Greetings from high atop HSBC Arena for the first time in 15 days as we get set for the Sabres' game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Laffs have basically served as the Sabres' you-know-what since the lockout with Buffalo's 28 wins over Toronto in that span second in the NHL to Nashville's 30 wins over Columbus. The Sabres have won six straight in HSBC Arena over the Leafs as well.
As he told us last year, Ryan Miller loves to shut up the Toronto fans and send them 90 minutes up the QEW on their way. Miller is 23-8 vs the Leafs in his career with a 2.19 GAA, .931 save percentage and four shutouts.
While we wait for the opening faceoff, there's lots to catch up on:
---Be sure to follow the Billboard and the main home page of Buffalonews.com for the latest on Andre Reed's potential induction to the Hall of Fame. That announcement begins at 7 p.m. Memo to the Sabres: It's going on the HD board and the public address system if he gets in, right?
---Here's the latest story on Penguins winger Evgeni Malkin, who suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his knee Friday night during his second-period collision with Tyler Myers. Looks like Malkin is done for the year and that almost certainly puts the Penguins down the pecking order in the Eastern Conference behind the Flyers, Lightning and perhaps even the Capitals. It's all going to depend on when and oh well Sidney Crosby returns from his concussion.
---The Predators have returned West Seneca native Chris Mueller to Milwaukee of the AHL.
---Keep it on this link for updates from tonight's Atlanta-Carolina game. If you're a Sabres fan, it doesn't matter who wins. You just want them to do it in regulation.
---Sabres owner-in-waiting Terry Pegula has two hockey loving teen-age daughters who have been pretty enthusiastic the last couple days on Twitter about Dad's purchase. Jessica Pegula, a 17-year-old who was born in Buffalo, is a budding tennis professional as this 2010 story from the Palm Beach Post describes.
In the last two days, Jessica Pegula tweeted that she was at Game Seven of the 2006 Eastern Conference finals at Carolina. One wise guy I followed cracked that she's said more about the Sabres in the last two days than Tom Golisano did in the last three years. Heh! Some other tweets from her:
---She had a good laugh at the MSG shot of her father in a suite with Larry Quinn.
---Chris Drury was her favorite player (Dad is thus probably still stewing about 7/1/07).
---Her mother, Kim, had her picture taken in the Penguins' locker room (the family, after all, has Pennsylvania roots and has also backed the Penguins).
---Kim Pegula has also been wearing a Sabres T-shirt around their Florida home for months.
So is that enough reading material before faceoff? Keep it here for all of tonight's updates.
Of note: The Thrashers and Hurricanes are tied at 1-1 with 12:00 left. The Sabres need somebody -- anybody -- to win in regulation. Stafford has three points and a game-high six shots on goal. The Leafs have replaced Reimer in goal with J.S. Giguere. Not a good game for the kid, who came in with a 1.96 GAA. I thought Ron Wilson might yank him after the Gaustad goal.
9:13 p.m. The puck is dropped.
18:00 left: Good news in Carolina as the Canes take a 2-1 lead over the Thrashers with 11:23 left. They would bypass the Thrashers and move into eighth if they hold on for a regulation win.
15:08 left: Miller sharp again on a Grabovski backhand from in tight.
11:00 left: Laffs showing little resistance. Shots are 4-3 for Sabres in the period. Still a 5-1 game.
7:21 left: Some residual noise from the Laff folks as Francois Beauchemin floats one home from the right boards. Montador and another Laff were in front screening Miller, who never saw it. Sabres lead, 5-2. Bad news in Carolina: Zach Bogosian scores with 1:24 left for the Thrashers to tie it up at 3-3.
3:17 left: Vanek on a breakaway stopped by Giguere on his trademark slapper but the puck bounches right to his stick and Vanek pounds home the rebound. Vanek's 19th. He has 19 points in the last 13 games. Sabres lead, 6-2.
2:05 left: At Sweet Caroline time, Carolina wins in OT on an Eric Cole goal, 4-3. Canes have 58 points, Thrashers have 58, Sabres will have 53. Buffalo with four games in hand on Atlanta, two on Carolina. Attendance here is 18,264. Memo to Terry Pegula: The platinum games have exceeded WNY fans' price point. No way a Saturday night game against the Laffs should have any empties.
It's over: A 6-2 win. Final shots were 43-25.
8:12 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
18:08 left: After the third icing of the shift, Ruff uses his timeout. He's not happy with the Hecht line and Myers-Sekera, who keep getting stuck on the ice.
16:10 left: Miller stops Colby Armstrong from in tight on a 2-on-1. Big save. What you need from him.
15:41 left: It looks even bigger now as Gaustad rips home a wrister past Reimer to give Buffalo a 3-0 lead. Right through the legs. Bad goal. Sabres lead, 3-0.
14:28 left: Miller stones Kessel on a breakaway.
13:55 left: Komisarek for roughing for a late, cheap shot on Paul Byron. The Laffs are hitting Byron and Gerbe a lot tonight. That's pretty pathetic.
12:46 left: Another PP goal. This time, it's Tim Connolly on a Vanek feed. Sabres lead 4-0 on Connolly's seventh of the year and first since Dec. 17 at Florida. First at home since Nov. 19 vs. LA.
12:07 left: Memo to Laff fans: It's a snowy night. May as well get started on the ride home. Team disintegrating. Darryl Boyce gone for tripping.
11:10 left: The Laff fans tell me to shut up by making lots of noise as Nikolai Kulemin tips one past Miller. Buffalo's NHL-high 10th shorthanded goal against this season. Sabres lead, 4-1.
9:23 left: Sabres stopped on that PP and Reimer stops Grier. Shots are 12-5 in this period and 24-15 for Buffalo.
6:51 left: Good scrap between McCormick and Komisarek.
5:38 left: Stafford becoming quite the sniper. A wicked wrister over Reimer's shoulder makes it 5-1. That's his 17th, one shy of Vanek for the team lead, in 33 games. He just needs to stay healthy. Sabres lead, 5-1.
2:46 left: Shots are 17-6 for Buffalo in this period and the Sabres have three goals. This is how you parlay momentum from a good start. Seems like a lesson was learned last night.
2:39 left: Phaneuf just flattened Pominville shortly after the whistle. Montador tried to get to him but officials held him off. And Pominville got a tripping penalty out of the deal too.
11.0 left: Miller with another great save on Fredrik Sjostrom.
End-2nd: It's a 5-1 Buffalo lead and a 30-18 bulge in shots on goal. The final count in the second was 18-8
6:56 p.m.: CBC cares about us ink-stained wretches as much as Versus. We're looking at at 7:10 faceoff.
Sabres starters: Niedermayer-Gaustad-Grier-Weber-Morrisonn. Goal: Miller
Leafs starters: McArthur-Grabovski-Kulemin-Phaneuf-Beauchemin. Goal: Reimer.
7:10 p.m.: Quite a twist on the opening video by the decades with some of the best fight clips in franchise history, all the way from Schoenfeld-Cashman to Biron-Emery and Patrick Kaleta's beatdown of Columbus' Jared Boll in December.
7:14 p.m.: Finally, the puck is dropped. Thanks for nothing, CBC.
19:13 left: Reimer stunned by a rising slapper from Pominville that gets him in the mask. He's OK but you could hear the ping all the way up here.
17:20 left: A few seconds after the first big "Go Leafs, Go" chant, Gerbe is crushed with an open-ice check at center by Dion Phaneuf.
16:29 left: The Sabres get the first goal as Pominville pops it over Reimer's shoulder from in tight after a steal in the Leafs' zone by Vanek and a great backhand pass across the goalmouth. Pominville's 12th. Sabres lead, 1-0. Four goals and five assists for Pominville over the last eight games.
15:00 left: Shots are 6-1 for Buffalo. Another solid start, a trend we've seen in recent games. Maintaining second-period momentum has been a problem.
14:37 left: Old friend MacArthur goes for hooking. Sabres are seventh in the league in home power play percentage at 21.7.
14:08 left: Bang. 2-0. GREAT play by Stafford to keep the puck in at the point and then he sprints to the left circle and one-times home an even greater pass from Leopold. Stafford's 16th. And another 2-0 lead. The Sabres have to hold this one. Just have to.
12:00 left: Shots are 8-1. Hope those Leaf fans who trudged through the QEW snow are enjoying themselves here.
10:30 left: Just noticed that Andre Reed didn't even make the final five of the Hall of Fame voting. Boo. Terrible.
10:12 left: The Leafs are getting destroyed (shots 11-1 and time of possession would be worse). Their frustration is showing as they start pounding on Gerbe and Byron. McCormick and Myers step in to help out. McCormick gets the only call for cross checking.
8:00 left: One shot on the Laffs' PP. And that's 35 straight penalties against Toronto killed off by Sabres. Leafs don't have a PP goal against Buffalo since March 27, 2009. Crazy.
5:44 left: Tim Brent goes for high sticking a few seconds after Miller stoned him following a Myers giveaway.
4:13 left: Luke Schenn drills Ennis behind the Laffs' net. Maybe Schenn is still chafed over the way his kid brother's team choked away that gold medal here last month.
3:17 left: Atlanta has a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes in Carolina.
2:56 left: Weber goes for slashing. A few seconds later, Kris Versteeg with a classic trip-over-the-blueline pratfall. The Laffs have been terrible in this period.
End 1st: The Sabres hold their 2-0 lead and a 12-10 edge in shots. But they were not as good over the final seven minutes. It's kind of like last night. Remember the shots were once 11-1. And that rough patch at the end of the first foreshadowed trouble in the second. Let's see how it plays out today.