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Winter Classic moved to 8 p.m.

Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, just announced on NHL Network that Saturday's Winter Classic in Pittsburgh has been moved from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. because of the threat of afternoon rain showers. The Sabres are set to host the Boston Bruins at 7 p.m.

---John Vogl

Lindy line shuffle continues

Lindy Ruff's line combinations usually have the staying power of a mayfly, as evidenced by today's practice in Northtown Center in Amherst. The combination of Luke Adam-Tim Connolly-Thomas Vanek was gone. Here's what the Sabres used to prepare for Saturday's home game against Boston:

Vanek-Connolly-Jason Pominville

Jochen Hecht-Rob Niedermayer-Drew Stafford

Tyler Ennis-Luke Adam-Cody McCormick

Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Mike Grier

---John Vogl

Rain delays possible, but NHL ready for Classic

The NHL, hyping Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin on one hand and using the other to check weather reports, says Saturday's Winter Classic between the Penguins and Capitals will be played despite an ominous forecast of 49 degrees and rain showers.

"We're going to play," John Collins, the NHL's chief operating officer, said today at a news conference. "Weather is part of the game's DNA. I mean, it's an outdoor game. Like the World Series, weather gets involved in it. We're going to play. We're planning to play at 1 o'clock. We've got maximum flexibility to do what needs [to be done] to get that game in on Saturday."

Collins said there could be rain delays and the game could stretch into the evening.

"We'll gather as much information as we possibly can to make sure that we're taking into account the competitive integrity of the game and the safety of the players and obviously the convenience of the fans," Collins said. "I think everybody associated with the game, from the broadcast partners to our corporate partners to our licensees and I think our fans, understand what they're getting into for this."

---John Vogl

Connolly, Myers back; Kaleta to miss time

The Sabres are set to get one of their top two centers back. Tim Connolly, who has missed four games with a fractured nose that required surgery, will play Saturday when Boston visits HSBC Arena.

"It’ll give us some help on our power play, it’ll give us one more guy who’s a little bit more creative in the middle," said coach Lindy Ruff, who used Connolly as the center for left wing Luke Adam and right wing Thomas Vanek during practice today in Northtown Center in Amherst. “Hopefully, if we can play him with Van it can help create a few more opportunities.”

With the season-ending leg injury to Derek Roy, Connolly will be asked to produce more offense.

"He’s going to have to, if you look at it," Ruff said. "They’re our two most creative offensive players, and when you’re looking for production you’ve got to look to those guys first."

Said Connolly: "Everybody else, along with myself, is going to have to pick it up and chip in and do what we can to score some goals out there, get the power play going and create some offense."

Defenseman Tyler Myers, who missed the last two games due to illness, returned to practice. Right wing Patrick Kaleta suffered an upper-body injury Tuesday against Edmonton and will miss at least Saturday’s game. He skated today but did not use his left arm or hand during the workout.

---John Vogl

Hear from Miller on No. 200

EDMONTON -- Ryan Miller was understandably thrilled with his 200th NHL win Tuesday night in Edmonton. Especially since the Sabres were patently brutal for the final 40 minutes Monday in Calgary and gave up an early goal in this game. Hear Miller's comments on his milestone below.

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

Select your three stars

Live from Edmonton: Sabres vs. Oilers

EDMONTON -- High-high-high atop another Canadian arena, get ready for what might be another ugly Sabres live blog as they get set to meet the Edmonton Oilers. The view is a little lower than last  night in Calgary. The way to get into the press box was worse. Two rickety metal staircases, then a catwalk, then a looooong walk around the hanging basket of a box. Hey, Canada: You can build a press box that's part of the arena instead of just hung from the roof. It's OK.

Now that I have that out of my system ..... 

It is cold here. Really cold. Freezing. Temperatures in the single digits. It was bright and sunny all afternoon and then it suddenly got ridiculously foggy as I was driving back for the game. Coming down the hill on Wayne Gretzky Drive, you couldn't even see the rink on your right. Crazy. 

DSCN1338I checked out the West Edmonton Mall, the largest in North America. I am not a mall person but this place was ridiculous. Its wiki page does an amazing job of detailing the history and such. Water parks (left), sea lion shows, themed areas like Bourbon Street and Chinatown and an indoor rink that the Oilers once used for practice. You could spend an entire day there easy. Or a couple.

But here's my warning: You'll never find your car. My rental was in area 32. After a couple hours of walking around the mall, I was hopelessly lost. How big is this place? I got a cab outside to drive me around to area 32 and the fare was in the $10 range. Think the bosses at TBN will let that one slide on the ol' expense account?

I've been trying to get my early edition story on Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle done and it's complete (be sure to check it out in the paper tomorrow). Maybe in the first intermission I'll post a couple pictures of the view or the mall water park. There is a game to talk about here. I hear you out there: Do we have to? Yes people, we do. That's what I'm here for.

The Sabres are 1-5-2 in their last eight on the road. They're decimated by injuries and Tyler Myers' illness. They're closer to a top-five draft pick than the playoffs. How ugly might Saturday night in HSBC Arena be if this one is ugly tonight? Let's wait and see. And yep, Ryan Miller is again going for win No. 200. 

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

Sabres starters: Stafford-Hecht-Pominville-Sekera-Leopold (change in pairings). Goal: Miller
Oilers starters: Hall-Gagner-Eberle-Peckham-Gilbert. Goal: Khabibulin. 

Third Period

10:46 p.m.: (killer for reporter deadlines): The puck is dropped.

17:15 left: Buffalo gets the breathing room tally it needs from Hecht, who breaks down the left wing and beats Khabibulin between the legs after taking a backhand pass from Gerbe. (Bad goal there). An assist from Weber on the play as well. Hecht has been much better tonight than last night's disaster. Sabres lead, 3-1.

15:22 left: Great save from Miller on Eberle, who has been dangerous.

13:42 left: Ryan Jones puts home Tom Gilbert's pass. Or did the pass go in off Rivet? Either way, Sabres lead 3-2. Play is under review. Goal stands. Goes to Gilbert as ruled in off Rivet.

13:00 left: They switched the goal and gave it to Jones.

12:49 left: Miller smothers Smid's shot from the left circle.

8:54 left: McCormick for slashing in the offensive zone. Smacked the stick right out of Penner's hands. No reason.

2;53 left: Great glvoe save by Miller on Hemsky.

2:00 left: Miller close to No. 200. Holding on.

It's Over: A 4-2 win as Weber hits the empty net with a 180-footer at 19:08. No. 200 for Miller and he shares a bearhug with Lalime as they're the last two off the ice.

Second Period

9:56 p.m.: The puck is dropped. Scroll up and check out the picture I posted of the waterpark inside the mall. Filled with people on the slides and the rapids on a 0-degree day. How cool is that?

16:27 left: Sabres take the 2-1 lead as Weber snaps one from the point and it goes all the way in over Khabibulin's glove. Weber's first NHL goal.

15:44 left: Stafford for hooking. This note just in on my cell phone: A voicemail from United that my flights home tomorrow are canceled and they "hope" to be able to rebook me on Thursday. Wonderful. I'll be working that issue after the game.

11:00 left: The Oilers had plenty of jump at the start of this game and they are dead-dead-dead now. They had some early chances to convert and take a 2-0 lead and didn't. Now the Sabres are controlling play. Of course, controlling play against the 15th place team in the West is hardly cause for celebration. Small victories at this point.

9:58 left: McCormick for slashing a few seconds after a brutal giveaway by Montador, who sent the puck in the slot in front of his net.

6:39 left: Sabres doing a great job on the PK tonight. Now they have a power play as Hemsky goes for hooking. 

2:53 left: Rivet goes for cross checking Jean-Francois Jacque. An obvious call but it was the retaliation, which is what officials always see. Do they really think a guy just blatantly drills somebody at center ice for no reason without provocation? 

43.4 left: Rivet breakaway out of the box, pulled down by Smid and they knock the net off. No call. Sabres looking for the penalty shot and got nothing. That said, Rivet got too close and needed to shoot.

End-2nd: Sabres lead 2-1. Edmonton had a 7-5 edge in shots and it's 18-16 for the Oilers through two.

First Period

9:08 p.m.: Puck is dropped.

18:33 left: An early disaster. Tyler Ennis stripped right in front by Ales Hemsky. Dustin Penner walks in alone on Miller and beats him between the legs. 1-0 Oilers on the game's first shot.  Forwards were terrible last night, giving the puck away ad nauseum. It continues. And it would be nice if Miller would make a stop too.

14:30 left: Lindy Ruff is pretty much out of ideas with this team. What to do? Trash everything, lines and defense pairings. The only line that's status quo is Stafford-Hecht-Pominville. After that, it's Vanek-McCormick-Gerbe, Niedermayer-Adam-Kaleta and Ennis-Gaustad-Grier. On defense, Leopold and Montador, who have been slumping for a few weeks, are no longer together. Leopold is with Sekera in Myers' spot while Montador is with Weber and Rivet is with Morrisonn.

13:07 left: Glad to see the Sabres conserved energy by having an optional morning skate. Shots are 4-0 for the Oilers so far. Puck has hardly been in the Edmonton zone. Memo to Terry Pegula: If this keeps up, the expectation is that you will back up the truck and start shipping out everything.

10:32 left: Buffalo's first shot, a routine flip shot from the left point by Leopold.

8:55 left: Holy moly, a real scoring chance. A great save by Khabibulin denies Grier on the wraparound attempt. Looked like Grier had the post but the Oilers' goalie got back quickly. Shots are 6-3 for Edmonton.

6:56 left: Sabres finally woke up. Great shift by Adam keyed his line and Buffalo actually leads in shots at 7-6.

4:29 left: Mr. Vogl would be happy. They have cheerleaders here, which should be considered blasphemous in Canada. They're called the Octane. Get it? Oil, octane. These jokesters. You want a link? Not on my blog, people. Go find it yourself!

3:24 left: It is very, very quiet here. HSBC-level quiet. Nothing like Calgary, where there was quite a buzz all night. Maybe everyone is fronzen in their seats. It's FREEZING in here. I can feel a breeze on my neck. What's up with that? 

2:12 left: Sabres tie it at 1-1. Kaleta does the dirty work behind the net and gets it out front to Adam, whose 5-footer is tipped by and Edmonton defenseman but still has the mustard to make the net. Game tied, 1-1. Adam's second of the year. Sabres have been the better team last 10 minutes.

1:25 left: Gerbe foiled on clear break on 2-on-0 with Vanek. Hmmm. Vanek 13 goals, Gerbe one goal. Pass? Maybe?

End-1st: We're tied at 1-1 and shots are 11-11. Sabres, remember, had no shots for first 9:28 of the period.

Bulletin: Myers out again for Sabres

EDMONTON -- I just met with Lindy Ruff upon his arrival at Rexall Place for tonight's Sabres-Oilers game and he will field the same six defensemen as he did last night in Calgary. That means Tyler Myers is again a scratch with the flu.

"He's not even here," Ruff said. "Still back in the hotel not feeling well."

Shaone Morrisonn will again be in the lineup with Chris Butler a scratch. Ruff liked Morrisonn's game last night in his return from a concussion.

"I thought he played well," Ruff said. "Played physical and didn't make any big mistakes."

The coach said he had only seen "one quick replay" of Zack Kassian's hit today in the Canada-Czech Republic game in HSBC Arena and had no comment on the play at this point.

Stay tuned later tonight for our Sabres-Oilers live blog, which opens at 9.

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

Quiet skate for Sabres

EDMONTON -- A quiet morning skate for the Sabres at Rexall Place as it's an optional, as most of them are on the second day of back-to-back games. The Sabres are just 3-6-1 in the back end this year, which doesn't bode well for tonight's game against the Edmonton Oilers.

On the ice are Tim Connolly, Drew Stafford, Mike Grier, Paul Gaustad, Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis, Luke Adam, Mike Weber, Chris Butler, Craig Rivet and Patrick Lalime. Lindy Ruff is not here as the assistant coaches are running the skaters through drills.

Ruff is scheduled to meet the media at 5 p.m. local time (7 p.m. in Buffalo) and that's when we should get definitive word on Tyler Myers' status for tonight.

The Oilers, meanwhile, are 0-2-1 in their last three games and 1-4-1 in their last six but this is the opener of a five-game homestand for them. Rookies Jordan Eberle (9-13-22) and Taylor Hall (11-10-21) are third and fourth, respectively, on the team in scoring. WJC alums from last year's Team Canada squad, I chatted with both of them and you can read it in Wednesday's Buffalo News (cheap plug alert).

Stay tuned later today for the word from Ruff.

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

Live from the Saddledome: Sabres vs. Flames

CALGARY -- Greetings from high atop -- and I mean high -- the Scotiabank Saddledome for tonight's Sabres-Flames game. This is a 27-year-old place that has seen better days (tiny, tiny concourses, people) but has plenty of history too. There were Stanley Cup finals games here in 1986, 1989 and 2004 and, of course, the 1988 Winter Olympics.

DSCN1303It was here where Katarina Witt stole the hearts of the world in women's figure skating. And my recollection is pretty clear that she stole the heart of News columnist Donn Esmonde, who watched from the press section and then famously wrote that she was "Kat" to him.

The weather here is a stunner. It was in the low 40s and sunny today. Not what I expected. I'm going back to the arctic tomorrow in Edmonton, where it's not going to get past about 6 degrees. Found some terrific wild mushroom soup and spaghetti with kobe beef meatballs last night at a place called Joey Tomatos. I'd link you the menu but can't find a Web site. Hmmm. Spent today atop the iconic Calgary Tower, which was made most famous when it was topped by the Olympic flame for those two weeks in 1988. Got some great shots from up there of the Rocky Mountains and Saddledome itself (left).

Now for the press box. OK, for the most part I have no fear of heights. Flying doesn't bother me. Going up tall buildings in elevators doesn't bother me. But I had heard plenty about this thing before making this trip.

There are catwalks above the scoreboard -- yes, above the scoreboard -- that take you from the writers side to the broadcast/team personnel side. So good thing I don't need to talk to any scratched players or Darcy Regier tonight. And I'll politely turn down any radio requests.

DSCN1309To get in here, it's an elevator ride to the top of the building, a double set of stairs up to the top corner and then a long catwalk into the booth (left, click for a bigger view). Once you're in here, it's fine. It's much like the view you have in a place like Montreal or Boston. But let's just say I was walking a little stiff on that catwalk -- and looking straight ahead.

Now for the hockey part. The scratches are the same for the Sabres (Shaone Morrison, Chris Butler). Derek Roy joins Tim Connolly on the injured list meaning there better not be any injured forwards tonight or Butler is back on the frontline tomorrow in Edmonton. The Sabres have to be watching the Boston-Florida game closely. The Panthers are tied with the Sabres with 32 points (as well as two games in hand and two head-to-head wins) while the Bruins are eight points ahead in eighth place and also have two games in hand.

Frankly, the standings don't mean much to me right now. This team is 1-4-2 in its last seven on the road and has not won more than two games in a row at any time all season. That's how you get to 12th place in your conference. They said all the right things this morning but I want to see how they respond mentally to the Roy injury.

Stay with me here. It's a late one on MSG with Mark Jeanneret (Rick's son) at the mic. I'm holding on tight up here.

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

BREAKING NEWS ALERT: Tyler Myers is a scratch for the Sabres with the flu. Shaone Morrisonn is in. The Flames are not starting Miikka Kiprusoff in goal. It's Henrik Karlsson. No idea why. 

Now Kiprusoff IS in goal. Game sheet said Karlsson was starting. Must have just been a typo.

Sabres starters: Sekera-Weber on defense instead of Myers. It's McCormick-Gaustad-Grier up front. Goal: miller
Flames starters: Jackman-Kostopolous-Moss-Giordano-Sarich: Goal: Kiprusoff. 

Third Period

10:53 p.m.: We're under way.

17:40 left: Flames lead, 3-1. Old friend Ales Kotalik burns Miller with a quick snap shot high over the glove. His first in 10 games this year. I had a long talk with him this morning and he seemed to be struggling mentally. Cheap plug alert: Read comments from Kotalik in Tuesday's paper. He loved playing for the Sabres. Just didn't produce enough two-way hockey in his final couple of seasons for Lindy Ruff's liking. 

13:12 left: David Moss pots a rebound of Tim Jackman's shot after Jackman beat Gerbe down the boards. Flames simply tougher than the Sabres in the last two periods of this one and, remember, they're 14th in the West and dealing with daily rumors that coach Darryl Sutter is getting fired. Flames lead, 4-1.

7;15 left: Working on up-against-deadline print story. Sabres will be 1-5-2 in last eight on road.

3:05 left: Kaleta scores to make it 4-2.

It's over: A 4-2 loss. Lousy effort last 40 minutes.

It's over II: (OK, so that's what happens when you push the button to run downstairs. It was a 5-2 loss as Tom Kotsopoulous scores on a 5-on-3 at the horn. Buffalo's NHL-high sixth 5-on-3 goal against of the season.

It'

Second Period

17:34 left: Sabres dominated the first two shifts and didn't capitalize and now the game is tied. Olli Jokinen gets the goal, beating Sekera to the rebound of a Robyn Regehr shot and dumping it into an empty net. Game tied, 1-1.

17:20 left:  We're stunned sitting here watching the 50/50 jackpot growing as it's constantly listed under the scoreboard. Kind of odd. What's the number at now: $47,425. Yep, $47,000 plus. Wow.

13:23 left: Much looser period so far on both sides. Weber off for high sticking so Flames to the power play. Couple good stops by Miller and the Sabres just failed to connect as Grier didn't convert Rivet's second terrific pass of the night. Before this penalty, Weber had a good shot from in tight on Kirprusoff and then did a beautiful job breaking up a 2-on-1 after a Niedermayer turnover.

12:41 left: Tanguay for hooking in the Buffalo zone kills the power play.

12:02 left: Sekera for interference as the Flames break down after Cory Sarich wipes out Ennis trying to cut in along the boards in the Calgary zone. So it's 4-on-3 for 40 seconds.

10:00 left: Bad news out of town as Boston gets the tying goal in the final 10 minutes and wins at Florida in a shootout, 3-2. So the Sabres are temporarily 10 points out of eighth and the Panthers pull one ahead of Buffalo alone in 11th. Three-point games are why the eight-point deficit heading into tonight is really that much more. 

9:38 left: Miller with back-to-back solid saves on Iginla. Shots are 17-11 for Calgary -- 11-4 in this period. Flames were kind of sleepwalking through the first period. Not so in the middle frame. An observation: I have been in plenty of arenas where fans wear jerseys. I don't think I've ever seen so many jerseys in one place as the Saddledome. EVERYBODY is wearing one, mostly the red version. But I've also seen an Atlanta Flames one and some of the new gold Heritage classic togs the Flames will wear outside for their Feb. game against Montreal in McMahon Stadium.

7:30 left: Rene Bourque for hooking. An iffy call against Leopold.

6:40 left: After a slew of sloppy puckhandling by the Sabres, the Flames break out on a 2-on-1 but Curtis Glencross fires it off the post after a perfect feed by Brendan Morrison. Had Miller beat on the glove side.

3:47 left: Great shift by the Hecht line ends in disaster. They had two or three great chances but had been on the ice nearly a minute. Flames break out in 2-on-2 and Hecht loses Iginla, who pots great pass from Tanguay. Montador had him. Hecht has just been brutal in so many areas this year. Flames lead, 2-1.

End-2nd: Flames hold their 2-1 lead and it's 20-19 in shots for Calgary (14-12 for the Flames in a much looser second 20 minutes).

First Period

9:08: We're under way.

16:23 left Bouwmeester for holding for Calgary. This is the first game Myers has missed in his career after playing 117 straight. Both Calgary papers did stories on him today and he had oodles of family members at the morning skate. He came here Friday from Buffalo to spend Christmas with his family. What a shame.

13:10 left: Not many whistles, not many blog chances. Shots are 3-2 for Buffalo. Kiprusoff made a great save on McCormick and Montador found a post. The defense pairs without Myers are Weber-Sekera, Leopold-Montador and Morrisonn-Rivet. The lines are what we saw this morning: Ennis-Niedermayer-Vanek, Stafford-Hecht-Pominville, McCormick-Gaustad-Grier, Gerbe-Adam-Kaleta.

11:49 left: Stafford comes out front to Kiprusoff's right with a great move around Matt Stajan and slides one home along the ice for his 10th of the season. Sabres lead, 1-0, and have controlled much of the play. Replay showed it went in off the skate of Anton Babchuk.

9:27 left: Miller stops an Olli Jokinen shot high off the collarbone and that hurt. Last thing Sabres need is another injury to him.

8:39 left: Babchuk goes for holding Adam, who broke in around him after a terrific lead pass from Rivet.

6:00 left: The power play was up and down all year with Roy and was particularly bad on the road (26th with just 7 goals all season). So it's no shock it's been pretty lousy here so far. Leopold and Pominville are on the points of the first unit with Stafford-Ennis-Vanek up front.

2:59 left: Leopold for holding Jarome Iginla, who beat him down the rink chasing an iced puck. Came a few seconds after Ennis just failed to tap home a Vanek pass into an empty net. The captain's rush on Leopold has this crowd going for the first time tonight.

End-1st: Sabres lead, 1-0, through one. Shots are 7-6 for Buffalo. A solid road period. One giveaway by Weber and virtually no other mistakes in the zone. Couple nice saves by Miller. Couple chances for more goals for the Sabres. Minus Roy and Myers, can't ask for much more.

West Seneca's Mueller signs with Predators

CALGARY -- Strike up another local boy in the NHL. West Seneca native Chris Mueller, a teammate of Tim Kennedy on Michigan State's 2007 NCAA championship team, has signed a free agent contract with the Nashville Predators and is expected to make his NHL debut Tuesday night against Dallas.

Mueller, 24, was playing with Milwaukee of the AHL, where he was ranked second on the Admirals in both goals (12) and points (20) in his second season with the club.

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

Ice chips: On tendons, temps, and other tidbits

CALGARY -- Taking a quick look around the Internet:

---Want to learn more about Derek Roy's injury?  Here's a good article I found on quad tendon tears. The reference to blunt trauma is clearly exactly what happened to Roy when he was checked Thursday night.

---It appears concern is growing about the weather in Pittsburgh for Saturday's Winter Classic between the Penguins and Capitals. The temperatures could approach 50 and it might even be raining. I'm no mad scientist but that doesn't sound like the kind of weather you need to keep ice going.

This is, of course, the most heavily promoted of the four Classics and the NHL certainly doesn't want a one-day postponement to Sunday where it would be going head-to-head with the NFL. Latest word has the NHL pondering a start time of 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. Saturday to get away from rain and ensure colder temperatures.

---If you want to keep an eye on the rink construction at Heinz Field, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a link to NHL.com's Webcam.

---After missing eight games, South Buffalo's Patrick Kane could be ready to get back in the Blackhawks' lineup Tuesday against the Blues.

---Maybe the Senators were getting a good chuckle over the Sabres' misfortune with Roy. Now they have their own. Jason Spezza is out perhaps as long as six weeks with a shoulder injury after being checked Sunday by Pittsburgh's Kris Letang. I don't think either Ottawa or Buffalo have nearly enough offense without their top center and that, of course, is hardly deep analysis. It's up to either team to prove me wrong.

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

 

Around the dressing room on Roy

CALGARY -- Lindy Ruff says Tim Connolly will not play tonight or tomorrow in Edmonton but will be back Saturday against Boston. Here's what some of the players said after today's skate about Derek Roy's injury:

Ryan Miller: "It's easy to start playing the victim. Derek got hurt and we feel bad because he's a great friend of ours and was having a great season.. We just hopes he gets back to health and we have to take care of business on our end. Even if he missed a few weeks, we'd have to play the same kind of game we will now. It's just another element, another part of the test."

Thomas Vanek: "It's hard for all of us but especially for me as a friend and a linemate. I've played with him a long time now it seems like. It's tough. We feel bad for him. It seemed like a nothing play and now he's done. You feel for him. He was having a great year, a great competitor for us. We all know we have to be a little better here."

Rob Niedermayer, who will take Roy's place between Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis: "I have to be able to get these guys the puck. They're both creative players offensively. You lose a guy like Derek who has been so consistent, it's up to you be big and take the responsibility for everyone."

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

The look of the lines minus Roy

CALGARY -- It's still the morning skate out here and the Sabres have just taken the ice at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Minus Derek Roy, it looks like these are the lines that will face the Flames tonight at 9:

Ennis-Niedermayer-Vanek
Stafford-Hecht-Pominville
Gaustad-McCormick-Grier
Gerbe-Adam-Kaleta

Tim Connolly is on the ice skating with a full face shield and taking turns on the McCormick line. We'll wait for official confirmation after practice but GM Darcy Regier told me yesterday he didn't think Connolly would play on this trip.

Had a long chat following Flames practice with former Sabre Ales Kotalik, on the road back from knee surgery after suffering a double ligament tear in training camp. Kotalik has no points in nine games thus far as the Flames are mired in 14th place in the West with many of the same offensive troubles the Sabres have. Kotalik was sad to hear the news about Roy's injury.

"I feel for Roysie," he said. "He was having a great year, was becoming a leader for them. It's a big, big loss. He was an important player when I was there and has really become even more of an important guy for them."

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

Injuries dog Sabres, plane trouble dogs blogger

CALGARY, Alberta -- The weather didn't get me today. The plane's mechanical trouble did. Sat inside a plane on the tarmac in Chicago for two hours today while the trouble was addressed, a new route was planned and we got de-iced for a second time. By the time I got here, Sabres practice in the Saddledome was a memory.

So finding out what Lindy Ruff's thoughts on lines in the wake of Derek Roy's season-ending injury will wait until Monday's pregame skate. Tim Connolly practiced today but I reached Darcy Regier by phone and said he didn't think Connolly's nose would be ready for a game, but that Connolly looked pretty good.

So right now, the Sabres have the following centers: Jochen Hecht, Rob Niedermayer, Luke Adam and Paul Gaustad. A bit of a step down from Briere-Drury-Roy, don't you think? 

Be sure to read my story in Monday's paper. Regier is not entertaining thoughts of selling. Yet. The Sabres are, after all, only eight points out of the playoffs. But let's see where they are after these two West Coast trips. The Phoenix game on Jan. 8 is the halfway mark of the season. If the deficit is, say, 12 or 14 points, it's time to send people packing and play the kids.

How big a loss was Roy? Among NHL centers, Roy was seventh in points and fourth in assists -- behind only Vancouver's Henrik Sedin, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk. Pretty good trio.

"Derek was certainly at the forefront of our offense," Regier said. "It's obviously a loss and a hole in the lineup, there's no question. For the club, it's an opportunity for others to step forward and we'll need them to step forward."

Lots more to come Monday after the pregame skate. It's the normal 11:30 a.m. local time, which means you'll start to see some info about 1:30 in the afternoon in Buffalo. Faceoff is 9:05 p.m.

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

Sabres' Roy out 4-6 months with injury

Derek Roy, the Buffalo Sabres' leading scorer, will miss the rest of the season after surgery for a torn quadriceps tendon, the team announced today.

Roy will have surgery in the next few days for the injury suffered in Thursday night's loss to the Florida Panthers. His estimated recovery time is four to six months.

In 35 games this season, Roy has tallied 35 points, including 10 goals. Thomas Vanek is second in scoring with 25 points.

The Sabres, who are on the NHL-mandated break for the Christmas holiday, depart Sunday morning for a road trip to Calgary and Edmonton. They will practice Sunday in the Pengrowth Saddledome and play the Flames there Monday night. Buffalo is 12th in the Eastern Conference standings.

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Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Panthers

Merry eve of Christmas Eve from high atop HSBC Arena, just behind one of the sets of national flags from the World Junior Championships flapping in the breeze of the air vents. It's the Sabres and Florida Panthers in the final pre-holiday game of the teams' schedules. I would expect the Sabres to come out strong after getting blitzed for four first-period goals in the first period of Friday's 6-2 loss in Sunrise.

You wonder how the Panthers will come out. They gave up three goals in the first 11 minutes of last night's 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh. It's their third game in four nights and second in two nights, the same scenario Anaheim was in when the Ducks got here Tuesday. The Ducks played like they had one leg on the plane home and the Sabres rolled, 5-2. Let's see if Florida does likewise.

Ryan Miller goes for career win No. 200 tonight. Florida counters with Tomas Vokoun, who was yanked in Pittsburgh while trying for No. 254. Repeating today's earlier note: The Sabres are just 3-13-2 vs. opponents' starting goalies. Two of the wins (vs. Toronto's J.S. Giguere and Ottawa's Brian Elliott were by shootout. The only regulation win came against San Jose's Antti Niemi).

Buffalo starters: Stafford-Hecht-Pominville-Leopold-Montador. Goal: Miller
Florida starters: Santorelli-Reasoner-Frolik-Weaver-Garrison. Goal: Vokoun 

If you want to take your eyes off MSG for a bit, keep in mind that the Penguins-Capitals game is on NHL Network -- with both crews from HBO doing heavy-duty lifting tonight!. That one is in Washington and is a preview of next week's Winter Classic. Other big ones to watch include Atlanta at Boston, Tampa Bay at the Rangers, Montreal at Carolina and Ottawa at Nashville.

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

Third Period

9:00 p.m. We're under way.

17:11 left: Miller robs Reasoner on a rebound in front and Kulikov goes for a high stick on Pominville chasing the rebound. Sabres call timeout. Little thin without Roy. Give the PP guys a needed break.

15:17 left: Hecht puts it behind Vokoun but through the empty crease. That was the chance.

11:04 left: Panthers much better in this period. Shots are 9-8 for Florida and the visitors are creating some pressure in the Buffalo zone.

6:56 left: Things have gotten tight. Still 3-3. Shots 11-9 for Buffalo and 40-26 overall. It would be hard for either team to take if they didn't get a point out of this one. But Sabres certainly need regulation wins.

5:34 left: Great work by McCormick, Gerbe and Grier. Couple in-tight chances but Vokoun holds on and McCormick goes for roughing with Bryan Allen.

5:07 left: Jason Garrison gives the Panthers a 4-3 lead, beating Miller on a 2-on-1. It came after Myers fell in the Panthers zone trying the spin move again. He charged McCreary after the play to no avail. Lucky he didn't get two or 10 for that.

1:26 left: Sabres to the PP as Bryan McCabe goes for cross-checking.

it's over: A 4-3 loss. Final shots 48-29. Hard to fathom. Goes back to that terrible first period really. 

Second Period

Of note: Because of the penalties, Vanek played just 3:41 of the first and was minus-2. Not to mention he didn't cash the breakaway at the end of the period. Nor did Grier, with a brutal attempt shorthanded that would have made it 1-1. Sabres did have 13 hits in the first compared to three for Florida. But like that really matters.

Of note II: Florida's Higgins had three goals in 27 games. Was scoreless in 13 games dating to Nov. 12. He scored twice in the first period tonight.

Of note III: No Roy. No official word but would assume he's out for the night. And likely beyond.

8:05 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

17:07 left: Sabres showing a little fire. How nice of them. Shots are 5-0 and Miller took a glove shot at Reasoner when he came a little close to him behind the net again. Shots are 15-14 for Florida. It was, remember, 13-3 at one point.

14:16 left: Leopold takes a Pominville pass and fires it through Vokoun's legs to make it 3-1. Point of absurdity as we played 1:38 after it appeared Ennis had scored. Light went on, horn went off, smoke belched from the HD board. They're reviewing it. It's going to be 3-1 Panthers no matter what. Just a matter of how much time on the clock and which goal counts. And the official word -- Roy has a lower body injury and will not return.

12:53 left: Frolik goes for hooking. Shots are 9-1 Buffalo and here's a chance to get back within one.

11:45 left: And there's the way to capitalize. Myers with some great work lugging it into the zone and Pominville curls to his right and snaps a wrister through Vokoun's glove. Panthers lead, 3-2. Shots are 10-1 in this period.  You wonder if the Panthers are just going to run out of gas playing back to back and three in four nights.

9:30 left: Gerbe just misses tapping a Hecht rebound into a wide-open net. A couple big "Let's Go, Buffalo" chants in this period. The crowd is into this one. Lots of folks home for Christmas giving us an atmosphere and getting away from the library we've had much of the year. Have to keep shooting on Vokoun. He looks shaky, like he was last night in Pittsburgh.

8:46 left: More bad news courtesy of eagle eyes of AP's Bob Matuszak. No Drew Stafford on the bench. 

7:39 left: Sabres tie it 3-3 and the building erupts. A spinorama by Myers at center ice and a cut up the middle from Leopold, putting him in the clear. A great snapshot by Vokoun for his second of the night and ninth of the year. Take note, forwards. Basketball-style timeout, Florida. Shots are 15-1 and the joint is jumping. And Stafford is back.

3:55 left: Shots are 17-1 in this period and 26-16 for the game for Buffalo. That means they're 23-3 for the Sabres over the last 22 minutes.

2:05 left: Miller with a super save on Booth from right in front. Shots were 19-1 in the period until that one. That would have been pretty devastating to have that one go in given the way this period has gone.

1:20 left: Wideman for cross checking. 

End-2nd: So believe it or not, it's 3-3. Shots were 20-2 in that period. Yes, 20-2. It's 29-17 through 40 minutes.

First Period

7:08 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

18:50 left: Chris Higgins scores for the Panthers, swiping the rebound of Evgeny Dadonov's shot out of mid-air in front of Andrej Sekera and past Miller. It's under review. Looks close. Miller immediately signaled high stick. But it counts. Panthers lead, 1-0.

18:19 left: It gets worse. Miller for delay of game for puck over the glass, served by McCormick

17:11 left: And even worse. Gaustad for hooking. Comes 14 seconds after Vokoun stopped Grier of a breakaway that could have tied the game.

15:10 left: Good work by Myers-Sekera-Pominville combined with Miller to kill the 5-on-3 against the NHL's worst power play. Shots already 6-1 for Florida.

13:20 left: Roy limps off (left leg/knee) after taking a big hit along the boards from Dmitry Kulikov. He's the d-man you may remember who took the tough hit last week from Patrick Kaleta that the Panthers thought was a suspendable headshot.

12:41 left: Weiss gone for slashing. Roy has gone to the dressing room, not on the ice for the PP. Not good.

9:16 left: Nearly had a line brawl after Marty Reasoner bumped Miller from behind (reminiscent of the Scott Gomez play from two years ago). Gaustad chased Reasoner around the ice and Kaleta got involved with Kulikov among others. Kaleta off to the tunnel and smashes his stick on the floor on the way out. Kulikov definitely got Kaleta from behind. Kulikov got two for roughing. Kaleta got four for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. That's a joke. Nothing on Reasoner and Kulikov suckered Kaleta from behind. I would say the Sabres better run Vokoun in this game. Ridiculous.

8:40 left: And now Gaustad goes for hooking. Two men short again for 1:24. Refs Bill McCreary and Greg Kimmerly are KILLING the Sabres so far.

7:50 left: Great passing by the Panthers as Frolik finds Weiss alone to Miller's left for a tap-in. Panthers lead, 2-0. Shots are 12-3.

6:07 left: The disaster continues. Higgins with a backhand from in front to Miller's left. Panthers lead, 3-0 (or 7-0 in first periods against Buffalo in the last seven days). Shots are 13-3.

4:37 left: Sabres get physical as Grier, Rivet and McCormick all issues some good checks. They're frustrated by the scoreboard, the officiating, everything. Look at everything that has gone against them in 15 minutes: A replay review, what looks like a potentially serious injury to their top scorer, six penalties (a couple very dubious ones) and a misconduct, the bumping of Miller. What's next?

2:50 left: I guess that firing of John MacLean helped the Devils. They're losing tonight to the Islanders, 3-0, after 11 minutes. Yeesh.

1:31 left: Vokoun stops Vanek on a clear break after great work at center ice along the wall by Ennis to speed away from the defense and get the puck ahead. Sabres needed that one.

End-1st: It's 3-0 for the Panthers and 7-0 in the last two first periods against Buffalo. Shots were 15-9 for Florida.

No lineup changes for Sabres

The Sabres had an optional morning skate in HSBC Arena in preparation for tonight's game against the Florida Panthers. Based on Tuesday's win over Anaheim, you would not anticipate any lineup changes. That would mean the scratches would continue to be Tim Connolly, Shaone Morrisonn, Chris Butler and Luke Adam.

Morrisonn has been cleared for contact after his concussion but is now going to have to wait his turn to get back in the lineup.

"We're desperate for defensemen to play well," coach Lindy Ruff said. Realistically, however, Morrisonn could only go in for some point for Mike Weber or Craig Rivet. Ryan Miller goes for his 200th career victory tonight.

George Richards of the Miami Herald, author of the whimsical On Frozen Pond blog that is one of the league's best, is reporting that Tomas Vokoun will start in goal for the Panthers tonight. Vokoun was pulled after just 11 minutes last night in Pittsburgh, giving up the first three goals in a 5-2 defeat. Vokoun is 13-13 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. Backup Scott Clemmensen (2-4, 2.61, 9.13) finished last night and played well.

It makes a big difference to the Sabres who plays. Buffalo is 11-3-2 this year against backup goalies and just 3-13-2 against starters in one of the more bizarre stats of the season you'll ever find. 

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

MacLean mercifully out in New Jersey

As one HSBC Arena wag just said, "so much for Jacques Lemaire's retirement." The New Jersey Devils are about to name Lemaire as their interim coach in the wake of firing embattled John MacLean just 33 games into his first season, as the Kovalchuks are mired at 9-22-2 and hopelessly out of the playoff race. It will be Lemaire's third time at the helm of the Devils.

Let's see if Lemaire can get through to the $100 million man, as Kovalchuk has just eight goals and 10 assists and is a minus-22. Lemaire will never stand for that stat.

---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 | [email protected]

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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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