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Notes from a quiet morning skate

Not much going on with only a few Sabres taking the ice this morning in preparation for tonight's home opener against the New York Rangers. Scratches appear to be the same as Friday night, with Nathan Gerbe, Mike Weber and Chris Butler sitting out. Cody McCormick also skated but coach Lindy Ruff usually doesn't change a winning lineup.

It's the first back-to-back of the 22 sets the Sabres will play this season, but the team got home shortly after midnight from Ottawa so Ruff isn't concerned about any residual effects.

"We kept all the forwards under 20 minutes last night," Ruff said. "Our energy and focus should be good. ... I thought we played a real solid game until we had to kill the three penalties in the third period."

The Sabres could have easily had five or six goals in the first two periods, when they had a 29-12 edge in shots. Thomas Vanek had six shots on goal in the game and was robbed on several point-blank chances. Ruff was happy to see his team persevere in the third period to get the win.

"If you have frustration in your game, that can often lead to some careless plays or mistakes to give the other team an opportunity to get back in the game," Ruff said. "Our focus in the game was very good. I'll guarantee you that if Thomas gets six chances tonight, he'll be on the scoreboard. You won't keep him off. It usually doesn't take him that many."

---New third jerseys tonight as well as the unveiling of the 2010 Northeast Division championship banner. Looking forward to the team's pregame video salute as well.

"On the one hand, it's one of 82 games but we know our fans are really excited to see us back," said Ryan Miller. "We'll be appropriately excited too."

---The Rangers are expected to scratch Tim Kennedy. The South Buffalo native, who cleared waivers and is back with the club, is a spare forward now that the Blueshirts have signed Ruslan Fedotenko. "Tough situation for Tim," Ruff said.

Post-skate update: Kennedy was the last Ranger off the ice. "This is my new team. That's my old team," Kennedy said of the Sabres. "I wish them all the best but I hope they lose tonight."

Kennedy admitted he's had a difficult summer and getting put on waivers by the Rangers this week added to the drama but that he's happy he cleared and is still with the club.

"There's a little cliche saying in this league that if Wayne Gretzky can get traded, anybody can be traded, bought out, waived," Kennedy said. "I'm just trying to roll with the punches."

---Chris Drury, who is on injured reserve with a broken finger, is skating with the Rangers for the first time since the injury. (Post-skate update: Drury said he has a timetable for a return that's a lot faster than the month originally expected. "I don't want to say anything that's going to be argued with. I just hope it's as quick as possible and we'll take it day to day.")

---The regular media members here made sure to say hello to Mike Robitaille, who's in the house getting set to make his return to the MSG airwaves tonight. Great to see him.

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

Third jersey debuts tonight in Sabres' home opener

After returning around 1 a.m. from their win in Ottawa, the Sabres are having a meeting and probably only a few players will skate this morning here in HSBC Arena. One piece of news lots of folks will want to know has already been revealed in tonight's game notes: The Sabres will debut their new blue third jerseys in tonight's game. The script "Buffalo" is an ode to the old Bisons and will be worn in 12 home games, the team said. After tonight, the next one is Nov. 3 against Boston.

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

From the dressing room

OTTAWA -- Here are a few quotes from the Sabres' dressing room following tonight's 2-1 victory over Ottawa.

Derek Roy on his winning goal against Pascal Leclaire: "I knew he was going to come out and challenge. I didn’t have a shot right away, so I knew I had to go around him and bank it. It just happened to go in."

Ryan Miller on the penalty killers coming through three times in the final 8:17: "They’ve got some great players on that power play and they had some looks, but we pushed them and made it a little harder for them."

Jordan Leopold, whose turnover in the final minute of the second period allowed Ottawa to tie the game: "I should have moved it, and I didn’t move it. I was trying to protect it, and at the last second he kind of just bumped it there. It’s a game of mistakes, and I’ll take responsibility for that. We move forward. We got big win, and you can’t dwell on the negatives. We have to move forward with the positives."

---John Vogl

Three stars

Live from Sabres at Ottawa

OTTAWA -- The job of winning on opening night is officially easier for the Sabres because their longtime nemesis won't play. The teams have just taken the ice for the pregame warm-ups, and Jason Spezza will sit for the Senators with a groin pull.

Gotta admit, it still catches me a little off-guard when the Sabres skate out in the old-school white jerseys. They really are permanent, eh? About time.

Speaking of time, I guess I really have spent a lot of time in Ottawa during the nine seasons covering the Sabres. After having a few sodas Thursday night while watching Tim Lincecum start the Giants on the road to a World Series championship, I walked over to one of my favorite late-night/early morning eating joints. It's 1 a.m. on a Thursday, and the dude behind the counter shouts, "Hi, John!"

Yup, I don't live here, but I get acknowledged like Norm walking into Cheers. Pretty cool, I must admit. So thanks to the "Garlic Corner" for some fine shawarmas through the years -- and see you sometime late at night Jan. 24.

Because of opening-night festivities, opening faceoff in Scotiabank Place tonight won't be until 7:44 p.m.

7:33 p.m.: Here are a few notes while waiting for the festivities, including the anthems by Lyndon Slewidge, to begin. The Sabres are 21-14-4 in season openers. Buffalo's .590 winning percentage is seventh in the NHL. They are 6-8 when opening on the road, which they haven't done since a 3-2 shootout win in Carolina on Oct. 4, 2006.

7:38 p.m.: The Sens are introduced to the fans, with captain Daniel Alfredsson getting the loudest ovation, as expected. The second-biggest roar was for Chris Neil. Spezza, introduced in a suit, got a big ovation, too, after a summer in which he got trouble for being the town's whipping boy.

7:42 p.m.: The Canadian national anthem should ALWAYS be sung with the mix of English and French, like Slewidge does here.

FIRST PERIOD

7:45 p.m.: And the season is under way. Sens fans immediately start a mocking "Mill-er, Mill-er" chant -- and he responds with a pad save on Nick Foligno with 1:10 gone.

7:47 p.m.: Thomas Vanek gets a two-on-one with Steve Montador and rings a shot off the post with 1:59 gone.

 7:51 p.m.: The Sabres' power play is 0 for 1 after Vanek can't tuck in the puck in front and Drew Stafford is stopped by Pascal Leclaire on a drive from the right side. The Sens wne to the box for too many men with 16:37 left. Tim Connolly got whacked in the face and got a look from athletic trainer Tim Macre but seems fine.

7:55 p.m.: Derek Roy gives the Sabres a 1-0 lead with 11:56 left, driving the net, dipping past Chris Phillips and putting a backhand over a prone Leclaire. Tyler Ennis and Shaone Morrisonn earned the assists, though it was all Roy with an individual drive from the right boards all the way to near the left circle.

7:59 p.m.: Rob Niedermayer and Mike Grier narrowly miss giving Buffalo a 2-0 lead with 10:41 to go. Jochen Hecht's pass finds Niedermayer alone in the slot, but Leclaire got his left toe on the shot. The rebound caromed to Grier, who shot the puck into the fallen goalie instead of the open net. It's 1-0 Buffalo with 9:56 to go.

8:05 p.m.: Sabres back on the power play with 7:25 left as Milan Michalek trips Drew Stafford.

8:09 p.m.: Leclaire thwarts Sabres' only chance on the power play, stopping Vanek's attempt after a cross-ice pass from Roy. The Sabres have a 12-6 edge in shots and a 1-0 lead with 4:27 to play.

8:12 p.m.: Jordan Leopold gets the Sabres' first penalty of the season with 4:06 left, tripping Chris Kelly after the Ottawa center took him down in the corner.

8:16 p.m.: The Sabres skate to the dressing for the first time in 2010-11 with a 1-0 lead. Goalie Ryan Miller helped the vaunted penalty-kill unit start 1 for 1 with a save on Sergei Gonchar's slap shot. Leclaire was then impressive at the other end with 45 seconds left. Roy stole the puck from Kelly near center ice for a breakaway, though he was tugged from behind along the way. Leclaire forced Roy to shoot wide. The Sabres hold a 13-9 edge in shots.

SECOND PERIOD

8:34 p.m.: Game on.

8:36 p.m.: Leclaire must have big toes because they came in handy again. He stopped Steve Montador's shot, then he got the end of his skate on Niedermayer's rebound attempt with 18:40 left.

8:43 p.m.: Mr. Carrie Underwood alleviates intense Sabres pressure by cross-checking Jason Pominville in front with 14:48 to go. Tim Connolly, Vanek, Pominville and Tyler Myers were swarming the Ottawa net area.

8:46 p.m.: The Sens kill Mike Fisher's penalty, and the teams head to commercial with 12:47 left with Sabres holding a 1-0 lead.

8:49 p.m.: Sabres back on the PP after Brian Lee interferes with Grier on a dump-in with 12:20 to go.

8:55 p.m.: Internet connection speed is suddenly slower than the Senators' offense -- and the Sabres' PP. They fail to connect again but hold a 1-0 lead with 8:36 to go. The Sabres have a 24-11 edge in shots, holding the Sens to just two so far this period.

9:01 p.m.: We hit the final commercial of the period with Buffalo still up, 1-0, and with a 26-11 edge on the shot counter. Neil tried to spark the Sens by baiting Craig Rivet into a fight, but the captain declined with the puck deep in Ottawa's zone. It's been there a lot.

9:05 p.m.: It's a whopping 36 minutes into the season, but the Sabres look like they may be a really frustrating team to play against.

9:10 p.m.: Neil sparks the Sens in another way during the final minute, allowing Ottawa to skate into the dressing room with a 1-1 tie despite getting just three shots in the period. Neil abused defenseman Jordan Leopold near center ice, outmuscling the puck away and getting it up to Jarkko Ruutu. Ruttu broke into the Sabres' zone and fed cross ice to Kelly for a tap-in with just 48.2 seconds left.

The Sabres have a 29-12 edge in shots.

THIRD PERIOD

9:27 p.m.: You probably could have figured this out on your own, but the Sabres are 0-0 this season when tied after two periods. Game on.

9:32 p.m.: The Senators get their second power play with 17:46 left after Montador slashes Nick Foligno.

9:39 p.m.: Teams are still tied at 1-1 with 13:32 remaining. The shots are 32-17.

9:45 p.m.: Chris Campoli's cross-checking penalty with 10:19 to go gives the Sabres' power play a fifth chance to make a difference.

9:47 p.m.: And Roy makes a difference, scoring with 9:48 to go. He corralled an Ennis pass with his skate, went behind the Ottawa net and banked the puck in off Leclaire. It's 2-1 Buffalo.

9:49 p.m.: Rivet heads to box for interference with 8:17 left.

9:54 p.m.: Sabres kill penalty, final commercial comes with 5:42 to go and Sabres holding 2-1 lead. Roy and Neil head to box after scrum in front.

10:05 p.m.: The Sabres killed a Drew Stafford elbowing penalty with 2:50 left, but the Senators have the goalie pulled with 46.0 seconds left and are coming off a timeout.

10:08 p.m.: Grier goes off for slashing with 20.0 seconds left.

10:09 p.m.: There's only 1.3 seconds left with a faceoff upcoming, so chalk up a 2-1 victory by the Sabres as I run downstairs

---John Vogl

Live from Sabres at Ottawa

OTTAWA -- The job of winning on opening night is officially easier for the Sabres because their longtime nemesis won't play. The teams have just taken the ice for the pregame warm-ups, and Jason Spezza will sit for the Senators with a groin pull.

Gotta admit, it still catches me a little off-guard when the Sabres skate out in the old-school white jerseys. They really are permanent, eh? About time.

Speaking of time, I guess I really have spent a lot of time in Ottawa during the nine seasons covering the Sabres. After having a few sodas Thursday night while watching Tim Lincecum start the Giants on the road to a World Series championship, I walked over to one of my favorite late-night/early morning eating joints. It's 1 a.m. on a Thursday, and the dude behind the counter shouts, "Hi, John!"

Yup, I don't live here, but I get acknowledged like Norm walking into Cheers. Pretty cool, I must admit. So thanks to the "Garlic Corner" for some fine shawarmas through the years -- and see you sometime late at night Jan. 24.

Because of opening-night festivities, opening faceoff in Scotiabank Place won't be until 7:44 p.m.

---John Vogl

Gerbe, Butler, Weber will sit for Sabres

OTTAWA -- The opening-night roster is set for the Sabres, and it doesn't include forward Nathan Gerbe or defensemen Chris Butler and Mike Weber.

The trio will be the season's first healthy scratches tonight when the Sabres visit the Ottawa Senators. Gerbe had three goals during the preseason, but coach Lindy Ruff has decided to use a fourth line of Paul Gaustad, Cody McCormick and Patrick Kaleta as a physical unit.

"I've talked to Nathan, and Nathan’s had a good camp," Ruff said after the morning skate in Scotiabank Place. "Some nights we’ll use more size. Some nights we’ll use a little bit more skill. He’s done a nice job with us on the power play, and we may go to him. We may go to him as soon as tomorrow night [in the home opener against the Rangers].

"It’s going to depend on how games go. You just evaluate. If you have somebody struggling, we have got a couple extra defensemen and we’ve got an extra forward we really think can play."

The other lines tonight will have Tim Connolly in the middle of Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville; Derek Roy centering for Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford; and Rob Niedermayer flanked by Jochen Hecht and Mike Grier as a shutdown unit.

Andrej Sekera beat out Weber and Butler for the sixth spot on the blue line.

The Senators, meanwhile, will make center Jason Spezza a game-time decision. He has a groin injury.

"He's 50-50 right now," coach Cory Clouston said.

The Senators' biggest training camp battle was in net, with Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott vying for the job. Leclaire will start in goal against the Sabres.

"He is supposed to be our go-to guy," Clouston said. "He put the time in over the summer, and we need to give him the opportunity."

---John Vogl

More on Vanek in Austria

As part of Thursday's NHL preview section, I did an unusual story about Thomas Vanek's impact on his homeland of Austria and the thought process that went into his biography that was published last year in Europe (in German only).

Vanek's co-author, Austrian journalist Christian Schleifer,  points out that an Austrian band made a song  ("Euphoria" by Delicious Red) that works as a soundtrack for the book. Here's a look at that song and below that (in German only) is a video that recaps Vanek's summer trip to his original home of Zell am See, Austria.

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

Go to the video: Previewing the NHL season

Which teams will emerge this year from the NHL's Eastern and Western Conferences to reach the Stanley Cup Finals? News hockey writers John Vogl, Bucky Gleason and Mike Harrington make their predictions in this NHL preview.

Lindy Ruff news conference

Lindy Ruff, speaking at the end of today's practice, said the Sabres are completely healthy and ready to go in Ottawa on Friday.  Hear his thoughts on the opener, the power play, his forward lines and more by clicking the audio below.

---John Vogl

Sekera a front-runner to play; Spezza may not

Greetings from the Northtown Center in Amherst, where the Sabres are conducting their final practice before the puck drops on the 2010-11 season Friday in Ottawa. It's almost exclusively power-play work, so that gives us a glimpse into Friday's lineup. It appears Andrej Sekera will be in it.

Sekera is manning the point on the second power-play unit, almost a sure sign he will play against the Senators. He is joined on the blue line by Jordan Leopold, while Thomas Vanek, Paul Gaustad and Tim Connolly are up front.

The first unit features Derek Roy, Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford up front, with Tyler Myers and Jason Pominville at the point.

It appears the forward scratch could be Nathan Gerbe or Jochen Hecht as they were splitting the left wing spot on a line with Rob Niedermayer and Mike Grier. Hecht said during training camp his pinkie, which underwent surgery last spring, wasn't 100 percent. The other lines are Ennis-Roy-Stafford, Vanek-Connolly-Pominville, and Cody McCormick-Gaustad-Patrick Kaleta.

POST-PRACTICE UPDATE: Coach Lindy Ruff said everyone is healthy and ready to play, which likely makes Gerbe the scratch against the Senators.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, Senators sniper Jason Spezza missed practice today with a groin injury and could miss Friday's opener.

In case you haven't yet gone to the store to buy our NHL Preview Section, it's now available online. But, trust me, it looks better in print so go spend the 75 cents.

---John Vogl

Inside the NHL -- Live Chat

Go to the video: Previewing the Sabres season

Can Ryan Miller do it again? Can Tyler Myers do it again? Will the Sabres find enough offense to hold off Boston and defend their Northeast Division title? 

Those are just some of the topics John Vogl, Bucky Gleason and Mike Harrington discuss in this video preview of the Sabres' 2010-11 season, which opens Friday night in Ottawa. 

Party in the Plaza set for home opener

The Sabres have announced they will host one of their always-popular "Party in the Plaza" pregame affairs prior to Saturday's home opener against the New York Rangers. 

The festivities will begin at 5 p.m. in the plaza area located near Perry and Illinois St. There will be live music from "Strictly Hip” with food and beverages available for purchase. The party will take place rain or shine with free admission. A game ticket is not required for entrance.

The team also announced there are fewer than 500 tickets remaining. All fans will receive a season magnetic schedule.

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

Andrew Peters traded to Vancouver

Andrew Peters has been uprooted from Western New York as the Florida Panthers have traded the former Sabres enforcer to Vancouver for fellow fighter Darcy Hordichuk. The Panthers waived Peters last week, and the winger was set to play in Rochester. 

Update: According to this update from the Rochester D&C, Peters will be staying with the Amerks. He's been loaned by Vancouver back to Rochester, at least for now. 

In other Panthers news involving former Sabres, Florida has placed defenseman Nathan Paetsch on waivers. He could be sent to Rochester if he clears.

---John Vogl

Kennedy's bizarre saga continues

Whatever the Rangers are doing by waiving Tim Kennedy, it just adds to the surreal summer and fall the South Buffalo native has experienced. Larry Brooks of the New York Post has this look at some of the reasons the Blueshirts might have had to put Kennedy on waivers Monday. We'll be waiting today to find out if Kennedy gets claimed, although it would seem like a team like the Islanders or Edmonton would have a need for another forward and would be possibilities.

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

Enroth gone, roster down to 23

Jhonas Enroth is not at practice today in HSBC Arena as the Sabres are apparently satisfied that Patrick Lalime's groin has sufficiently healed for him to back up Ryan Miller in Friday night's season opener in Ottawa. So with Enroth back to Portland and Lindy Ruff's admission yesterday the team is going to stick with 23 players, it looks like your opening night roster is set.

The lines today look like this:

Hecht-Connolly-Pominville
Ennis-Roy-Stafford
Gerbe-Niedermayer-Grier
Gaustad-McCormick-Kaleta

Thomas Vanek is in a gold jersey, meaning he would be skating with the Connolly line to get his work in. Clearly, there's going to be a tough decision on who the 13th forward will be. The assumption here is that it's probably going to be Cody McCormick but no way Lindy Ruff is going to tip his hand yet.

We haven't seen any defense pairs yet to note if Mike Weber remains in the top six with Craig Rivet. Yesterday, remember, the pairs were Myers-Morrisonn, Montador-Leopold, Rivet-Weber and Butler-Sekera. Frankly, that's how I'd start the season. (Update: The pairs, in fact, are the same again today)

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

Vanek looking better for opener

Thomas Vanek didn't skate with a line at practice today in HSBC Arena but he skated early and then went through the full workout, including some drills. So it's looking like a pretty decent bet he'll be ready for Friday night's season opener in Ottawa.

"Today was a good test for me and it felt fine," said Vanek, who suffered a neck injury Thursday in Montreal. "Hopefully I can be back full time tomorrow."

"I think today was a good step for him to get back on the ice," said coach Lindy Ruff. 

Ruff also said backup goalie Patrick Lalime had a good day and may be ready as well. Jhonas Enroth will probably practice again tomorrow and then the Sabres will have to make a decision about Lalime by Wednesday's 3 p.m. roster cutdown deadline.

Ruff said no decision has been made about the defense pairs even though Mike Weber skated with Craig Rivet and Chris Butler-Andrej Sekera was the fourth pair. "That is today," Ruff said.

Ruff confirmed the Sabres have waived Matt Ellis and want him to get to Portland. "The way that Ennis and Gerbe have both played in the preseason put [Ellis] in the situation he's in now," Ruff said.

The coach also said the team will keep 23 players at least in the short term, rather than the 22 GM Darcy Regier talked about over the summer. 

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

Bulletin: Rangers put Kennedy on waivers

This just in from New York: According to TSN, the Rangers have put South Buffalo native Tim Kennedy on waivers. You would assume they're hoping he clears so they can send him to Hartford of the AHL. Kennedy had no goals and two assists in four preseason game.

I renew my point from the summer: Kennedy should have taken the Sabres' deal and shut his mouth, rather than going to arbitration. His agent did him no help on this one.

1:30 update: This New York Daily News blog says the Rangers do NOT intend to send Kennedy to Hartford. Hmmm. Stay tuned.

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

Practice update

As expected, Matt Ellis is not with the Sabres for practice today in HSBC Arena as they are trying to get him through waivers to Portland. Thomas Vanek, Craig Rivet and Patrick Lalime are all on the ice, but Vanek is in a grey jersey and not skating on a line. For now at least, Mike Weber appears to have a top-six spot on defense. The combinations look like this:

Ennis-Roy-Stafford
Hecht-Connolly-Pominville
Gerbe-Niedermayer-Grier
Gaustad-McCormick-Kaleta

Morrisonn-Myers
Leopold-Montador
Weber-Rivet
Butler-Sekera

---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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