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'Hockey Weekend in America' starts Friday

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.).

---John Vogl

Blues place Halak on IR, Conklin to start

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.

---John Vogl

Sabres take a breather

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.

---John Vogl

Inside the NHL -- Live Chat

Vote for your three stars

Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Laffs

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.

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

Sabres starters: McCormick-Gaustad-Grier-Butler-Myers. Goal: Miller
Leafs starters: MacArthur-Grabovski-Kulemin-Phaneuf-Aulie. Goal: Giguere. 

Third Period

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).

Second Period

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.

First Period

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.

Ruff: Enroth needs to play, not back up

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.

---John Vogl


Miller ready to play against Leafs

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.

---John Vogl


Enroth sent back to Portland

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.

---John Vogl

Miller joins Rivet, Montador in extra ice time

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.

---John Vogl

Reviewing the shootout

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.

SHOOTOUT RECAP 

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)

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

Vote for your three stars

Live from Montreal: Sabres vs. Habs

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. 

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

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.

Overtime

45.7: Place up as Price robs Pominville with the glove. After robbing Gerbe. After Myers cranked one off the post. 

Third Period

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.

Second Period

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.

First Period

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.

 

Enroth in, Lalime to back up

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. 

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

Former Pens exec Black will join Pegula

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.

Ted black

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 

Enroth in tonight, Lalime in ever?

MONTREAL -- We'll get our chance to talk to Lindy Ruff today in the noon hour after the Sabres' morning skate in the Bell Centre, but the coach already made news this morning in his weekly radio appearance on WGR when he announced that Jhonas Enroth will start in goal tonight for the Sabres against the Montreal Canadiens. Ryan Miller's 31-start streak that we examined in this morning's paper is over.

Enroth was decent when he played five games back in November, garnering a pair of shootout wins to become the first goalie since the lockout to get his first two career wins that way. He's clearly going to be the backup goaltender next year.

So what does this mean in the short team for Patrick Lalime? It's certainly obvious whatever confidence Ruff had left in him was shot by the horrible giveaway to Tampa Bay's Adam Hall that turned into the game-winning goal in Lalime's last start Nov. 20 in HSBC Arena. Remember this gaffe?

Lalime doesn't have a win since last March and has only nine in his three years as Miller's backup. The Sabres re-signed him clearly at the urging of Miller but Lalime simply is no longer an NHL-caliber goaltender in the coach's eyes.

Maybe Lalime gets a start Friday against St. Louis to make a little competition of sorts with Enroth. But it seems like, as Sully wrote this morning, that it's simply time to bring the kid up for good. Send Lalime on his way, send him to Portland, whatever. What's the point of having him here? To wear a gold toque on the bench?

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

Stafford is NHL's No. 2 star

Drew Stafford has been named the NHL's No. 2 star of the week after notching two more hat tricks last week. Islanders winger Michael Grabner, whose overtime winner Sunday capped a hat trick in HSBC Arena, was the No. 1 star and Phoenix goalie Ilya Brzygalov was No. 3.

An amazing Stafford oddity: He has six goals on his last six shots.

"Some of my shots, if you want to call them that, I was just kind of parked in front of the net," Stafford said today. "You just hang around the net and pucks are hanging around there. They were not exactly shots per se. It's a pretty good stat. I guess you guys have your stats. That's pretty cool. You don't see that too often. Not sure I can keep it going but I'll do my best."

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

No word yet on Tuesday's goalie

Lindy Ruff and Patrick Lalime both said they were talking about the weather in their Clarence neighborhoods and not hockey during a chat in front of the net during practice Monday in HSBC Arena. You would think they might have been talking about Lalime playing goal Tuesday night in Montreal and making his first start since Nov. 20.

Ryan Miller has made 31 straight starts and is coming off his worst outing of the year in Sunday's 7-6 loss to the New York Islanders. He's certainly not going to play Tuesday. Ruff, however, wouldn't commit to Lalime, throwing the names of Portland goaltenders Jhonas Enroth and David Leggio, the Williamsville native, into the mix when pressed by reporters today.

The Sabres play seven games in the next 12 days and then open March with eight games in the month's first 13 days. Ruff said he had worked out a schedule of rest with Miller. 

"Does Patty play? I'm not announcing what my plans are for the next two games," Ruff said. "But I'll announce that I did have a schedule."

Miller is likely to play Wednesday against Toronto, the team he owns more wins against (24) than any other NHL club. Tuesday's game and Friday's visit from St. Louis look like chances to get him some rest.

Sunday's loss bloated Miller's February numbers to a goals-against average of 3.52 and a save percentage of .880 in five games (3-1-1). He's 12-3-2 since Dec. 28 but his goals-against average is 2.98. During the 31 starts, Miller is 18-9-3, 2.85 with a mediocre .900 save percentage.

"It wasn't quite what we set out to do," Miller said today of the 31 straight starts. "But when I started the year with some injuries, it kind of threw a wrench into that and Lindy wanted to get me rolling. Then it kind of got a little bit long so we're going to have to make a plan to make sure that mentally and physically I'm where I need to be.

"I'm not playing at the level I guess that was expected after last season but I feel like I'm contributing  and playing decent. I obviously want to improve and that's the name of the game. You try to improve every day and try to win every day."

Click below for audio from Miller, Ruff and Lalime.


Ryan Miller


Patrick Lalime


Lindy Ruff

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

 

 

Miller's postgame audio

Below is the audio of Ryan Miller's postgame news conference following the 7-6 overtime loss to the Islanders. As you can hear (and will read in Jerry Sullivan's column), the goaltender took issue with my questioning.

I had no motive in asking if he felt OK, though he obviously suspects I did. I just wanted to know if he went out there feeling less than his best, which seems fair considering he gave up seven goals on 26 shots, including a self-admitted bad one.

Following his repeated questions to me, as you can hear on the audio, I explain to him some days I wake up not feeling ready to type, and I was wondering if he had the same issue today.

"I feel fine guys," he said.

I asked whether he was angry because he had to talk to us because he was already swearing/muttering under his breath when he walked toward the reporters. That was not the first time that has happened this season.

He conducted his chat following Lindy Ruff's news conference, a change since players typically go first. But Miller left the dressing room while Drew Stafford was holding court, and following Stafford's words the PR guy said it was time for Lindy. So following Ruff, we went back to Miller.

The interview has been combined to one file from three, but nothing has been left out. I shut the recorder off at one point after the PR guy tried to end things, and at another point when Miller's silence seemed to end the interview.

---John Vogl

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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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