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Old school hockey

The Sabres have no morning skate today because they play a 3 p.m. game against the New York Islanders in the Nassau Coliseum. Mike Harrington will have all your reports from the game as faceoff approaches.

In the meantime, if you missed Bill Wippert's video look at backyard rinks, be sure to check it out here.

Byron, Ellis get the call

The Sabres have added Paul Byron and Matt Ellis to their roster for Sunday's game on Long Island. Patrick Kaleta and Tim Connolly have been put on injured reserve and thus won't play Tuesday in Ottawa either.

Byron is second on the Portland Pirates in scoring with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists). Ellis is fourth with 28 points (8-20). Ellis, of course, spent most of the last two seasons with the Sabres and was up for six games this year. Byron, 21, will be making his first trip to the NHL. The 5-foot-9, 144-pound center was Buffalo's sixth-round pick in 2007.

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

Roster roulette: Kaleta, Connolly, Stafford all out Sunday

Here's the post-practice update we promised from Lindy Ruff after Saturday's practice in the Northtown Center of Amherst. It's not a pretty picture.

Tim Connolly -- Out for Sunday's game on Long Island. Played 11:38 Thursday in Boston and 12:02 Friday but is too limited by what Ruff termed a hip flexor. Did not practice Saturday.

Patrick Kaleta -- Out for Sunday's game, Tuesday's in Ottawa and for perhaps time after the all-star break as well. There are no new major breaks on his left hand after he was struck by a shot on his broken bone Thursday in Boston but Kaleta is back to being unable to handle the puck. Did not skate Saturday.

Drew Stafford -- Practiced in a limited role Saturday and will be out Sunday. Ruff is hopeful Stafford can go Tuesday.

Cody McCormick -- Played less than eight minutes Friday with the flu and was feeling better Saturday even though he didn't practice. Could play Sunday.

Ruff said there might be decisions on some recalls from Portland later Saturday. Mark Mancari scored his 20th goal of the season for the Pirates Friday night. Matt Ellis, Paul Byron, Colin Stuart and Mark Parrish could also be possible. With so many players not on the ice, the Sabres didn't have any real lines to show at practice today. We'll have to see who joins the club for Sunday's game and if Marc-Andre Gragnani goes back to forward.

Ruff also said Ryan Miller will be back in his customary starting slot in goal Sunday.

This bulletin just in: The goalie-strapped Islanders just claimed Evgeni Nabakov, who had signed a $570,000 deal with Detroit to come back from the KHL. Wow.

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

Back on the ice

The Sabres are on for an early practice here at the Northtown Center of Amherst with a couple hundred kids taking advantage of an unexpected chance meeting and watching them from the stands. They're happy, as they should be. Part of their happiness is probably the fact they weren't in HSBC Arena last night. Lucky them.

The kids aren't seeing Patrick Kaleta, Tim Connolly or Cody McCormick on the ice so we'll have to get an update from Lindy Ruff on their status after the workout. Drew Stafford is skating in a non-contact jersey. Wonder if the Sabres are just going to try to get through the next two games without Stafford to give his groin a couple more weeks of rest.

I would imagine at least one and possibly two players will join the team from Portland for Sunday's 3 p.m. rematch with the Islanders. Mark Mancari scored his 20th goal for the Pirates in last night's win over Worcester. There's one possibility. I'd like to see Matt Ellis back too.

Be sure to click that link to read good-friend-of-the-blog Dan Hickling's report on the Portland game. It was an emotional return to the lineup for West Seneca native Brian Roloff, who scored the winning goal in his first game back with the team after the death of his older brother, Eric, Sunday from cancer.

In other news, South Buffalo's Patrick Kane has been named an alternate captain on Team Lidstrom and will help with the selection process for next week's NHL All-Star Game. 

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

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Live from Isles at Sabres

There might be worse places to walk to an arena, but I can't think of any. It's bitter out there.

I was hustling through the wind and cold toward HSBC Arena next to a couple of people from Canada. The one dude said, "My ears don't usually get cold, but they're really freezing now." When folks from The True North think it's cold, it's cold.

No lineup changes for the Sabres, who are again without injured right wing Drew Stafford and have scratched defensemen Craig Rivet and Chris Butler. The goaltenders will be Ryan Miller and Nathan Lawson, who is starting in place of the ill Rick DiPietro. Lawson is 0-3-1 with a 4.62 goals-against average and .885 save percentage.

FIRST PERIOD

7:38 p.m.: Ever feel way behind? I'm there now. Game on. Hopefully they break a couple of panes of glass tonight to slow things down.

7:43 p.m.: Both teams played Thursday night, and through the opening 4:37 it's easy to tell. The speed and energy they had Saturday on Long Island is nowhere to be found so far. The Isles have two shots, the Sabres have one, though Buffalo could've had a goal if Frans Nielsen didn't tie up Nathan Gerbe on a rebound attempt with 1:20 gone.

7:47 p.m.: Isles get the first power play as Steve Montador gets called for tripping with 14:00 left. Shots are 5-1 in New York's favor.

7:49 p.m.: It's four-on-four for 50 seconds as New York's Kyle Okposo takes a hooking call with 12:50 left.

7:50 p.m.: The Isles take a 1-0 lead with 12:34 left as Tyler Myers' troubled times continue. Michael Grabner dumps the puck to the front from behind the Sabres' net, and it struck the skate of Myers and went through Miller's pads. Myers played a season low in minutes Thursday after poorly playing Boston's second goal.

7:54 p.m.: It's 2-0, Miller is in the dressing room and Patrick Lalime is in net. The Isles scored off a faceoff with 9:30 left, as it appeared Matt Moulson tipped a low point shot. It made the shots 10-3, with the Sabres sleeping. Coach Lindy Ruff tapped Lalime for a wake-up call, and Miller angrily headed to the back.

7:56 p.m.: Miller is back on the bench.

7:57 p.m.: Sabres get a power play with 9:12 left after a penalty by Nielsen.

8 p.m.: John Tavares of the Isles just looked up to the scoreboard to see his uncle John Tavares of the Bandits shoot T-shirts into the stands with his lacrosse stick.

8:03 p.m.: The final commercial of the period comes with 5:49 left. Shots are 10-6. Stats guru and numbers maven Mike Haim just informed me that was the earliest Miller has ever been pulled at home.

Applause from the crowd for Air Force Sgt. Philip Tilinghast.

8:08 p.m.: Another penalty to the Isles as Jeremy Colliton goes for holding with 3:43 left.

8:10 p.m.: Left arm save along the goal line by Lawson on Jochen Hecht with 3:01 left keeps it 2-0.

8:15 p.m.: Sabres hit the first intermission with light boos, no applause, a 2-0 deficit and a 10-10 tie in shots.

SECOND PERIOD

8:32 p.m.: Lalime still in net as the teams return. Kevin Poulin replaces Lawson, who was shaken up on the Hecht save but stayed in the game after being attended to by trainers.

8:37 p.m.: Rob Niedermayer still has as many goals as I do after flipping a shot wide of a fallen Poulin with 16:20 to go.

8:40 p.m.: Patrick Kaleta is nowhere to be found for the Sabres.

8:50 p.m.: New York still has a 2-0 lead with 9:49 to go.

8:58 p.m.: The Sabres catch a break courtesy of shoddy sticks. Montador misses the puck on a blue-line pinch, giving a partial breakaway to Nielsen. Just as he went to shoot with 6:21 left, his stick shattered and the puck fluttered away. It's still 2-0.

9:02 p.m.: It's now 3-0. Mike Weber misses Andrej Sekera with a 5-foot pass, and the puck goes to Tavares the hockey player. He quickly feeds PA Parenteau alone in front for an easy goal with 5:25 left.

9:08 p.m.: Mock applause when the announcer said "last minute of play in the period" and a ton of jeers when the period ends with the Sabres in a 3-0 hole and 19-19 shot tie.

THIRD PERIOD

9:26 p.m.: It's still Lalime and Poulin as the puck is dropped.

9:35 p.m.: Isles still lead, 3-0, with 13:32 to go. Shots are 28-21 in favor of the Sabres.

9:49 p.m.: Lalime makes a nice save on Jack Hillen on a wide-open two-on-one, but Hillen gets the rebound and flips it home with 5:27 left to make it 4-0. This place is empty.

10 p.m.: Nathan Gerbe set a Sabres record by scoring twice in five seconds. He scored with 3:22 left and again with 3:17 to go. Sabres call timeout with 52.8 seconds left.

10:02 p.m.: Isles win, 5-2, with empty-net goal as Sabres' two-game winning streak ends.

---John Vogl

Kaleta to play against Isles

Patrick Kaleta, his broken left hand in a new red-wrapped cast, will play against the New York Islanders tonight in HSBC Arena. The right winger's status was in doubt after he left the Sabres' 4-2 victory over Boston on Thursday because he took a slap shot in the hand, which was originally fractured in late December.

"I took that slap shot right off the spot I’ve been milking for a little while here," Kaleta said after today's team meeting. "I’m going to play tonight, so we’ll see how it goes."

Kaleta dived to block a shot in the second period, and Steven Kampfer's point blast sailed directly at Kaleta's injured hand.

"It was pretty painful," he said. "I went to the doctors again this morning and got everything looked at and reassured that I can play again tonight."

Tim Connolly was limited to just 11:38 against the Bruins because of an undisclosed ailment, but coach Lindy Ruff said the center should be back to full strength tonight. The Islanders will be without franchise goaltender Rick DiPietro, who didn't make the trip because of the flu.

Defenseman Tyler Myers played a season-low 11:56 against Boston. He was benched for long stretches after allowing Gregory Campbell to get open in the slot and give the Bruins a 2-1 lead. For Ruff's comments on Myers, Marc-Andre Gragnani and the Islanders, click the audio file below.

---John Vogl

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Live from Sabres at Boston

BOSTON -- Marc-Andre Gragnani's situation is hardly enviable. The defenseman was called up to play forward for tonight's game against the Bruins, so his NHL season debut figured to be a test right off the bat. The Sabres are wrapping up their pregame skate, and Gragnani's hope for offensive production just took another hit.

It appears Gragnani will play left wing alongside center Rob Niedermayer (no goals) and right wing Mike Grier (two goals). If the kid was hoping to make an offensive impact, he's got his work cut out for him.

The other lines: Thomas Vanek-Jochen Hecht-Jason Pominville; Tyler Ennis-Tim Connolly-Cody McCormick; and Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Patrick Kaleta.

Chris Butler and Craig Rivet will be the healthy scratches, while right wing Drew Stafford will miss the game with a groin strain.

More when the puck drops.

FIRST PERIOD

7:08 p.m.: Ryan Miller, in the crease for the 23rd straight game, is staring down the ice at Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. Rask is 4-2 in eight career games against the Sabres but was yanked after one period the Sabres' wild 7-6 victory on New Year's Day.

7:12 p.m.: Gragnani's first shift comes with 17:22 left and he's playing as the seventh defenseman at the moment. Ennis double-shifted to skate alongside Niedermayer and Grier.

7:15 p.m.: Zdeno Chara gets his stick on a Vanek's wide-open shot attempt, and at the same time (15:51 left) Bruins teammate Steven Kampfer goes for hooking.

7:19 p.m.: First commercial comes with 12:34 left. The Sabres' power play was brief as Jordan Leopold failed to clear the puck from the Sabres' zone, forcing Gragnani to take a tripping penalty with 15:23 to go. Boston's Nathan Horton had a breakaway during the four-on-four, but he shot a backhand wide on Miller with 14:47 left. Miller made a nice pad save on David Krejci with 13:15 to go. And Craig Rivet sat down next to me to say hi but was quickly ushered away by the Sabres' media guy.

7:22 p.m.: Vanek heads to the box for slashing with 11:39 left.

7:25 p.m.: Second commercial comes with 9:21 left. It's scoreless and shots are 7-7. So, aside from a 30-minute nap on the plane and another 25-minute nap following a lobster lunch, I haven't slept since Tuesday night because I drove home from South Carolina overnight following a fine, touching memorial service for my mom's husband Wednesday afternoon. I was looking forward to sleeping in a bit in the morning, but USAirways already canceled my 9:10 a.m. flight to Buffalo and I had to rebook on the 7:30 a.m. flight. So, so much for that plan. That said, I'm not the least bit tired anyway.

7:29 p.m.: Bruins take a 1-0 lead with 8:59 left. They win a faceoff in the Buffalo zone, and Dennis Seidenberg unleashes a shot from the point with Horton in front for the screen.

7:34 p.m.: Gragnani is staying on defense so far.

7:39 p.m.: Milan Lucic trips Tim Connolly with 3:14 to go.

7:42 p.m.: The Bruins kill the penalty and head to the dressing room for the first intermission with a 1-0 lead and 13-11 shot edge.

SECOND PERIOD

8 p.m.: Wow is it loud in here. Just called the office to tell them the notebook was in, and couldn't hear a thing with the music over the speakers. Anyway, game on.

8:02 p.m.: McCormick quiets things with a goal with 18:56 left. He blasts a shot off the left post, then gets the puck back in the slot, moves right and fires into the yawning cage to tie the game, 1-1.

8:04 p.m.: Brief break as a panel of glass behind the Buffalo net cracks with 18:26 to go.

8:07 p.m.: Gerbe goes for tripping with 18:10 to go.

8:10 p.m.: Sabres easily kill the penalty.

8:12 p.m.: And Bruins easily take a 2-1 lead with 15:09 to go. Shawn Thornton gets the puck along the boards, feeds Blake Wheeler on the left side of the slot, and Wheeler quickly finds a wide-open Gregory Campbell on the right side of the slot.

8:20 p.m.: Sabres get a power play with 10:49 to go when Wheeler is whistled for interference.

8:21 p.m.: Miller's glove prevents Mark Recchi from scoring short-handed with 10:34 to go.

8:22 p.m.: Gerbe continues his run of fine play with a power-play goal with 9:24 left. Tyler Myers sets up Gerbe with a cross-ice pass, and the former Boston College star buries a shot from the bottom of the left circle. It's 2-2.

8:24 p.m.: Extended standing ovation and brief "USA, USA" chant for Staff Sgt. Thomas Sousa during the commercial break. One of these days, these cool moments that occur in 29 NHL arenas will make their way to HSBC Arena.

8:27 p.m.: Mike Weber helped to the dressing room with 8:19 left after going down with a slap shot off his left leg.

8:31 p.m.: Kaleta goes to the dressing room in serious pain with 5:45 to go. He dived to block a shot -- and it went off his left hand, which is already broken from blocking a shot.

8:33 p.m.: Weber walks back to the bench with 4:10 to gone.

8:38 p.m.: Sabres head to the dressing room with 2-2 tie and 24-22 shot edge.

THIRD PERIOD

8:57 p.m.: The final period has begun for the sellout crowd of 17,565.

9 p.m.: No sign of Kaleta on the bench.

9:02 p.m.: Vanek uses Connolly as a decoy and fires a shot high, stick-side past Rask to give Buffalo its first lead, 3-2, with 14:47 to go.

9:08 p.m.: The 5-foot-5 Gerbe goes after the 6-foot-9 Chara following a whistle with 12:23 to go.

9:19 p.m.: It's still 3-2 with 6:37 left.

9:25 p.m.: Vanek sets up Jason Pominville with 3:20 left to increase the Sabres' lead to 4-2.

9:30 p.m.: Gaustad takes a cross-checking penalty with 57.4 seconds left.

9:31 p.m.: Sabres win their second straight and improve to 7-2-1 in the past 10.

---John Vogl

Gragnani moving up

BOSTON -- Marc-Andre Gragnani, after three full seasons in the minors, spent the summer hoping to play for the Sabres. He got hurt on the opening day of training camp, which scuttled that plan. He's finally back in the NHL and will play tonight against the Bruins, and he's got an outline on how to stay.

"I’ve got to do what they ask," Gragnani said after the morning skate in TD Garden. "It’s pretty simple. Whatever they need me to do or ask me to do, I’ll try my best and hopefully they’ll be happy and keep me around."

It's already obvious he'll do whatever the Sabres ask. The 23-year-old defenseman will spend time tonight at forward, a position he hasn't played all year and spent only a limited time playing last season.

"I think they have me on forward, so we’ll see what I can do," Gragnani said. "I haven’t played forward all year. I was very excited and also surprised.

"I don’t want to get beat and give up anything defensively. I have to be defensively sound, and after that if I get in the offensive zone try to create scoring chances. ... Just keep it simple. Chipping in, chipping out. Keep it simple and try to somehow create offense for the team."

Gragnani, who has seven goals and 30 points in 38 games with the Pirates, will also spend time on the blue line, specifically during power plays, coach Lindy Ruff said.

"He’s done a real nice job on their power play down there, and we’re going to give him a look on ours," Ruff said. "I just want to see him play. We feel like it’s his opportunity.

"You try different things. It’s not whether we like it or not. We’re looking at if he plays defense maybe he can add a little offense to our game five-on-five. Power play, maybe he can add a strength we don’t have. He’s got real good vision back there."

The audio of Gragnani's chat and Ruff's news conference are below. Ruff's chat includes bouts of interference from a cell phone (for the record, it wasn't mine).

---John Vogl

 

Marc-Andre Gragnani

 

Lindy Ruff

Optional morning skate for the Sabres

BOSTON -- The Sabres are without coach Lindy Ruff and a significant portion of their roster as they partake in an optional morning skate in TD Garden. Assistant coach James Patrick, associate coach Brian McCutcheon and goalie coach Jim Corsi are running the drills for the following players:

Forwards -- Nathan Gerbe, Cody McCormick, Patrick Kaleta, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Paul Gaustad, Mike Grier, Tyler Ennis, Jason Pominville, Drew Stafford (in noncontact jersey). Defense -- Shaone Morrisonn, Tyler Myers, Mike Weber, Craig Rivet, Chris Butler. Goalies -- Ryan Miller, Patrick Lalime.

It appears Gragnani will be playing forward tonight against the Bruins despite not having played the position all season with Portland. He has been at his usual defense spot while blue-liner T.J. Brennan has been playing forward for the short-handed Pirates.

More from Gragnani following the skate.

---John Vogl

Bruins hot, Lucic hopes he is

BOSTON -- Greetings from TD Garden, where the Sabres are set to meet a team that feels really good about itself. Boston has won two straight and is 5-1-1 in its last seven. The Northeast Division leaders are in that place where they feel they just have to skate out and they can win, even against a team that is supposed to be scratching its way out of 11th place like the Sabres.

"I don't know where they are," forward Shawn Thornton said after the morning skate. "I think if we take care of what we have in this room, more often than not we'll be successful."

The Bruins could get even hotter if Milan Lucic regains his scoring touch. He scored Tuesday for the first time since Dec. 16, giving him 17 goals for the season. He is one goal away from setting a career high.

"The last few games I felt like I was getting the shots I had earlier in the season,'' said Lucic, who obviously likes the way the team is performing despite his slump. "Our mind-set is a lot better since the Christmas break. It's fun right now. We've got to do what we can to keep it going."

---John Vogl

Inside the NHL -- Live Chat

Sabres resume without Stafford

The Sabres took the ice for practice this morning in preparation for tomorrow night's game in Boston without right wing Drew Stafford. He left their 2-1 overtime victory over Montreal with a groin injury that could keep him out againbst the Bruins.

Lindy Ruff was expected to offer more insight into how long Stafford, who has 15 goals in 30 games this season, would be sidelined. The Sabres could bring up Luke Adam from Portland in time for the game against Boston. He was sent to the AHL on Tuesday.

--- Bucky Gleason

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Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Habs

Greetings from high atop HSBC Arena as we get set for the gold-medal game between Canada and Russ .... Oops. Sorry. Sure feels that way though. You should have seen all the red in this place as the Montreal Canadiens took the ice for warmups for tonight's game against the Sabres. You should see all the red spread about the 100 level. Some devoted fans traveling on a Tuesday. I know lots of season ticket-holders funded their 2011-12 accounts by getting rid of tonight's tickets too. There are plenty of tickets in the 300 corners so this should be a pretty split crowd.

I hate reading the Habs' game notes. They're bilingual as expected but they mix French and English together and it's a real pain. How about putting all the French on a few pages and all the English on other pages? Anyway, the AP's John Wawrow, proud Canadian that he is, waded through the notes and found the English version of this nugget: Tonight is Montreal's 3,000th road game all time.  Its record is 1251-1255-493. 

So now that we have our bizarre stat of the night, can we please get started? Oh, that's right. It's a Versus night (don't turn on MSG). And the puck won't drop until 7:40. They sure don't care about newspaper deadlines, do they?

Stay tuned.

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

Sabres starters: Vanek-Hecht-Pominville-Leopold-Montador. Goal: Miller
(scratches remain Rivet and Butler).
Habs starters: Eller-Plekanec-Cammalleri-Gill-Subban. Goal: Price

THE VERDICT: Sabres win it 2-1 as Pominville scores at 1:09 on a beautiful Vanek feed. Lindy Ruff says Stafford has a groin injury. Status unknown.

Third Period

9:30 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

17:40 left: Yannick Weber goes for slashing for Montreal.

15:40 left: One shot on that power play. Not nearly up to snuff.

12:55 left: Price with a nice save on Gerbe in the circle. Shots are 4-2 for Buffalo.

10:20 left: Price robs Gaustad on feed for Kaleta and then robs Niedermayer, of all people, on the rebound. Almost the power of the properly spelled name. Check that -- Gill blocked the Niedermayer shot.

7:00 left: A note of apology from AP's Wawrow for the earlier joke at Pacioretty's expense. That goes for me as well. No one in the building anticipated that being as serious as it turned out to be. Just looked like an accidental plunking he'd be over in a few seconds. The game is still tied. Shots are 5-3 for Buffalo.

5:23 left: Hecht stopped again on the doorstep. 

5:00 left: Miller ROBS Plekanec  all alone in front.

3:27 left: Miller makes another save and Gionta drills him in the head as the Sabres converge. Gerbe of all people ends up jumping Scott Gomez and that has the crowd roaring. Excellent response by the Sabres there. Sabres could have used Gerbe three years ago when Gomez killed Buffalo's season by taking out miller.

3;12 left: Hecht stopped again. Credit him for all these chances or damn him for not converting? You make the call.

1:19 left: Great work by Myers and Morrisonn in the corner to dominate the Montreal forwards. 

42.4 left: Gomez for a vicious and stupid high-stick on Gerbe. Sabres avoid further stuff to keep the power play.

On to OT: It's 1-1. Shots were 11-11 and it's 36-30 for Buffalo. Still 1:18 left on the PP.

Second Period

Of note: We'll have to take attendance here. Cammalleri, Pacioretty and Halpern (didn't see what happened to him) all played less than two minutes in the first period and let's see if Subban comes back. Apparently, French network RDS said Pacioretty was actually struck in the upper arm by the Wisniewski shot.

Subban is back and skating his injury off in front of the Habs goal. No sign of the three forwards. A LOT of room on that bench. Update: The Montreal radio network has reported Cammalleri is out for the game. No status report on Pacioretty or Halpern.

17:57 left: Sabres bulletin -- Stafford will not return wtih a lower body injury. Versus is reporting Pacioretty left the building on a stretch and is heading to the hospital. Jeez.

15:30 left: Shots are 2-0 for Buffalo in the period. Halpern emerges and comes out to the Montreal bench.

14:00 left: I'm told TSN had a shot of Pacioretty being wheeled out on the stretcher hooked up to an IV.

13:26 left: Miller stops Lars Eller on a partial break after a bad giveaway at the Habs line by Hecht.

12:52 left: Gionta rips a slapper off the post from the left circle on a 2-on-1. Had Miller toasted. 

12:04 left: Sabres doing little to take advantage of the Habs' lack of depth. Shots are 5-2 for Montreal in the period.

10:59 left: Former Sabres farmhand Mathieu Darche for interference.

10:00 left: Halfway home. Stafford, remember, missed Friday's practice with undisclosed ailments but did play Saturday on Long Island. Only lasted two shifts tonight.

9:32 left: Big chance for Buffalo. Two-men advantage for 34 seconds as Gill goes for slashing down Montador.

9:19 left: Connolly slapshot to Price's midsection. No screen. Too easy.

8:39 left: The Sabres finally tie it. Connolly's slapper is blocked and Vanek and Ennis chop away at it before Ennis finally bloops it in over Price. Game tied, 1-1. That's Ennis' 11th. Buffalo PP has scored in seven of the last eight games.

7:37 left: TSN is reporting Cammalleri has a separated shoulder. That would be a huge loss for the Habs. Multi weeks for sure.

6:42 left: Hecht killing the Sabres. Fans on an open backhand in front of Price and then passes behind Pominville on a 2-on-1 a few seconds later. This is the No. 1 center. Great.

3:25 left: Woefully shorthanded Habs won every battle on the last shift against Myers-Morrisonn. Forgot to mention there's been a switch in defense pairs (too many medical updates). Sekera is with Weber tonight. Sabres have to be tougher than that.

End-2nd: It's 1-1 through two. Shots are 25-19 for Buffalo (16-12 for the Sabres). Buffalo has to win the final 20 minutes. Just has to.

First Period

7:40 p.m.: They can't get the lights turned on after the anthems. Hey, I'M ON A TIGHT DEADLINE. Great.

7:41 p.m.: They get the lights on and the puck is dropped. Thanks for nothing, Versus.

16:19 left: Weber goes for cross-checking on a push of Cammalleri into the boards. The Habs forward slides in and clearly injures his wrist. Cammalleri barked at Weber on his way off the ice. The hit came a couple seconds after Miller robbed him.

15:45 left: Pacioretty down after taking a point shot from Wisniewski in the midsection and thus taking his voice range up an octave. Wawrow with this pearl: "Is that lower body?"

14:41 left: Habs convert on the PP as Roman Hamrlik's shot from the point is tipped home by David Desharnais, who was alone to Miller's left as Morrisonn lost him. Habs lead, 1-0.

13:32 left: Kaleta running around causing trouble but he goes for boarding against Jeff Halpern. Wisniewski, who was flattened by Kaleta a few seconds earlier, just threw a punch and didn't get away with it.  He goes for crosschecking (should have been roughing). Stupid. Ruined his team's power play. Halpern nearly made it 2-0 a few seconds ago as Weber's pass hit the referee's skate and bounced to him right in front.

13:00 left: It's 4-on-4 and Price stops Vanek breaking in on the right wing with old friend Jaro Spacek in hot pursuit. Folks, you have no idea how much we miss Spacho interviews in the Buffalo locker room. And we all do pretty good impressions of him too.

12:12 left: Price robs Hecht on the doorstep after a great backhand pass by Pominville sent him in alone.

10:46 left: Gerbe goes for goaltender interference. Kaleta could have got one too for a late punch that was overlooked. Lucky.

8:24 left: Sabres kill that dubious penalty on Gerbe, who appeared to be scrambling for the puck in the crease but also shoved Price with a free hand. Shots are 6-4 for Buffalo.

5:40 left: The lines are what we expected with Vanek-Hecht-Pominville, Ennis-Connolly-Stafford and Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta. Kaleta's return pushes McCormick down to the fourth line with Niedermayer and Grier and basically kills ice time. I don't like that.

4:36 left: Tough night for Habs forwards. Brian Gionta just got drilled from close range on a Hal Gill shoot-in. He makes it to the bench and seems OK.

2:40 left: Price stops Hecht from in front again after Vanek steals Spacek's pass behind the net.

O:32 left: Subban limps off after taking a shot from Leopold in the leg and collapses in the tunnel. Looked like left foot. How many Habs will be left by the end of the game?

End-1st: Habs lead 1-0 and Sabres have a 9-7 edge in shots. Seriously now, they HAVE to win a game against a team that might be that short-handed for two periods playing two games in two nights. And this extra: Kaleta got a penalty at the horn for firing the puck late at Price. Stupid. Must be an unsportsmanlike conduct call. But how about the punch Gill threw at him in the scrum that ensued? Terrible.

Kaleta back, Adam goes down

Patrick Kaleta will be back in the lineup for the Sabres tonight against Montreal after missing seven games with the broken hand he suffered Dec. 28 in Edmonton. The Sabres have sent Luke Adam back to Portland, leaving their roster at 22 players and no spare forwards in house. It appears they'll continue to scratch Chris Butler and Craig Rivet. 

Adam has three goals, one assist and a minus-4 rating in 18 games over four stints in Buffalo.

"I thought Luke gave us a lot of good periods," Lindy Ruff said after today's morning skate. "He needs to go play, to go play 20 minutes a game. He needs to be involved in special teams in a big way which he has been down in Portland. We think a lot of him. It's just not good for him to be here when we're healthy and only play 8-9 minutes. He needs to work on a little bit of play in his own end and he understands that but he's given us some good play."

Adam's return to Portland means he'll be eligible to claim the spot he was voted on for the AHL All-Star Game Jane. 31 in Hershey, Pa.

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

It's Team Staal vs. Team Lidstrom

Carolina's Eric Staal and Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom have been named captains for the NHL All-Star Game, the players association just announced. No Sidney Crosby and No. 87 may not play in the game because of his concussion.

The Toronto Globe & Mail, in fact, reported this morning that Crosby may refuse to come because he's upset there was no suspension on either of the two head shots he's taken this month.

Staal and Lidstrom will pick their teams in the all-star lottery on Jan. 28 and also set up the skills competition the next night. The game is Jan. 30.

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

Video: Sabres Face Uphill Climb for Playoffs

The Sabres play four games this week and they need to start winning games if they want to join the playoff race. Mike Harrington has the latest from HSBC Arena:

Change in the middle

With four games on the docket this week, Monday was the Sabres' only real chance at an in-depth practice and Lindy Ruff put them through a one-hour workout at HSBC Arena that featured battle drills, skating and plenty of five-on-five work. All players were on the ice, including the injured Patrick Kaleta.

The biggest chance in the lineup came at center, where Jochen Hecht was moved to the top line between Thomas Vanek and former linemate Jason Pominville, with Tim Connolly moved down to the No. 2 line between Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford. The new Hecht line first came together late in Saturday's 5-3 loss on Long Island.

"I thought Jochen with Van and Pommer played pretty well in the third period on the Island," Ruff said. "Maybe just a little different look for Tim, just trying to find a different way to get our even-strength goals up a little more."

At one point, Ruff stopped practice and railed, "How many times in the last two games have we given the puck away? ... We're not giving the puck away in the middle of the ice."

I resisted the urge to stand up, raise my hand and offer the answer, "seemingly dozens of times" to his first question. 

Kaleta is seeing the doctor today about his injured hand and hopes to get clearance to play Tuesday when Montreal comes to town. Ruff seemed unconvinced: "He's a little bit limited as he is. He tried in the playoffs last year to play in the same kind of situation and it's not easy."

Rob Niedermayer remains stuck at exactly zero goals and has even had the indignity of having his name spelled wrong ("Neidermayer") on the back of his jersey the last three games. The team said its new set arrived with that mistake and it would be fixed tomorrow. Frankly, no one had noticed until the gaffe started showing up on Internet message boards and the media asked about it Monday. Even Niedermayer said he hadn't noticed.

---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 | 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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