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Video: Sabres dealing with injuries

With star goaltender Ryan Miller possibly out with a groin injury, the Sabres will need to play their best hockey Wednesday when Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town. John Vogl and Bucky Gleason have the latest from HSBC Arena:

Sabres' injury report is a long one

The shuttle between Portland and Buffalo could be a busy and full one this week as injuries have struck Sabreland.

Ryan Miller's sore groin got through practice today in HSBC Arena, though it's still not clear if he'll be able to play Wednesday when Pittsburgh visits. Miller's thoughts on his injury are available in the audio file at the bottom.

One player who will definitely be out Wednesday is Rob Niedermayer. The center had arthroscopic knee surgery today and will miss a minimum of two weeks.

"He felt it in the preseason," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We’ve left him off some mornings. He’s had some fluid that’s bothered him, that’s hampered him in his skating. He’s been trying to play through it and it hasn’t been getting better, so the decision finally was to try to relieve some of that."

Tim Connolly left practice early with a groin pull, and he is questionable for the meeting with the Penguins. Jochen Hecht, who has an upper-body injury, skated alone after his teammates were done but is likely to play.

Right wing Drew Stafford, who's out with a shoulder injury, skated with his teammates for the first time today. He won't play Wednesday but could return by the weekend. The Sabres host Toronto on Friday and visit Montreal on Saturday.

"We might have to recall a couple players, at least one and maybe two now," Ruff said.

---John Vogl

Miller at practice; Niedermayer, Hecht missing

Ryan Miller, who was scratched Saturday because of a groin injury, is back at practice with the Sabres this morning. He doesn't look healthy, however.

The goaltender is skating laps slowly and regularly doing stretching exercises in an apparent attempt to stay limber. Patrick Lalime is at the other end of the rink, while Jhonas Enroth apparently has been sent back to Portland.

The forwards are missing two players. Left wing Jochen Hecht and center Rob Niedermayer are absent. Drew Stafford, who has been out with a shoulder injury, is skating on a line with Cody McCormick and Mike Grier.

More updates to come following practice and the interviews.

---John Vogl

Sunday NHL reading and viewing

Here's a look around the hockey world today starting with the Sabres' 2-1 loss to the Lightning last night in HSBC Arena.

---The game turned on a brutal goal allowed by Patrick Lalime. Little surprised my email is filling up with people saying I was harsh on the Sabres' backup in the wake of the offense's one-goal showing. They had 30 shots on goal. Mike Smith didn't give up a bad goal and Lalime gave up perhaps the worst one I've ever seen. What was the story, people? What did everyone walk out of the arena talking about?

---Tampa's Steven Stamkos is a wondrous talent but last night was just his third pointless game of the season. He's leading the league in scoring and might be a 50-50 player. 

---Bucky Gleason's Inside the NHL talks about the curious cases of Colin Campbell and Darryl Sutter as they relate to their NHL sons. I'm with Bucky here: Campbell has lost all credibility in the wake of the emails that have been revealed. He's got to go. But don't expect this garage league to do anything.

---Now playing for Hartford of the AHL, South Buffalo native and former Sabre Tim Kennedy got a faceful of glove from Binghamton goalie Barry Brust last night in retaliation for a hit on a Bingo player into the end boards. Kennedy has three goals and nine assists in 14 games for the Rangers affiliate. Check out the video of the play here:

In Montreal, there was an emotional pregame ceremony to honor the life of Pat Burns and players from both the Canadiens and Maple Leafs wore "PB" stickers on their helmets. Carey Price was motivated to shut out the Leafs by a message he received from Burns before the season. The pregame tribute to Burns at the Bell Centre last night was simply spectacular. Take a look below. Awesome stuff.

---Mike Harrington

Three Stars: Lightning 2, Sabres 1

Miller: 'Groin tenderness'

Ryan Miller's absence Saturday night had nothing to do with the hip problem that cost him five games earlier this month, coach Lindy Ruff said after the 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay.

Miller developed "groin tenderness" according to Ruff during Friday's 4-2 win over Los Angeles and wasn't able to skate this morning so the decision was made to go to Patrick Lalime.

What does it mean for Miller next week with three games in four days? 

"This is supposed to be very mild, very mild," Ruff insisted.

We'll see. Goalies and groins are not a good mix as we know all too well in this town from Dominik Hasek, circa 1997. If Miller can't go, there's no way Ruff can put Patrick Lalime back in the net.

That was a Bantam-level goal Lalime gave up to cost his team a game Saturday night, a crippling giveaway to Tampa Bay's Adam Hall right in front of the net. That can't happen in the NHL. Lalime is 0-4 this year and 9-25-5 in his Buffalo career. It has to be time to make Enroth the backup and encourage Lalime to go to Portland or send him packing entirely.

Lalime is a great guy. At some point, even great guys have to make plays.

---Mike Harrington

Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Bolts

Greetings from high atop HSBC Arena as the Sabres get set to meet the Tampa Bay Lightning. If you missed the news that broke in the 6 p.m. hour -- and why weren't you here on this blog or with me on Twitter? -- Ryan Miller is out again with a lower body injury and is listed day to day. Patrick Lalime will start in goal and Jhonas Enroth will back up. Mike Smith is starting for the Lightning.

Great. Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos leads the NHL in goals (19) and points (34) and is coming off a hat trick Thursday in Philly. He's got to like Lalime instead of Miller. Cheap Plug Department: Be sure to read more about Stamkos in my notebook in Sunday's paper.

This one is waaaay far away from behind a sellout or close to it. The Sabres were less than 300 shy last night. This might be the smallest crowd of the season. It's just tough on the wallet for lots of people to come two days in a row. Keep it here for all your updates.

---Mike Harrington

Sabres starters: Leopold-Montador-Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta. Goal: Lalime.

Third Period

8:55 p.m.: We're under way. 

18:00 left: Sabres don't score on the power play and Smith has to make a good glove save on Kaleta after he Lalimed him the puck in the slot (albeit on the forehand). Nearly as brutal. Maybe it's something in the water at that end of the ice.

14:05 left: Myers just limped off the ice after a collision in the Buffalo zone.

13:07 left: Good save by Smith on Pominville. Shots are 5-1 for Buffalo. Lightning doesn't appear all that interested in generating much offense.

12:15 left: Myers is back on the ice.

11:05 left: Smith robs Gerbe from the slot and Kaleta just fails to get a hold of the rebound.

9:40 left: Smith again, stopping a Connolly backhand from in tight. Shots are 8-1. Smith is 1-3-1, 3.58, .886 in his career against Buffalo. The Sabres usually have pretty good success against him as those numbers show. Easily his best showing against the Sabres.

1:30 left: Sabres trying to get even, Lightning holding on.

23.1 left: Faceoff in Tampa zone. Officials have put the whistles away. Crowd howling as several trips go uncalled. Shots are 11-3 for Buffalo in the period.

It's over: A 2-1 loss. Shots are 30-22. Goaltending the difference.

Second Period

8:03 pm.: We're under way.

19:00 left: Smith with a good stop on Gaustad on a partial break out of the box. Sabres did a good job on the kill. No problems.

17:26 left: Good answer by Connolly gives the Sabres a 2-1 lead. He takes a rebound out of mid-air and bounces it home after Smith robbed Pominville from in front on a one-timer off a neat Hecht feed. NOPE. No goal. Replay shows Pominville whacked it with his glove off Smith's pad and that's where Connolly knocked it in from. Seems like a good call. Score remains 1-1.

15:52 left: Nice stop by Lalime on another Purcell tip-in on the backhand. A few seconds after Malone put one off the post to Lalime's right.

12:49 left: Stamkos goes for interference on Kaleta at center ice.

8:34 left: Just a terrible, terrible goal allowed by Lalime. Goes to routinely sweep the puck to his left with one hand and sends it right to Adam Hall. Makes one save but Hall easily pushes the rebound past him. Bolts lead, 2-1. Unassisted. Or should I say assist to Lalime.

5:37 left: Shots are 8-7 for the Sabres and Lalime's brutal mistake has taken the life out of the building. He got a few Bronx cheers the last time he touched the puck. Nothing like the crushing he took when he made a similar misplay last year against Minnesota but still. That was awful.

4:39 left: Gaustad goes for tripping. Bad giveaway by Myers left Gaustad no choice.

35.2 left: Moore goes for holding the stick, putting Buffalo back on the power play. I'd give you more updates, trust me, if something was happening. 

End-2nd: Tampa leads it 2-1. Shots were 11-9 for Buffalo and it's 19-18 for the Lightning through two.

First Period

17:23 left: Sabres are matching Hecht-Connolly-Pominville-Sekera-Myers vs. the Downie-Stamkos-St. Louis line. Hecht has taken both faceoffs.

16:50 left: Lightning have the only two shots. Lalime makes routine glove stop on Stamkos.

15:08 left: A Thomas Vanek scorned is never good for the opposition. Vanek gets leveled by Mattias Ohlund at center ice, gets up and carries a loose puck down the right wing -- firing a bolt past Smith to get the Sabres a 1-0 lead. Took a teeth-chattering hit and simply got up made the opponent pay. Wow. Sabres lead, 1-0, on their first shot on Mike Smith. Vanek with a cut lip too. His 17th goal in 21 career games vs. Tampa.

10:30 left: Smith stops Connolly from in front.

9:49 left: Stupid scoreboard blooper time. Shots are 3-2 for the Sabres.

9:32 left: Vanek goes for hooking in the Tampa zone. Didn't seem like a whole lot.

7:25 left: Vanek stopped on breakaway out of the box by Smith right after Lalime made two solid stops, including one on Stamkos. Looked like the Vanek shot actually hit the post and not Smith's pad.

5:06 left: No changes in the lines again. It's Ennis-Roy-Vanek, Hecht-Connolly-Pominville, McCormick-Niedermayer-Grier and Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta. Defense pairs remain Sekera-Myers, Leopold-Montador and Morrisonn-Rivet.

4:27 left: Lalime squares up nicely to swallow up an unscreened slap shot from the right point by Victor Hedman. What a sensational cross-ice pass from Stamkos to get the puck there.

3:40 left: Gaustad and Dominic Moore hook up at the Tampa line and get roughing penalties. Maybe Gaustad was telling Moore he was a joke here after he got acquired at the trade deadline two years ago.

1:50 left: Tampa ties it at 1-1 courtesy of a nice turnover from Connolly inside the Tampa line. Ryan Malone strips him and gets the puck into the Buffalo zone. Eventually, Teddy Purcell scores on a nice tip-in after a good feed in front from Randy Jones. No chance for Lalime.

1:07 left: Gaustad goes for unsportsmanlike conduct. He drops his gloves and gets set to go with Steve Downie, who just ducks his head and does nothing. Nice move if you can pull it off. Gaustad backs off and goes to the box. Downie is normally more than willing to go; he leads the Lightning with 66 penalty minutes.

1.9 left: The Sabres fail to clear and Lalime has to make a nifty glove grab on Downie to keep it tied.

End-1st: It's 1-1. Shots are 10-7 for Tampa Bay.

Bulletin: No Miller for Sabres; Lalime will start

Big news breaking at HSBC Arena: Ryan Miller is out again and Jhonas Enroth is back with the Buffalo Sabres.

A Sabres spokesman has just informed The News Miller is listed as day to day with a lower body injury and will not dress tonight. Enroth has just arrived from Portland, so I would imagine Patrick Lalime would start tonight.

We did not actually see Miller this morning, but that is not all that unusual for a morning skate on a back-to-back situation. Lindy Ruff made it pretty clear to me on Thursday that Miller was playing both games this weekend and Paul Hamilton of WGR approached Lalime this morning about an interview in the event Lalime was playing. Lalime never actually tells you what's going on but he lets you know too. In this case, Lalime playfully laughed off the request, his normal sign that he was NOT going to be in goal.

There was no indication of any problem with Miller during last night's game against Los Angeles, when he made 34 saves and was the second star in a 4-2 victory. It was his fourth straight game after he sat out six with what turned out to be hip soreness during training camp. Obviously, a flareup of what you would assume is the same thing begs the question of whether this is going to be a season-long situation for the Sabres' ace.

UPDATE at 6:30 p.m.: Lalime leads the Sabres on the ice for warmup so he will start and Enroth will backup. Craig Rivet is on the ice as well. Chris Butler and Mike Weber remain the scratches on defense.

---Mike Harrington


Keep an eye on Sabres' defense pairs

Pretty quiet morning skate, as you would expect since the Sabres just played last night. Only a few players on the ice. One who wasn't, Matt Ellis, has been sent back to Portland.

Lindy Ruff wouldn't comment when I asked him about his defense pairings tonight. Tyler Myers, Andrej Sekera, Steve Montador and Jordan Leopold all played huge minutes last night (Myers was at 27:36!), while Craig Rivet (10:52) and Shaone Morrisonn (10:49) hardly saw the ice.

"I think our league for the most part has gone to a pair of defense that plays a lot and I think with the timeouts that's not an issue," Ruff said. "The way Andrej is playing and how Tyler's game has picked up, for us to be even more effective, those guys need to play even more."

It took a long time for Ruff to emerge from his office to meet the media this morning. Just as he walked out, Rivet and Tyler Ennis were seen leaving the building in front of him. It's possible they were in a meeting with the coach about last night's play, which was wasn't good for either. Rivet was particularly stern-looking and burst through the hall at a good clip.

Tonight would be his 900th NHL game. No. 899 last night was poor in most respects. You wonder if Ruff is going down the road of scratching his captain again. That would make for probably the end of Rivet's time with the C on his chest.

Defense, of course, has to be a big issue tonight with the Tampa Bay Lightning in town and the pair of Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis sitting as the NHL's top scoring duo by 10 points! Stamkos has 19 goals and 34 points (he had an assist taken away after Thursday's game in Philadelphia).

"Our awareness of key players has been better and that's made a differnce," Ruff said. "He may get his opportunities but we have to limit the type he gets. We'd like him to come 200 feet to get them. We don't want him to play a half-ice game."

The Sabres won all four games against the Lightning last year. Vincent Lecavalier (hand) and Simon Gagne (neck) are both out for Tampa Bay. The Sabres also announced that the first goal of last night's game has been changed back to giving credit to Patrick Kaleta on a deflection of a Sekera shot. So it's Kaleta from Sekera and Gerbe. 

---Mike Harrington

Three stars: Sabres 4, Kings 2

Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Kings

Greetings from HSBC Arena as the Sabres get set to meet the Los Angeles Kings. It's become a sad day for hockey fans as word broke tonight at 6:30 that former NHL coach Pat Burns has died after his long bout with cancer. Memo to the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee: Shame on you. You really blew this one. What purpose did it serve to not induct Burns this year? The top name this year was Dino Ciccarelli for God's sake. Yeeesh. Here's a terrific obit on Burns from Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger, the longtime Devils beat writer who was in Burns' office in 2003 after the coach got his long-awaited Stanley Cup victory.

As for news from the warmup, Patrick Kaleta and Nathan Gerbe are both on the ice, meaning the Sabres still haven't decided if Kaleta is playing tonight. Jonathan Bernier led the Kings out, as expected, and will get the start in goal. Update: Looks like Kaleta and Gerbe will both be in the lineup. Don't see Matt Ellis on the ice.

And it's official: The Sabres' scratches are Ellis, Chris Butler and Mike Weber. 

Keep it here all night for your updates from the arena.

---Mike Harrington

Third Period

9:24 p.m.: Lo and behold, the second goal has now been changed to Vanek. His seventh.

9:25 p.m: New addition to the inventory at the Sabres Store just brought for a look by information guru Kevin Snow: The Sabres' slick 40th anniversary yearbook. Super collection of full-page color photos of every player. It's $10. I still gotta get my 40th anniversary coffee table book. That's I think $39.95.

9:28 p.m.: We're under way.

18:48 left: Ryan Smyth for holding in the offensive zone. Sabres back to the power play.

17:50 left: Another PP goal. Pominville's shot leaks through Bernier and Connolly breaks his 0-for-November by tapping it home. Sabres lead, 3-2. That's 2 for 4 on the PP against the NHL's No. 1 PK. Just the second game this year with two power-play goals (the other was the Oct. 26 loss at Philadelphia).

12:47 left: Bernier stops Sekera and Myers just misses the rebound. Sabres doing a great job of puck possession in this period. Shots are 4-0 for Buffalo. And Johnson is going for cross checking Gaustad. Can they really come up with three power play goals in one game?

11:42 left: Great save by Bernier on a Roy tip.

10:44 left: Great save on Vanek in front just as the penalty ends. Shots are 7-0 for Buffalo.

10:30 left: Leopold and McCormick (rebound) are stopped. That's 9-0.

9:50 left: Miller makes a solid save on Williams on the Kings' first shot.

8:54 left: Gaustad goes hard to the net, doesn't get the puck but draws a hooking penalty on Dwight King. Sabres 2 for 5 on the PP and here's another chance.

4:43 left: Hecht nearly pickpockets Bernier behind the net. The goalie holds for a faceoff. Shots are 10-3 for Buffalo. A terrific period so far with a game up for grabs. Outplaying a solid team for the final 40 minutes just like Wednesday in Washington. Gotta start better. Attendance is 18,418, less than 300 from a sellout.

4:39 left: Hecht with a one-time rifle from the slot. His second of the year. Great feed off the boards from Pominville. Like i said, super period. Sabres lead, 4-2.

1:30 left: This would be the Sabres' first regulation win since Oct. 23 at New Jersey. That's 12 games ago.

It's over: A 4-2 win after a solid final 20 minutes. Final shots were 36-26 for LA, but 12-9 for Buffalo in the third.

Second Period

8:32 p.m.: We're under way. 

19:23 left: That's how you start a period. The Gaustad-Kaleta-Gerbe line gets some pressure as Sekera brings it in from the left point and Kaleta tips his shot from the circle past Bernier. Game tied at 1-1 on Kaleta's second,

18:38 left: Connolly goes for hooking. Actually, it's Hecht but Connolly's No. 19 is on the board. In Marv Levy-speak, this game has been pretty overofficious.

16:07 left: Another penalty killed. Good shot block by Sekera, among others. Shots are 5-2 for the Kings and 17-8 overall.

15:14 left: More great work by Gerbe and Kaleta and Bernier has to make a sensational right pad stretch save on Gaustad alone in front to keep the game tied.

15:00 left: McCormick and Matt Greene go for roughing. McCormick was set to go and had shed the stick and gloves but the linesmen stepped in. Crowd boos.

14:08 left: Doughty hobbles off after taking a bomb from Connolly on the ankle. That would be a huge loss for the Kings.

13:40 left: Great save by Miller on a one-timer from Justin Williams.

12:53 left: McCormick gets his man right out of the box this time, pounding down Greene. They're both going to get five and the crowd loved it.

11:35 left: Wayne Simmonds beats Miller from the slot to make it 2-1 as the Sabres overskate the puck leaving the zone, notably Ennis, and Rivet might have screened his goalie on the shot from the slot. That's a big, fat minus-2 for Rivet.

11:17 left: More trouble. A tripping call on Connolly behind the Kings' net.

9:49 left: Sabres holding on with the PK. Close call as Jack Johnson's shot dribbled out of Miller's glove and went just wide. As JVogl wrote the other night in Washington, Miller's glove hand has been noticeably off this year compared to last.

9:25 left: Nothing wrong with Miller's reflexes however. Great save on a neat tip from the slot by Simmonds. Shots are 10-4 in this period and 22-10 for the Kings.

5:55 left: Myers and Sekera play with the puck in front of Miller and the goalie eventually has to make a good save from the point. Connolly, meanwhile, keeps firing pucks into the first man to come at him, in the best spirit of Ales Kotalik. Wonder how long Ruff can keep defending the $4.5 million man who doesn't have a goal this month (and is in the middle of his 10th straight scoreless game). But to paraphrasea what the coach said recently, "he's got more points than a lot of guys." Uh-huh.

5:06 left: Johnson goes for elbowing. Kaleta lucky he didn't get a slashing call in retaliation.

4:38 left: The PP connects against the NHL's No. 1 PK. Vanek tips home Roy's shot from the point after Pominville, who is completely snakebit and stuck on one goal, misses two tips from in front. Vanek's seventh makes it 2-2.

4:22 left: Lineup shift update -- Kaleta with a goal and a penalty drawn that leads to a power-play goal. Rivet? Minus-2. 

4:10 left: What might be the NHL's goofiest stat crew has awarded the goal to Roy. How about watching the players' reactions? Everyone saw Vanek tip it home. (By the way, we all doubt Kaleta touched the first one too but I digress).

1:10 left: Miller with the great save on Kopitar after Brown bowls over Sekera to get the puck in front.

End-2nd: It's 2-2 through 40 minutes. Shots were 15-8 for LA and it's 27-14 through two.

First Period

Sabres starters: McCormick-Niedermayer-Grier-Sekera-Myers. Goal: Miller
Kings starters: Brown-Kopitar-King-Scuderi-Doughty. Goal: Bernier.

Nice touch by the Sabres to hold a moment of silence in memory of Burns and Army Specialist Blake Whipple, the Amherst native who was killed recently in Afghanistan and was buried on Monday.

18:05 left: Maybe the food poisoning is still bothering Rivet. On his first shift, he hooks Brad Richardson at center ice as Richardson was blowing by him and is gone for hooking. Rivet simply has not speed or mobility left. A play like that sends a distinct message he's done.

16:00 left: Sabres kill the penalty with two shots on goal, including a good save by Miller on Jack Johnson.

15:35 left: Shots are 7-1 for LA.

15:03 left: The Kings take a 1-0 lead as Dustin Brown goes wide around Morrisonn and beats Miller with a blistering snap shot to the stick side. That makes shots 8-1. Solid start just like Wednesday in Washington, eh?

14:15 left: Big scrum develops between the benches and Gaustad goes with Kevin Westgarth. Pretty even until the end, when Westgarth got the upper hand. They both get five.

11:41 left: Doughty goes for hooking Vanek in the LA zone. Let's see if the Sabres wake up. We've seen this act before: After the Washington-Vancouver wins, the Sabres clearly felt like they were back. Now it's two straight games they haven't shown up at the start. 

9:23 left: Blistering one-timers wide of the PP by Pominville and Sekera. Gotta hit the net. A few seconds after it ends, Ennis breaks through and is hooked down. Scuderi goes for hooking. Sabres back on the PP. Kings came into the game leading the league in PK at 90.1 percent -- including a perfect 35-for-35 at home.

7:21 left: Penalty over. Sabres 3 for 37 at home this year on the PP. Terrible passing. Not enough battles. And the final 30 seconds of the PP featured Ennis-Gerbe-McCormick with Rivet and Leopold at the point. On a power play? Seriously, Lindy? 

3:53 left: Leopold goes for holding as this is one dead-as-a-doornail period. Shots are 10-6 for LA.

2:38 left: Myers goes on a ticky-tack interference call along the boards on Doughty. It was but that was a 2006 call. They gonna call that every time tonight.

1:08 left: Sabres survive the two-man (they had given up a league-high four goals on two-man disadvantages). Nice block by Morrisonn helped.

:40 left: The penalties are over. Solid job on the PK.

:00 left: The period is over. Not such a solid job. Shots are 12-6 for LA and the Kings hold their 1-0 lead as Vanek just missed a goalmouth pass from Ennis in the final two seconds. It came after Ennis made a great play to backcheck on Anze Kopitar as he was trying to break into the Buffalo zone. Let's see if the Sabres get some momentum in the second period from killing off the two-man penalty.

Lightning strikes over and over in Philly

The Tampa Bay Lightning are here Saturday night and they're coming off a victory that is the talk of the NHL today -- an 8-7 win over the Flyers Thursday night in Philadelphia that saw the teams combine for nine first-period goals. If you missed it, it's worth a look as the NHL Network will rebroadcast the shootout Saturday at 4.

Lightning gunner Steven Stamkos had a hat trick in the game and he leads the NHL in goals (19) and points (35). Alexander Semin is next in goals with just 14 and Sidney Crosby is second in points (29).

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, of course, is paying most of attention to the Los Angeles Kings because they're tonight's opponent. But he got a look at the Lightning last night too. Tampa Bay (10-7-2) is fifth in the East in its first year under coach Guy Boucher and GM Steve Yzerman.

"I saw it was 5-4 after the first, I saw Philly was up 7-5 and the final," Ruff said. "That's good old-fashioned hockey there."

Ruff, of course, is a defensive-minded coach but fans love offense. Asked if he wanted to coach in such a free-wheeling game, Ruff smiled and said, "If you win, I'd love to coach that game."

Check out the highlights below.

---Mike Harrington

NHL Network: Uphill battle for Sabres

My son, Ty, was getting ready for school this morning with NHL Network's "On the Fly" on TV, and it popped up an interesting graphic. Basically, it outlined the fact the Sabres have a lot of work to do if they want to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

The channel noted it took 88 points to make the top eight in the East last season. In order to achieve that, the Sabres need to have a .572 win percentage for the rest of the season. Here are the teams out of the top eight now and what they need to do:

Devils (14th place): .603

Islanders (15th): .601

Sabres (12th): .572

Thrashers (11th): .563

Maple Leafs (10th): .554

Panthers (13th): .553

Hurricanes (ninth): .546

---John Vogl

Rivet in, Kaleta possible

Craig Rivet will be back in the lineup tonight as the Sabres face the Los Angeles Kings in HSBC Arena. Patrick Kaleta might be too but we'll just have to wait and see on him. Lindy Ruff would not commit to Kaleta replacing Nathan Gerbe although Kaleta has seemed fine in practice and skated again this morning.

"He's better," Ruff said of Kaleta. "We just don't know if we want to risk playing him right now and we lose him for more time."

Rivet will replace Chris Butler in the lineup. What does Ruff want to see from his embattled captain?

"He's got to bring a consistent physical game," the coach said. "That's the part that's been missing. Some of the play in his own end defensively, the tougher reads that have cost us goals, he has to clean up."

Butler, meanwhile, continues to be a disappointment. He's never showed the promise he did during the 2008-09 season and drew the short straw tonight for a lazy penalty in the first period Wednesday that led to a Washington power play goal.

"He hasn't quite gotten to where he was when he first got here, " Ruff said. "I think there is some disappointment. We've played him out of position the last couple games trying to get him familiar with playing the right side but you can throw as many excuses as you want and you're accountable for your own play. Right now we're going to play the six guys that we think are going to get the job done. In his case, he had a little bit of a rough night and we've got to go from there."

The Kings enter the game 12-5-0 and have given up 11 goals in losing their last two. But they had given up just six in winning the six previous games as goaltender Jonathan Quick (10-2, 1.73, .936) is off to a fabulous start. LA plays tomorrow at Boston so we'll see if the Sabres get another backup in Jonathan Bernier (2-3, 3.01, .899).

(UPDATE: Bernier WILL be in goal tonight according to LAKings Insider, the must-read blog run by former Kings beat writer Rich Hammond. That's 11 backups against the Sabres this season.)

The Kings are just 1-9-1 in Buffalo since 1993. The only win was a 4-1 victory on Feb. 21, 2003. The Sabres have won the last three games here by a total score of 23-4.

---Mike Harrington

Miller on cereal and 'Caddyshack'

Cereal box We took a few minutes off from serious hockey talk this afternoon in HSBC Arena to talk about cereal. Yes, cereal.

Ryan Miller was on hand along with representatives from PLB Sports and area merchants to introduce his new line of "Kick-Save Krunch" (It's a toasted oats cereal but don't use the word "Cheerios"!). Part of the proceeds go to Miller's charity, the Steadfast Foundation. Fans can also order a terrific New Era cap showcasing the Uncle Sam logo from Miller's widely-hailed Olympic mask or get an electronic trading card of Miller by e-mailing/texting the "jag tag" from the back of the box. Pretty neat stuff.

The cereal, made by the same company that brought you "Flutie Flakes," is available at Wegmans, Tops and Wilson Farms. His Olympic experience in February in Vancouver has certainly given Miller far more exposure and he's interested in using it to help Steadfast, which will stage its annual Catwalk for Charity event Sunday night in the Town Ballroom.

"I'm definitely trying to tailor (the attention) to something I feel is important," Miller said. "Steadfast Foundation is in its fifth year. As it's evolved and progressed, we're trying to find unique ways to raise money and awareness. This kind of goes along with it. I'm happy to have an opportunity to get people to pay attention and this is something that's fun."

We went outside the cereal box, so to speak, and also asked Miller about his "Caddyshack" impression, which is being showcased on and in ESPN the Magazine (check out their gallery here). Specifically, Miller was Carl Spackler, the Bill Murray groundskeeper character who basically everyone can do impressions of. The bit was photographed and shot on video a couple weeks ago at Park Country Club.

Miller was pretty good too. "It's in the hole" and "great big gobs of greasy, grimy, gopher guts" rolled right off his tongue. Great outfit too. Check it out below.

---Mike Harrington

Rivet's return likely this weekend

The Sabres have a back-to-back set of home games this weekend (Friday against Los Angeles, Saturday against Tampa Bay), and coach Lindy Ruff said today that captain Craig Rivet will likely return to the lineup at some point during this set. Rivet, on the road back from food poisoning, spent most of Thursday's practice in the arena working with Mike Weber but also spent some time alongside Shaone Morrisonn in place of Chris Butler, who would take a seat in the press box if Rivet comes back into the lineup.

"I would anticipate him playing this weekend," Ruff said of Rivet. "He's worked extremely hard through his virus and hopefully he's ready to be a factor in the games."

Patrick Kaleta had a full practice and might play this weekend. He'll have to go through Friday morning's skate before any decision is reached. Ruff said he would "give that some thought" when asked if Patrick Lalime might get a game but seemed to indicate the Sabres' place in the standings probably dictates Ryan Miller would get both starts. Especially since the team will be off until next Wednesday against Pittsburgh.

---Mike Harrington

Inside the NHL -- Live Chat

Three stars

Live from Sabres at Washington

WASHINGTON -- I get asked a lot what is my favorite road city. Depending on the day, it changes.

New York makes you feel so alive, with its bustle and never-sleep attitude. It's tough to beat the beach in Fort Lauderdale for Panthers road trips. Phoenix brings out that adventurous spirit, with mountain climbing and outdoor desert activities. The food and sightseeing in San Francisco during San Jose trips are astounding. The familiarity of Ottawa is nice. For pure hockey, you can't beat its birthplace -- Montreal. Nashville is the only place where the bars are packed when the morning skate starts at 10:30 a.m.

But for reflection, architecture and and stunning sights, there's nothing like D.C. The nation's capital has it all. Walked around for three hours this afternoon, and despite having seen all the monuments, memorials and buildings before, it felt like the first time. This place is just right.

(Side note: Best invention ever is the camera phone. It allows you to bring people to the sites with you, even though they're back in RC Land.)

And I needed the three-hour walk after stuffing my entire body with steak, steak and more steak at Fogo de Chao. If you've never been to one, you must go. I first heard of it a long while back when co-worker Mark Gaughan praised it in his NFL Power Rankings, which for my money is still the best regular feature in our paper.

Well, back to hockey soon. The Sabres are starting with the line of Cody McCormick-Rob Niedermayer-Mike Grier and the sizzling defensive pair of Jordan Leopold-Steve Montador. Ryan Miller is in net.


7:09 p.m.: Game on.

7:12 p.m.: As usual, lots of Blue and Gold in the stands here, including my cousins Jim, Kathy and Suzy Juraska. Thanks for the food, sodas and fun last night!

Sabres get first power play with Tyler Sloan leaving for slashing with 16:19 left.

7:16 p.m.: Two shots for the Sabres on the power play, which featured bouncing pucks and off-the-mark passes. Looks like the ice might be a bit chippy, but it's the same for both teams so that's not an issue.

7:18 p.m.: It's 0-0 with Caps holding a 5-4 shot edge at first commercial with 13:24 to go.

7:24 p.m.: Chant of "Let's go, Buffalo'' is quickly drowned out by "Let's go, Caps," led by the dude with the annoying horn right below the press box. It's 0-0 with 10:34 to go.

7:27 p.m.: The Capitals get their first power play with 9:05 left. Matt Bradley hustles into the Buffalo zone on a dump in and bangs Chris Butler behind the net. Butler quickly hooks him for the penalty.

7:30 p.m.: Double whammy for the Sabres as Tyler Myers goes for holding with 8:52 left. It's five-on-three for 1:47, and Myers is usually one of the five-on-three guys.

7:32 p.m.: It was only a matter of time. Miller made big saves on Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green, but Alexander Semin spotted Nicklas Backstrom at the opposite side of the crease and fed him for the one-timer with 7:29 left. It's 1-0 Washington.

7:38 p.m.: The Capitals maintain their 1-0 lead with 5:08 left. They also have a 9-6 shot edge. Sabres are on their heels following the penalties.

7:42 p.m.: Capitals make it 2-0 with 2:56 left. Jason Chimera sends a no-look pass between his legs to the front, and Matt Bradley fans on the shot but slips it through Miller's pads.

7:46 p.m.: The Sabres head to the dressing room in a 2-0 hole and with an 11-8 shot deficit.


8:05 p.m.: And they're back...

8:07 p.m.: Miller's glove hand seems just a bit off since his return from injury.

8:08 p.m.: The Sabres' trouble covering plays from behind the net to the front continues. Chimera, below the goal line, feeds David Steckel in the slot for a one-timer. It's 3-0 with 17:15 to go.

8:15 p.m.: A nice pad save by Miller on Brooks Laich keeps the score 3-0. There is 11:40 left.

8:16 p.m.: Whoa, that's quite a promotion. If the Caps score in the final two minutes of the second period, a contestant wins free Lasik eye surgery. That's much better than a free T-shirt, eh?

8:21 p.m.: Sabres get a much-needed power play with 8:28 left. Mike Green held Thomas Vanek. The game has belonged to the Capitals, so the Sabres could use this to get some life.

8:24 p.m.: And there it is. Derek Roy scores high to the glove side with 7:53 left, pulling the Sabres within 3-1 with a power-play goal.

8:25 p.m.: Jordan Leopold pulls the Sabres within 3-2 with 7:05 to go. He swoops in to put home a loose puck in front.

8:28 p.m.: The Sabres are headed back to the power play with 5:41 after Ovechkin flips the puck over the glass for delay of game.

8:29 p.m.: Standing ovation for Army Specialist Mathew Yarger. HSBC Arena is still the only rink that doesn't give standing O's for military personnel, but I have noticed a few people standing lately to applaud. It should be all of them.

8:37 p.m.: The Sabres head to the dressing room in a 3-2 hole. They have a 23-20 shot advantage after a 15-9 second period.


8:55 p.m.: The Capitals are 7-0 when leading after two periods, while the Sabres are 2-8 when trailing after two.

9:02 p.m.: It's still 3-2 Washington with 14:20 to play.

9:02 p.m.: Ovechkin is due.

9:03 p.m.: Jason Pominville, alone in front, couldn't connect on a bouncing pass from Jochen Hecht with 13:28 to go.

9:10 p.m.: The second of three TV timeouts comes with the Caps holding their 3-2 lead with 9:17 to go.

9:14 p.m.: Chimera gives the Sabres a power play with 8:43 left when he hooks Roy.

9:17 p.m.: Michal Neuvirth stones Pominville and Leopold on the power play to keep Washington in front. There's 4:50 left.

9:24 p.m.: The Sabres have just 1:49 left to score and extend their unbeaten streak.

9:27 p.m.: Sabres call timeout with 7.4 seconds left and a faceoff coming in the Washington end.

9:28 p.m.: Washington wins, 4-2, as Semin shoots the puck the length of the ice with 3.2 seconds left.

---John Vogl

Miller in, Rivet still out

WASHINGTON -- No surprises in the nation's capital as the Sabres wrap up their morning skate. Ryan Miller will be in goal against the Capitals tonight, while Craig Rivet and Mike Weber remain the healthy scratches on the blue line. Rivet, it seems, will be out until the Sabres start to stumble.

---John Vogl

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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 |

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 |

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 |