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An update from on the ice

We're still working stories on the Terry Pegula front but didn't want to ignore the fact the Sabres actually had their first practice after the all-star break Monday afternoon in Amherst. (Read our latest Pegula story here).

The workout lasted a little more than an hour and was a tough one. Lindy Ruff said the team will work on systems and special teams over the next three days and will also throw in some scrimmage-type stuff in preparation for Friday's game at Pittsburgh -- which will play twice before the Sabres hit town.

"In that case, they'll be game-ready," Ruff said. "For us, it's up to the coaches that we get enough combative, enough game conditioning-type drills in to get ready to play."

Injuries: Tim Connolly (hip) and Patrick Kaleta (hand) practiced fully, with Ruff saying he felt Connolly looked better but Kaleta was still limited and not likely to play Friday at this point. Steve Montador, who crawled off the ice early in overtime last Tuesday in Ottawa, was fine. Thomas Vanek and Craig Rivet were home with the flu. Paul Byron and Matt Ellis are back in Portland for now but could easily be recalled if needed.

The break: The Sabres seem willing to enjoy the fact they don't play until Friday while many teams have two games before then. In fact, there are 14 games on the schedule Tuesday night. But once Friday rolls around, things really heat up for Buffalo with 12 games over the final 22 days in February and nine more in the first 15 days in March.

"We basically play every other day for the rest of the season," Jason Pominville said. "It's going to be a grind. The rest is good."

Tyler Ennis: The Sabres' lone all-star said he had a great time in Raleigh hanging out mostly with Oilers rookie Tyler Hall and Anaheim frosh Cam Fowler. Ennis said he got an autographed stick from Daniel Briere and enjoyed talking with Detroit veteran Nicklas Lidstrom. He said he did not hear the Carolina PA announcer introducing him as from the Florida Panthers.

The Sabres return to practice in HSBC Arena Tuesday morning.

---Mike Harrington

Returning to our regular programming

All-Star Weekend is over and the Sabres are back at practice today, albeit a late one because of NHLPA rules. Instead of their normal 11:30 a.m. ice time, the Sabres will work out at 3 p.m. in the Northtown Center of Amherst, so keep it here later this afternoon for all of the day's news.

The NHL returns to action with 14 games on Tuesday night and it should be noted that the Sabres are going to slip some in the standings. That's because the teams they're directly chasing in the Eastern Conference, No. 8 Atlanta and No. 9 Carolina, both play two games before Buffalo returns to the ice Friday in Pittsburgh. 

The Sabres are six points behind the Thrashers and five behind the Hurricanes. Those totals will grow -- unless both teams go 0-2, of course -- but the Sabres will start Friday with a whopping five games in hand over Atlanta and three over Carolina. You have to win those but it's a huge advantage to have too.

The Thrashers host the Islanders and Calgary while the Hurricanes host Boston Tuesday and are at Toronto Thursday. Atlanta and Carolina then meet Saturday night in Raleigh.

For the Sabres, of course, it's all about winning. They were 9-3-1 immediately before the break and are 20-12-3 since their ghastly 3-9-2 start. Are they a great tease or are they finding something? We're about to find out. They go 9-3-1 in their next 13 and they'll be sitting pretty, that's for sure. 

Bucky Gleason was in Raleigh for the All-Star Game and his thoughts on Sunday's activities can be found here.  Bucky was also following the Terry Pegula story down South and filed this report on Pegula's meeting with the NHL Executive Committee. 

Jim Heaney's story in Sunday's editions about Pegula's business dealings certainly drew a lot of discussion and you can join Heaney for a live chat on the topic today at 11:30 a.m. on the Buffalo News home page.

---Mike Harrington

Team Lidstrom 11, Team Staal 10

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Team Lidstrom held off Team Staal in the final minute to win the 58th All-Star Game, 11-10, today in RBC Center, capping off a successful hockey weekend in North Carolina.

Patrick Sharp was named the most valuable player with a goal and three assists and received a new car for the effort. The gaudy numbers: Nick Lidstrom had only one assist, but he was plus-7. Shea Weber had four assists and was plus-6. Staal outshot Lidstrom, 46-45.

Matt Duchene had the first penalty shot in ASG history after Alex Ovechkin tossed his stick into the path of the forward on a breakaway. It was the only penalty called in a game that had zero icings and no body checks of consequence.

The All-Star Game is headed for Ottawa next season and will take on a different feel. The weekend this year was largely about the NHL selling the game in a non-traditional hockey city, and Raleigh came through as a terrific host.

Now, it's back to the grind of the NHL regular season.

--- Bucky Gleason


NHL players poll


RALEIGH, N.C. -- Hockey Night in Canada and the NHL players' association joined forces in putting together a poll among players who answered about 40 questions concerning best and worst when it comes to arenas, ice, players and coaches, among others.

You might find some results rather interesting.

Here's the link:

--- Bucky Gleason

Pegula makes good impression

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Terry Pegula made a good impression with the NHL's executive committee this morning while confirming he's plenty suited to take over as owner of the Buffalo Sabres. He met with the five-man panel for less than an hour.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commish Bill Daly certainly like what they've found in Pegula so far. Both were impressed with his passion for the game and the money he's prepared to put behind the Sabres when he takes over.

"I think he's a good guy," Bettman said after his state-of-the-game news conference in RBC Center. "He has the resources. He's familiar with the area. ... He obviously loves the game. He's investing in it on all levels."

Said Daly: "He was very impressive. He’s down to earth, he’s normal and he spoke about his passion for the game. He spoke about his passion for the Sabres and about this being a lifelong dream to own the Sabres and operate them. And he talked about his vision for the future.

"He has some pretty substantial resources behind the club and making it successful long term. He wants to see it be successful on the ice. It was a good session."

No timetable has been set on the team being sold, but it appears to be a few weeks away. Pegula is buying the Sabres for $175 million and absorbing $14 million in liabilities. Total cost: $189 million. The franchise was valued at $169 million last year by Forbes magazine.

--- Bucky Gleason


Pegula meets with executive committee

CARY, N.C. -- Sabres prospective owner Terry Pegula met with the NHL's executive commitee this morning as he continues his efforts to buy the team.

Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs confirmed that the meeting was held before the 9 a.m. NHL Board of Governors' meeting in Umstead Hotel and Spa, but he would not get into details. Jacobs presides over the NHL executive committee, which oversees major financial transactions such as ownership changes.

Pegula has not spoken since his name surfaced as a potential owner and was not immediate available this morning. He did not meet with the full board of governors because he's not eligible. All indications pointed toward him buying the team for $175 million, however, and closing on the deal in the next few weeks or sooner after he receives approval from the other owners.

The Sabres did not send a representative to the board of governors' meeting in Cary, which is a suburb of Raleigh. Sabres spokesman Michael Gilbert said today Quinn was absent because his flight into Raleigh was canceled.

--- Bucky Gleason 


Schiestel to miss AHL All-Star Game

Sabres prospect Drew Schiestel will miss the American Hockey League All-Star Game because of an injury suffered this week, the league announced today.

The Portland defenseman and teammate Luke Adam were selected to participate in the Jan. 30-31 All-Star event in Hershey, Pa., but Schiestel suffered an undisclosed injury during Tuesday's 2-1 win over Norfolk. Schiestel was one of three players lost in the victory, which ended with the Pirates using only nine forwards and five defensemen.

---John Vogl

Inside the NHL -- Live Chat

Time change for Sabres-Capitals

The Sabres have announced a time change for their Feb. 20 home game against Washington. The Sunday matinee will begin at 12:30 p.m. rather than the originally schedule 3 p.m. start.

The change was made to accommodate NBC’s "Hockey Day in America" coverage. NBC will broadcast four games, with the first three shown regionally with staggered starts. All viewers will begin with the same game before some viewers are taken to their regional game. The staggered starts will allow for live look-ins of the other games during intermissions. The fourth game, Pittsburgh at Chicago, will be broadcast nationally.

---John Vogl

Wednesday morning papers

OTTAWA -- First, a moment of silence as I prepare to leave Ottawa for the final time this season.



As always, it's been fun. So long Alexander Keith and shawarmas. Hello drive back to Buffalo. But first, some Wednesday morning papers:

*"We really had to dig ourselves out, and I think we should feel good about what we've done as we go into the break on a high note here," Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said after a 3-2 overtime victory against Ottawa that sent the team into the All-Star break. "Guys should get their energy because that last push is the most intense."

*"It was a dream come true, to play against the Senators, and for everyone to see that goal," Sabres forward and Ottawa native Paul Byron said in this Ottawa Citizen profile.

*"Everybody as you get older would like to be in a spot where you have one of the best teams in the league and you're fighting for the Stanley Cup, but that's not where we are this year," Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "I have no problems being here in Ottawa in the situation we are. I'm not happy about it, but I'm going to make the most of it and try to help all the young guys get better and put this ship in the right direction."

*The Senators will spend at least another week living with a long string of ghastly numbers, writes the Ottawa Cititzen. Tuesday’s defeat makes it seven straight losses at Scotiabank Place and six overall. The Senators have now dropped 12 of their past 13 games. Goaltender Brian Elliott, who last tasted victory on Dec. 26, has now suffered 11 straight defeats.

*Don Brennan's view from the press box in the Ottawa Sun includes a chance to catch up with one of the funniest guys in hockey, Sabres broadcaster Harry Neale. Also made Brennan think — if the Senators are going to be bad next season, they might as well be self-deprecating, right? How about you coaching them, Harry?

"I haven’t lost a game in 22 years," Neale proudly stated Tuesday morning. “Of course, I haven’t won one, either."

*Florida defenseman Mike Weaver scored the winning goal in a 4-3 victory over the Rangers with 8:19 left on a shot that was going wide, but instead found its way past surprised goalie Henrik Lundqvist after hitting Rangers forward Artem Anisimov. The wayward drive was the Panthers' only shot of the third period.

"Great! And it wasn't even on net," said Weaver, who hadn't scored in 41 games, dating to Oct. 23.

*Martin Havlat of the Minnesota Wild and defenseman Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes are heading to the NHL All-Star Game as injury replacements.

*Sabres center Cody McCormick told TSN both Tim Gleason and Nikolai Kulemin could have showed a little more discretion and found fault in the way each participant acted in a one-sided, gloves-on versus glove-off fight this week.
"I think Kulemin could have protected himself a little more. On Gleason's side he could have been aware who he was in front of."

---John Vogl

Vote for your three stars

Sabres head into break with victory

OTTAWA -- Hello again from Scotiabank Place, where the Internet is back working in the downstairs media room after disappearing in the press box late in the third period. What a mess for a bunch of swearing reporters. Oh well.

The Sabres beat Ottawa, 3-2, in overtime on a goal by Shaone Morrisonn. He was alone in front after work down low by Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville. Morrisonn's first goal with Buffalo came after goaltender Brian Elliott turned aside the first point-blank chance.

"It’s a huge two points," Morrisonn said. "It’s nice to get that first one with the Sabres. It’s taken a little longer than I thought, but I’m just happy to get that one."

The goal was necessary after Ottawa tied the game with 6:04 remaining in regulation. Ryan Miller, who was penalized for tripping, was furious with the power-play goal by Sergei Gonchar. Miller was bumped by Nick Foligno when the goal went in.

"They said the puck was in before I was interfered with," Miller said. "I obviously strongly disagree with that version of what happened on the ice, and I let them know that."

Morrisonn's goal allowed the Sabres to head into the break on a 9-3-1 run. They are four points out of a playoff spot.

"We really had to dig ourselves out, and I think we should feel good about what we’ve done as we go into the break on a high note here," Miller said. "Guys should get their energy because that last push is the most intense. It feels good to get a couple wins and overall have a winning record going in."

---John Vogl

Live from Sabres at Ottawa

OTTAWA -- The usual Ottawa Internet jinx strikes again. Everything works fine in Scotiabank Place until people come into the building. Then everyone logs into the Public Access network and it grinds to a halt. Anyway ...


7:43 p.m.: Chris Kelly gives the Sens a 1-0 lead with 15:32 left. Nick Foligno knocks Shaone Morrisonn off the puck at the Buffalo blue line, and Chris Kelly walks in on Ryan Miller all alone as Tyler Myers backs off -- and off, and off -- to cover the pass. Kelly has time to start at the right side, get Miller down and go all the way around him to the left side for a dump-in.

7:45 p.m.: Erik Karlsson goes for tripping with 14:58 left.

7:48 p.m.: Nathan Gerbe takes roughing call with five seconds left in inept power play, heading to box with 13:03 to go.

7:52 p.m.: Ottawa native Paul Byron, who has 40 to 50 friends and family members in the stands, scores for the Sabres to tie the game with 9:55 left. Tyler Ennis skates into Ottawa zone, passes by Karlsson to a driving Byron at the crease. He tips it home and welcomes a leaping Ennis into his arms as a mixed reaction comes from the crowd.

7:57 p.m.: It's still 1-1 with Sens holding an 8-7 shot edge with 8:10 to go. The Sens held a fundraiser at at local casino over the weekend, and Carrie Underwood stood behind the table as husband Mike Fisher dealt cards. How do I know? The picture was on every publication in Canada's capital. They'll miss her if he gets traded to Nashville, which is the hot rumor. It would certainly help the Predators get attention in Music City.

8:02 p.m.: Final commercial break comes with 5:24 left, still tied, 1-1. To sum up the past day or so -- Shawarma at the place they know my name = usual goodness. Stopping to get a few bottles of maple whiskey to take home since this is the last trip to Ottawa this season = mouthwatering. The fact this is the last trip to Ottawa = disappointment.

8:07 p.m.: Sens goalie Brian Elliott shows why he's lost his last 10 starts, allowing an easy backhand goal by Jochen Hecht with 4:11 left. It's 2-1.

8:12 p.m.: The Sabres head to the dressing room with a 2-1 lead and a 15-12 shot edge. I made a personal vow a couple of weeks ago to do everything I could to not mention the standings in my stories since there's almost half the season and nearly three months left on the schedule, but ... if the Sabres win tonight they'll be only four points behind eighth-place Atlanta with two fewer games played.


8:30 p.m.: They're back.

8:33 p.m.: Ennis gets bumped by Nick Foligno and crashes hard into the boards with 17:57 left.

8:39 p.m.: Sabres head to first commerical with 13:59 left with 2-1 lead intact. Chris Phillips fires wide on Ottawa scoring chance, and Nathan Gerbe gets chance at other end by going around Karlsson. Elliott makes the save.

8:41 p.m.: Some lady just won a trip for two to anywhere in North America, including Hawaii and the Bahamas, courtesy of Air Canada. That's much better than a T-shirt.

8:46 p.m.: Sabres keep 2-1 lead and have 19-15 shot edge at second commercial wth 9:53 to go. Off-ice crew just played a "Newlywed Game" and the final question was, "Who would your husband say was the hottest bridesmaid in your wedding?" Um, that could cause some trouble. For the record, she guessed right. "Carole" must be pretty hot apparently.

8:50 p.m.: ... or the pickings were pretty slim.

8:54 p.m.: Teams head to the final commercial, and Drew Stafford heads to the penalty box with 5:08 left. Stafford has returned from injury three times, including tonight, and he has at least a point in all three comeback games. He assisted on Byron's goal.

8:58 p.m.: Alex Kovalev helped to the dressing room as a bloody mess with 3:31 left -- and he wasn't even on the ice. He was standing at the bench and got hit with the puck being cleared.

9:03 p.m.: Sabres head to dressing room with 2-1 lead, while Sens go down hallway with a 24-21 shot edge.


9:21 p.m.: The Sabres are 12-1 when leading after two periods. The Sens are 0-16-3 when trailing after two.

9:23 p.m.: Myers gets called for cross-checking with 18:38 left.

9:31 p.m.: Attendance announced at 18,990 as Sabres hold 2-1 lead with 13:30 left. There have been no shots by either team yet.

9:37 p.m.: Air Canada just gave out another trip for two, seconds after the 50-50 jackpot winning number was announced for someone who collected $12,600. With prizes like that, no wonder 18,990 people are here to see a really bad team.

---John Vogl

Sabres' Byron happy to be home

OTTAWA -- Paul Byron could probably stand outside HSBC Arena in his Sabres sweater and not get more than a handful of looks, but he was the main guy in Scotiabank Place this morning. Sixteen media members with cameras and recorders surrounded the babyfaced center, who will play his second NHL game tonight in his hometown. He's expecting 40 to 50 friends and family members to watch the Senators host the Sabres.

"I’m excited for tonight," said the Ottawa native who played junior hockey across the river in Gatineau, Quebec. "I’ve got tons of supporters, I’ve got lots of great friends and family, so they’re all going to be out there for me. This kind of feels like my first game. I didn’t have anyone out there on Long Island [on Sunday]. Everyone kind of waited for me to be here, so I’m a little nervous.

"It’s very special. My parents don’t have American passports, so it’s incredible to be able to play my second game in front of them."

Byron will center left wing Tyler Ennis and right wing Drew Stafford, who is back after a three-game absence because of a groin strain.

"It feels good, I’m ready to go," Stafford said. "It’s been a good week of rehab, and I'm feeling pretty good about things. Yesterday was a big test, and I felt pretty good."

The 10th-place Sabres will play while the eighth-place Thrashers are idle. Atlanta has played 51 games and Buffalo 48, and a victory will allow Buffalo to close within four points of the final playoff spot.

"We’ve got a few games in hand on the eighth-place team, and it’s a game in hand we’re playing," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We need to move up."

The Sens have won just once in their past 12 games (1-8-3), but the Sabres insist they won't take them for granted.

"This league’s so close that any given game a team can get hot and start playing well," Stafford said. "It doesn’t really matter where the teams are in the standings or what their record is over games in the past. The game tonight is all that matters. They’re looking for points just like we’re looking for points."

---John Vogl

Gragnani gone, Stafford on a line

OTTAWA -- The Sabres have just taken the ice in Scotiabank Place for their morning skate, and Drew Stafford appears ready to play tonight against the Senators. To make room on the roster, the Sabres have sent defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani back to Portland.

The lines:

Thomas Vanek-Jochen Hecht-Jason Pominville

Paul Byron-Tyler Ennis-Stafford

Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Cody McCormick

Rob Niedermayer-Matt Ellis-Mike Grier

More following the skate.

---John Vogl

Mancari named AHL Player of Week

OTTAWA -- Eight goals in four games is certainly a good reason to earn a Player of the Week award. Mark Mancari accomplished both.

The Portland forward, who has hat tricks in two straight games, has been named the AHL Player of the Week. In four games for the Pirates from Wednesday to Sunday, Mancari recorded eight goals, two assists and a plus-7 rating.

The 25-year-old has taken over the AHL lead with 26 goals and ranks third with 51 points in 42 games. He has 12 goals and 19 points during his 11-game points streak.

---John Vogl

Stafford a possibility for Sens

OTTAWA -- Drew Stafford was the only member of the Sabres who skated today, and if things continue to improve he could play with the rest of the team Tuesday.

The Sabres, who are set to close a run of five games in eight nights Tuesday when they visit Ottawa, chose a light, off-ice workout at their hotel rather than practice today. Stafford, though, traveled down the road and skated to test the groin injury that has kept him out of the past three games. He'd be a welcome addition to a battered lineup.

"The only person that’s progressing is Stafford," coach Lindy Ruff said by phone. "He skated today, and if that went well he’s a possibility for tomorrow."

Ruff said left wing Thomas Vanek, who was limited by an upper-body injury during Sunday's 5-3 victory over the Islanders, will play against the Senators.

"Van’s fine,'' Ruff said. "He’s just going to have to deal with what he’s dealing with. The good news is the break is after tomorrow, so that should help."

The Sabres are off for nine days following Tuesday's game. It should allow some players to heal, though Ruff hopes it doesn't stall momentum for his team, which is 8-3-1 in its last 12 games.

"We’ve been going pretty good, and you’d like to keep playing," he said. "We’ve closed the gap and got some games in hand on the eighth-place team, so I look it that it would be nice to keep rolling.

"It’s an important game for us, and that’s why we put some thought into what we wanted to do today. We just feel we need with the schedule being five in eight and them not playing for a few days, we felt the best thing for our team to do was just rest today and get a light off-ice workout in, and we’ll get ready for the game tomorrow morning."

---John Vogl

Locked in the Nassau Coliseum

OK, many of you saw my tweet Sunday night about being locked IN the Nassau Coliseum after the Sabres' win so I feel like I owe you the full story. (By the way, you can read the Sabres' game story here)

The Coliseum is an old building, dating to the early 1970s. It's small and circular with just one concourse. If you haven't been there, you'd be shocked at how tiny it is. At most arenas, like HSBC, you go through a security-type entrance with your credential and that's how you exit too. At the Coliseum there is an entrance by a canopy that takes you to a table inside the concourse. You get your credential, take the elevator up and you're in the suite/press box level.

Also understand this was my third trip there and I've never had a problem before. But Sunday, the place cleared in a heartbeat. I'm pretty certain vendors, cleaners etc. were all in a hurry to go watch the Jets game because my whole situation began in the 7:30 range. Only about 90 minutes or so after finishing interviews, I was done with two stories and ready to head to JFK Airport.

Each gate around the concourse has a series of glass doors that exits outside to a plaza which leads to the acres of parking lots. I started walking the concourse and noticed every door was padlocked. And I mean every one. I finally found a couple open and they led to a vestibule in front of some will call windows. Through the vestibule were the doors to the parking lot leading to the Long Island Marriott, which is right across the street (and is where the visiting teams stay).

So I thought I had struck paydirt. How wrong I was. Went into the vestibule and the 20 or so doors leading to the parking lot were not padlocked but they were all locked. OK, so I turned around to go back into the concourse and see if there were any other open doors. Uh-oh. Here's where the problem began.

The doors back into the concourse locked behind me. The doors to the parking lot were locked. I was stuck in the vestibule. Picture an area roughly the width of the gate area inside the HSBC Arena pavilion. So I started banging on the doors leading back inside and yelling. No one around. Not a soul. There's a stairway leading downstairs by a couple restaurants and the MSG studio. No one around. Not a soul.

My flight from JFK was in the 10 p.m. range so that wasn't an issue -- unless I spent hours inside. And how was I getting out? I had no choice. I dialed 911. Nassau County 911 was a little confused. 

"There's nothing going on at the Coliseum." Um, there was a hockey game.

"Why didn't you leave with the crowd?" Um, I'm a reporter from Buffalo.

"Just see if you can find an open door." Um, why do you think I'm calling you?

So he finally says they'll send somebody out and to call back in 10 minutes if no one shows. So I'm waiting, pacing the vestibule looking outside. Just then, I see a cleaner pushing a mop bucket inside the concourse disappearing into a closet. I bolted to the doors and started banging. Scared the you-know-what out of the poor guy.

Asked him to open the door and let me in and he said, "You gotta go to Gate 1." Told him I was locked in. Showed him my credential and he let me in, bless his soul.

So I walk around to Gate 1 and, lo and behold, there's one door -- one -- with a hanging, open padlock. Out to the parking lot! Problem solved? Nope. It was pitch black in the lots. Took a while to find the rental car. Problem solved? Nope. Every parking lot exit to the highway gated off. Incredible.

After driving around for another 15 minutes, I finally found the one that was open and headed for JFK.

Thankfully, the flight was uneventful. Except for the one-hour delay -- due to a locked lavatory door. Frozen shut. Landed at 12:50 a.m. Quite a roadie. So you wanna be a sportswriter, huh? Guess the Islanders need to put that little Gate 1 nugget in their game notes.

John Vogl is meeting the Sabres today in Ottawa. I'm taking a well-deserved.

---Mike Harrington

Vote for your three stars

Live from the Coliseum: Sabres vs. Islanders

UNIONDALE -- Greetings from the Nassau Coliseum where the Sabres (again) meet the New York Islanders in their second-last game before the all-star break. I don't care about the standings frankly today (the Sabres, for the record, are 11th in the East and eight points out of eighth with three games in hand on Atlanta).

To me, this game is about pride, about representing the sweater in the 40th anniversary season.

I don't want to hear about the improvement of the Islanders under new coach Jack Capuano. Yes, they have some nice young talent and they're 10-6-2 in their last 18 games. But the fact remains that you can't lose three times in eight days to the 14th-place team in the East -- a team that won exactly one game in a 21-game stretch earlier this season and went winless in 14 straight. And the one win was over the equally pathetic Devils, so it almost shouldn't count.

The Sabres have to man up and beat this team today. Period. And I don't want to hear about injuries either. Anybody thinking that the absence of Tim Connolly is really addition by subtraction? Show of hands? Thought so. Let's see how Paul Byron does in his NHL debut. Can he really be any worse than Connolly and Jochen Hecht have been? The Sabres were 4-1-1 when Matt Ellis was here earlier in the year too

Not to slag on the Sabres, because they are 7-3-1 in their last 11. Hard to complain much about that. And they've got a real chance to get even closer to eighth today as Atlanta is at Tampa Bay in a 5 p.m. start. But you can't be losing to the Islanders. Players openly talked about getting all six points in these three games last week. Now the best they can do is two.

They better get those two. End of rant. 

Keep it here for all your updates, especially if you're just going to follow here while watching James Starks and the Packers meet the Bears. If you missed Tyler Dunne's neat look at the Starksmania breaking out in Niagara Falls, be sure to check it out here.

The warmup begins in the 2:30 range so I'll let you know if Cody McCormick is on the ice. He has been battling the flu. Connolly, Patrick Kaleta and Drew Stafford are all out today.  

Update: McCormick IS on the ice. Byron wears No. 24, Ellis his customary No. 37.

---Mike Harrington

Sabres starters: Niedermayer-Gaustad-Grier-Morrisonn-Myers. Goal: Miller
Islanders starters: Comeau-Bailey-Schremp-Martinek-Hillen. Goal: DiPietro 

Scratches: No surprises -- Connolly, Kaleta, Stafford, Butler, Rivet. Evgeni Nabokov is officially listed as an Islanders scratch. They're still waiting to see if he reports.

Third Period

Of note: Clearly, something is wrong with Vanek. He's played only 7:40 in the game. Twenty minutes to go -- refer to what I wrote at the very top of this post. You have to win just one period to win a game against the Islanders. This isn't the Flyers or Penguins here, folks.

4:55 p.m. The puck is dropped.

19:04 left: Another pause. More debris on the ice. Knuckleheads. The PA announcer just warned the fans one more disruption is a penalty. "There's one fan interrupting the game. You point him out, we'll throw him out."

18:12 left: The PP converts as Gerbe scores his third in two games, popping home a neat backhand pass from Ennis. Sabres lead, 3-2.

18:00 left: Gaustad and Tavares go for roughing. Good trade. 

16:07 left: Myers stopped on the goalmouth off a Gerbe pass. But did Bailey knock it in?  Under review.  AND IT COUNTS. Myers' first since Nov. 15. Sabres lead, 4-2. DiPietro has been badly outplayed by Miller in this one. Four goals in 20 shots. Byron also gets an assist as well as Gerbe for his first NHL point.

10:54 left: Shots are 6-1 for Buffalo in this period. Excellent response after Miller kept this team afloat during a rough second.

3:23 left: Nothing was going on. Sabres were on cruise control. Then they started scrambling around. Eventually Jack Hillen's shot from the left point gets through Miller. And now they have to struggle to the finish. Sabres lead, 4-3.  Timeout, Lindy. This note from Sabres info guru Kevin Snow: Paul Byron is the 48th Sabres to get his first NHL point in his first game. Cool.

1:26 left: Niedermayer stopped on 2-on-1 with Gerbe. Pass to the hot man, scoreless one.

23.7 left: Pominville into the middle of the empty net seals a three-goal third and a 5-3 Buffalo win. 

Second Period

Of note: Evgeni Nabokov isn't reporting to the Islanders. Period. He spoke to this afternoon and made his position clear. Islanders owner Charles Wang doesn't understand it.

Weber led the Sabres in ice time at 7:01 in the first period. Byron with a good 5:33 and Ellis at 5:17. Lindy Ruff really shuffled the lines to get everybody time. BUT it looks like there's some issue with Vanek. Everybody in the 4-5 minute range and he was at just 3:13 with only four shifts. He IS on the bench to start the second.

3:58 p.m: The puck is dropped.

19:46 left: Myers for delay of game (puck over glass). Ooof.

18:45 left: The penalty is costly as Matt Moulson bangs home a one-timer off a great pass from behind the net from Tavares, who got what turned out to be a perfect feed from Leopold as he tried to bang the puck behind the net. Game tied, 1-1.

15:02 left: The Sabres go back out in front as Ennis does the give-and-go with Pominville and dribbles one through DiPietro on the backhand. DiPietro has hardly been sharp in this one. Gotta put more pucks to the net. Sabres lead, 2-1. Looked like defenseman Dylan Reese helped the puck in too.

14:33 left: Debris on the ice. Are there a bunch of pennies out there chucked from the crowd? 

11:20 left: A note on the Moulson goal -- the Sabres have given up a power-play tally in six of the last seven games, including all three against the Islanders. Buffalo only killing at a 70 percent clip in that stretch (14 of 20 right now).

10:01 left: Miller with the glove stop on Hiller. Shots are 20-14 for the Islanders at the halfway mark of the game.

9:57 left: After showing highlights of last week's game in New England, the scoreboard and an Ice Girl wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey are leading the fans in a chant of "J-E-T-S."

7:33 left: Miller stones Josh Bailey on a breakaway after a long pass gets through Weber and allowed the winger to go in alone.

6:33 left: Isles are starting to skate Sabres out of the building like last week. They break in on a 3-on-2 and Parenteau taps in Tavares' feed to the goalmouth in front of Grier. Game tied, 2-2. Shots are 24-14.

6:00 left: It gets worse. Hecht gets four minutes for high sticking, cutting Nielsen with a hit along the boards. Stupid play, easy call. And Luke Adam isn't here why?

4:14 left: Miller smothers Comeau's slapshot. They gave the second goal to Moulson, who tapped it in at the goal line before it crossed. So that's Moulson's second of the game.

2:36 left: Miller stops Moulson's shot from the circle a few seconds after Tavares curled the puck just wide of an open net. Close call.

1:53 left: Sabres survive the four-minute power play and now they get one of their own. Just as Hecht gets out, Bailey clips Gaustad and he's gone for four minutes.

End-2nd: Sabres had some good zone time but not a lot of good chances. Still 2:07 left on the PP to start the third. It's 2-2 through 40 minutes and shots are 27-15 for the Islanders. It was 17-5 in that period -- that's six goals in the middle frame for the Isles in the two games here against Buffalo.

First Period

3:09 p.m: The puck is dropped.

19:45 left: THAT is how you start. Morrisson takes a hit to get the puck in the zone. Niedermayer outworks a defender behind the net to get the puck in front to Grier. His shot leaks through DiPietro and Gaustad taps it home. Sabres lead, 1-0. It's Gaustad's fifth from Niedermayer and Grier.

18:25 left: Byron's first shift, centering Ellis and McCormick. He gets thrown out of the circle.

17:05 left: DiPietro stops Gaustad, who was sent in alone by Vanek.

15:00 left: Shots are 6-1 for Buffalo. You'll recall they were 9-1 for the Islanders to start the game Friday. 

13:45 left: Gaustad goes for hooking and the Ice Girls take the ice. Grrrr.

12:16 left: Miller with a couple nice saves on John Tavares and Frans Nielsen. Byron got some PK time early in that penalty with McCormick.

7:42 left: It's a bright, sunny day here but lots of folks are certainly staying home to get ready for Jets-Steelers and to watch Packers-Bears. I'm betting there's about 8,000 or so in the house. The Sabres have skated this way thus far: Niedermayer-Gaustad-Grier, Vanek-Hecht-Pominville, Ellis-Byron-McCormick. Gerbe, who had both goals Friday and played more than 20 minutes, has been spotted and so has Ennis. Odd. On defense it's been Myers-Morrisonn, Leopold-Montador and Weber-Sekera with Gragnani worked in as the No. 7 D. 

6:49 left: Miller with a nice save on Grabner's deflection from in front. Shots are 8-6 for Buffalo as the penalty helped the Islanders reclaim some momentum in the game.

59.6 left: In a game with few whistles, the Sabres have been in trouble for the last couple of minutes. Solid period by Miller, who just robbed Bruno Gervais on a one-timer. Islanders now have a 10-9 lead in shots. It was 6-1 for Buffalo.

End-1st: Sabres hold the 1-0 lead and shots were 10-10.

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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 |

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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.

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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.

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