconds left, but they ice the puck, bringing the faceoff to the Buffalo zone and Miller back on the ice. Timeout, Sabres.
10:05 p.m.: Montreal wins, 2-1. The Sabres are 0-3-1 at home and 1-3-1 overall. They're in Chicago on Saturday night.
The Sabres might not see South Buffalo native Patrick Kane when they play their return engagement against the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night in the United Center. Kane was ill and missed practice Thursday, and he did not make the trip to Columbus for tonight's game against the Blue Jackets. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Hawks will likely call someone up from the minor leagues to replace him.
Sabres defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, who suffered a groin injury Wednesday late in the the 1-0 overtime loss to New Jersey, skipped practice today and will miss Friday's home game against Montreal and Saturday's road game in Chicago.
"He’s just got a groin injury, and he’ll miss tomorrow," coach Lindy Ruff said today. "I would assume if he misses tomorrow, he won’t be ready for Saturday. It’s going to be a little bit of time."
Either Chris Butler or Mike Weber will replace Morrisonn in the lineup. Ruff refused to say which blue-liner would move in, but early signs point to Butler.
I did not see MacLean's blowup. I was in the press room doing a Sabres blog post and heard the Devils leaving the ice, so I headed to the hallway by their dressing room door. The players walked by en masse and many were smiling and laughing. Hardly the reaction I would think MacLean wanted. We went in the dressing room for the next 10 minutes (talking to Henrik Tallinder and Adam Mair) and the interviews were cut short as Hall of Famer and assistant coach Larry Robinson pulled them all into a small office for another chat, termed as for the penalty killers. Uh-huh.
Maybe Robinson was reminding them about all the fans they have back in bucolic Newark. Maybe giving them a little of this:
Whatever. Jokes aside, the Devils have a serious situation going. They're 0-2-1 and their 14 goals against are the most in the league. Martin Brodeur has a 4.11 GAA and .859 save percentage (although Ryan Miller has hardly been a world-beater at 3.40 and .880).
Let's just say this is a game you have to feel the Sabres need. They've never lost their first three home games under Lindy Ruff (it hasn't happened since 1993). In fact, they had not dropped their first two at home under Ruff (hadn't happened since the arena's 1996 inaugural under Ted Nolan). No crisis here yet. Emphasis on yet.
---Mike Harrington (www.twitter.com/bnharrington)
9:22 p.m.: The puck is dropped
4:07 left: Kovalchuk wins it with a bomb off the post on a Matt Taormina feed. Horrible play in the zone by Sekera, who might be watching from the press box on Friday. Terrible 1-0 loss.
16:00 left: Was wrapping up some print edition duties but you didn't miss anything. Still scoreless. Two shots for the Devils thus far. Nice music choice here: "One is the Loneliest Number."
13:49 left: Out of town, old friend Clarke MacArthur has his fourth goal in three games and the Leafs have a 4-2 lead at Pittsburgh on the way to a 3-0 start.
12:10 left: Miller stops Patrik Elias on a partial breakaway. It's the Devils who have found their legs. Shots are 4-0. Yep, nearly eight minutes without a shot for Buffalo.
10:28 left: Another huge cheer as Roy gets Buffalo's first shot of this period, an easy save that Brodeur holds on to. It's 5-1 for Devils in this period, and 31-17 for the game.
5:53 left: Couple good chances for the Sabres. Morrisonn just wide from the slot and Ennis stopped by Brodeur. Does it seem like these teams are just doing nothing dangerously so they get at least one point? It's a long time to drag that out. Attendance is announced as a sellout of 18,690. Pretty legit tonight. Almost no empties in the 300s.
5:10 left: Miller stops Langenbrunner from in tight after Niedermayer is outworked behind the net by Arnott, who pushed the puck in front.
21.0 left: With almost no whistles for four minutes, the action really heated up. Couple strong saves by Brodeur and Miller keeps the scoreless tie by robbing Zubrus at the tail end of what started as a 3-on-1. That can't happen in the final 30 seconds.
We go to OT: Shots were 8-8 in the third and it's 34-24 for the Devils. First OT for the Sabres. Devils are 0-1, losing their opener to Dallas.
Of note: Scorers have taken away the Myers shot on goal and changed the first-period count to 15-1. Must have looked at a replay and determined it was going wide? Did it not get through? Didn't see a replay but it clearly looked like it was a pad save and you heard the thud? Hmmm. Update: The ruling was that the shot hit Vanek in the leg and never got through.
18:26 left: Myers loses the puck at the blue line to cause an offside. The point men have simply not been strong enough on the PP. Stafford had a shot 36 seconds into the period to draw more Bronx cheers -- and equal the first period total.
16:02 left: Brodeur's best save as Roy curls around Andy Greene and gets in alone. One of the few times you've seen some real chug in the legs of a Sabres forward. The Devils only have three lines. Shouldn't the Sabres' strategy be to skate them out of the building and wear them down?
12:52 left: Finally seeing some skating here. Fourth line had a good shift at the start before getting hemmed in and needing Miller to bail them out. Grier outskated Tallinder in the Devils' end and Montador fired wide on a good drop pass. Brodeur just made another shot on the Sabres' seventh of the period. (Devils have four).
9:00 left: Gotta hand it to Puddy's Devils. Even with skill guys like Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, they play some deadly boring hockey. Maybe that's why they've been 0-2-1 so far -- too wide open. They've got it tightened back up tonight. Sabres have a 9-5 edge in shots in this period. Good thing for the folks here this was only a Value game. Not much bang for their few bucks.
7:05 left: Fourth line has good pressure but Kaleta takes a bad interference penalty in the offensive zone by dumping Jamie Langenbrunner. Excellent shift by McCormick, who again used his size to work down low and got a good shot off that Brodeur had to stop.
6:20 left: Miller stops Jason Arnott's hot one-timer up in the neck area. He's a little stunned by that one.
2:21 left: It's definitely opening up. Probably plays more to the Sabres advantage. Shots are 13-10 for Buffalo in this period.
1:05 left: Brodeur stops Vanek on a slapper from the right wing and then from the circle right off the faceoff. Sabres have 15 shots this period.
End-2nd: It's zip-zip through 40 minutes. Shots were 15-11 for the Sabres and 26-16 for the Devils. You know how sometimes a low-scoring game can have riveting action? This is not one of them.
Of note: Three ex-Sabres in the Devils' starting lineup. Adam Mair, making his New Jersey debut, is at center and Dainius Zubrus is at left wing (David Clarkson on the right). And old friend Henrik Tallinder is on defense. The Sabres are going with Stafford-Roy-Hecht, with Leopold-Montador on defense.
More alumni news: The Rangers have just sent Tim Kennedy to Hartford of the AHL in order to make room on the roster for Chris Drury. Guess that arbitration decision worked out well for the South Buffalo kid, huh? Shoulda taken the deal, Timmy. Shoulda taken the deal.
The gold "Pominville Population" sign that hangs nightly above Section 312 and counts up No. 29's goal total is in its usual spot. Next to it instead of a number, however, is a white banner that says simply, "Get Well Soon".
19:03 left: Montador goes for delay of game for a puck-over-glass violation. Yeesh.
17:00 left: terrific kill by Hecht, Connolly, Grier among others. Devils never got set up until final 30 seconds and Miller made just one save. Kovys, however, have first five shots of the game.
13:22 left: Sabres doing very little in the Devils' zone. Still no shots on goal against the team with the worst defense in the league thus far (14 goals in three games). Pretty funny to look at the Devils' bench and see all the players spread out and comfy, compared to what looks like a tight fit on the Buffalo side. That's what happens when you play this short-handed.
12:44 left: Sekera cranks one off the post past a beaten Brodeur. Still no shots.
11:20 left: Big hit in the corner on Mark Fraser lands Kaleta in the box for charging. McCormick was with him.
9:10 left: Another penalty over after Miller robbed Clarkson from just to the right of the crease. Great stretch of the leg. Shots are 9-0. As in more than half a period gone with no offense.
8:05 left: This is '09-10 Miller goaltending. He just robbed Travis Zajac after a brutal Hecht giveaway on a blind pass to the slot and then stopped our man Kovalchuk from in tight. It's 12-0 on the shot clock. Yes, 12-0. Brodeur must be wondering if he's got a full team in front of him!
7:42 left: McCormick understands situations. He just went toe-to-toe with Fraser and got it going with a huge left. Fraser came back and won the second half of the bout with a few rights but that at least got the crowd back into this one.
5:32 left: Sabres finally get a break as Clarkson goes for goalie interference. The way the 2-for-15 power play has been thus far, we'll see how big a break it really turns out to be. Shots are 14-0. Almost Bills-like.
The lines tonight without Pominville are Stafford-Roy-Hecht, Ennis-Connolly-Vanek, Grier-Niedermayer-Gerbe and Gaustad-McCormick-Kaleta. Same defense pairs: Leopold-Montador, Morrisonn-Myers and Sekera-Rivet.
3:42 left: Gerbe gets the first shot, a 10-footer from nearly on the goal line to Brodeur's left -- and the crowd lets out a huge Bronx cheer. The power play was downright silly. Connolly continues to give the puck away at the point and guys are consistently outworked for it along the wall. Nice tip by Vanek goes wide and no other real chances.
24.9 seconds left: Classic Kaleta-drawn penalty as he pounds Travis Zajac right in front of Rob Ray and then Zajac gets the roughing call on retaliation.
End-1st: With the crowd roaring -- basically begging -- the Sabres to shoot, Myers does and Brodeur makes a solid pad save in the final 20 seconds. So we're scoreless through one and the shots are 15-2. The Sabres' passing has been sloppy, they've accomplished nothing on their forecheck and simply aren't skating anywhere close to the way they did against Chicago. Brodeur has been terrible thus far this season and they haven't challenged him at all. Chalk this one up to Miller and come out better in the second. Yikes.
New Jersey is 0-2-1 heading into tonight's game in HSBC Arena and will be dressing only 16 skaters to due to its ongoing salary cap concerns. And you can sense the tension around the Kovalchuks, er, Devils.
First-year coach John MacLean threw his team off the ice and ended their morning skate today after less than 20 minutes following an errant pass from star Zach Parise. MacLean had stopped it a few minutes earlier and uttered a few profanities while ordering a drill restarted.
"I thought it was just too laissez faire for a team that hasn't won a game yet," MacLean said. "It's not desperation. It's an air of professionalism. We have to be ready to play the game. That's what I'm looking for."
Former Sabre Adam Mair was signed yesterday to add to the Devils' lineup. Mair had a good camp but had to wait for a contract while cap issues were dealt with.
"Expectations here are so high and they should be," Mair said. "They have a history of success. We want to win a Stanley Cup like they've done here. We have to let our skill take over. We can't be overthinking and let the expectations create uneasiness. We just have to go play our game."
It will also be the first game back for Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who signed a four-year deal after the Sabres disappointed him by only offering two.
"I was disappointed," Tallinder said. "It would have been a lot of security coming back. You wouldn't have to adjust to a new system, new faces, new team. But in some ways it's kind of exciting too. A new adventure."
Mair said Sabres GM Darcy Regier never called him back after his end-of-season interview. Tallinder said Regier didn't call back after offering the two-year deal. You hear that all the time. Bizarre way to do business. Why not call and just say thanks and we're moving in another direction? Whatever.
The Sabres are trying to get their minds set on playing the New Jersey Devils tonight in HSBC Arena but much of the chatter this morning remained centered on the Hjalmarsson-Pominville situation.
Coach Lindy Ruff was clearly unhappy by the two-game suspension given to the Chicago defenseman.
"It was exactly what I guessed," Ruff said. "I understand [the NHL's] feelings towards it. Personally I don't think it is (enough).
"If I had to play commissioner, I would have went more. Two games isn't a long time sitting in their case. They play a couple games this week and it's over in three days."
Ryan Miller was emphatic Tuesday that he wanted the league to send a message to change the culture of hitting. Speaking in more measured tones today, Miller was cautiously optimistic.
"The league evaluated it and it's good they did something about it," Miller said. "It does set some sort of a tone. It's some kind of discipline, a step towards making the players responsible for decisions they make on the ice. We'll see how it unfolds in the coming weeks and months, if guys are really going to pay attention to what they're doing on the ice. "
Craig Rivet said he was OK with the decision but was then asked if it was fair the suspension was the same as the two-game ban given to the Islanders James Wisniewski for his obscene gesture to Sean Avery on Monday.
"It comes down to a respect factor, not only to the guys you're playing against but the people who pay money to come to the game," Rivet said. "That was a poor decision on his part I'm sure he'd like to have back."
So what happens now? The Sabres and Hawks meet Saturday in Chicago in what will be Hjalmarsson's first game back.
"Each game has a new feeling to it," Rivet said. "I'm sure the next game is going to be heated. The most important part is to get the two points. We'll see what happens."
Miller seemed to strike a conciliatory tone.
"If I condone going after Hjalmarsson, I'm not changing the culture. We need to play good, clean hockey against him. Somebody can get in his face a little bit and make it tough on him all night, that's just playing hockey. If somebody can go make a clean play on him, that's playing hockey.
"I don't think we should go head-hunting. I don't think we should do something stupid. Just go play hard. The best thing we can do right now is establish our game and not get caught up in the trivial stuff, the side stuff. We've got bigger things going on. Worry about playing hockey the way we want to play. It's going to be an element of the hockey game I'm sure.
"People will be talking about it and there will be some emotion surrounding it but you're not going to condone a donnybrook and go old-school or whatever your guys are talking about. I'd like to think the game has evolved a little bit."
Let's get gameday started by invoking Mario Lemieux's classic 1992 slam: The NHL has once again shown it's a garage league. How in the world does Niklas Hjalmarsson only get a two-game suspension for his vicious blindside hit of Jason Pominville? How is that play even possibly similar to James Wisniewski's obscene gesture at Sean Avery? The league says it is, because Wisniewski also got two games Tuesday.
Here's what's cluttering my mind about discipline czar Colin Campbell's latest mess:
---Did anyone in the league office check the schedule? Hjalmarsson sits two games, so when does he get back? Saturday night in the United Center. Against the Sabres. So is the league giving Buffalo carte blanche to create mayhem in retaliation? Doubt it. Patrick Kaleta already threatened some after practice Tuesday. But if he does something, he's not getting two games. Book it. Stinks of the warning system in baseball: You hit my guy, you get a warning, I hit yours and I get ejected and suspended.
The Sabres and Hawks won't play for at least another year, perhaps longer. You make it a three-game ban and you basically cut way back on the mayhem potential Saturday.
---This was not a head-shot hit that was added to the rules this year. This was a reckless, blindside play we've seen too often over the years. Ryan Miller said Tuesday the league needs to change the culture where players don't respect each other. Two games doesn't change anything. Six or eight or 10 might help.
---Hold your emails from Chicago. It would be an equal joke if, say, Tyler Myers made the same play against Marian Hossa and got two games.
---I don't care that Hjalmarsson didn't mean it or doesn't have a rep. Obviously, the NHL does and that's how he got off with a wrist slap.
---Would the penalty have been more if the injury had been worse? We could have been looking at a Kevin Everett situation. What if Pominville is in a hospital paralyzed right now? So it's two games because it's "only" a concussion? Tell to that Pat LaFontaine. Tell that right now to Marc Savard. Maybe Pominville is back next week. Maybe he isn't. Hjalmarsson will be back Saturday night.
---And what if, say, Sidney Crosby had been wheeled off on a stretcher? Even if Hjalmarsson "didn't mean it," bet the house it wouldn't have been just two games. Disgraceful.
---The league will rail against this point but it bears watching how Campbell's work goes this year vis-a-vis Northeast Division teams. Remember, his son Gregory was traded over the summer from Florida to Boston. Let's see how Campbell deals with the Bruins on such an issue. The Sabres certainly got the short end of this stick. How would Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa have fared?
The NHL has suspended Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson for two games following his hit from behind against the Sabres' Jason Pominville on Tuesday.
The two-game decision sets up a possibly contentious rematch Saturday when the Sabres visit the Blackhawks. Chicago plays Nashville on Wednesday and Columbus on Friday, making Hjalmarsson eligible to return Saturday for the meeting in United Center.
"It’ll get taken care of either with the league," Sabres right Patrick Kaleta said this afternoon before the decision was handed down, "or I think we play them Saturday, so we’ll make a point that you can’t be taking hits like that against one of our leaders and one of the better players on our team."
Hjalmarsson had a meeting with NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell this afternoon following his five-minute boarding major and game misconduct Tuesday night. The hit left Pominville concussed and cut, with seven or eight stitches needed to close the gash above his eye. There is no timetable for the return of Pominville, who will have his streak of 336 consecutive games played broken Wednesday when New Jersey visits HSBC Arena.
"He’s doing OK," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said today. "He’s at home resting. He still has some symptoms, but he’s feeling better, so hopefully he just progresses. As soon as the symptoms are gone, you start to progress with him. You start to get him exercise.
"Typically, in these cases, that can take any amount of time. Obviously, you’ve got to factor in when a player doesn’t have any fitness for three, four, five days, then it takes a few days to get back in the grind, too.
"We’re just hoping first and foremost that he starts feeling well in the next few days."
The suspension was the second two-game sitting handed out by the league today. It also gave New York Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski two games for making a lewd gesture to the Rangers' Sean Avery.
Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson was scheduled to have a 1 p.m. meeting with NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell about his hit on Jason Pominville, and there's no word yet on a suspension. A vocal and agitated Ryan Miller hopes it's a substantial one.
"No matter badly Hjalmarsson feels, it’s still an illegal hit, it still put our guy out and it’s still suspendable in my mind," the Sabres' goaltender said today. "It absolutely needs to be punished. I don’t care if it’s unintentional. That’s what we need to get away from in hockey right now, the culture of it where, 'I was trying to make a play, therefore it’s not my fault.'
"A hockey hit is to separate a man from the puck, not anticipating the puck getting there, hitting him from behind and driving him into the boards. So you have two things right there: The puck wasn’t completely there, it was anticipation of it, there’s no separation and it’s a hit from behind.
"It’s completely something where I don’t know if enough was made of it because Jason is walking out with just stitches. What if Jason has a fractured neck? We don’t even know if it’s going to have an impact with concussion, so I just think no matter how badly Hjalmarsson feels, no matter if it’s unintentional, we have to change the culture of it if we’re ever going to change the situations we’re seeing, where guys are laying on the ice bleeding and missing time with concussions. It’s completely an unnecessary play.
"I’m glad he admitted to it and didn’t need to do it, but you’ve got to change the culture sometime, and I hope the league wakes up and sets a precedent for the year."
The Sabres will be forced to shuffle their lines with Jason Pominville sidelined by a concussion, and the initial moves have Thomas Vanek shifting from left wing to right wing. The first look at lines as the Sabres start practice in HSBC Arena:
Jochen Hecht-Derek Roy-Drew Stafford
Tyler Ennis-Tim Connolly-Thomas Vanek
Nathan Gerbe-Rob Niedermayer-Mike Grier
Paul Gaustad-Cody McCormick-Patrick Kaleta
UPDATE: The Sabres have begun power-play work, with Tim Connolly moving to the point to replace Pominville and Jochen Hecht taking Connolly's spot on the second unit. The groups:
Stafford-Vanek-Roy, with Tyler Myers-Connolly on the point.
Ennis-Hecht-Gerbe, with Jordan Leopold-Andrej Sekera at the blue line.
Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson is scheduled to have a hearing with NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell at 1 p.m. today about his hit on the Sabres' Jason Pominville, TSN is reporting. The hearing will determine whether Hjalmarsson gets a suspension in addition to his major boarding penalty and game misconduct for the blindside hit that gave Pominville a concussion.
First the good news: Coach Lindy Ruff said Jason Pominville was sitting up in the Sabres' locker room after Monday's game, dealing with only a concussion and a seven- or eight-stitch cut above the eye after taking his vicious hit from behind from Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Of course, the bad news is that Pominville is certainly going to be out of the lineup for an undetermined period of time.
"He's doing OK," Ruff said of Pominville. "He got sewn up [7-8 stitches above the eye], he's sitting up. Obviously, he has a concussion. [Hjalmarsson] made a big mistake. He caught a player in a tough spot. It will be addressed. ... That was bad. He's not that type of player but he made a mistake obviously."
"That was a terrible hit," said Thomas Vanek. "It was a hit to the head from behind. [Hjalmarsson] is not a dirty player. That was just a bad hit obviously. He got penalized for it and I'm sure they'll look at it again."
Pominville, the team's iron man, was playing in his 336th consecutive game but that streak will almost certainly end. Ruff wouldn't speculate how long Pominville would be out, but concussions usually are seven days or more.
"I'm not even going to guess right now," Ruff said. "Obviously, it's going to be a period of time."
Ruff said the Sabres had to battle through the mental trauma of seeing their teammate taken off on a stretcher and refocusing on the game.
"You're first and foremost worried about a teammate," ruff said. That part was tough but we worked through that part. ... I was worried. It was a quiet bench for a while. Sometimes that's understandable. We've had some bad things happen in this building [referring to the 2008 injury to Florida's Richard Zednik] where you have to put the player first."
Greetings from high atop HSBC Arena as the Sabres meet the Chicago Blackhawks in their third game of the season and the midpoint of their arduous six-games-in-nine-nights run to open the schedule. The Sabres (1-1) talked a pretty good talk this morning in the wake of their home-opening stinker Saturday night against the Rangers while the Blackhawks (0-1-1) are simply trying to get in the win column.
Let's see how the Sabres fare in the effort department tonight. They simply didn't answer the bell Saturday and a stern captain Craig Rivet was pretty adamant about his feelings when I approached him this morning.
"The effort was not there which is probably the most diappointing thing," Rivet said. "That starts upstairs [pointing to his head]. You have to make sure your brain is working and it will tell your body what to do. ... We need to play a lot better hockey."
Lindy Ruff surprised all of us when he admitted his team might have gotten a little full of itself in the wake of a solid preseason that was capped by a 9-3 win over Philadelphia's 'B' team and its opening 40 minutes of domination at Ottawa. Ruff had plenty of words on the ice this morning for Thomas minus-5 Vanek and Drew Stafford, who has been invisible since the first period of the opener.
"The message was it wasn't good enough," Ruff said. "I talked [to Vanek] about the game and about the five or six great opportunities in the Ottawa game and sometimes frustration gets to him. We're by that point. We're an older team now. Frustration can't effect your play. keep your nose to the grindstone."
We'll see if the Sabres get their work ethic in tow tonight. Keep it here for all of your updates and observations. And there better be no "Chelsea Dagger" played in this building tonight.
Kane will be in the starting lineup tonight at right wing, with Brian Bickell on the left side and Patrick Sharp, who would have looked nice in a Sabres jersey as part of the Hawks' salary purge, in the middle. The Sabres are shuffling things from this morning with Derek Roy starting between Drew Stafford and Jochen Hecht.
This one doesn't appear close to a sellout. Lots of empties on the corners five minutes before faceoff.
---Mike Harrington (www.twitter.com/bnharrington)
Here's the MSG feed on the Pominville hit
An announcement was just made here that Pominville is "resting comfortably" in the Sabres locker room.
16:24 left: Too much room for Hossa. Montador keeps backing in and the winger drills one past Miller to make it 4-2. His second of the night.
14:36 left: We have a Tim Connolly sighting. His first of the year is a tap-in as a pinching Montador shoved the puck across the crease. Sabres trail, 4-3. Let's see if that gets the life back in this club.
13:37 left: Kopecky for delay of game gives the Sabres a huge PP chance.
8:50 left: Power play has been a disaster in this game. Where have we heard that before? It's 0 for 4. Morrisonn goes for hooking -- Hawks are 1 for 2.
7:31 left: Roy, who has easily been the best Sabre in three games, outworks Norris Trophy winner Keith in a race and battle for the puck and gets a quick one-handed shot toward Crawford. No. 9 came to play this season. For the most part, No. 19 has not.
5:02 left: The building is oddly dead. Shots are 32-29 for Buffalo, 9-8 in this period. It's a one-goal game but it seems like it's 7-3. Attendance announced at 17,896. That's about 800 shy of a sellout. Seems right.
3:10 left: Super saves by Crawford on Gaustad and Grier keep the Hawks in front. Crawford has 30 saves in his first game of the season and has allowed only one goal since the first three minutes.
2:28 left: Too many men on the ice for the Hawks. The power play MUST come through here.
26.1 left: One shot on the PP -- with Miller out for the final half of it. Terrible job all night.
It's over: A 4-3 loss. Shots were 35-30.
HERE'S THE POMINVILLE HIT, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO MISSED IT. Repeating our bulletin: He has a concussion and will not return to the game but remains in the building and has not been taken to a hospital.
Of note: Kane, of course, remains at minus-2 in the game because his goal was on the power play. Three more shots on goal from Vanek in the first 20 minutes, all from in close, but no goals.
18:30 left: We're under way and Miller stops Kane from in front and then pops Brian Bickell with his glove for getting too close. Miller is obviously agitated by the Pominville situation; while his teammates (led by Connolly) correctly went after Hjalmarsson, the goalie was the first one waving to the bench for help.
15:52 left: It's tied at 2-2. Grier can't clear the zone and Nick Leddy's shot banks in off Morrisonn. Toews grabs the puck for first NHL goal.
UPDATE: POMINVILLE HAS A CONCUSSION AND IS STILL IN THE BUILDING. HE HAS NOT BEEN TRANSPORTED TO THE HOSPITAL
14:39 left: McCormick pounds Jake Dowell. The Sabres are obviously agitated. Kaleta, however, also got an interference penalty so Buffalo is short-handed.
9:30 left: We're still tied at 2-2. Shots are 13-2 for Chicago in this period. The Hawks have been all over the Sabres, who seem dispirited by the Pominville situation.
2:04 left: Miller stops Kane streaking through the right circle. He's kept the Sabres in this period.
1:13 left: The Hawks lead 3-2 as Hossa beats Miller on a clear breakaway. Myers and Morrisonn didn't notice Hossa as he snuck off the bench. That can't happen. Just can't.
38.8 left: Sabres go to the power play as Hossa goes for interference.
End-2nd: Hawks lead, 3-2. Shots were 17-10 for Chicago. It's 23-22 for Buffalo.
19:46 left: THAT'S how you start. Roy feeds Stafford for a quick slot in the slot and it's 1-0 after 14 seconds. Remember that power-play layup Stafford missed early Saturday? No mistake this time. Roy and Leopold with the assists.
17:28 left: A little Angola-South Buffalo rivalry perhaps? Kane is stopped by Miller on a routine wrist shot and Kaleta chirps in his ear at the whistle.
17:17 left: Wow. Roy puts home a Stafford rebound to make it 2-0 and the Seabrook-Keith defense pair for the Hawks looks stuck in the mud. Already Roy's fourth of the year. From Hecht and Stafford. Two goals on four shots. Some pretty big talent all minus-2 already for the Hawks: Keith-Seabrook-Sharp-Kane.
15:11 left: Are the Hawks even in the building? They're getting outshot 6-1 and now Dave Bolland is going to the box for hooking.
13:48 left: That PP could have created a stranglehold. Instead, it ends disastrously as Connolly commits a lazy turnover along the wall and then is sent off for tripping Marian Hossa. Hawks go down the ice and Seabrook barely missed potting a rebound.
Here are the lines that have skated: Hecht-Roy-Stafford, Vanek-Connolly-Pominville, Ennis-Niedermayer-Grier, Gaustad-McCormick-Kaleta. On defense, it's Leopold-Montador, Morrisonn-Myers and Sekera-Rivet.
12:16 left: Kane makes that a minus-1, dancing through the Buffalo zone while celebrating the second hometown tally of his career. It was a quick wrist shot that Miller appeared to get a piece of. What a difference that blown PP makes now. Kane's first of the season. Also the first PP goal against Buffalo. Sabres, 2-1.
9:00 left: Some wild action in about a 20-second span. Kaleta nearly pushes the puck across the line (getting smoke from the scoreboard but there's no goal ruled). Keith fires just wide for the Hawks (or it may have grazed the post) and Vanek is stopped on a partial breakaway. Still 2-1 with shots at 9-5 for Buffalo.
5:42 left: Pominville down on the ice. Crushed along the boards by a brutally dirty hit by Niklas Hjalmarsson. He's gone but much more important, Pominville hasn't moved and the stretcher is on the ice. Pominville is strapped to the stretcher and taken off the ice. He moved his right arm and was talking to doctors as he was wheeled off. The game continues after a delay of seven minutes. It's a five-minute boarding major, a game misconduct and it better be about a 10-game suspension too.
4:21 left: The Sabres had two good chances but were stopped by Crawford and Myers crushes Fernando Pisani along the boards to get the crowd going. The building is still stunned by the Pominville situation.
POMINVILLE UPDATE: The Sabres' right winger was taken through the Zamboni entrance and to the arena medical station rather than a local hospital upon exiting the ice. The right winger had his hands crossed on his chest and was followed down the hall by his wife. There is no immediate word on his condition or the next step in the medical process ---John Vogl
End of the 1st: The Sabres lead, 2-1, and have a 13-5 edge in shots. We'll obviously have more on Pominville when it becomes available. Pominville is the team's active leader in consecutive games played -- tonight was his 336th straight since being a healthy scratch against Philadelphia on April 7, 2006.
The Blackhawks are 0-1-1 this season and trying to move on from their Stanley Cup season tonight in HSBC Arena. In what may have been the last blast of their Cup victory, they raised their banner Saturday night in the United Center.
Here's a pair of videos from that ceremony, the first including the introduction of the players and Jonathan Toews' skate with the Cup and the other being the 1961 champions handing the banner over to the 2010 players and its rise to the United Center rafters.
NHL.com, in an attempt to get fans hooked on its GameCenter Live, is offering the online program free today. GameCenter has streaming video of live out-of-market game broadcasts and full-length and condensed replays of games you missed. There is also unlimited access to more than 500 classic games.
The media swarmed Patrick Kane's locker this morning after the Chicago Blackhawks' pregame skate and the South Buffalo native held court for 10 minutes on a variety of topics, ranging from hockey to getting a phone call from President Obama to taking the stage with Jimmy Buffett. A lot has happened to the 21-year-old in the wake of winning the Stanley Cup.
"It's pretty special coming back to your hometown," he said. "My childhood is basically in this rink. Any time you think of it like that, it's pretty special."
Kane spent the night at his parents' house in his old room and said there will be three suites full of South Buffalo folk at tonight's game.
"I didn't have to work too hard for tickets this year so I was able to set up my buddies and my family in those boxes so it was pretty nice," he said.
Here's the audio of Kane's chat with reporters today:
In other Hawks news, backup Corey Crawford will start in goal tonight against Ryan Miller. It will be his first game of the season and ninth NHL game. Newly signed veteran Marty Turco played in the first two games.
"Corey is ready for a challenge," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We think he can help us."
Patrick Sharp, who missed Saturday's game with a mild concussion, is back on the line tonight with Kane and Fernando Pisani. The Hawks are 0-1-1 to open the season after the loss of several players due to the salary cap.
"We're in the winning business and the winning now business," Quenneville said. "So I think both teams are going to be excited to play today's game."
John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, is in his sixth season covering the Buffalo Sabres. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.