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NHL changes All-Star format

NEWARK, N.J. -- The NHL All-Star Game is undergoing a big change, with players turning into general managers and at least one player bound to get his feelings hurt.

The league and the players' association have decided to scrap the stale format of conference versus conference and go with a fantasy draft conducted by the All-Stars. Fans will vote in three forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender (regardless of conference). The NHL hockey operations department will name the next 36 All-Stars. Those players will vote for team captains, and the guys with the "C" will then draft their teams as if they were on the playground.

That, of course, means one of the league's elite players will suffer the shame of being the last person picked.

"The goal of the All-Star format change was designed to make the game more fun for everyone involved," said Brendan Shanahan, vice president of hockey and business development for the NHL. "By giving the players more input on team selection, as well as Skills Competition match-ups, we feel the 2011 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft will inject more excitement and intrigue into all the events surrounding All-Star weekend."

---John Vogl

Lalime, Miller on trip, Enroth to start

NEWARK, N.J. -- What a tease it is to fly into LaGuardia when the Sabres play New Jersey. You see the Big Apple, drive through Manhattan ... and end up in Newark. Ugh.

So, anyway, greetings from Prudential Center, which is a beautiful rink in a town that beauty forgot. Only four Sabres are on the ice -- goaltenders Patrick Lalime and Ryan Miller, defenseman Mike Weber and forward Nathan Gerbe -- while the rest stayed in Manhattan. Lucky for them, not so for us five.

The absence of Chris Butler leads me to believe Craig Rivet did not make the trip because of the flu and will miss tonight's game and Thursday's meeting with the New York Rangers. UPDATE: Rivet is back in Buffalo.

Lalime, who missed practice Tuesday, obviously does not need his appendix out, as feared. Either he or Miller will back up Jhonas Enroth tonight against the Devils. UPDATE: Lalime is off the ice while Miller is still working with Gerbe, so Lalime is expected to be the backup goalie.

---John Vogl

Road, sweet road

Greetings from the Buffalo airport, where I await my late flight to LaGuardia. The Sabres are in New Jersey tonight and visit the New York Rangers on Thursday, which gets them away from the den of losses that is HSBC Arena.

The Sabres have yet to win at home and will go for their first again Saturday when Washington visits. The home games have featured boos, jeers and apathy. The latter had one notable exception. There was a sign at the previous home game that read "Fans Show Up ... Why Don't You?"

Fansign 
The sign-maker, Jessica LaPoint, plans to continue displaying her frustration.

"I am a season ticket holder since 2006 in the front row of Section 304," LaPoint told me in an e-mail. "I am a teacher who was laid off and now works a part time .4 position. I own 2 seats, selling my extra ticket to friends and strangers just so I can barely afford the rising costs. I go to every game and will post that sign every game until they wake up and start playing for the fans, for the city and for each other.

"It's not that I didn't expect much from them, it's that I guess I expect them to SHOW UP like I do every game. I pay to show up, they get PAID."

---John Vogl

Video: Sabres update with Bucky Gleason

The Sabres hit the road for two games then come back to HSBC Arena for a homestand where they are still winless this season.

Lalime out, leaving Miller to back up vs. Devils

The Sabres' goaltending situation took yet another turn this morning when Patrick Lalime missed practice with possible appendicitis. The veteran goaltender was visiting with doctors today and wasn't  likely to make the trip to New Jersey this afternoon.

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Ryan Miller would be the backup goalie against the Devils, allowing rookie Jhonas Enroth to make his second straight start. Enroth is coming off his first NHL victory, a 3-2 win over Toronto in a shootout.

Ruff wanted Miller, who missed the past four games with a lower-body injury, to get more practice work before sending him back into the crease. Enroth could play again Thursday against the New York Rangers. The Sabres play Washington on Saturday in HSBC Arena.

Captain Craig Rivet missed his third straight practice today while battling the flu. Drew Stafford skated for a brief time on his own while recovering from a shoulder injury. Rookie winger Nathan Gerbe skated with his teammates during non-contract drills while trying to overcome a broken jaw.

Ruff will coach his 1,000th NHL game against the Devis, joining his mentor and former coach, the late Roger Nielson, for 17th all-time in games coached. Ruff is the only man in history to coach his first 1,000 NHL games with the same team.

--- Bucky Gleason

 

Update: Miller returns to practice; Rivet absent

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller returned to practice this morning in hopes of getting back in the lineup sometime this week. The Vezina Trophy winner has missed the past four games with a lower-body injury believed to be knee injury.

Miller was hoping he could return for Wednesday's game in New Jersey, but coach Lindy Ruff hinted there was a better possibility his goaltender would be be back the following night against the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden. Miller said he felt soreness while moving from side to side during the 90-minute workout at HSBC Arena.

Meanwhile, captain Craig Rivet missed his second straight practice while battling the flu, Ruff said. The veteran defenseman sat out the final 6:51 of regulation and overtime in the Sabres' shootout victory over the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

Rookie Jhonas Enroth, who started two of the past three games in Miller's absense, was the third goalie in practice today. Nathan Gerbe worked out in non-contact drills after suffering a broken jaw.

--- Bucky Gleason

 

Sunday morning papers

Here are your Sunday morning reading materials, starting right here in the B-lo:

*It wasn't pretty by any stretch. In fact, it was probably one of the ugliest, most dull games in recent history. The scene afterward, though, was absolutely beautiful for the Buffalo Sabres. They jumped into each other's arms. They looked around in search of fresh teammates to hug. They smiled. They laughed. They celebrated.

It was a long time coming. The Sabres ended their five-game winless streak Saturday with a 3-2 shootout victory over Toronto.

*Matt Ellis rejoined the Sabres for their game in Toronto, getting the call-up because Drew Stafford is out with an upper-body injury.

*Bucky Gleason writes that the Bruins weren't good enough for General Manager Peter Chiarelli. He took an honest look at his roster, became more aggressive in the offseason and plowed forward without worrying about making mistakes. The Bruins, back among the NHL's best teams, are now capable of winning the Stanley Cup.

Sabres GM Darcy Regier was so impressed with a team that lost to the Bruins in the first round last season that he kept his hands off the roster and hoped for the best.

*Buffalo News arts critic Colin Dabkowski explores today's opening of "Forty: The Sabres in the NHL," an unconventional exhibition that has the Sabres and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery collaborating to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the franchise's hard-won entry into the NHL.

For gallery director Louis Grachos -- a self-proclaimed hockey fanatic -- the show is not intended as an art exhibition, nor a factual history lesson about the team. Instead, he characterized the show simply as a visual experience fueled by dramatic photographs and absorbing video. But, the exhibition is drawing sharp rebukes from some in the art world -- not for its focus on the Sabres, but for how the exhibition was conceived and paid for. The exhibition was funded by Larry Quinn, managing partner and part-owner of the Sabres.

*Here is the Canadian Press' wrapup of the Sabres-Leafs snoozefest, with a headline I'm sure all Sabres die-hards will love: "Ennis scores shootout winner as lowly Sabres beat Leafs"

*While the Sabres can't win on home ice, their minor-league team in Portland finally lost its first game in front of their fans.

*As always, my childhood street hockey buddy and fellow Public Enemy concert-goer Kris Baker catches fans up on all the Sabres' prospects at SabresProspects.com. Today's update includes video of fights by Marcus Foligno and Zack Kassian.

*A 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic gold medal has been sold at public auction for nearly $311,000.

---John Vogl

Final words from the ACC

TORONTO -- The Sabres thoroughly enjoyed their 3-2 shootout victory over Toronto, celebrating like it was the fourth win of a seven-game playoff series rather than just the fourth win of the 15-game season.

"We’re going through a bit of a tough stretch, and it felt good to tie it up at the end there and get the win," Tyler Ennis said. "It was a great feeling, and we want that feeling more."

"It’s been awhile since we won our last game," Jochen Hecht said. "It was a big effort from everybody in here to win the game."

"This was a really big game for me," said goalie Jhonas Enroth, who won his first career game. "Hopefully, I can build my season off this and try to keep the same level. I’ve never doubted myself. I had a tough game that last game. I’m not going to lie about it, but I know what I can do.

"I don’t know when I’m going to play next, and I don’t know if I’m going to get a shot to win a game, so I just really tried to pull it together and come up with a few saves."

---John Vogl

Three stars

Live from Sabres at Toronto

TORONTO -- Greetings from The True North, where there are Hockey Hall of Famers wandering throughout Air Canada Centre. It's the Hall of Fame Game, and you can tell by the suits and the security down near the dressing rooms.

Speaking of dressing rooms, the Sabres just came out of theirs for the pregame skate and Jhonas Enroth led them. Lindy Ruff is going back to the rookie goaltender to start the game, just one night after the coach was disappointed in Patrick Lalime's ability to make a save on Benoit Pouliot's game-winning slap shot. Enroth played just 20 minutes in his previous start and gave up three goals to Boston on Wednesday during the Sabres' 5-2 loss.

For once, I don't really have anything witty to lead with in this opening segment. The drive up had its usual frustrating moments with construction and bad Canadian drivers who don't realize the left lane is for passing. My breakfast was phenomenal, but I don't think you care too much about that at the moment.

So with that, I'll go back to writing the Notebook -- which leads with Matt Ellis being recalled -- and I'll be back when the puck drops. That won't be till about 7:25 p.m. because they are honoring the inductees.

FIRST PERIOD

7:27 p.m.: And the puck has dropped with the Sabres starting Jochen Hecht in the middle of Tyler Ennis and Jason Pominville.

7:29 p.m.: It was quiet in here until the scoreboard told the fans to "scream." So they did. Really?

7:30 p.m.: The Sabres' other lines feature Paul Gaustad-Rob Niedermayer-Mike Grier; Matt Ellis-Derek Roy-Thomas Vanek (playing the right wing instead of left); and Cody McCormick-Tim Connolly-Patrick Kaleta.

7:37 p.m.: Whoa, almost dozed off because it's so peaceful in here. Good thing Enroth wasn't sleeping because he had to make a pad save on Mikhail Grabovski with 12:30 left and a glove stop on Fredrik Sjostrom (who?) with 11:39 to go. The shots are 4-4 with 11:15 left.

7:41 p.m.: The Sabres will get the first power play with Kris Versteeg going off for slashing with 9:57 to go. Commercial break gave me a chance to get in touch with my Blasdell friends Joe and Lori, who are up here to enjoy a Sabres-Bills doubleheader. Of course, "enjoy" might not be the right term for those two teams.

7:47 p.m.: Not surprisingly, the Lears kill the penalty.

7:48 p.m.: Enroth stops Clarke MacArthur on a breakaway with 7:34 left to keep the game scoreless.

7:51 p.m.: The Sabres have 11 shots with 4:53 left, but Jean-Sebastien Giguere hasn't needed to make any huge saves. The Leafs have seven shots. It's 0-0.

8:01 p.m.: The Sabres head to the dressing room in a 1-0 hole. Grabovski scored on a slap shot from the middle of the blue line with 16.6 seconds left. The Sabres have a 15-9 edge in shots.

SECOND PERIOD

8:20 p.m.: The puck is dropped. Let's hope this period has more excitement than the first.

8:26 p.m.: Mike Komisarek throws a nice check on Ennis along the boards with 16:50 left, and Steven Montador takes exception and fights the big defenseman. Montador gets roughing-fighting, while Komisarek gets just fighting. It's a Toronto power play.

8:30 p.m.: Toronto's Mike Brown goes to the box for hooking with 14:06 left. It's still 1-0, and still quiet.

8:34 p.m.: The Sabres' power play, which was joined by Niedermayer, also goes quietly. It's 1-0 with 11:31 to go.

8:43 p.m.: The Sabres have been outshot 6-2 through 12 minutes. Real barnburner this game is.

8:46 p.m.: Commercial break. It's still 1-0 with 5:58 left. Toronto has seven shots, the Sabres just three. OK, back to sleep ...

8:51 p.m.: The Leafs take a 2-0 lead with 4:19 left. Roy lost his stick and couldn't kick the puck out, allowing Nikolai Kulemin to keep the puck, work a give-and-go with Grabovski and beat Enroth from close range.

8:56 p.m.: Roy cuts the Sabres' deficit to 2-1. He tips Jordan Leopold's shot on Giguere, who makes the save. The rebound pops up and Roy bats it from midair into the net with 1:14 to go.

8:59 p.m.: End of two, Leafs lead 2-1. Sabres have 21-19 edge in shots.

THIRD PERIOD

9:18 p.m.: And the teams are back.

9:22 p.m.: Shaone Morrisonn's hold gives Toronto a power play with 14:43 left.

9:26 p.m.: Sabres kill it, get PP of their own with 12:28 to go on Mike Brown's boarding call.

9:33 p.m.: Canadian military member introduced with 8:19 left and gets a standing ovation. Take note, HSBC Arena attendees. It's 2-1 Toronto still.

9:35 p.m.: This might be the worst hockey game I've ever seen. That includes pickup games during Skate and Shoot and Mite cross-ice games.

9:45 p.m.: It's 2-1 Toronto with 1:15 left.

9:46 p.m.: Sabres score with 13.1 seconds left to tie the game.

9:53 p.m.: Sabres call timeout with 1:46 left in overtime.

9:56 p.m.: Off to a shootout.

10:03 p.m.: Vanek and John Mitchell trade goals to send it to extra shooters.

10:04 p.m.: Ennis' goal gives the Sabres a 3-2 victory and ends the five-game winless streak.

---John Vogl

Ellis recalled to replace Stafford

TORONTO -- Matt Ellis, who played 117 games for the Sabres over the previous two seasons, is up for his first of this year. The Sabres have recalled the center from Portland to replace injured right wing Drew Stafford, who is expected to miss a good amount of time with an upper-body injury suffered Friday.

Ellis, who was named the captain of the Pirates, has three goals and 13 points in 13 games with Portland. He had those identical numbers in 72 games with Buffalo last year.

Luke Adam leads the Pirates in scoring and has been called up twice so far, but coach Lindy Ruff said the Sabres went with Ellis because Adam has fatigue in his game after shuttling back and forth between the big club and the minor-league affiliate.

---John Vogl

Three stars: Canadiens 3, Sabres 2

Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Habs

Greetings from the latest installment of Which Buffalo Team Will Win a Home Game First, also known as tonight's Sabres-Canadiens game from HSBC Arena. The Sabres, of course, are 0-5-1 here and won't be back until Nov. 13 against the Capitals. The Bills, of course, haven't won anywhere (and I won't count Sunday's game in Toronto as a home win either). So we're still looking at April 6 -- the Sabres' 5-2 win over the Rangers -- as the last time the Sabres or Bills won a game in front of the home fans.

Yeeesh. And then these teams wonder why the fans are in a bad mood and the media is crabbing at them in press conferences. Scoreboards, people!!

The Sabres take the ice for warmups and Patrick Lalime, as expected, leads them out. Chris Butler and Mike Weber are again the healthy scratches. You should see all the empty seats here. It's a gold game and these single-game seats in the 300 level didn't sell for this one. Sections 301, 302 and 325 are virtually empty 10 minutes before faceoff. 

Tomas Plekanec (flu) is a scratch for the Canadiens. They showed video of Lindy Ruff's speech last night at the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame on the HD board just before the teams came back on the ice -- including the parts of Ruff's non-guarantee guarantee. If you didn't read our discussion about that earlier today (where the heck were you?), be sure to go here to check it out.

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

Third Period

Of note: Stafford has an upper body injury and will not return. Pouliot (two goals), Darche (two assists) and Halpern (1g, 2a) are all plus-3 for the Habs. Niedermayer/Grier plus-2 for Buffalo. Rivet/Sekera/Vanek/Roy all minus-2. Vanek has a game-high six shots.

18:32 left: Cammalleri goes for holding. Sabres are 0 for 3 on the PP with just two shots. 

17:55 left: Great save by Price on an Ennis break, sparked by a great pass from Sekera.

16:30 left: PP over again. Sabres fall to 0 for 4. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Habs lead the league on the road at 96.4 percent (27 of 28).

14:04 left: Giveaway by Sekera at the Montreal line. Hooking penalty to Sekera. Habs with a chance to go for the kill right now.

12:00 left: The penalty is over. Sabres still alive.

11:28 left: Rivet off for interference. Sabres begging for trouble.

9:23 left: Lalime takes the shot to the midsection from Roman Hamrlik from the right point to help kill another penalty. Lalime has been pretty active tonight, out to the top of the crease of many shots. Too bad about Pouliot's second goal. A real downer on an otherwise decent night for the backup. Much tighter period: Shots are 4-3 for Buffalo and 31-28 for the Sabres in the game.

7:55 left: Kostitsyn stopped by Lalime on a semi-breakaway. Good play by Montador to close fast and bother the shooter. 

6:30 left: Lalime stops Cammalleri on a 2-on-1 after the shifty winger goes right around Myers and breaks down the ice. The sophomore has just been The Big Easy for opponents far too often this season.

4:42 left: Attendance is announced as 18,026. Some of those empties did, in fact, fill in. 

3:19 left: Niedermayer skates right by the puck -- twice! -- on the way to the bench and Gionta goes around Vanek in on Lalime but shoots wide. The Niedermayer play was simply terrible.

1:50 left: Great stop by Lalime on Pouliot on a 2-on-1 that would have been his hat trick.

1:27 left: Big boos as Sabres called for icing. 

It's over: A 3-2 loss and an 0-6-1 home record. Another week before a chance at a home win (Nov. 13 vs. Washington). Crazy. Shots were 32-31 Montreal.

Second Period

Of note: Stafford and Hecht, who both had perhaps their best periods of the season, had three shots on goal apiece in the first for the Sabres. So did Sekera and Vanek. Good to see a plus-1 for Myers for once. Cammalleri had four shots for the Habs. Gaustad was 3-0 on faceoffs. He was 11-0 Wednesday night, the first NHL player perfect on 10-plus chances in a game this season.

18:27 left: Price robs Ennis on the doorstop. Great feed from Grier. Hey, an astute reader points out we never reviewed the lines. No changes from the other night. Vanek-Roy-Stafford, Hecht-Connolly-Pominville, Ennis-Niedermayer-Grier, McCormick-Gaustad-Kaleta. By the way, there doesn't appear to be any booing of Connolly. Frankly, nobody's even noticed him near the puck so far.

16:33 left: Sabres power play. Kaleta mixes it up with Markov and Gorges comes in to help. They all get roughing so it's a 4-on-3 for the Sabres. 

14:30 left: Gotta start declining these penalties. Sabres have the puck more when it's 5-on-5.

11:32 left: Good set of eyes from the AP's Bob Matuszak. Drew Stafford not currently on Sabres bench.

10:58 left: The Sabres jump into a 2-1 lead as Jordan Leopold jumps up on the play and bangs home a rebound as Grier was pounding away in the crease. That's Leopold's fourth of the year, as in the same number of goals as Vanek, Connolly and Stafford. 

10:12 left: So much for that lead. Myers and Morrisonn get outmuscled behind the net and the Connolly line, especially No. 19 himself, sits in front watching as Benoit Pouliot jams it past Lalime. Habs tie it 2-2.

9:02 left: Stupid blooper video time. Shots are 24-15 for Sabres.

6:05 left: Great save by Lalime on Lapierre on the doorstep. No real complaints how he's played tonight. Two goals on 20 shots for the Habs.

3:57 left: Lalime with the glove snare of P.K. Subban's laser from the right point. Maybe it was going wide but still a solid snag. 

2:48 left: What was I saying about Lalime? Pouliot burns him with a rocket from the left boards on the short side for his second of the night and a 3-2 Habs lead. You just have to make that save. Bad karma: Sabres have not won a game this year in which they've trailed at any point. 

End-2nd: Habs lead, 3-2. Shots were 15-11 for Montreal and are 27-25 for Buffalo. Also: Gaustad limped off the ice at the buzzer with a right foot/ankle problem. 

First Period

Starters: For Sabres, it's Vanek-Roy-Stafford with Sekera-Rivet on defense. It's Kostitsyn-Gomez-Gionta for Montreal with Markov-Gorges on the backline. Lalime vs. Price in goal. The smallest crowd of the year was 17,896 for the Oct. 11 Chicago game. This one will be smaller.

19:18 left: The first "Go Habs, Go" chant is met with a good boo.

15:52 left: Sabres skating pretty good so far. Pominville had two great chances in a 12-second span foiled by old friend Jaro Spacek, one with a diving pokecheck on a breakaway and the other on a block of a slapshot in the slot. Great shift from the McCormick-Gaustad-Kaleta line for Buffalo. A near-miss for the Habs as Kostitsyn blazed a slapshot just wide of the post when it appeared he had some room on the stick side on Lalime.

14:14 left: Dustin Boyd goes for holding. Let's see if the Sabres can avoid giving up a short-handed goal. They've given up three the last two games and an NHL-high four for the season.

12:10 left: No shorties against but no power play either. No shots and five turnovers. Brutal.

11:01 left: Shots are 5-1 for Buffalo after Price stops Hecht -- who still has no goals this season -- on the backhand. Habs blew a great chance a few seconds earlier when Kostitsyn fans on a 2-on-1. No real problem with the Sabres' effort so far. The power play was easily the worst two minutes of the period. That's bad news, because here it comes again after a too many men on the ice penalty to the Habs.

9:00 left: More disorganiation from the PP. Two shots (Sekera and Vanek) but still too many turnovers.

8:50 left: Price with his best stop of the period, from the doorstep on Vanek. the Habs' fans below us are chanting "Car-ey, Car-ey" As well they should. Shots are 9-1 in the Sabres best period probably since Oct. 23 at New Jersey.

6:10 left: Big cheers after Hecht and Pominville are stopped. Shots are 13-2.

6:02 left: Vanek dumped in the Habs' end with a low hit by PK Subban and Stafford challenges Subban but the linesmen get in the way. And Stafford gets the only penalty, for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Sign3:30 left: The Habs had some chances but some active work on the PK from Morrisonn and Hecht, among others keep them scoreless. Shots are 14-7. Good note from an eagle-eye on Twitter pointing out a sign above Section 304 (was a little obstructed from my view until I moved a few feet) It says, "FANS SHOW UP. WHY DON'T YOU?" Ouch!

2:42 left: The Sabres finally get rewarded as Grier takes a super feed from Ennis, goes in alone and beats Price on the backhand to make it 1-0 on a 3-on-1 break. Just a few seconds earlier, we were stunned to watch Scott Gomez basically have a breakaway and look to pass it to Gionta. Pass went wide. That's why Gomez has one goal this year. Grier's first of the season in his 1,001st NHL game. Sabres, 1-0.

1:20 left: The Habs tie it up as Jeff Halpern takes a great pass from behind the net from Mathieu Darche, beats Roy to the spot in the slot and beats Lalime. Seventeen minutes of work for the Sabres to get a lead gone in 82 seconds. 1-1.

End-1st: Shots are 16-10 for the Sabres.

Lindy 'guarantees' it -- or did he?

You can argue semantics but Lindy Ruff clearly put the target on his chest even more with his big statement at the podium during Thursday night's Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Speaking in front of a packed ballroom at the Hyatt Regency, Ruff said, "We are a playoff team. We will make the playoffs. ... You got to dig in, you got to belly up and there’s no quit in us and I’ll guarantee you that part. This team will be back and will be back hard."

When I asked Ruff after today's morning skate about the comments, he was quick to say, "I didn't use the word 'guarantee' [in association with making the playoffs]. I did not use the word guarantee." (My comment: Whatever, dude). 

"I still believe and I firmly believe that we're a playoff team," Ruff said. "We are. Because I do. We've had some struggles. We had struggles last year. We started 8-1-1 and had some tough stretches. We're making it difficult because our struggle came right off the bat."

That's for sure. The Sabres are 30th in the NHL and 0-5-1 at home heading into tonight's game with Montreal. Their only worse home start in their history was went they went 0-7 in 1993-94. Asked about Ruff's words, here's some opinions from around the locker room today:

Paul Gaustad: "He has confidence in this room and he has confidence as a coach. It's got to be tough on him dealing with the media every day and he's done a really good job with us in the locker room and not pressing a panic button but we know we haven't played well enough in here. It's on us as players to perform better."

Derek Roy: "He believes in this team and that we're a good team. The players here believe in him and our own ability. We need something to turn the table here."

Jason Pominville: "Out of character [for Ruff] sure...But as players we all have to be out of character right now. He came out at the start of the year and said we can be a Cup contender and we feel we have the group to do that. Right now we're not close to where we want to be. We can only get better. Once you get in the playoffs, who knows what can happen. We want to build off one game, get a win and get in there. We always feel we can be a part of those eight teams."

Patrick Lalime will start in goal tonight. Ryan Miller did not take the skate as Ruff said he wanted to give him a day off. Ruff said Miller felt the same as yesterday but will not play this weekend and his return is no earlier than next week's trip to New York and New Jersey. Tomas Plekanec, Montreal's leading scorer, missed the morning skate with the flu and is questionable.

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

No Miller at morning skate

The Sabres have taken the ice for their morning skate at HSBC Arena and the nets are being tended by Jhonas Enroth and Patrick Lalime. No big shock, as Ryan Miller still didn't look close to being ready at yesterday's practice in Amherst.

I would imagine Lalime would start tonight against Montreal. We'll see.

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

Pick a winner

A view from Toronto on Lindy

Lindy Ruff's job status is becoming a hot-button issue around North America, not just in Buffalo. The Sabres' dire straits have become a topic on ESPN.com and on Canadian television via TSN. Here's another view courtesy of the Toronto Globe & Mail's podcast, featuring veteran Calgary-based writer Eric Duhatschek (who also is a regular on Hockey Night in Canada) and the Globe's James Mirtle.

Click below to listen to the part of their show concerning Ruff, Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers.

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

Lindy: Team hasn't tuned me out

Coach Lindy Ruff isn't having much fun with his last-place team, but he insisted today the Sabres haven't tuned him out.

"Not at all," he said. "Not at all. We’ve had real communication with all of them. I don’t think there is any tuning out. That approach comes from being belligerent with players, but there is none of that."

He also thinks the system can succeed, though it hasn't yet.

"I don’t think there’s any doubt," he said. "You can look at the games we dominated and lost games. You can go to three or four of our road games that we absolutely dominated and we lost the game. If you make a mistake and give the team a breakaway, or four-on-four you give up a wide pass and they get a breakaway, that has nothing to do with system."

---John Vogl

Miller day-to-day, but looks doubtful

Ryan Miller, who missed Wednesday's latest loss with a lower-body injury, says he's feeling better. It doesn't look like he'll be ready to play Friday against Montreal, though.

Miller continually talked with athletic trainer Tim Macre inside Northtown Center in Amherst today while the Sabres practiced. The goaltender winced at times while turning and going down to one pad.

"I feel a little better," Miller said. "We’ll just keep going day-by-day to see how things are feeling. It’s improving, so we’ll wake up tomorrow and go from there.

"I’m just trying to sense where I’m at," said Miller, who did a lot of splits and stretches. "It’s not so much stretching to try and loosen it up. It’s just like, 'OK, where is it at?' It’s something where I want to feel like I’m comfortable.

"It’s basically been since training camp. A guy falls on my knee and then you’re playing not entirely comfortable. I don’t want to do that all year. I want to get it back to where it’s feeling good."

---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 | 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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