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Golisano doesn't comment at meetings

The NHL board of governors wrapped up their meetings Tuesday in Florida, with Sabres owner (for now) Tom Golisano refusing to comment on a potential team sale to Terrence Pegula.

"We get inquiries about the team all the time," Golisano told reporters. "It's the policy of the Sabres not to comment on it. If something substantive happens, we'll let you know."

Commissioner Gary Bettman is confident the league can get a better television deal when its contracts with NBC and Versus expire in June.

"We're a much more significant player in the media landscape than we've been for a whole host of reasons," said Bettman. "It's the game on the ice, the competitive balance, a variety of things we're doing to engage our fans. The presence of digital media. Our ratings are stronger.

"We had a terrific year last year, including during the playoffs where we set all sorts of records for us, the last few years we're in a good place, better than we've been on a whole host of platforms and measurables and I think there's interest in us more than there's ever been."

---John Vogl

Three stars

Live from the Garden: Sabres vs. Bruins

BOSTON -- Greetings from Level 9 high atop the TD Garden, which is in the vicinity of the Celtics' retired numbers and championship banners, as we get set for the Sabres' first contest here since they were eliminated by the Bruins in Game Six of last year's Eastern Conference quarterfinals. First things first: Don't forget this is a Versus game and is not on MSG. And faceoff will be in the 7:40 range. Yeesh. Bad news for your intrepid print reporter.

Before we ruminate a little about this one, some big news percolating out of Chicago: Looks like Patrick Kane is out at least three weeks with his lower body injury (which was clearly to his left ankle).

There is no snow here but it's brutally cold outside with a whipping wind befitting the best of Chicago, or the perimeter of HSBC Arena. Since when did I decide on exercise? I could see the Garden from the hotel so I went for the walk, which turned into nearly a mile (it looked closer!), instead of the two-train hop on the world's easiest subway. Mistake. You could have chipped the ice off me by the time I got here.

Won't make the same mistake when this one is over. So cold I needed another one of those lobster bisque breadbowls I had this afternoon at the Boston Chowda stand in Quincy Market. Yum alert.

John Vogl wrote this morning about the goalie matchup of Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas and that's clearly the No. 1 storyline to this one. Thomas' numbers are ridiculous. A 1.46 GAA and .956 save percentage for the season! An 0.97 goals-against average and .975 save percentage in his last three. Crazy.

Miller, meanwhile, is working on back-to-back shutouts, a first for the Sabres since Martin Biron did that in 2002. Miller also has a shutout streak of 148:14 and needs to last exactly nine minutes tonight to set a new career high. I love how Lindy Ruff said yesterday goalies who are this hot feel like the puck is as big as a basketball and goalies who are cold think it's as small as a marble. Good one, Lindy. Heh.

If you missed our post off the morning skate, be sure to go to this link to catch up. Mark Mancari is up from Portland and in for Drew Stafford. Shaone Morrisonn is out with lingering head/neck issues and Chris Butler is in.

Sabres starters: Gerbe-Roy-Vanek-Leopold-Montador. Goal: Miller
Bruins starters: Lucic-Krejci-Horton-Ference-Chara. Goal: Thomas 

Onward.

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

OT

3:14 left: Adam gets double minor for high sticking Savard. Roy stopped earlier by Thomas all alone. Now Sabres have to kill rest of period.

2:46 left: Bruins win it 3-2 on Dennis Seidenberg's shot from the point. You heard iron but the puck looked like it was in. Play continued 48 seconds but replay confirms the goal. Credited to Recchi on a tip in. Tough, tough 3-2 loss.

 Third Period

9:19 p.m.: We're under way.

16:58 left: Thomas stops Pominville and denies Adam his second with a right pad save on the rebound.

15:53 left: Vanek puts Buffalo ahead, 2-1, banking the puck off Thomas from behind the goal line as he beat the Boston goalie to the spot. Both goalies have given up a real cheapie tonight. 

11:05 left: Miller with some robbery off Lucic, who walked out in front of the net with the puck all alone and had enough time to walk through Quincy Market without being touched, but couldn't stuff it home.

10:00 left: The Adam line all over the Bruins again with Thomas making a couple great saves. Shots are 26-22 for Buffalo -- and 11-4 in this period. 

9:01 left: Vanek beats Thomas with an absolute rocket -- but rifles it off the post.

6:21 left: Weber with a terrible giveaway. Passed it in the slot to Nathan Horton, who beats Miller. Game tied, 2-2. Inexcuseable play. Can't happen in the NHL. Weber will be in the press box Thursday night, assuming Morrisonn can play. Ruff may even be inclined to put Craig Rivet back in.

4:32 left: Montador for high sticking. Sabres holding on. 

37.9 left: Sabres survived power play and Bruins survive McCormick's shot from in tight. Solid save by Thomas.

End-3rd: OT.  Sabres survive. Shots 14-12 for Buffalo. 30-29 for Boston.

Second Period

8:31 p.m: We're under way.

19:30 left: Lucic fails to corral a slick Krejci pass. He does and he has a wide-open net for a tap-in. Close, close call.

14:49 left: Miller and Myers combine to stymie Bergeron from in tight. Another close call.

14:02 left: Seguin goes for high-sticking Gerbe.

13:35 left: Vanek stoned from in front. Shakes his head in disbelief. Great feed from behind the net by Mancari.

12:05 left: Bruins' second great chance for a SH tally is stopped by a goalpost after Recchi had Miller beat on a breakaway.

9:44 left: Thomas makes the save on Hecht and stretches on his toes to snare the rebound out of the air. Dude is white-hot. Shots are 14-11 for Boston and 3-3 in this period. Sabres are having lots of trouble when the defense pair of Weber-Butler is on the ice. If I'm Lindy Ruff, I probably go to four D in the third period, if not sooner.

7:03 left: After a great shift by Mancari-Adam-Pominville saw Thomas make three great saves, Adam finally pokes the puck along the ice under Thomas for his first NHL goal. Mancari makes sure to get the puck for him after Adam pumps his fist in celebration. You were really starting to wonder if the Sabres were beating Thomas tonight. Game tied, 1-1.

4:28 left: Roy goes for hooking. Few seconds earlier, that old pistol Recchi pitchforked the 6-foot-8 Myers in the corner. What a classic pest Recchi is.

End-2nd: All tied, 1-1. Shots were 7-7 and are 18-15 for Bruins overall. Low-scoring, tight affair. Expected nothing less.

First Period

7:38 p.m.: We're under way. Versus takes pity on us print guys and gives us a couple extra minutes.

18:16 left: Great shift by the Ennis-Hecht-Kaleta line had the Bruins hemmed in for 45 seconds. Best chance came by Ennis on a 2-on-1 at the end of the shift with Pominville but he sent a backhand wide from in tight.

15:33 left: Ryder fires wide on a 3-on-2 break. Easily Bruins best chance so far. Sabres have the game's only shot. Lindy Ruff has run the lines out just as he did during the morning skate. It's Gerbe-Roy-Vanek, Mancari-Adam-Pominville, Ennis-Hecht-Kaleta and McCormick-Gaustad-Grier. Defense pairs are Sekera-Myers, Leopold-Montador and Butler-Weber.

14:43 left: Thomas with highway robbery on Gerbe at the doorstep on a Vanek feed. That would have been a huge boost for Gerbe, who remains goalless in 17 games.

13:21 left: Myers fires wide on a 4-on-2 as the trailer and then Ennis is stopped a few seconds later trying to go around Thomas and jam it behind the goalie. Thomas beat him to the post.

12:42 left: Bruins' first shot, a slapper from the point by McQuaid that Miller stops. Sabres have four shots.

11:00 left: Career high shutout streak for Miller. Now 157:14.

9:00 left: Shots are 5-2 for Buffalo. Solid road period so far. 

6:39 left: Almost not fair that Miller's shutout streak ends on a brutal goal. Lucic comes around from behind the net, barely gets over the goal line to Millier's left and swoops it between Miller's pads and just over the line. Bruins lead, 1-0. In a season of very few soft goals against Miller, that might have been the worst one he's given up.

5:56 left: Boychuk clubs Pominville from behind and Montador steps in for a solid tussle. Of course, it would have been nice if there had been some retribution on Boychuk during the playoffs after he chopped down Vanek and changed the course of the series. Update: Montador gets an extra two for roughing.

5:00 left: The "Mil-ler, Mil-ler" chants are going pretty good here.

3:42 left: Penalty killed, although Ryder missed a glorious chance from in front. Bruins have a 10-6 edge in shots and a decided edge in play the last eight minutes.

2:48 left: Miler's shutout streak was 161:35. Bad news here: Bruins are 10-0-1 when scoring first, although the blemish came in Saturday's shootout loss at Toronto.

End-1st: Bruins hold their 1-0 lead and had an 11-8 edge in shots.

Clendening moves step closer to world juniors

Adam Clendening has enjoyed the privilege of wearing a Team USA jersey twice. The 18-year-old is one step closer to wearing one again, and this time it would be in his own neighborhood.

Clendening was among the 29 players named today to USA Hockey’s preliminary roster for the world junior tournament, which will be held in Buffalo and Lewiston from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. The team will begin training camp Dec. 17 in Troy and will be cut to its final total of 22 players Dec. 22.

Clendening is one of 10 defensemen who will compete for a spot on the defending under-20 champions. The Niagara Falls native and Boston University freshman played for the United States in the past two under-18 tournaments.

"It’s always a pleasure to have the opportunity to put on the USA jersey," he said on a conference call. "I’ve done it twice, and I’ve been lucky enough to win gold medals both times. It’s a thrilling experience.

"You take every moment you’re given when you wear the jersey. It’s something special. Not many players get to do it, so when you get the opportunity you try to make the best of it. It’s going to be exciting possibly playing in what I like to call my hometown."

Listen to General manager of the 2011 U.S. National Junior Team Jim Johannson talk about the World Juniors coming to Buffalo this month:

---John Vogl

Mancari gets the call; Morrisonn still out

BOSTON -- Mark Mancari will man left wing on the Sabres' No. 2 line tonight against the Bruins as he was called up from Portland this morning to replace the injured Drew Stafford.

Mancari leads the Pirates in goals (12) and points (26) over 23 games and is plus-6. He has five goals in the last five games and is tied for 10th in the AHL in scoring, but is only four points off the league lead. The 25-year-old played in his 400th professional game Saturday night against Norfolk.

Mancari has two goals and three assists in 16 career games with the Sabres. He will skate tonight, at least initially, with former Portland linemate Luke Adam and Jason Pominville.

"I don't want to mess with the other lines," coach Lindy Ruff said. "If we move him around, then we have to move someobdy from almost every line. Initially, we'll start him there. If it isn't working, we'll make adjustments."

Adam was leading AHL rookies in scoring when he was called up to the Sabres for the third time this year on Nov. 24. Tonight will be his eighth game and he's looking for his first NHL goal. Perhaps an Adam-Mancari pairing could help both of them?

"Luke is a big body and that's a little bit different than the other guys I've played with," said Mancari, whose previous centers in Portland included Tim Kennedy and Tyler Ennis. "He gets in the corner and he's a big guy who can get around the ice and create space for himself and his linemates. You really notice him. He's going to be a great player. He was leading rookies down there in scoring and there's a reason he's up here so quickly and for so long."

Shaone Morrisonn is still not 100 percent after taking the hit to the head from Columbus' Jared Boll Friday against Columbus. So he will sit out and Chris Butler will work with Mike Weber on the third blueline pair. The injured trio of Stafford, Tim Connolly and Rob Niedermayer all skated. Morrisonn stayed late for extra work with assistant coach James Patrick.

"He still wasn't feeling quite right," Ruff said. "He could play but my decision was not to play him."

Reminder: Tonight's game is a 7:30 contest on Versus, not MSG.

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

Miller named NHL's Second Star of Week

Back-to-back shutouts this weekend by Ryan Miller has attracted the attention of the NHL, which today named him the Second Star of the week. Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosy was the First Star and Edmonton rookie Taylor Hall was the Third Star.

Miller stopped all 51 shots he faced over the weekend, turning aside 19 in Friday's 5-0 victory over Columbus and getting in the way of 32 during Saturday's 1-0 shootout win in Ottawa. He has a shutout streak of 148 minutes, 14 seconds.

Crosby had five goals and one assist in three games. The center has a 15-game point streak.

---John Vogl

Stafford likely to miss Boston game

Sabres forward Drew Stafford, who has missed 11 of the past 12 games because of shoulder and upper-body injuries, is likely to sit again Tuesday when the Sabres visit the Boston Bruins. Stafford started practice today in HSBC Arena on his regular line with center Luke Adam and right wing Jason Pominville but couldn't complete the session because of soreness.

Stafford returned Friday against Columbus after a 10-game absence but was crunched against the boards by Jared Boll during the third period. The hit caused Stafford to miss Saturday's 1-0 shootout win in Ottawa.

"Again, he’s suffering a bit upper-body-wise from the hit, so I just decided to get him off the ice," coach Lindy Ruff said. "I’m going to say the likelihood right now is no [he won't play] with leaving during practice. He felt pretty good before practice but then after a few drills didn’t feel right.

"The first inclination would be to get a forward up here [from minor-league Portland] to play."

Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, who left the Ottawa game because of the lingering effects of a head shot by Boll, returned and completed practice with only minor jaw soreness. Center Tim Connolly, who is out with a groin injury, had his most intense skating since suffering the injury Nov. 22. There is no timetable for his return

"It’s just a case of strengthening and getting to 100 percent before I can get out there," Connolly said. "It’s one of those things where you know it’s going to be anywhere from two to four weeks, give or take a few days here or there. You never know. You’ve got to play it day by day."

---John Vogl

Hawks' Kane helped off ice; Senators break drought, get win

South Buffalo native Patrick Kane has been taken off the ice tonight in the United Center with an apparent left knee injury, suffered 46 seconds into the Blackhawks' game against Calgary when he was trying to avoid getting checked into the boards by Flames defenseman and ex-Sabre Cory Sarich. I was watching on the NHL Network and it didn't look good. The hit was almost out of camera range but Kane had no weight on his leg as he was being escorted down the tunnel. Here's the link to the Chicago Tribune's in-game updates.

In New York, meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators finally snapped their shutout string and got three goals from Chris Kelly in a 3-1 win over the Rangers. The Senators ended a three-game losing streak and a 202-minute, 57-second scoring drought that was a franchise record and included Saturday night's 1-0 shootout loss to the Sabres.

The Senators moved into ninth place in the East with 26 points. The Sabres and Carolina are tied with 25. Boston and Atlanta currently share the final playoff spots at 31.

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

Sunday morning papers

OTTAWA -- Good morning from the capital of The True North, which still has the best shawarmas this side of the Middle East (and since my D.C. cousin Jim Juraska was in town this weekend and actually has been to the Middle East, I stand by that statement). Anyway, here's your Sunday morning roundup, starting with the team from the B-lo:

*Someone had to win. It was just a matter of one of the teams proving it wanted to beat the other.

The Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators struggled through 65 minutes of hockey without touching the net Saturday, a game that was nearly as tough to score in as it was to watch. Thomas Vanek finally ended the contest, scoring on a slap shot in the shootout to give the Sabres a 1-0 victory. It was the first 1-0 shootout win in Sabres history and just the 20th 1-0 shootout in NHL annals.

*Rob Niedermayer had undergone arthroscopic knee surgery before, so he was aware there would be a slow recovery process. The Sabres forward didn't think it would be quite this slow. Meanwhile, Drew Stafford and Shaone Morrisonn joined him on the injured list.

*News Business columnist David Robinson has more on the man who could be the next owner of the Sabres, Terrence Pegula, who owes the bulk of his fortune to a thin layer of black rock about a mile below the surface.

*The NHL's board of governors meet this week, and discussion about Pegula could be on the agenda, according to TSN.ca. The salary cap certainly will be.

*Bucky Gleason and Larry Felser are the latest to pay tribute to the late Jim Kelley.

Bucky recalls in Inside the NHL that no matter how many times he encouraged me to keep pushing, no matter how many ways he guided me into his chair, this space belonged to him. His name was synonymous with Inside the NHL. Nobody felt stronger about that than I did. See, he was my John Wooden. He was my mentor, supporter, confidant and idol from before I began covering the Sabres in the mid-1990s through our last conversation, just before Thanksgiving.

Felser talks of how Jim was an ideal companion, spinning tales of South Buffalo, his first days with The News, his professional future as well as hockey.

*The Ottawa Sun reports on the sinking Senators, who set a club record for going scoreless at home of 178:30.

*The Sabres visit Boston on Tuesday for their next game, and the Bruins are riding goalie Tim Thomas. The Boston Globe reports Phil Kessel struck for a shootout goal, snapping a forehander through the pads of Thomas to lead the sagging, desperate-for-a-break Leafs to a 3-2 victory on a night in which a brilliant Thomas (38 saves) otherwise stole the show, including the save below in overtime on Francois Beauchemin.

Thomas, the early favorite to win what would be his second Vezina Trophy in three seasons, was sensational across three-plus periods, and only yielded the tying goal with 42 seconds remaining in regulation when the Leafs skated with a 6-on-4 advantage (Patrice Bergeron off for holding and goalie J.S. Giguere pulled for an extra attacker). 

---John Vogl

 

Wrapping up Sabres-Sens

OTTAWA -- The Sabres are set to fly home with consecutive wins for the first time since Nov. 15. They are also flying home with a bit of history. Their victory over Ottawa was the first 1-0 shootout win in franchise history and only the 20th in NHL annals.

"We gave ourselves a chance to win, and we did," defenseman Jordan Leopold said. "We got two points. Maybe not the way we wanted to, but it’s two points, it’s a win, and we can build off this."

Ryan Miller has back-to-back shutouts and hasn't allowed a goal in 148 minutes, 14 seconds.

"We did a good job of getting ourselves in a position where we could get the extra point," Miller said. "A lot of history here, a lot of the core guys on each team have seen a lot of each other. It ends up being physical, and guys are not always going to take their risk. They’re going to hang in there and grind a little bit harder."

Sabres defenseman Shaone Morrisonn left midway through the second period with lingering effects of an elbow he took to the head from Columbus' Jared Boll on Friday.

"He just wasn’t feeling right after the hit last night," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We’d thought he’d be all right. He tried to play. It’s the curse of seven D. It seems like every time you do somebody gets hurt. It’s happened to us like three or four times."

---John Vogl

Three stars

No live blogging

Due to computer problems in Ottawa, there will be no live blogging of tonight's Sabres game against the Ottawa Senators.

Stafford out, Butler to play some forward

OTTAWA -- Drew Stafford, who returned Friday after a 10-game absence due to a shoulder injury, is out again tonight as the Sabres visit the Ottawa Senators. Stafford was hit late in Friday's 5-0 victory over Columbus and is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

Defenseman Chris Butler, who has been scratched in the previous six games, will dress in Stafford's place and take shifts at forward.

---John Vogl

Classic Kelley on the airwaves

Nashville Predators announcer Pete Weber, the longtime former Buffalo radio/TV voice, sent along some audio of the late Jim Kelley from their old show "This Week in Hockey" that aired on WGR during the 1988-89 season. Some classic Kelley insight on the Sabres and NHL issues of the day.

We'll be paying final respects to Kelley at his funeral today in South Buffalo. A giant in the hockey world and in the century-plus history of The Buffalo News.

Here's the topics and the clips:

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

A caller wins a prize

The team calendar jinx

On linesman Ron Asselstine's use of force on a fan.

On Grant Fuhr being on the move.

On NHL commissioner John Ziegler's stance on fighting.

Three stars

Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Jackets

Greetings from HSBC Arena for tonight's Sabres-Columbus matchup. Is it fair to call the Blue Jackets' a jinx team for the Sabres? They only meet once a year but Buffalo has a terrible history against this mostly faceless group, non-Rick Nash division.

The Blue Jackets have made the playoffs just one time in their 10 seasons -- and didn't win a single game in that appearance as they were swept by Detroit in 2009. But they're off to their best start ever and fifth in the West this year. That's not good news for the Sabres, who have been downright terrible against Columbus.

The Jackets are 7-2-1 against the Sabres and have won four straight since Buffalo's 6-0 win here on March 29, 2004. Those four meetings have been captured by a combined count of 16-3, including a 6-1 rout here in November, 2008 and last year's 4-0 loss at Nationwide Arena. Hard to figure really. 

The Sabres, of course, are sliding into a real danger zone in the East standings. They're eight points out of a playoff spot and can largely blame their 4-8-1 home record for the bulk of their trouble. The eight regulation home losses are the most in the NHL and the Sabres have a league-low 34.6 percent of the points at home (9 of 26). Relatively quiet night in the East. The Rangers (31 points) host the Islanders (15) while Colorado is at Carolina (23).

The Sabres (21) are trying to pull even with Carolina and idle Ottawa for ninth place. How's this for a wash of perspective on their season to date -- The Sabres would be LAST in the Western Conference.

JacketsThe Blue Jackets, meanwhile, have the best road record in the West (8-2-0) and lead the league in road points percentage (16-20, 80 percent). Not a good combination, it would appear. Columbus is wearing its pretty hideous/old Penguins-looking third jerseys tonight (see shot at left) while the Sabres are in classic white.

The cannon logo on the crest is based on this horrendous boom they unleash in otherwise-lovely Nationwide Arena every time the Jackets score a goal. I just about fell out of the press box the first time I heard it go off when I was there in February.

Columbus is starting backup goalie Mathieu Garon. He's 6-1 with a 1.33 GAA and .950 save percentage. Not Patrick Lalime territory. Garon, however, is 1-6, 3.36, .881 against the Sabres in his career. So something will give here.

Sabres starters: Gerbe-Roy-Vanek-Sekera-Myers. Goal: Miller (scratches remain Connolly, Butler, Rivet)
Blue Jackets starters: Umberger-Vermette-Nash-Tyutin-Kiesla. Goal: Garon.

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

Third Period

9:29 p.m. We're under way. No idea what's up with the TV broadcast folks. Just heard about it a few minutes ago. I've inquired. 

15:24 left: McCormick takes care of business with Commodore on the first draw after the veteran comes out of the box. Two solid rights. McCormick get two (instigating), five and 10 but it's worth it. Commodore gets five. 

13:01 left: Big applause as McCormick goes to the room (he got 17 minutes with 15 1/2 left). Shots are 3-1 for Columbus in the period with Sabres still holding 3-0 lead.

12:12 left: Ugh. Stafford drilled into the boards again by Jared Boll (looked like right shoulder). Montador and Boll go at it. They'll get five apiece. Boll gets two for charging while Montador gets two-five-10. So tonight, I guess we're calling the instigator penalty after we haven't seen it all year. 

11:03 left: Kaleta pounds Dorsett. Left after left. Probably the best bout of Kaleta's career. And in true Rob Ray fashion, Kaleta declares himself the winner as the crowd salutes him. The Blue Jackets weren't happy with that gesture. Too bad. Kaleta gets 2-5-10. The PIMs are adding up here all of a sudden.

9:32 left: Sekera gets drilled with a shot off the left ankle.

9:03 left: Penalty boxes empty. Finally. Shots are 30-17 for Buffalo. It's 5-1 Columbus in the third. 

7:29 left: Stafford back and stymied on a breakaway by Garon, who is shaken up as both players tumble into the end boards. 

4:55 left: Near-sellout of 18,529 is announced. Miller less than five minutes from first shutout of the season and one of the easiest of his career.

4:29 left: Ennis makes it 4-0 by one-timing home a beautiful pass from, of all people, Morrisonn. Just the second point of the year for the big guy. Ennis' 6th.

2:47 left: Boll gone, five and a game misconduct for elbowing Morrisonn's head into the glass. That could be a suspension.

47.0: Vanek with a tap-in from Ennis to make it 5-0. That's three PP goals tonight for the first time this season. 

It's over: A 5-0 win. Miller's first shutout. Shots were 37-19.

Second Period

8:30 p.m. We're under way.

16:26 left: Miller makes the save on a 2-on-1, stopping Chris Clark's shot from the right circle.

14:01 left: Clark's tips in a shot from the point with a high stick and it's waved off. Call confirmed. No goal.

11:00 left: Shots are 4-2 for Columbus in this period. This is a game tape not destined for the Hall of Fame.

8:52 left: Another Columbus goal wiped out. Tyutin fires a wrister home from the point but Ethan Moreau goes for goalie interference. He wiped out Ryan Miller just before the shot was taken. Another easy call.

7:59 left: It's Guys-Who-Havent-Scored-In-A-While Night. Stafford bangs one home off a beautiful behind-the-back feed from 'Roy. That makes it 3-0, Sabres. Stafford's fifth and his first since Nov. 3.

6:32 left: Memo to the people in front of the press box: Enough with trying to start the wave. A stupid vestige of the 80s and about as dumb as the blooper videos on the HD board (which we've thankfully been spared of tonight).

End-2nd: Apologies for the dearth of updates. Some Internet troubles here tonight. It's still 3-0 and the Sabres have a 29-12 edge in shots (15-7 in that period). Pretty good scrum with 44.4 seconds left after Mike Commodore got five mintues for boarding Kaleta. Montador and Leopold both jumped in to get roughing minors. Sabres in complete control. 

First Period

Of note: Terrific kudos to the Sabres for the pregame moment of silence offered for our esteemed friend and colleague Jim Kelley. A true professional, a true Hall of Famer who we strive to uphold the standards of every night in this box. If you missed Jerry Sullivan's column on Kelley, you owe it to yourself to head back a day and check it out.

16:22 left: Let's just say the building is a little deader than it was last Friday against the Laffs. Plenty of empties even in the high-rent areas. Maybe they're snowbound. Maybe they're fed up. Shots are 2-2. Best chance came when the Sabres had a 4-on-1 (yep) and Gaustad fired a slapshot wide to Garon's right and into the side of the net.  Another example of why he's got one goal in 30-something games (sorry, I've lost count).

14:02 left: The Sabres take a 1-0 lead as Hecht outbattles two Jackets in the crease to poke home his third after Garon stopped Ennis cutting in from the right side after a neat pass from Grier. Hecht's third. The shot counter in the building is not working but I can tell you it's 4-3 for Buffalo.

11:21 left: Kaleta robbed at the doorstep by Garon after a pretty backhand pass by Hecht. 

10:07 left: Shots are 6-4 for Buffalo. Roy just fired wide on the Sabres' last shift. Not much intensity out here from either side. When you see a team once a year, takes quite a while to develop some ooomph in the game.

8:33 left: Sabres have kept the lines they used in practice the last two days. So it's rolled like this: Gerbe-Roy-Vanek, Ennis-Hecht-Kaleta, Stafford-Adam-Pominville, McCormick-Gaustad-Grier.

8:12 left: Kris Russell goes for interference, putting the Sabres on the power play.

5:35 left: Another PP chance for the Sabres, thanks to Derek Dorsett's slashing penalty.

5:06 left: The PP looks so easy when the puck never leaves the zone. Total control and a Myers point shot is fished out and relayed to Pominville for a tap-in to make it 2-0, Sabres. Pominville's second and first in 10 games.

4:19 left: Hecht goes for hooking.

1:34 left: Roy for tripping.

End-1st: Shots are 14-5 for the Sabres, who lead, 2-0. Columbus hardly showed up in that period. I expected more. We'll see how the Jackets respond in the second.

Arniel excited to return to Buffalo

Scott Arniel played for the Sabres in Memorial Auditorium and coached them as an assistant in HSBC Arena. Obviously, returning to stand behind the bench as the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets means something.

"It’s nice. I have great memories here," Arniel said this afternoon while preparing to face the Sabres tonight. "This city, there’s lots of family, friends and lots of people over the years that you grew up with and got to work with. I got my first sort of gig in the NHL with Lindy [Ruff], working with him, so I certainly have a lot of respect for him and what him and Darcy [Regier] have done here.

"It’s the game that’s most important, and it’s our 20 guys against their 20 guys. It’s nice when you go against guys you know on the other side, but again it’s about making sure that we win."

To do that, Arniel said, the Blue Jackets will attempt to outskate the Sabres from the start.

"They’ve had a week off," Arniel said. "I guess that gets them rested. Hopefully, it maybe gets them a little slow start. We need to get after them. I know it’s been one of our strong suits recently that when we get after people in the first period it gets us into the game and it gets kind of the momentum shifted our way. We won’t do anything different tonight."

The Blue Jackets are 0-2-1 in their last three games but are 14-8-1 this season. They will start goaltender Mathieu Garon, who is 6-1 with a 1.33 goals-against average and .950 save percentage.

---John Vogl

Connolly on eye: 'It was an accidental thing'

Tim Connolly was back on the ice with his teammates for the first time in nearly two weeks this morning but did admit his injured groin was still sore after taking the morning skate in HSBC Arena. There's no timetable for his return.

More on Connolly's health in a minute. The bigger question of the day was his first public comments on what happened at Ryan Miller's Catwalk for Charity event Nov. 21 in the Town Ballroom.

Connolly showed up for practice the next day with eye lacerations and rumors quickly spread around town, fueled on Twitter by ex-Sabre and current ESPN analyst Matthew Barnaby, that Connolly had been punched by Derek Roy. That story was quickly denied by Roy and coach Lindy Ruff.

"It was exactly what Lindy and Derek told you," Connolly said. "The record has been set straight. We'll just go with that. That's the true story."

Pressed to give details on the story, Connolly said, "I was backstage, preparing a dance move and I just fell. That was it. It was an accidental thing. It wasn't 'Roysie' punching me in the face. I don't know where that came out. Those things can snowball. ... I got a little work to do on [the dance move]. I saw Shaquille O'Neal doing it on TV. It needs a little work."

Asked if he was angry with Barnaby, Connolly said, "There's no hard feelings there. It's the job of the media to try to get the scoop, the early scoop on things. Sometimes the right story doesn't come out. It's just part of it. That's part of the deal."

Connolly said he's encouraged to be back on the ice, but said his return to skating doesn't necessarily discount the week-to-week timetable Ruff has labeled the injury.

"The last few days really turned the corner," Connolly said. "I didn't have much strength in it at all the last few days. Bu I've been able to get back on the ice on my own, get some light skating in and try to get a little bit more each day. ... It's one of those thoings you've got to be patient with. I've been able to get a good amount of work in the gym. It's just the skating motion that you have to strengthen in the inner groin area."

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

Lindy looking for line sparks

The Sabres will trot out new combinations on three of their four lines Friday when they host the Blue Jackets, and the reasoning is quite simple: The team that is averaging fewer than 2.5 goals per game wants to score more.

The Sabres, who haven't played since Saturday, finished a long week of practices with the following forward units in HSBC Arena:

Nathan Gerbe-Derek Roy-Thomas Vanek (new)

Drew Stafford-Luke Adam-Jason Pominville (new)

Tyler Ennis-Jochen Hecht-Patrick Kaleta (new)

Cody McCormick-Paul Gaustad-Mike Grier (not new)

"I’m just hoping just a little shake-up with the lines now with guys coming back in can breathe a little life into our offense," said coach Lindy Ruff, whose team is getting Drew Stafford back from a shoulder injury.

The most obvious chance belongs to Gerbe, who has no goals but is set to play with the Sabres' top two scorers.

"In Nathan’s case, he hasn’t been on the score sheet," Ruff said. "It’s a good opportunity. This is the type of opportunity he’s got to take advantage of."

The Sabres' lull in the schedule has allowed teams to play the games they had in hand and push Buffalo back in the points column. The Sabres are in 11th place, seven points behind eighth-place Boston (which has played two fewer games).

"With the start we got off to, let’s just be honest: We didn’t have many wins in those games at hand, so obviously some other teams are going to get some points," goalie Ryan Miller said. "We’re just going to have to make up ground over the course of 82 games."

They'll continue without center Tim Connolly (groin).

"He had a fairly good skate on his own today," Ruff said. "I would hope he would get involved in a more intense part of practice, a game-day practice tomorrow where he can come out with the team and start shooting. He hasn’t done any stops and starts yet."

---John Vogl

Inside the NHL -- Live Chat

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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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