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Devil of a time

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.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

 

Lindy disappointed, players diplomatic about ruling on suspension

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."

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Hjalmarsson ruling shows NHL doesn't get it, so what else is new?

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?

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Video: Vogl recaps beginning of season

John Vogl recaps the Sabres first three games of the season in this video produced by James McCoy:

Two-game suspension for Hjalmarsson

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.

---John Vogl

Miller: 'I hope the league wakes up and sets a precedent for the year'

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 complete audio of Miller's chat is below.

---John Vogl

Vanek may move to right side with Pominville out

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.

---John Vogl

Report: Hjalmarsson to have hearing at 1 p.m.

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.

---John Vogl

Sabres-Blackhawks highlights

NHL.com has video highlights of the Sabres' 4-3 loss to Patrick Kane and Chicago on Monday, and here they are. The Sabres got started with a Drew Stafford goal just 14 seconds in.

---John Vogl

Lindy on Pominville: 'He's doing OK'

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."

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

 

Three stars: Blackhawks 4, Sabres 3

Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Kanes, er, Hawks

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.

Plenty of South Buffalo folk, all likely related to Patrick Kane, in the house this morning for the Hawks' pregame skate. It's been open all three times Kane has come to Buffalo and that's a nice touch by the Hawks (visitors' skates are almost always closed). Be sure to check out the audio of Kane's in-depth interview with reporters today at our earlier post. 

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) 

Third Period

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. 

 

Second Period

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.

First Period

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.

 

See the highlights of the Blackhawks' banner night

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.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

NHL.com offers free games today

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.

---John Vogl

A Kane holds court

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."

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Ruff looking for big response

There are times when Lindy Ruff wants to end a news conference on his terms, when he wants his final words to be the lasting impression. This morning was one of those times.

"You can look over there and say, 'That's where we want to be.' Thanks," said Ruff, as he quickly turned through the media members and headed off to prepare for tonight's game between his Sabres and the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Sabres have been talking Stanley Cup since Day One of training camp, and a meeting with the defending champs should be a good measuring stick. Ruff hopes his team is no longer full of itself, which the coach believes was part of the reason for Saturday's 6-3 mashing at the hands of the Rangers.

"I thought so. It looked like it," Ruff said about having an ego-inflated team. "Part of it came from a 9-3 win against Philly your last preseason game, getting almost 20 chances in Ottawa, thinking this is all going to be about offense.

"It's not hard to correct. I'm waiting to see what the response is."

---John Vogl

Rivet has quick chat prior to morning skate

All the Sabres are on the ice at HSBC Arena for tonight's morning skate in preparation for tonight's game against the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Just prior to the start of the 10 a.m. workout, captain Craig Rivet called the entire team over to one blue line and addressed them before coach Lindy Ruff had taken the ice.

Suffice to say, that chat had to be related to Saturday night's 6-3, home-opening clunker against the New York Rangers.

It looks like Cody McCormick will be back in the lineup and Nathan Gerbe will be back out tonight, based on the lines currently skating. Chris Butler and Mike Weber remain the scratches on defense. Things look like this:

Ennis-Roy-Stafford
Vanek-Connolly-Pominville
Grier-Niedermayer-Hecht
Gaustad-McCormick-Kaleta
Myers-Morrisonn
Leopold-Montador
Sekera-Rivet

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Three stars

Live from the Arena: It's the home opener!

Friday night's gutty win in Ottawa was a great way to start a season but it's really going to feel like hockey time when we see the opening faceoff tonight in HSBC Arena. It's the Sabres and Rangers kicking off the home portion of 40th anniversary season and we'll be here all night with various game updates and observations.

Looking forward to what kind of pregame ceremonies we'll see, especially the videos. We can crab all we want about the music they play -- someone should get fired if "Chelsea Dagger" is piped through here again like it was last week -- but the video montages the Sabres put out are usually riveting. (Music plusses: I'm typing this to "American Pie" and I know they've got "Piano Man" coming later, as in "It's 9 o'clock on a Saturday"). 

Lots of Rangers fans crowding the visiting tunnel for warmups, many wearing the time-tested classic Blueshirts. It's the franchise's 85th anniversary season opener. Lots of the terrific new Sabres apparel around the stands too; the team will be wearing the new thirds tonight. The "NHL FACE-OFF 2010" logo is painted on the ice inside each blueline. Dear NHL: The word is not hyphenated. Come on. 

Speaking of logos and such, I've been getting this question constantly the last three weeks but the slug is still up on the bottom of the HD board. I would imagine it would be down by now if it was coming down. I know they like the red eye in it in and such. Wish it was outta here but those beautiful crossed swords are at center ice and the new duds look terrific on the players so I guess you can't have everything.

Just looked through the binoculars and the 2010 Northeast Division banner is rolled up next to the 2007 Presidents Trophy banner. It's going to be a blue and gold banner, just like the '07 division winner.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

THIRD PERIOD

This just in from Sabres information guru Kevin Snow: Stepan is just the fourth player in NHL history with a hat trick in his debut. The others Alex Smart of Montreal in 1943, Real Cloutier of Quebec in 1979 and Fabiann Brunstrom of Dallas in 2008. Wow.

I got my Billy Joel at 9 o'clock on a Saturday. Kudos to the tune turners there. And they can let it roll -- and let the crowd sing -- since we're in an intermission.

18:52 left: You're kidding, right? Erik Christensen along in front for another tap-in to make it 5-1. Lots of blue-shirted Sabres just standing around. 

17:55 left: Stepan stopped by Miller on a clear breakaway. You're kidding.

14:20 left: The Sabres get a quick power play tally from Leopold, his second of the night. It was an unscreened slapshot that leaked through Lundqvist, who has to make that save. 5-2, Rangers. 

7:57 left: We're still in early-season mode on the Edge, mixing ongoing print edition work with the blog. Sabres trying to generate more offense but not much happening. Shots are 6-5 for Rangers in this period.

5:57 left: Sabres announce a sellout of 18,690. No way. Not a chance. Definitely a few hundred shy, unless scalpers were outside stuck with tickets.

5:37 left: Too little, too late? Roy gets his third of the season to make it 5-3. Third point of the night for Leopold and third assist in two games for Ennis. Too bad the Sabres fell asleep so much on defensive coverages earlier in this one.

2:43 left: Wow. Grier high and wide on a partial breakaway. Could have made things verrrry interesting. Elsewhere, what's up in this league? Pavel Datsyuk gets into a fight for the Wings last night and I'm told Ilya Kovalchuk and Mike Green just went at it in the Caps-Devils game. There's an odd combo.

1:32 left: The Sabres pull Miller and a few seconds later Marc Staal goes for tripping. So it will be a 6-on-4. Sabres call timeout.

1:25 left: Connolly loses the faceoff, the Sabres can't keep the puck in and Brandon Dubinsky goes ahead of the field for an easy empty netter to make it 6-3. Just way too easy. That's gonna be all she wrote for this one, folks.

It's over: A 6-3 win for the Rangers. Final shots are 36-28 for Buffalo. Stepan hit the post on the empty net with five seconds left. What a bum. 

SECOND PERIOD

Of note: Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec doesn't remember playing last night and couldn't feel his legs when he woke up. Wow. Here's the story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Back on the homestead, the Rangers will have a 4-on-3 for the first 44 seconds of the period -- and a two-man edge for the next 31 seconds after that. Uh-oh.

18:20 left: Sabres kill it off. Gaborik shot wide on the best chance. 

17:25 left: Fourth line continues to make things happen. Big hit by Kaleta, steal at the Rangers' line and a good shot that Henrik Lundqvist stops. We went whole first period and never mentioned King Henrik's name. He had no work to do in the first.

16:29 left: Tyler Ennis is here to score. He has to stop being deferential. He had a clear lane to the net and kept looking for the pass to Pominville and Buffalo lost a good chance. 

13:30 left: Sabres have a lot more legs in this period. Shots are 7-1 for Buffalo after they had just four the entire first.

12:32 left: Sabres skating better and have an 8-2 edge in shots. Next item of business: Traffic in front of Lundqvist. Hasn't really been any yet. 

8:56 left: Sabres have rolled some new lines last couple of shifts. Ruff has gone back to Vanek-Roy-Stafford while Ennis is with Niedermayer and Grier. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, ex-Sabre Henrik Tallinder has scored a shorthanded goal while fellow free agent signee Anton Volchenkov is out for the night with a broken nose after taking a puck to the face. Devils and Caps tied at 2-2.

8:53 left: The Sabres get on the board as Leopold rifles one home from the right point in off the post. Gaustad wins the faceoff to Kaleta, who whips the pass cross ice. The fourth line deserved to be in on one. Shots 12-2 in the period and Sabres cut it to 2-1.

8:16 left: Montador goes for cross checking in front of Miller. 

6:15 left: No shots on the New York power play.

5:13 left: A Vanek sighting as Lundqvist stops his slapper and Stafford's try on a wraparound rebound. That's 15-3 in shots in this period -- and, remember, it was 16-3 in the second period last night in Ottawa. 

On an unrelated note, I absolutely hate these stupid blooper reels they show during the long breaks in play on the HD board. How about Sabres highlights from the last 40 years? I don't need to see some old lady or little kid whacked in the head or running into a wall. What's the point of that?

4:52 left: Sekera with a blind back pass up the boards that Stafford couldn't reach. Rivet doesn't take the man out in front and Stepan taps home his second of the night. So shots are 15-5 and goals are 1-1. Also like last night in Ottawa. 3-1, Rangers. 

4:35 left: Eminger for interference. Sabres to PP.

2:44 left: Myers has been pathetic tonight. Indecision at the point and just handed the Rangers a 2-on-1 that Miller had to soak up.

1:40 left: Are you serious? Stepan with the hat trick from directly in front -- and some hats make the ice from Rangers fans. 4-1. Terrible.

End-2nd: Sabres booed off the ice Buffalo had a 19-9 edge in shots and it's 23-19 overall. So that's one goal on 35 shots in two second periods in two nights. Yeesh.

FIRST PERIOD

7:19 p.m.: It's Game on.

15:40 left: First whistle and both teams have one shot. Gerbe simply replaces McCormick. No other line shuffling. Like a nice strip of Marion Gaborik at the Buffalo line by Sekera. Also liked Gerbe's play on the fourth line. Set up Gaustad right in front but Gaustad fanned.

The lines are Hecht-Niedermayer-Grier, Ennis-Roy-Stafford, Vanek-Connolly-Pominville and Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta. Defense pairs remain Myers-Morrisonn, Leopold-Montador and Sekera-Rivet.

13:29 left: First TV timeout. Bad giveaway by Montador nearly gave the Rangers a good chance. That pair has struggled so for. Big hit by Gerbe on Michael Rozsival, who is eight inches bigger at 6-2. Not many chances so far. The Sabres don't have nearly the skating room they got last night in Ottawa. And we'll have to see if they have the legs in their first of 22 sets of back-to-backs this year.

12:00 left: Sabres get first power play as Steve Eminger goes for boarding, a dangerous shot from behind on Pominville.

11:25 left: Miller robs Ruslan Fedotenko from in front. No penalty time on the scoreboard. Opening night clock jitters? And now the penalty time comes up.

10:25 left: Great pass by Leopold for a layup at the edge of the crease by Stafford....who fans...Yeesh. That's gotta end up in the back of the net.

10:00 left: Penalty expired with Rangers getting two shots on the PP and Buffalo none.

9:07 left: The Rangers take a 1-0 lead as a long shot from the right point goes in off Myers' skate. Sabres pay for Stafford's miss. The goal was by rookie Derek Stepan, making his NHL debut. He deflected Dan Girardi's point shot and then it ricocheted off Myers.

7:00 left: A look in the binoculars shows owner Tom Golisano is in his box -- with former tennis star and close friend Monica Seles seated at his right.

4:18 left: This has been one rough period for Tyler Myers, following a rough opening night. The big guy just blew a tire behind the net and handed the puck to Artem Anisimov. From there, a quick pass in front to Brandon Dubinsky for a tap-in and a 2-0 lead. Shots are 9-4 and the Sabres are D-E-A-D out there except for the fourth line.

1:16 left: Sabres get a break as Frolov takes a silly tripping penalty on Connolly just inside the Buffalo line. 

45.6 left: So much for that penalty as Stafford makes a brutal pass to send Anisimov away. Sekera has to haul him down and goes to the box. 

20.7 left: Lazy hooking penalty on Roy at center ice. First time I've even noticed Roy on the ice in this period.

End-1st: Rangers have a richly deserved 2-0 lead and a 10-4 edge in shots. Are Vanek and Roy even on the ice in this game? Why do the Sabres bother with Stafford anymore? How can the fourth line be the only one doing anything to this point? Did the real Sabres come home from Ottawa? Lots of gnawing questions.

-------------

PREGAME NOTES/CEREMONIES

6:24 p.m.: Ryan Miller draws cheers as he comes on the bench for his nightly pregame meditation. Gotta love that new third jersey he's wearing (save for the goofy piping in the numbers).

6:30 p.m.: The teams are on the ice and we have our first piece of news: It's Nathan Gerbe in the lineup and Cody McCormick as a scratch. A mild surprise. Lindy Ruff doesn't  normally like to change winning lineups and the Rangers have some tough guys in their lineup like Brandon Prust and Derek Boogaard. Hmmm.

6:56 p.m.: Sabres scratches official: Weber, McCormick, Butler. Rangers scratches: White, Kennedy, Gilroy. Rangers starting Frolov-Christensen-Gaborik with Rozsival and Staal on D. Sabres starters are Hecht-Niedermayer-Grier-Myers-Morrisonn. 

7 p.m.: The top five rows in Sections 301 and 325 are completely empty. What's up with that? Looks like there's tickets to be had if you're in the neighborhood.

7:03 p.m: Large white Sabres banner unfurled in lower 100 level to be passed over folks heads. Neat. Banner moving through the 100 level. And here comes a delayed "Welcome to the Jungle' with Sabretooth coming down from the rafters. 

Don't mean to be a party pooper but they did the banner and Jungle thing in Boston during the playoffs. No points on the originality scale.

7:08 p.m.: The Sabres take the ice through the zamboni entrance and line up on the blueline to huge roars. And I called it: The video taking you through history, with lots of pop culture pieces from the years was awesome. Biggest cheer might have been for '07 Goo Goo Dolls theme. Huge cheers for Patrick Kaleta, bigger cheers for Tyler Myers. And, as you would imagine, the house comes down for Ryan Miller. Rick Jeanneret with a huge "MILLLLLER" on the PA call. Solid. Lindy Ruff gets a huge shout-out from the crowd too.

7:13 p.m.: Last year's video plays. Like the old movie-reel style flipping. And like the players taking a step back at the blueline to look up at the board as the banner drops from the rafters.

7:18 p.m. Doug Allen sings and it's time to play.

Ice chips

---Big news out of the Boston camp as the Bruins get to set to open their season today at noon against the Coyotes in Prague (it's on Versus). Get your boos ready for the forseeable future: The Bruins have signed Zdeno Chara to a seven-year contract extension. The latest reports are $45.5 million over seven years, taking him to age 41 with a $6.5 million cap hit.  That follows the three-year, $15-million deal Patrice Bergeron got yesterday. 

---In a scary scene last night in Atlanta, Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec collapsed on the ice and lost consciousness with the puck at the other end early in Le Thrash's 4-2 win over Washington. The latest story is that Pavelec regained consciousness and is in stable condition at an Atlanta hospital. 

---Mike Modano scored for the Red Wings in his first game, a 4-0 win over Anaheim. But what had everybody talking after this one was the flying fists of perennial Lady Byng winner Pavel Datsyuk.  Toni Lydman is traveling with the Ducks but has still not skated with the team or talked to the media since being sidelined with migraine-related acute double vision.

--Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

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John Vogl

John Vogl

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.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. 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.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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