February 20, 2011 - 11:50 AM
Good early afternoon from HSBC Arena as the Sabres get their Hockey Day in America game on against the Caps. Faceoff is expected to be just about at the stroke of 12:30 so be ready. And remember, it's an NBC game, not MSG or Versus.
The Caps will be sitting out standout defenseman Mike Green for the fourth straight game. He has been dealing with some inner ear trauma. Semyon Varlamov (9-8-4, 2.32, .921) will start in goal, which means Michal Neuvirth (17-9-4, 2.53, .910) likely gets Monday's showdown in Pittsburgh. The Sabres, of course, will again go with Ryan Miller (24-17-5, 2.74, .910).
The trade deadline is looming, as John Vogl wrote in today's paper after chatting with Darcy Regier Saturday in Amherst's Northtown Center. And be sure to check out Bucky Gleason's Inside the NHL column for more chatter on what the Sabres might do and what might happen around the league.
Want another sign it's coming next week? Check out today's press box roster. There are 23 scouts listed from 20 teams. Now, many of them are Toronto-based and come here all the time. But it is pretty unusual to see two here from Anaheim and one from Vancouver. The teams represented look like this: Montreal (2 scouts), Edmonton (2), Anaheim (2), Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, San Jose, Chicago, Florida, Pittsburgh, NY Rangers, Colorado, Ottawa, St. Louis, Dallas, Carolina, Nashville, Colorado, Boston, Philadelphia. Whew.
Also starting today at 12:30 are Philadelphia at the NY Rangers and Detroit at Minnesota. The national telecast on NBC at 3:30 features still Sidney Crosby-less at Chicago. And at 6 p.m. on Versus and CBC is the Heritage Classic outdoors from Calgary pitting the Flames and Montreal Canadiens. Figures to be great fun.
Rob Niedermayer is back in the Sabres' lineup today. For what that's worth. We'll see who's out when the Sabres hit the ice for warmup. Stay tuned.
Update: Niedermayer is on the ice. But so are Byron, Kaleta and Butler. So no idea who the scratches are yet.
Update II: If you're reading from out of town and can't watch on NBC because of the regional telecasts, you CAN see the game as NBCSports.com is streaming all the action.
BULLETIN: Andrej Sekera is a healthy scratch for today's game. About time. He has been brutal for games on end and that terrible giveaway on the first shift Friday set the tone for the entire game. He's also had no points -- not even an assist -- in the last 19 games. Also scratched are Paul Byron and Craig Rivet. Do we really need to even mention Rivet anymore?
Sabres starters: Niedermayer-Gaustad-Grier-Weber-Morrisonn. Goal: Miller.
Capitals starters: Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble-Alzner-Carlson. Goal: Varlamov.
2:19 p.m.; After the pathetic Internet service here basically shut down and helped lock my laptop for the whole intermission, we're back at it.
17:37 left: Perreault goes for hooking.
15:00 left: No shots on the PP, barely any zone time.
13:06 left: Clock running, not much happening. Varlamov stops Connolly on a good rush. Shots are 3-1 for Buffalo in the period.
12:25 left: What's up at this end of the rink? A crazy bounce from the glass on the other side nearly caught Varlamov off guard.
10:45 left: Morrisonn for interference on Hendricks along the boards. I guess. But I'd like that called every time it happens, not with 11 minutes left in a tie game when we haven't seen it more than, say, once a month.
9:40 left: Perreault bangs home an Ovechkin rebound -- (looked tipped by Johansson?). It was a sensational rush by the Great Eight, who knocked the puck out of the air in his zone with his stick and did a between-the-legs, behind-the-back glove grab to set the puck at his feet and get started. Caps lead, 2-1.
8:20 left: The goal is, in fact, credited to Johansson.
3:15 left: Gerbe stopped by Varlamov. Shots 9-5 for Buffalo. Sabres need to somehow squeeze a point out of this game. Two goals in three home games to start this stand simply doesn't get the job done.
57.2 left: Miller out. Faceoff in Washington zone after Ovechkin steals from Ennis and shoots ice-length backhand wide. Not a great play.
13.7 left: Another icing after Leopold zhitniks one high and wide from the point after a good play at the opposite point by Connolly. Timeout, Lindy.
It's over: A 2-1 loss. An 0-3 homestand thus far with just two goals. Terrible. Shots were 11-5 for Buffalo in the third and 39-29 for Washington in the game.
Of note: Sabres forwards had just three of the eight shots in the first period (one each for Vanek, Pominville and Hecht). Montador had two of the defense's five. ... The Caps' power play is oddly poor this season. It entered today 23rd in the NHL overall at 16.5 percent (22nd at home, 17.0; 18th on road, 15.8). The Sabres entered 16th on the PK (81.5 percent) -- 18th at home and 18th on the road. It was pretty good in the first period with nine shots on goal. Miller, of course, made the difference for Buffalo.
1:27 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
16:08 left: Pretty tight so far. Just looked at the ice time in the first period. Forwards don't get shots when they're not on the ice due to penalties. Stafford (4:32), Vanek (4:42), Pominville (3:38), Gerbe (2:26) and Ennis (2:58) all got their time whacked. Pominville, in fact, played 1:11 of short-handed time.
13:51 left: After all that he did in the first period, Miller is confounded by the glass in his own rink. Puck bounces right off the zamboni entrance in front of Ennis, who was expecting it to go around the boards. Instead, it bounces right in the slot to a wide oepn Mathieu Perreault, who bangs it home for his seventh. Caps lead 1-0.
12:45 left: Shots are 24-11 for the Caps. Miller has far-and-away been the best player on the ice. He needs his teammates to give him some rewards.
11:40 left: Laich goes for goaltender interference. Definitely took out Miller and the crowd had plenty of sarcastic cheers when ref Dave Jackson's hand went up. Buffalo's first power play.
8:18 left: After yet another slowdown and finally an outage of perhaps the NHL's worst press box Internet service, I can tell you the Sabres tied it at 1-1 on Pominville's slapshot on the PP at 8:52. Cross-ice pass from Vanek and a big shot that whizzed over Varlamov's left shoulder. He might have been screened by Scott Hannan skating by. Game is tied at 1-1. Shots are 25-14 for Washington.
3:36 left: Vanek stopped on backhand in alone by Varlamov after a great play by Hecht, who took out a breaking Ovechkin in the Buffalo zone and then fed the puck up ice.
2:44 left: Shots are 31-16 for Washington (15-8 in this period). That's 30 saves for Miller in 37+ minutes.
1:42 left: Miller stops Boyd Gordon in alone after Gordon lost the puck slightly trying to make a move.
End-2nd: Shots were 18-10 for the Caps and 34-18 through two. Game tied, 1-1.
12:35 p.m.: After the anthems were done and we waited two minutes for NBC to give the go-ahead (what happened to 12:30?), we can now say the puck is dropped.
14:12 left: Shots are 3-3 in the early going with Kaleta trying to get the library-quiet crowd into things with a few hits. Varlamov made a solid save on a Vanek one-timer and Miller made a good stop on Semin.
13:38 left: Outgoing minority owners Larry Quinn were just thanked for their service on the HD board. They got underwhelming applause at best. And, of course, no sign of Tom Golisano. But he's watching on TV of course.
12:41 left: A Pominville slapshot leaks through Varlamov's pads but Jeff Schultz sweeps it away out of the crease.
11:10 left: Miller stops Steckel from in tight after a bad Myers giveaway a few seconds earlier. The big guy isn't too far from Sekera territory the way he's been going lately. Shots are 7-4 for the Caps.
9:10 left: Another good shift from the Gaustad line, with a big steal by Niedermayer setting up pressure in the zone. It ends with Gaustad slamming his stick on the end glass as he just missed a puck whizzing through the crease off the back boards.
8:47 left: Hecht for elbowing. Ticky-tack call against Alzner along the boards in front of Buffalo bench.
7:28 left: Miller a rock so far on this power play. He stops Laich from in tight, adds a glove save on Backstrom from the slot after Ovechkin undressed Connolly at the Buffalo line and a stop on Carlson from the point. All good chances.
6:40 left: Sabres survive as Miller makes a good stop on Ovechkin just after Hecht returns. Shots are 11-6, Caps.
6:21 left: Myers for boarding after a huge shot on Boyd Gordon. Jeez. It's not a tennis match.
5:55 left: Gaustad for cross checking and Lindy Ruff just went beserk on the bench. Grabbed a stick and starting banging the boards. Another marginal call at best.
5:11 left: Miller makes his best save seemingly in weeks, robbing Backstrom with the glove just to the left of the crease after a howitzer from the point by Ovechkin.
4:19 left: Miller with more robbery on Backstrom on a rebound off the back boards. The crowd is up. No. 30 has to be the best player in situations like this and so far, he is.
3:30 left: Sabres survive and get a big hand from the crowd. Shots are 14-6.
1:54 left: Morrisonn for cross-checking near the Buffalo net. Killed a 2-on-1 break. Stephane Auger, notorious as one of the worst officials in the NHL, is not high on anyone's list so far in this one.
End-1st: Marcus Johansson just fails to tip one home at the buzzer after a terrible giveaway by Connolly in the final three seconds. Get that guy outta here. Shots are 16-8 for Washington.
February 20, 2011 - 10:45 AM
Here are a few facts about the Sabres-Capitals game that starts in less than two hours, courtesy of the team-supplied game notes.
From the Sabres:
FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW…
This is Buffalo’s third game of a season-high six game homestand… Paul Gaustad will play in his 400th career NHL game today…Buffalo has now lost two games in a row for the first time since Dec. 23 vs. FLA and Dec. 27 @ CGY… Drew Stafford has 12 points (9+3) in his last nine games… Friday’s 3-0 defeat to St. Louis was just Buffalo’s fourth shutout loss of the season; first since Nov. 24.
From the Caps:
FIVE MORE NOTES NO MEDIA PERSON SHOULD BE WITHOUT
Hockey Day in America –In light of this weekend’s celebration of the sport of hockey across America, it’s important to note there are four current Capitals who originally hail from the United States: forwards Matt Hendricks (Blaine, Minn.) and David Steckel (Milwaukee, Wisc.) and defensemen John Carlson (Natick, Mass.) and Tom Poti (Worcester, Mass.).
Back-to-Backs –The Capitals are in the midst of a stretch that will seem them play three consecutive sets of back-to-back games. After splitting a set at Anaheim (7-6 win on Wednesday) and San Jose (3-2 loss on Thursday), they now play in Buffalo today and at Pittsburgh on Monday. After that, the team does not play again until hosting the Rangers on Friday and playing at the Islanders next Saturday. The Capitals are 3-4-2 in the first games of back-to-backs and 3-5-1 in the second game.
Not Getting Five –Goaltender Michal Neuvirth has played the most games of any NHL goalie this season without allowing more than four goals in a game. In 34 games in 2010-11, Neuvirth has not allowed more than five goals in a game.
Heating up –Alex Ovechkin has recorded a goal and an assist in each of the last two games and has nine points (4-5-9) in the last seven games. Thursday at San Jose, the captain also finished with seven shots on goal, four hits and logged over 20 minutes of ice time for the 11th straight game. Ovechkin leads the Caps with 60 points (23-37-60) in 59 games.
Hat Trick Hero –Alexander Semin recorded his seventh career hat trick and fourth of the season in Wednesday’s wild 7-6 victory over Anaheim. Semin tied the game at 6 midway through the third period with his second goal of the game, then completed the trick by netting the game-winning goal with under two minutes to play. Semin joins Buffalo’s Drew Stafford as the only NHL players with four hat tricks this season and is the first Capital with four three-goal games in a season since Peter Bondra in 1995-96.
February 19, 2011 - 6:00 PM
The Sabres lost left wing Thomas Vanek for about eight minutes near the end of today’s practice. He was struck by a puck during a drill.
"He got hit where you don’t want to get hit," coach Lindy Ruff said. "He’s all right, though."
Vanek crumpled to the ice in Northtown Center in Amherst and was helped to the bench. He squatted and tried to stand while being attended to by athletic trainer Tim Macre. He returned for the final few minutes of the session.
Most of it was spent working on passing and being ready to receive passes.
"We just tried to get on the same page. We weren’t working together the last couple games, and it shows up," Ruff said. "The last two games it’s turned into some individual efforts that we’ve hung onto pucks too long, we’ve tried to carry pucks too long. The big part of our game is our passing. If our passing isn’t sharp, we don’t come up the ice very well. I thought our passing might have been at a season low.
"There were some situations last night where our 'D,' they were looking at the backs of our forwards. Our forwards weren’t in good support. You don’t have a lot of outs then. We take a lot of pride in trying that our 'D' should have four outs.’’
February 19, 2011 - 2:18 PM
Rob Niedermayer, still in search of his first goal and scratched for the first time Friday in the 3-0 loss to St. Louis, will return to the lineup Sunday against Washington, coach Lindy Ruff said today.
Niedermayer has yet to score in 47 games for Buffalo and gave way to center Paul Byron on Friday.
"Anytime you lose games like that, there’s going to be changes to the lineup, so you’ve just got to be ready when you’re called upon," Niedermayer said in Northtown Center in Amherst. "I’ve got to just try and be a little stronger on the puck and try and limit the turnovers. We’ve got to get a little more zone time in the offensive zone, and that’s when our line [with Mike Grier and Paul Gaustad] is playing the best, so we’ll try and do that."
The goal drought is admittedly bugging the 36-year-old veteran.
"It’s frustrating," Niedermayer said. "You’d like to be contributing, especially at important time of the year right now. It’s frustrating, but all you can do is try your best out there."
Niedermayer is on a one-year, $1.25 million contract with the Sabres, which makes him a likely candidate to be included in trade talks. The deadline for deals is Feb. 28.
"You can only concentrate on things you can control," Niedermayer said. "We’re in a real tough playoff race, and that’s all I’m concerned about."
February 18, 2011 - 7:06 PM
Greetings from Pegulaville, where the team that has just taken the ice is one step closer to having a new owner. The NHL board of governors has approved Terry Pegula's purchase, and all that's left is the $189 million moving from Pegula's bank account to Tom Golisano's vault.
Bucky Gleason and I were laughing about that today. What do you do, send a Brinks armored car from house to house with a big wad of cash? Write a check? Do it by clicking a button? We weren't sure if either of us had enough cash on us to pay a pizza guy, so how the heck do you pay for a hockey team?
Anyway, the hockey team is making a big change tonight -- Rob Niedermayer is going to watch the game rather than play. The forward -- who has as many goals as me and you combined -- is finally taking a seat after skating in 47 scoreless games. He alternated with Cody McCormick this morning, and coach Lindy Ruff has decided it's time for a benching.
More when the puck drops.
... Oh, by the way, do you feel OK?
7:38 p.m.: The Sabres start with the line of Nathan Gerbe-Jochen Hecht-Jason Pominville, with Andrej Sekera-Tyler Myers on defense. Ryan Miller is in goal against Ty Conklin.
7:48 p.m.: Each team is 0 for 1 on the power play, as the first commercial hits with 12:41 to go. St. Louis has a 3-2 shot edge. The Sabres acknowledge Army Sgt. Patrick Allen, who is at the game courtesy of Chris Butler's Tickets for Troops program.
7:54 p.m.: The Blues have a 5-4 shot edge with 8:31 to go. The best chance so far belongs to Cody McCormick, who forced Conklin to make a left toe save. More updates coming soon. Just finishing the A-1 story on the Pegula approval. So, I guess tonight I'm writing in the first period.
8:03 p.m.: The teams hit the final commercial break still knotted at 0-0. St. Louis has an 8-5 edge.
8:43 p.m.: So I was ready to go at the start of the second period, but the Sabres' Internet wasn't (and isn't). Along with Ottawa, this team is the worst in the league. The provider is i-Evolve and in the immortal words of Bart Simpson, they suck and blow.
I had a paragraph that summed up the first period, but that didn't take as the Internet crashed again. Not that it was working much as it was. Anyway, the Blues hold a 1-0 lead with 10:21 left in the first. TJ Oshie scored with 17:13 left.
8:48 p.m.: It's still 1-0 St. Louis with 7:25 to go. The Sabres are going on the power play. The worst part is the Sabres have known for a long time this Internet is awful. Why do anything about, though, who needs the Internet to work?
8:53 p.m.: St. Louis kills the penalty as the fans boo with the Sabres failing to take a shot.
8:56 p.m.: The guy working for i-Evolve just set me up with a hardline for the Internet. Internet has been awful since they came in. The Sabres said they warned them last season they would toss them if the service didn't improve, but the Sabres are good at saying things and not doing anything. (I'm talking organizationally, not hockey-wise. I can keep the two separate.)
8:58 p.m.: I was in such a good mood, too.
9 p.m.: Mike Weber goes for tripping with 2:29 left, giving the Blues a power play.
9:02 p.m.: David Backes gives the Blues a 2-0 lead with a power-play slap shot over Miller's left shoulder with 1:22 left.
9:04 p.m.: Boos and a 2-0 deficit accompany the Sabres to the dressing room. They do have an 18-16 shot edge, though.
9:21 p.m.: The Sabres are 4-20-1 when trailing after two periods. The Blues are just 15-3-1 when leading after two.
9:31 p.m: Patrick Kaleta wakes up the crowd with a big hit on Carlo Colaiacovo with 14:27 to go. The Blues defenseman dumped the puck out from behind his net, kept going and got crushed along the boards.
9:42 p.m.: Judging by all the boos, the Pegula takeover can't come soon enough. The Blues hold a 2-0 lead with 9:34 left. The Sabres have just four third-period shots against a team that traded its captain today.
9:48 p.m.: Fans are booing as they head for the exits with 5:26 to go. it's still 2-0, and there are few signs of that changing.
9:55 p.m.: It's mercifully over, with Vladimir Sobotka's empty-net goal giving the Blues a 3-0 win. The Sabres are 0-2-1 in their last three home games.
February 18, 2011 - 5:07 PM
The NHL board of governors has voted to approve the sale of the Sabres to Terry Pegula, The Buffalo News has learned. The league is expected to make an official announcement this evening.
Pegula's introductory news conference is expected to be held Tuesday morning in HSBC Arena. Pegula agreed to purchase the Sabres from B. Thomas Golisano for $189 million earlier this month.
February 18, 2011 - 3:13 PM
The Rochester Americans are obviously are a forgotten team in Buffalo. The Sabres moved their minor-league team to Portland in 2008, so the Pirates get all the play around here.
It seems the Amerks don't get much love in Rochester, either.
The team ranks 27th in attendance in the 30-team AHL, drawing just 3,536 fans per game to the 11,000-seat Blue Cross Arena. As Kevin Oklobzija of the Democrat and Chronicle wrote today, that would have been a bad season-ticket base in the 1990s, let alone the total attendance.
The Amerks have made a video to draw attention to their plight using former players Jody Gage, Scott Metcalfe, Jim Hofford, Geordie Robertson, Gates Orlando and Ted Nolan, who all live in the community. One of the reasons they cite for lack of fan interest is the team's affiliation with Florida instead of Buffalo. The Amerks were sixth in AHL attendance at 6,835 during their final season with the Sabres (2007-08).
"I don’t see too many people wearing Florida Panthers hats around town," Metcalfe told the D&C. "No matter who it was, Razor (Rob Ray), Barney (Matt Barnaby), Bouch (Philippe Boucher), everybody that came through here, the fans could follow up to the Sabres."
February 18, 2011 - 2:03 PM
Three-fifths of the Northeast Division has made a trade so far today, with the biggest move being Boston's acquisition of Toronto defenseman Tomas Kaberle.
Kaberle has been in trade talks for well over a year, and he finally waived his no-trade clause to join the Bruins. Kaberle, who is the second all time in scoring among Leafs defensemen behind Borje Salming (and his cool helmet), goes to Boston in exchange for Joe Colborne, a first-round draft pick and a conditional pick, TSN has reported.
To clear room for Kaberle, the Bruins have sent defenseman Mark Stuart and forward Blake Wheeler to Atlanta for center Rich Peverley and defenceman Boris Valabik.
Ottawa, meanwhile, picked up goaltender Craig Anderson from Colorado in exhange for netminder Brian Elliott.
The Sabres and Montreal are the two division teams that have not made a deal today.
February 18, 2011 - 11:09 AM
The Sabres are getting one of their top defensemen back tonight, with Steve Montador ready to returning following a five-game, concussion-related absence.
"We’ve certainly taken the patient route, but it’s tough to watch hockey," Montador said this morning after preparing to face St. Louis in HSBC Arena. "I did it early in my career, and I gained another perspective and appreciation for the guys that have to sit and watch because they’re basically doing what you want to be doing. It’s not easy. It’s a chance to learn a lot, but you really get the itch every game."
Montador has four goals, 11 assists and a plus-9 rating in 51 games. He will rejoin blue-line partner Jordan Leopold. The other defensive pairs will be Shaone Morrisonn with Mike Weber, and Tyler Myers with Andrej Sekera. Chris Butler returns to the sidelines after filling in for Montador.
Captain Craig Rivet will also be a blue-line scratch, but he made an impact this morning by addressing the players on the ice after coach Lindy Ruff chatted with them. He wanted the team to be clear this is an important stretch.
To hear Ruff's thoughts on Montador, Butler and Blues goaltender Ty Conklin, click the audio file below.
February 17, 2011 - 4:36 PM
The Sabres host Washington on Sunday afternoon as part of "Hockey Weekend in America," and the festivities kick off Friday.
USA Hockey and the Sabres are encouraging fans to wear their favorite jersey to school, work and the game against St. Louis. Fans can also get $20 off 300 Level II seats (normally $60) for the game by entering "USA Hockey" as the password at Tickets.com or Sabres.com.
On Saturday, more than 200 rinks across the nation will host Try Hockey for Free Clinics. Children can participate locally at Jamestown Savings Bank Arena (7-8:30 a.m.); Village Sports in Fairport (9-11 a.m.); and the Northtown Center in Amherst (1-2:50 p.m.).
February 17, 2011 - 12:56 PM
St. Louis has placed goaltender Jaroslav Halak on injured reserve, which means last season's playoff standout won't be in the lineup Friday when the Blues visit the Sabres and HSBC Arena.
Halak, who is 19-17-6 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .907 save percentage, has a hand injury. He cedes the crease to former Buffalo backup Ty Conklin. He is 1-2-2 in his five decisions since Jan. 1. Conklin, however, has historically owned the Sabres. He is 6-1 with a 1.70 GAA and .943 save percentage in seven games against Buffalo.
February 17, 2011 - 10:44 AM
The Sabres, coming off back-to-back games with Friday and Sunday outings ahead of them, have decided to take today off. They will return to the ice with a morning skate Friday before facing the Blues at night in HSBC Arena.
In the meantime, here are your Thursday morning papers, starting here in the B-lo, which finally succumbed to Leafs Nation:
*Owner-in-waiting Terry Pegula is expected to be approved by the NHL board of governors Friday, sources told The Buffalo News. If Pegula is in charge when the St. Louis Blues visit Friday night, fans will hope his reign starts better than B. Thomas Golisano's ownership era ended.That's because Wednesday's result certainly stung.
The Sabres allowed their NHL-worst 11th short-handed goal at the worst possible time, killing their third-period momentum and handing the Maple Leafs a 2-1 victory. It was the Sabres' first home loss to the Leafs since Dec. 12, 2008, and there was no debate about the turning point.
"The power play ended up costing us the game," said Buffalo defenseman Jordan Leopold, one of three players to make a mistake on the game-winning goal.
*Bucky Gleason writes that it's still not clear which Sabres team is going to show up on a given night. Is it the one that plodded through two periods against Tampa Bay or the freight train that showed up in the third? Is it the sloppy team that gave up seven goals to the Islanders or the resourceful one that fought back in Montreal?
Give them credit for coming back this season, but proceed with caution. Every year, teams surge late in the season only to tail off. Some continue into the playoffs, as the Flyers did last season. The Sabres could be teasing fans with greatness wedged into mediocrity. We'll see how they respond Friday, when Terry Pegula is expected to take over ownership.
*The 2-1 victory over the Sabres snapped their seven-game losing streak downtown and pulled the Leafs within six points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Leafs are 6-2-1 since the all-star break, making up eight points in the standings, and posted wins at Boston and Buffalo the last two nights.
*The Devils' 3-2 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes moved New Jersey within 12 points of Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
*Montreal acquired defenseman and president of the anti-Patrick Kaleta Club Paul Mara from Anaheim for a fifth-round pick today in the latest NHL trade.
*The World Champion San Francisco Giants are back in spring training to defend their title.
February 16, 2011 - 6:49 PM
Greetings again from a perch on high, albeit a little lower than the love-it-but-you-wouldn't-believe-it locale we get in Montreal's Bell Centre. Back at the home office at One Seymour H. Knox Plaza for another game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the personal punching bag of the Sabres and Ryan Miller.
Miller will be back in the net tonight against J.S. Giguere after Jhonas Enroth's wild night in Montreal. Miller has 24 wins over the Laffs, his most against any opponent. The Sabres have won 12 of their last 13 against Toronto and seven straight here since Dec. 12, 2008. Here's an odd one: Buffalo has killed 37 straight penalties against the Leafs, going back to March 27, 2009.
Out of town, watch Carolina at New Jersey. A Sabres win and a Carolina loss in regulation puts Buffalo into eighth place in the East.
Patrick Kaleta is on the ice for warmups so he'll be back in and Paul Byron will be out. When you have a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call for a 6:30 a.m. flight (plus customs lines), you don't have much to stay pregame. Drop the puck.
Sabres starters: McCormick-Gaustad-Grier-Butler-Myers. Goal: Miller
Leafs starters: MacArthur-Grabovski-Kulemin-Phaneuf-Aulie. Goal: Giguere.
Of note: Hecht has four shots on goal, Stafford has three and no one else on either team has more than two. Five Leafs have two. ... Carolina is losing at New Jersey, 1-0, through two periods. Eighth place could be up for grabs in this period for Buffalo.
8:49 p.m: The puck is dropped. Brian Rolston just scored in New Jersey to put the Devils up, 2-0.
19:12 left: Miller robs Lupul from in front.
15:16 left: Gerbe for interference. Lucky he didn't get the penalty shot call against him for throwing the stick.
14:50 left: Gaustad for hooking. That's a problem. Two-man edge for 1:34. Leafs have to break the PP drought against Buffalo here.
14:00 left: Sabres holding on. Connolly fished out a puck that got behind Miller. Close call.
13:10 left: Miller grabs Kaberle's wrister as Gerbe closed on him from behind. There's 21 secodns left in Gaustad's.
12:48 left: Huge roar from the crowd as Sabres kill it. Leafs may never score a PP goal on Buffalo again.
12:11 left: Turnaround time. Carl Gunnarsson goes for hooking Pominville. Shots are 9-2 for Toronto in this period and 24-19 for the Leafs in the game.
11:31 left: Killer. Connolly with three giveaways and Joey Crabb (who?) does the toe drag on Leopold and beats Miller. NHL-high 11th shorty against Buffalo this year. Incredibly, it's Crabb's first goal of the year. First since March 24, 2009. Leafs lead, 2-0.
9:40 left: Gaustad gets Buffalo back within 2-1 on a terrible goal allowed by Reimer. Slapshot from the boards right under the kid's arm. Leafs lead, 2-1.
6:45 left: Miller with three solid saves, including one on Kulemin. Kaleta blew a tire and wiped out with the puck under control and the Leafs caused trouble right away. Miller has 12 saves in the period as Leafs have a 13-4 bulge in shots. They look fresher. Both teams on the road last night. Wonder how much that shootout sapped Buffalo.
5:56: Attendance is 18,414.
2:30 left: Leafs holding on. Shots 15-5 in the period. Reimer has looked shaky on the last couple but it's been tough for Buffalo to sustain any pressure.
1:29 left: Faceoff in Leafs zone. Miller is out.
13.4 left: Connolly made a great play to stop Lupul on the empty net few seconds ago. Leafs ice it. Faceoff to the right.
It's over: A 2-1 loss. Leafs break their hex in Buffalo and Sabres blow a chance to climb into eighth place in the opener of the homestand. Final shots are 30-24 for Toronto (15-7 in the third).
757 p.m.: Game on. Bulletin: The Leafs have yanked Giguere and put James Reimer in goal. Giggy is sitting on the bench manning the door. Weird. Update: Rob Ray just said on MSG Giguere is ill. The Leafs PR staff just told the AP Giguere has a groin strain.
15:24 left: Something finally happened in a nothing period. Kessel beats Miller with a quick snapshot from the slot after a Kaberle feed. Good shot but, again, I'd like to see Miller out more and making that save. Leafs lead, 1-0.
13:12 left: Niedermayer's first goal of the season just hopped over his stick. Wide open rebound chance given up by Reimer and No. 20 fans.
9:51 left: Scrum in the corner. Lupul gets two for roughing, Connolly gets four (tripping/roughing).
7:58 left: MacArthur cranks one right off Miller's mask and he crumpled a little. You could hear it up here. Miller freezes the puck a few seconds later and trainer Tim Macre is out. Looked like Miller pointed to his left ear. He stays in. By the way, that's 38 straight penalties killed by Buffalo against the Leafs.
3:10 left: The Leafs are shutting things down pretty good. Reimer just made a great save off Hecht to preserve the lead. Shots are 10-7 for Toronto in the period and 16-15 for Buffalo in the game.
End-2nd: Sabres with some pressure in the final seconds but Leafs hold their 1-0 lead. Shots are 17-15 for Buffalo.
7:10 p.m. Game on.
17:24 left: A crazy start as Tim Brent goes for interference after drilling Kaleta. We've already seen Tomas Kaberle take Vanek feet-first into the boards (Johnny Boychuk flashback) and Ennis crank one off the goalpost as he broke in alone on Giguere after a great backhand pass from Connolly.
10:31 left: A looooong time without a whistle. Shots are 5-1 for Buffalo and the Leafs' first shot came with 10:43 left, a point-blank blast from the circle by Joffrey Lupul.
9:47 left: That's the kind of save the Sabres need from Miller. A glove grab on MacArthur, who went right through Myers.
5:38 left: Shots are 7-3 for the Sabres and the Laffs have been hit with a too many men on the ice penalty. These teams both look like they played last night. Not much happening. With Kaleta back, the lines tonight ran McCormick-Gaustad-Grier, Vanek-Hecht-Pominvile-Gerbe-Niedermayer-Kaleta and Ennis-Connolly-Stafford. The Connolly line didn't run early because of the power play on the Brent penalty. Interesting change on defense as Butler got the start with Myers and Sekera is playing with Leopold. Weber and Morrisonn stay together.
3:33 left: Brent had the best chance on that power play but now the Sabres get another chance as Grabovski goes for hooking Ennis in front.
1:30 left: Lots of puck possession for the Sabres but only one shot. Leafs kept them mostly to the outside. Like how strong Ennis has been with the puck, don't like how he's been overhandling it.
End-1st: Zip-zip. Shots are 9-5 for Buffalo.
February 16, 2011 - 12:06 PM
Coach Lindy Ruff rationalized the Sabres' decision to send Jhonas Enroth back to the minors by saying the 22-year-old goaltender needs to play in Portland rather than sit behind Ryan Miller in Buffalo. Ruff said it's possible the team could recall Enroth the next time Miller needs a rest.
To hear Ruff's comments this morning on Enroth, Miller, the Sabres' improved play and concussions, click the audio below.
February 16, 2011 - 11:36 AM
Ryan Miller, who was scratched Tuesday and watched the Sabres beat Montreal in a shootout, will return to the Buffalo crease tonight against Toronto. He is 24-8 against the Maple Leafs with a 2.18 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
To hear him talk this morning about his day off, the improved play of the Sabres, his respect for Toronto and his thoughts on Jhonas Enroth, click the audio below.
February 16, 2011 - 11:20 AM
Jhonas Enroth, who shined in the Sabres' 3-2 shootout victory Tuesday and has earned points in four of his six games with Buffalo, has been sent back to Portland.
More following coach Lindy Ruff's news conference.
February 16, 2011 - 10:38 AM
The Sabres, who flew home following Tuesday night's shootout win in Montreal, have canceled their morning skate and are holding a team meeting at 11 a.m in HSBC Arena. Three players are on the ice getting extra work before the meeting, however, and one is goaltender Ryan Miller.
Miller has joined sure-to-be-scratches Craig Rivet and Steve Montador in going through a workout with goalie coach Jim Corsi and player development coach Kevyn Adams. Players who take extra work typically do not play, though coach Lindy Ruff will speak with the media later this morning to set up tonight's game against Toronto.
February 16, 2011 - 12:15 AM
MONTREAL -- Catch your breath. Here's a another look at the 10-round shootout here Tuesday night. After we roll the highlight film, check out the list of notes we've compiled below.
Round 1: Desharnais GOAL (1-0 Montreal), Stafford save
Round 2: Plekanac GOAL (2-0 Montreal), Vanek GOAL (2-1)
Round 3: Gionta wide, Ennis GOAL (2-2)
Round 4: Pouliot wide, Pominville save
Round 5: Pacioretty GOAL (3-2), Gerbe GOAL (3-3)
Round 6: Gomez save, Connolly save
Round 7: Subban goalpost, Myers save
Round 8: Kostitsyn save, Byron save
Round 9: Pyatt save, Leopold crossbar
Round 10: Wisniewski miss, Hecht GOAL (4-3)
---The seven combined goals tied the NHL record set several times.
---The 10 rounds were one shy of Buffalo's record of 11, set in a loss to Colorado on Jan. 8, 2010 in HSBC Arena. The score in that shootout was also 4-3.
---The Sabres became the first team in NHL history to win a game in which they trailed, 2-0, in regulation and 2-0 in a shootout.
---The Sabres won a shootout in which they trailed, 2-0, for the first time. The only other team to do that was Washington vs Pittsburgh on March 24, 2010.
---The Sabres are an NHL-best 5-0 in shootouts this year.
---Jhonas Enroth's first three career wins are in shootouts. No other goalie's first two have been in shootouts.
---The Sabres got goals from Thomas Vanek, Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe when a save by Carey Price would have ended the game and given Montreal the win.
---Jason Pominville, Tim Connolly, Tyler Myers, Paul Byron and Jordon Leopold were all stopped by Price when a goal would have ended the game in Buffalo's favor. Leopold hit the crossbar.
---The Canadiens missed their last five chances before Jochen Hecht won it for Buffalo.
(Kudos to Sabres information guru Kevin Snow for a lot of this info)
February 15, 2011 - 7:27 PM
MONTREAL -- Bon jour from high-high-high-high atop Le Centre Bell (grades on my 1st-grade level French, anyone?) as we await tonight's Sabres-Canadiens game. TV reminder: It's a Versus game so no MSG (Rick and Harry are radio-only). And faceoff is scheduled for 7:40, which has us print types in fine moods.
It was freezing here today. As in 1 degree. As in colder than when I was in Edmonton in December. So did I simply stay holed up in the hotel room? Nope. That's why you have Underground Montreal, a 19-mile long tunnel system below office buildings and hotels and the like. Shopping and great cafes everywhere (I found an apple turnover the size of a basketball).
Most of the attention tonight of course is going to Jhonas Enroth in the Buffalo net in place of Ryan Miller. An interesting environment to put the kid in for sure.
"Playing against Montreal is something very huge," Enroth said after the team's morning skate today. "It's a big arena and I'm real excited for tonight."
Huge is the word. This place is filled with 21,273 every night. It's a massive building with a lower level that goes about 25 rows deep. And the scoreboard is absurd. So is the pregame laser light show on the ice. If you've never been here, you must come once in your life. Awesome.
One Habs note: Old friend Jaro Spacek is a scratch (back). The Sabres' scratches are Patrick Kaleta (hand), Steve Montador (concussion) and Craig Rivet (whatever). Do we even have to list Rivet anymore?
By the way, this is one of the Sabres' games in hand over the Rangers, Thrashers and Hurricanes. None of them are playing tonight.
Sabres starters: Vanek-Hecht-Pominville-Myers-Sekera. Goal: Enroth.
Habs starters: Pacioretty-Plekanac-Gionta-Wisniewski-Hamrlik. Goal: Price.
Shootout recap: Sabres win 4-3 in 10 rounds. NHL-best 5-0 in shootouts. Second-longest in franchise history (lost to Colorado last year in 11). Ties NHL record for goals in a shootout set numerous times. Enroth was the first goalie in NHL history to post his first two career wins in shootouts. Now he has his first three. Montreal led, 2-0, but Vanek and Ennis kept Buffalo alive to get it into extra rounds. Pacioretty and Gerbe scored in round five to make it 3-3. Price made five saves when a Buffalo goal would have ended it before Hecht finally won it on a deke in round 10.
45.7: Place up as Price robs Pominville with the glove. After robbing Gerbe. After Myers cranked one off the post.
9:27 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
18:11 left: Hecht stopped from point blank range and the puck drops behind Price. Hecht then gets a high-sticking call for clipping Wisniewski behind the net. Tough, tough break.
17:10 left: Pacioretty off the post after a bad back pass from Connolly, who went for Leopold in the zone instead of a breaking Niedermayer who was open in front. Can't see how you blame connolly with those two options actually.
13:52 left: Hecht from behind the net. Pominville a one-timer from slot. Game tied, 2-2.
9:53 left: Sabres keeping the pressure on. Shots are 30-26 for Montreal. It was 17-4 late in the first period.
7:54 left: Great save by Price on Butler, of all people, streaking down the middle and tipping a Pominville feed.
1:25 left: Weber gone for tripping Andrei Kostitsyn. Lindy Ruff not happy. Nor should he be.
OT: Great kill so far by Buffalo. Shots are 31-29 for Montreal.
8:31 p.m. The puck is dropped.
18:20 left: Habs kill the penalty. Great save by Price on a Vanek tip from in front and on a Leopold rebound.
16:08 left: Hecht for holding. Silly penalty, using the free hand at center. Kills all the momentum the Sabres have built. Shots are 4-1 for Buffalo thus far and the edge has been big.
13:32 left: Myers-Sekera get burned like toast as Habs make it 2-0. Benoit Pouliot gets the goal, pumping in a great backhand pass from David Desharnais. Pouliot got ahead of Myers and Desharnais walked right around Sekera. No chance for Enroth. Habs lead, 2-0.
9:13 left: Habs in complete control in this one. Crowd is wild -- because of the car race going around the building on the electronic ribbon board. Jeez.
5:45 left: I haven't had much to say because not much is happening. Besides, we're late in the second period and I'm writing my story. I'm sure Ryan Miller approves.
4:02 left: Desharnais goes for interference on Vanek. Officials don't call that enough. Vanek-Byron-McCormick as a trio have done some good work.
2:12 left: The power play works as Stafford (who else?) flips one home for his 24th of the season. Vanek with a sick between-the-legs maneuver to Price's right helped make the play. Habs lead, 2-1.
End-2nd: It's 2-1 and shots are 26-22 for Montreal. It was 15-8 for Buffalo in that period. Much better one for the Sabres.
7:40 pm: The puck is dropped.
16:14 left: Myers for cross-checking. No trouble for Enroth so far. Shots are 3-0 for the Habs. He's made three saves. Habs had an early 3-on-1 break (COnnolly and Ennis caught) but Scott Gomez shot wide.
15:06 left: Pacioretty comes out from behind the net to Enroth's left and overpower the goalie on his own rebound to pump it home. Habs lead, 1-0. Shots are 6-0.
14:15 left: Price turns away Buffalo's first shot, a bullet from the right circle by Stafford.
12:48 left: The Sabres are in complete slow motion in this one. Habs dominating at all turns. Shots are 8-2. The lines have looked like this: Vanek-Hecht-Pominville, Ennis-Connolly-Stafford, Niedermayer-Gaustad-Grier and McCormick-Byron-Gerbe. Defense pairs are Sekera-Myers, Morrisonn-Weber and Butler-Leopold.
12:05 left: It's 11-2. Enroth needs to try to hold the fort until his team shows up.
11:10 left: Price stops Stafford on the doorstep after a Leopold feed. Stafford basically the only non-Enroth Sabre to show up so far.
9:52 left: Price's best save, a glove spear of Sekera's shot from the left circle. Price vs. Buffalo in his career: 8-4-4, 2.02 GAA, .936 save percentage. Yikes.
8:13 left: Pominville for holding at center ice. Chintzy at best.
6:10 left: PP killed. Enroth stopped Plekanec twice and Kostitsyn had a good chance from the slot that didn't get through.
5:00 left: Enroth stops Ryan White after a terrible giveaway by Niedermayer. Why is he still in the lineup? No goals. What does he do?
3:22 left: Shots are 17-5 but Price nearly made a major gaffe by thinking Pominville was pumping one around the boards -- when he was actually firing it on net. Price had to stick the right pad out and you should have heard the gasps in the crowd. Enroth needs to keep Buffalo within a goal here so the Sabres can get to the dressing room and then wake up.
A raucous standing ovation for Erik Guay as he appears on the HD board. Never heard of him. Had to google him. New world downhill champion. Who follows skiing in a non-Olympic year?
22.5 left: Pouliot for tripping. Good play by Connolly to take the puck all the way back behind the Buffalo net and kill much of the clock so the Sabres will have more penalty time to start the second.
End-1st: Sabres survive. Habs lead, 1-0 and outshoot Buffalo, 18-7, in a period that saw the Sabres completely outclassed. Regroup time.
February 15, 2011 - 12:51 PM
MONTREAL -- Jhonas Enroth will start, Patrick Lalime will be the backup and Ryan Miller will watch from the press box. That's how the Buffalo Sabres goaltending situation shakes down for tonight's game against the Canadiens in the Bell Centre.
Miller's streak of 31 straight starts ends but he's scheduled to play tomorrow in Buffalo against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Enroth, meanwhile, plays his first NHL game since his 1-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Nov. 24. He's 2-2-1 with a 2.90 goals-against average and .897 save percentage this year for the Sabres and 18-14-1, 2.83, .910 at Portland.
"Playing against Montreal is something very huge," Enroth said after the team's morning skate in the Bell Centre. "It's a big arena and I'm real excited for tonight."
Why Enroth over Lalime?
"Jhonas has been playing. Part of Jhonas' development has been to get him a lot of games," said coach Lindy Ruff. "We got him some games early and he played well. He's been playing. In Pat's case, we've got him in a tough spot because he hasn't played. This is an opportunity to give Jhonas another game."
Ruff said Lalime may go to Portland for conditioning like he did last year. Ruff said there's been no decision made about Enroth past tonight.
"Our plan was to get Jhonas ready to play in the NHL. He's been down in Portland, had his ups and downs," Ruff said. "But when he's been called up on to play, he's held himself real well. We look at this as an opportunity to take a look at him. We want him to come in and help us win another game."
Paul Byron stays with the team and will play tonight. Patrick Kaleta, still struggling with his bad hand, is sitting. So is Steve Montador, who must be on longterm IR because the team has 24 players (like most transactions, that hasn't been announced). Montador's IR stint can be made retroactive to Feb. 6, however, and he could certainly play tomorrow.
Former Sabre Jaroslav Spacek is a game-time decision for the Habs with a lower-body injury. Montreal practiced this morning at its suburban complex.
February 15, 2011 - 9:43 AM
Former Pittsburgh Penguins and FSN Pittsburgh executive Ted Black will join billionaire Terry Pegula as a key adviser when Pegula takes over sometime next week as the Buffalo Sabres owner. A source confirmed the management hire this morning.
Black was an important part of Mario Lemieux's management team when the retired superstar took over as the Penguins owner in 1999 and turned them into an NHL power. Black helped recruit and hire General Manager Ray Shero, who replaced longtime GM Craig Patrick in 2006 and built on a strong foundation in turning the Pens into Stanley Cup champs in 2009.
Pegula had no comment this morning, spokesman Ben Bouma said. Pegula is not expected to speak publicly until he officially takes over as owner. No date had been set, but he's expected to gain approval from the NHL Board of Governors sometime next week.
Black (above) left the Pens in 2008 to become senior vice president and general manager of FSN Pittsburgh, the regional network that covers the Penguins and Pirates. He joined Pegula several months ago in the billionaire's efforts to purchase the Sabres.
His job title with the Sabres isn't exactly clear, but it's conceivable for him to be named team president and help Pegula look over daily operations, particularly on the business side. He was vice president for legal affairs with the Pens and made important decisions concerning marketing, branding and sales.
--- Bucky Gleason
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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.
About Sabres Edge
Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, is in his sixth season covering the Buffalo Sabres. 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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