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Inside the NHL -- Live Chat

Enroth celebrates first shutout

Jhonas Enroth, with his parents, Erik and Eva, over from Sweden to see him play in the NHL for the first time, stopped all 23 shots he faced to give the Sabres a 1-0 win over the Rangers. A few tidbits:

*Enroth became the first Buffalo goalie not named Ryan Miller to earn a shutout since Jocelyn Thibault on April 5, 2008.

*Enroth backstopped the first 1-0 win since the Sabres beat Toronto on Feb. 13, 2008.

*It was the third time the Sabres posted consecutive home shutouts with two different goalies. Bob Sauve and Don Edwards did it Feb. 3-7, 1980, while Grant Fuhr and Dominik Hasek accomplished it April 1-4, 1994. Miller blanked New Jersey, 2-0, Saturday.

The audio of Enroth's postgame chat is below.

---John Vogl

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Live from the Arena: Miller-less Sabres vs. Rangers

Right off the top, Darcy Regier just met the media in the press box a few minutes before tonight's Sabres-Rangers game and announced that Ryan Miller is day-to-day -- and NOT week to week -- with an upper-body injury. He said the Dion Phaneuf shot in the third period last night in Toronto did play a role in the injury. He declined to answer if Miller had any concussion testing in the wake of the Brian Rolston shot he took to the head Saturday against New Jersey.

Regier then said Miller IS a possibility to play this weekend in Washington and Carolina. That was all he had to offer. The whole meeting with reporters lasted 55 seconds.

So I suppose that's better news than  what we could have heard.  Stay tuned for game updates.

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

Sabres starters: Gerbe-Gaustad-Mancari-Weber-Sekera. Goal: Enroth
Rangers starters: Prust-Boyle-Fedotenko-Staal-Girardi. Goal: Lundqvist 

Third Period

Of note: Carolina leads Montreal, 4-1, through 40 minutes so the Sabres have to win this one to keep their three-point lead. The good news is they could pull within two of Montreal. ... Lundqvist IS back and in goal for the third period.

853 p.m. The puck is dropped.

19:44 left: Enroth robs Stepan from right in front. Sekera counting the house behind the net and Weber doing likewise in front. Yikes.

17:52 left: Enroth stops Boyle after a Montador giveaway.

15:16 left: Weber nearly crunched Avery at the Buffalo line, but got him enough to stop a rush. The "Let's Go Rangers" chants are starting again to boos. The Blueshirts have been much better in this period. Shots are 4-3 for New York but three of the four have been solid chances.

10:53 left: Sabres still holding on, have a 31-18 edge in shots on goal.

10:18 left: Gragnani has been solid tonight but not there. Backhands the puck from behind the net right in front and nearly off Enroth. Goalie covers.

8:00 left: This is a tight, tight period. Shots are 6-5 for Buffalo.

5:15 left: Sabres holding on at Cotton Eye Joe time.

3:30 left: Enroth again kills the play with the glove with his team running around in the zone. Grabs McCabe's wrister and gets his team a change. Huge.

1:55 left: Pominville stopped on wraparound.

1:10 left: Empty net.

IT'S OVER: Sabres hold on desperately for a 1-0 win and big scrum ensues. Shots 35-23. Enroth's first NHL shutout. Huge win to keep Carolina away.

Second Period

8:02 p.m.: The puck is dropped and bad news out of Raleigh as it's Jeff Skinner 2, Montreal 0. Heat really on the Sabres tonight.

18:38 left: Dubinsky beats Enroth high but clanks it off the crossbar.

18:02 left: Enroth spears Ryan McDonagh's laser from the point.

15:10 left: Staal goes for interference after a dangerous rush into the zone by Pominville. Staal dumped Connolly in front, right when Pominville was looking for him with the pass.

14:32 left: Gragnani does a great job stopping a 2 (and maybe 3-)-on-1 and Vanek gets it to Connolly, who pumps a rocket off the post past Lundqvist. Sabres lead, 1-0. Gragnani gets an assist too for his first NHL point.

13:10 left: Enroth stops a Prospal slapper. Shots are 17-10 for Buffalo.

11:15 left: Lundqvist gets his glove on a Stafford shot on a 2-on-1.

10:30 left: Stafford dangerous again but Lundqvist is there. Shots 22-11.

8:20 left: Enroth gloves a McDonagh one-timer to get the Sabres out of trouble. The Gaustad line and Weber-Sekera were hemmed in for nearly a minute.

6:53 left: Lundqvist robs Brad Boyes from the doorstep.

3:29 left: Montador goes for slashing.

2:38 left: Enroth with a good stop on Staal.

1:20 left: Another great PK job, including a near-breakaway by Gaustad that Lundqvist stopped on the backhand after a steal near center ice.

24.4 left: Rangers fans holding their breath as Lundqvist is gimping around on his right leg in clear discomfort after a flurry in front of the New York net. He'll stay in.

End-2nd: Sabres hold their 1-0 lead. Shots are 26-14 for Buffalo (11-6 in that period) and Lundqvist is very, very slow getting off the ice.

First Period

7:08 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

18:46 left: Enroth with a good save on Brandon Dubinsky after a neat feed on a 2-on-1 by Artem Anisimov. Where exactly was Myers going in the Rangers' zone? Another 2-on-1. Lindy Ruff said the Leafs had five last night.

17:20 left: Agitator Sean Avery welcomes Matt Ellis back to the NHL with a push to the back by the benches. That got Cody McCormick's attention. Bears watching.

16:00 left: The Sabres line up tonight this way to start: Gerbe-Gaustad-Mancari, Vanek-Connolly-Pominville, Niedermayer-McCormick-Ellis, Ennis-Boyes-Stafford. Defense: Weber-Sekera, Butler-Myers, Gragnani-Montador.

13:44 left: Lundqvist turns away a McCormick slapper after a steal in the neutral zone. Shots are 5-1 for Buffalo.

12:29 left: Vanek and Connolly going hard to the net. Lundqvist holds firm. Shots now 8-1. An excellent start.

9:13 left: The Connolly line is dangerous again. Good pass from the corner by Pominville to Vanek but his shot was partially blocked. Sabres have an 11-2 edge in shots but Lundqvist hasn't had to make any spectacular stops yet.

7:50 left: Enroth with his best save on Marian Gaborik streaking down the right side and another on Vinny Prospal 15 seconds later from the slot. Better saves than anything Lundqvist has had to make in the period.

5:50 left: Rangers coming on, Sabres getting sloppy Ryan Callahan just wide on a good chance from the slot.

2:02 left: Anisimov scores on a rebound but interference is called as Sekera knocked Callahan into Enroth and Callahan ended up on top of Enroth, not allowing the goalie to move. The whole thing started, however, when Callahan wiped out Sekera in the corner to get the puck. Rangers continued possession from there.

1:00 left: Lundqvist with his best two saves on Vanek, who undressed the Rangers defense to get in alone. Great block also by Brian Boyle to stop another chance.

7.7 left: Stafford elbowing, Callahan roughing.

End-1st: No score. Sabres have a 15-8 edge in shots. Lundqvist has given up three goals in the last 10 periods plus an overtime. Wow.

 

Warmup bulletin: Enroth to start, Morrisonn a scratch

We have the official confirmation that Ryan Miller is out tonight as Jhonas Enroth just led the Sabres on the ice for warmups prior to tonight's game against the New York Rangers. Patrick Lalime has taken the ice as the backup. He has been dealing with a knee injury and has not dressed since backing up Enroth for the March 6 overtime win in Minnesota.

On defense, Shaone Morrisonn will be the scratch to allow Marc Gragnani to move into the lineup.

Stay tuned for our live blog at the top of the hour.

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

BULLETIN: Miller injured, won't play tonight

Rumors have been spreading in the last hour at HSBC Arena and it appears Ryan Miller will not play tonight against the New York Rangers, sources have told The News. Miller is injured. It is not a night off. In response to an inquiry, the Sabres referred to their long-standing policy of often not announcing the starting goaltender so we'll have to wait until the team takes the ice for warmup at 6:30.

There is no word on the nature or severity of the injury but it's believed to be an upper-body situation. Miller did take a slapshot from Dion Phaneuf to the collarbone area with 14:48 left in the third period of Tuesday night's 4-3 loss at Toronto. He also took a Brian Rolston slapshot directly on the mask in the first period of Saturday's 2-0 win over New Jersey.

Miller was not at today's morning skate but that's not unusual. Jhonas Enroth and Patrick Lalime were on the ice. It was an optional skate with several players not on hand. Miller's absence was thus not a topic of conversation because he has often taken gameday skates off this season.

Enroth will start tonight. Miller has made the last seven starts. Enroth's last appearance was the 6-4 win March 13 against Ottawa. Lalime told reporters yesterday in Toronto his injured knee is better and he's ready to go so he should be the backup.

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

Roy takes 'big step' in first major on-ice session

As we reported earlier, Derek Roy skated on his own for about 25 minutes and shot pucks for the final 10 minutes of that session. He looked surprisingly crisp for a guy just three months out of major surgery for his torn quad tendon. Roy admitted he's not doing turns or stops and starts and doing mostly straight-ahead skating. He said this was actually the fourth time he's skated but was easily the first time he pushed his workout.

"Today it felt a lot better than the first few days where you just move around and see how it feels," Roy told The Buffalo News. "Today I took a big step, started skating hard and got my heart rate up."

Sabres team doctor Les Bisson performed the surgery on Roy and said the center would start to feel better around three months after the injury, which occurred Dec. 23 against Florida. Seems like that call is right on target.

"Doc said at the three-month period, you usually start feeling a little bit better and all of a sudden your leg starts getting bigger and stronger. All of a sudden, things come quicker," Roy said. "That first three months are just that slow process of healing. Once it heals after the three-month period, he said you can do whatever you want basically."

We had only seen Roy a couple times, once as he limped around Terry Pegula's introductory press conference and again as he limped around the ice testing the knee on the team picture day earlier this month.

So let's cut to the chase: Can Roy play this year? Absolutely he can -- in the second round of the playoffs.

"That would be right at the fourth-month period, right where Doc said, the 4-6 months," Roy said. "I'm going with his knowledge on the thing. Obviously, I've never had an injury like this. Four months to play at an NHL level in the playoffs might be stretching it but I'm going to try to push for that."

Hear the complete audio of my chat with Roy below.


Derek Roy

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

Injuries force Ruff to play roster roulette

Only a handful of Sabres skated today but coach Lindy Ruff had plenty of news about the roster heading into tonight's game against the New York Rangers.

You can hear the audio from the entire session by clicking here:


Lindy Ruff pregame

The rundown looks like this:

---Out with injuries: Jochen Hecht (upper body), Mike Grier (knee)

---Inserted into lineup to quarterback power play: Marc Gragnani.

---Called up from Portland in time to be here tonight: Matt Ellis.

---Scratched on defense: TBA (but the betting here is on Shaone Morrisonn, he of the minus-3 in 8 1/2 minutes last night).

Gragnani has been one of the AHL's best defensemen this year with 12 goals, 48 assists, 60 points and a career-best plus-22 rating. He led AHL blueliners in assists and points, setting Portland franchise records in both categories.

"Marc is going to go in and play," Ruff said. "I really feel we need somebody on the back end that can quarterback our power play in Leopold's absence. It could have made a difference late in the game for us. We're ust going to play what we think will help us win. I don't want to wait two or three games. I think it's important right now if we have one or two power plays.

"He's a great year down there quarterbacking their power play. I just feel that he could give that unit a boost. He's a great passer. he might be as good a passer that we'll have from the back end."

Ruff said Grier's knee soreness is a short-term situation but couldn't speculate on Hecht's continued troubles. Hecht missed four games, played two, missed five more, played Saturday against New Jersey and lasted just under six minutes last night.

"We're concerned obviously," Ruff said. "He's tried but hasn't been able to [keep playing]."

Ruff then had a humurous exchange with the media when I asked if Hecht had to be shut down.

Ruff: No. You guys trying to figure out what it is?
Reporter: Or how long it might be.
Ruff: So am I (laughter)
Sabres Edge: What it is or how long?
Ruff: Both.

Translation: Sounds like Hecht is going to be an iffy proposition each day over these last six games.

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

Roy skating and shooting on his own

Injured Sabres center Derek Roy has just completed a 25-minute solo workout on the ice at HSBC Arena in full uniform (the Sabres are not skating this morning). Roy moved well for much of the session, skating without pucks for the first 15 minutes before heading into a penalty box to get a bucket of pucks and begin some shooting drills.

Roy looked quite a bit better than he did during his few twirls on the ice a couple of weeks ago following the Sabres' annual team picture.

The thought of him playing in the second round of the playoffs -- if the Sabres get that far -- certainly seems like a realistic goal now.

UPDATE: Lindy Ruff said he was unaware Roy had been on the ice when I asked him about the session following today's optional skate. 

"I didn't know he was out so that's encouraging," said Ruff, who added he did not know of any change to Roy's timetable, which pegs a possible return as the second round of the playoffs.

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

Miller: 'I just looked stupid'

TORONTO -- The Sabres are heading home from Toronto as 4-3 losers, a one-goal deficit that could partially be blamed on the first goal. Ryan Miller allowed Dion Phaneuf to score from the blue line, setting the tone for the loss.

"Not quite the effort we wanted," Miller said in Air Canada Centre. "I had a chance to set the tone on my end and didn’t do it, and it just kind of went from there.

"I just didn’t close off cross-body. It was rising up and I didn’t have a step on it, so I just looked stupid."

The full audio of Miller's postgame chat is below.

Carolina pulled within three points of the Sabres with a victory over Washington, while the Leafs pulled within five points.

Also of note, forward Jochen Hecht played just one period after reaggravating his upper-body injury. Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn played just 8:36 while putting up a dismal minus-3.

"It was a game where I just want to throw it in the garbage because it just wasn’t there," Morrisonn said. "The focus wasn’t there. It’s a tough way to play a game. It can’t happen again."

---John Vogl

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Live from Sabres at Toronto

TORONTO -- Greetings from Leaf Nation, where the fans are looking at the standings, crunching numbers and dreaming up best-case scenarios with the hopes they'll get to see playoff hockey. The conversations are very similar to the ones that took place in Buffalo two and three years ago.

It's going to take a lot for Toronto, and like Buffalo in those years, one misstep means it's over. That includes tonight's game. If the Leafs lose, they'll be nine points back with only 10 points available.

The Sabres had a morning skate today in Toronto, which (thankfully) is rare. We News writers just drive up and back for the games, and normally we come up around 4:30 p.m. With the morning skate, we come early. With work done at 1 p.m. and no hotel room to head back to, that's a lot of time to kill in TO. Spent some time walking to a shawarma place that had gotten good reviews.

Those reviewers obviously have never been to Ottawa. The food was OK, hardly memorable. I brought Kevin Sylvester and Scott Miner of the Sabres along for their inaugural shawarmas, and I do wish the ones in Ottawa had been their first ones. Oh well, nothing you can do about that. (Well, you can blog about as Kevin said he's going to be doing on Sabres.com. The guess here is he complains about the walk!)

The Sabres have just taken the ice for the warm-up, with no Mike Grier. The forward will miss the game with knee soreness, with Mark Mancari taking his place. More when the puck drops.

FIRST PERIOD

7:08 p.m.: Prior to the national anthems, the Leafs honored former Sabres forward Clarke MacArthur as the Community MVP. And the puck is dropped.

7:11 p.m.: All the folks talking about Ryan Miller's great play aren't talking now. He just allowed Dion Phaneuf to score on a slap shot from exactly the blue line with 1:34 gone. There was no tip, no one in his way. Miller just looked at his glove and squeezed it a couple of times. There was nothing in it. It's 1-0 Toronto.

7:13 p.m.: Miller gets his glove on the next shot, by Phil Kessel with 16:11 to go.

7:15 p.m.: With Grier out, the Sabres' lines are Thomas Vanek-Tim Connolly-Jason Pominville, Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Brad Boyes, Tyler Ennis-Jochen Hecht-Drew Stafford and Rob Niedermayer-Cody McCormick-Mancari.

7:16 p.m.: Goalie James Reimer gloves his first tough shot, a wrister from the right circle by Mancari with 13:42 to go.

7:24 p.m.: The Sabres hit the second commercial still in their 1-0 hole. Toronto has a 6-5 shot edge.

7:32 p.m.: Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel just miss two scoring opportunities 30 seconds apart. Kessel fails to set up Bozak on a two-on-one, and Boyes' backchecking ties up Bozak when he tries to deposit Kessel's rebound with 6:05 to go.

7:39 p.m.: The Sabres have to be happy to head to the dressing room in a 2-1 hole. The Leafs made it 2-0 with 1:14 left, with Nazek Kadri beating Shaone Morrisonn for a puck in the corner. He headed to the front, where Darryl Boyce outworked a Buffalo defender to clean up the crease drive.

The Sabres got some life with just 11.6 seconds to go. Jochen Hecht drews two defenders and found Thomas Vanek alone in front. Reimer had no chance to stop the sniper's high shot.

The Leafs have an 11-9 shot edge.

SECOND PERIOD

7:56 p.m.: And they're off.

7:59 p.m.: Mike Weber heads off for delay of game with 17:52 to go.

8:05 p.m.: The Sabres kill a five-on-three but don't get a chance to celebrate as MacArthur scores on a rush shortly after it ends. It's 3-1 Toronto with 14:20 to go. More on what set up the five-on-three in a minute.

8:09 p.m.: Tim Connolly feeds Jason Pominville from behind the net for Pominville's 20th goal with 13:35 to go. It's 3-2 Toronto.

8:10 p.m.: And just like that, with 13:05 to go, it's 3-3. Carl Gunnarsson fumbled the puck right in front of his own net, and Niedermayer quickly slipped it past an unsuspecting Reimer.

8:13 p.m.: OK, so to catch up -- Tyler Myers took a holding penalty 51 seconds after Weber's delay of game. Phaneuf then speared Gaustad just below the belt (yeah, there), so Gaustad responded with a two-hander. The exact sequence played out once again. Thus, the five-on-three with some hostilities.

The Sabres killed it, but as they were exhaling, Kadri went around Connolly at the blue line and set up MacArthur. And now they're playing with 11:37 left.

8:22 p.m.: Vanek unsuccessfully tries feeding Connolly on a two-on-one with 7:25 to go.

8:25 p.m.: The Leafs are back in front. MacArthur's long breakout pass finds Kessel at the Buffalo blue line. He feeds a streaking Mikhail Grabovski in the middle of the zone, and Miller only gets a piece of the attempt. It's 4-3 Toronto with 5:13 to go.

8:37 p.m.: The Sabres exited the dressing room in a one-goal deficit, and they head back in with the same. It's 4-3 Toronto, with the Sabres holding a 23-21 shot edge after a 14-10 period.

THIRD PERIOD

8:55 p.m.: Somehow, two assists were just awarded to Niedermayer's goal. Anyway, game on.

9:02 p.m.: Gaustad mixes it up with Mike Komisarek with 15:29 to go, with each getting a roughing call to set up a four-on-four.

9:03 p.m.: It's a four-on-three after Stafford is forced to trip a driving MacArthur with 14:59 to go.

9:04 p.m.: Miller gets a quick look from athletic trainer Tim Macre with 14:48 left after taking a blast from Phaneuf off the collarbone area.

9:06 p.m.: Sabres again kill their penalties.

9:11 p.m.: Vanek goes for hooking wwith 11:47 left. Sabres entered game killing 42 straight Toronto power plays.

9:13 p.m.: Big save by Miller on Boyce from point-blank range with 9:05 left to keep it 4-3.

9:15 p.m.: The usual road game standing ovation for a military member with 8:28 to go. Boyce goes for hooking.

9:21 p.m.: Miller again comes up huge, stopping Joffrey Lupul with 6 minutes left.

9:27 p.m.: Mike Weber goes for goalie interference with 2:55 to go.

9:30 p.m.: The Leafs avoide virtual elimination with a 4-3 victory.

---John Vogl

A chance to KO the Leafs? 'No better feeling'

TORONTO -- The Maple Leafs have skated out of their last two meetings with the Sabres feeling pretty good, with good reason. Buffalo's usual punching bag has counterpunched well in the past two, earning victories for a two-game winning streak.

If the Sabres end their slide against Toronto tonight, they can basically end Toronto's season.

A regulation win would give Buffalo 87 points and a nine-point lead in the Eastern Conference standings over the Leafs, who have just 10 points left to get after tonight.

"We hate losing to these guys," Sabres forward Jason Pominville said. "We just don’t like them. Every time we play them it seems like it brings the best out of both teams.

"We have an opportunity tonight to kind of put them away, and hopefully we can do that because there would be no better feeling than to push them back and not give them that hope."

---John Vogl

Grier a game-time decision against Leafs

TORONTO -- Mike Grier, nursing a sore knee, took part in the Sabres' optional morning practice and is a game-time decision for tonight's game against Toronto in Air Canada Centre.

Grier skipped Monday's practice, a common occurrence lately as he struggles with the ailment, but he hasn't missed a game since March 8. The only healthy player definitely out for the Sabres tonight is defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani, who underwent assistant coach James Patrick's intense post-practice skate.

Coach Lindy Ruff said there is no further update on defenseman Jordan Leopold (hand) or forward Patrick Kaleta, who was scheduled to see a doctor Monday for a checkup on his knee.

The audio of Ruff's chat with the media -- featuring talk about the Maple Leafs, the Sabres' improved play and goaltender Ryan Miller -- is below.

---John Vogl

Miller named NHL's first star of the week

Ryan Miller stopped 83 of 85 shots, went 3-0-0 and posted two shutouts in three games last week, and that was enough for him to be named NHL First Star of the Week today. Corey Perry of Anaheim was No. 2 and Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who had two shutouts and was 2-0-1, was named No. 3.

"It's nice this time of year to have a little stretch where you're recognized like that I guess," Miller said after practice today in HSBC Arena. "It lines up with the way we've been playing as a team, really paying attention to detail and with good emotion in the game. I guess that's exactly what we need this time of year. A goalie a lot of times can be a difference-maker but is really a reflection of the way the team plays."

Miller posted an 0.67 goals-against average and .976 save percentage last week. After struggling early with injuries and the team's poor play, Miller has improved his record to 33-21-8 with a 2.58 GAA and .916 save percentage. His 220 career wins are 14 shy of Dominik Hasek's franchise record, so he should be looking at that sometime early next season.

The Sabres play Tuesday in Toronto and Miller's 24 wins and four shutouts against the Leafs are his most against any opponent. The Rangers are here Wednesday and Lundqvist has been red-hot, stopping 77 of 78 shots in his last three games (0.32 GAA and .987 save %). His team, however, has scored just three goals, posting a pair of 1-0 wins and a 2-1 shootout loss to Ottawa.

As for the injury/roster updates, Lindy Ruff gave the media this rundown:

---Jordan Leopold's trip to see a hand specialist was postponed because he has come down with the flu. So it will be a few more days before that appointment can take place.

---Mike Grier was held off the ice because of his sore knee but Ruff does not expect him to miss any time.

---Nathan Gerbe missed practice today due to a family issue but will rejoin the team tonight in Toronto and will play tomorrow.

---Mark Mancari and Marc-Andre Gragnani are both with the club. Ruff said Gragnani may be kept around as an extra defenseman because he can also play forward. Ruff said Tyler Myers has been dealing with a rash from some flu medication he's been taking but should be able to play tomorrow as well.

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

Gerbe, Grier join Leopold among the missing

The Sabres have just opened practice in HSBC Arena and Marc-Andre Gragnani has joined the team from Portland. Jordan Leopold, as expected, is not on the ice after suffering his hand injury Friday night.

The big news is the absence of red-hot Nathan Gerbe for practice today. No idea what happened to him Saturday although he did take a couple pretty big shots against the Devils. Mike Grier, who limped off a couple times Saturday with what Lindy Ruff said was an aggravated knee, is also not here so we'll have to find out his status after practice as well.

The Sabres have not really decided on defense pairs without Leopold it seems. Tyler Myers is running drills with Chris Butler and Andrej Sekera while Steve Montador is going with both Mike Weber and Shaone Morrisonn.

The forward lines look like this:

Vanek-Connolly-Pominville
Ennis-Hecht-Stafford
Boyes-Gaustad-Niedermeyer
Mancari-McCormick-Gragnani

In addition, Jhonas Enroth remains here splitting time with Patrick Lalime.

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

Sunday morning papers

Sab endThe Sabres are off today and return to the practice ice Monday morning to get ready for another huge week. They play Tuesday at Toronto, host the red-hot New York Rangers on Wednesday, play Saturday night in Washington and then play next Sunday in Carolina. So that quartet of games will pretty much determine their fate. They've got a five-point lead with seven to play. They're 4-0-1 since Lindy Ruff anointed the final dozen as a "best-of-12" and challenged his team to win seven. 

So all they really need to do is hold serve and they'll be in. Here's a look at a wild Saturday in the NHL starting in the good ol' B-Lo:

---The Sabres have completed the long, slow climb from 3-9-2 into the playoff race. And now they're looking up, perhaps as high as sixth in the East, after Saturday's 2-0 win over the stick-a-fork-in-em-Devils.

---One bummer from Saturday's game: The news that Jordan Leopold is done for the regular season, and probably longer, with a broken bone in his hand. He's been a real key for the offense from the backline.

---Bucky Gleason writes about the shared journey Lindy Ruff and Devils coach Jacques Lemaire have experienced this season in bringing teams back from a long way out. Ruff got over the top while Lemaire's team has run out of time.

---The Devils played the first period like they thought their season was indeed over. Guess your $100 million player shouldn't announce publicly he thinks his team is done, like Ilya Kovalchuk did after Friday's loss in Pittsburgh. The Devils are now on a franchise-record scoreless streak since they landed in Jersey in 1982.

---Speaking of scoreless, the Canadiens and their fans have to be in full-blown panic mode after the Habs endured a third straight shutout for the first time since 1949 in Saturday's 2-0 loss to the visiting Capitals. Montreal had a season-low 18 shots on goal in the game and has gone 186:05 without a goal. Carey Price says the boos from the Bell Centre fans are warranted. Ya think?

---Henrik Lundqvist posted his career-high 11th shutout and his defense blocked an incredible 29 shots in the Rangers' 1-0 win at Boston. New York is 8-1-1 in its last 10, knocking aside thoughts that John Tortorella's coaching style was wearing the team down. Wednesday night at HSBC should be terrific hockey.

---The Hurricanes are down to their last gasp and weren't happy about a goaltender interference call against Erik Cole that proved costly in Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Lightning. How much of a relief would it be for the Sabres to have that game in Raleigh next Sunday not mean the difference between in or out?

---The Sabres can almost certainly eliminate the Leafs with a win Tuesday after Toronto fell Saturday in Detroit, 4-2. The Wings got a big scare when goaltender Jimmy Howard suffered an upper-body injury on Toronto's second goal and had to leave the game. But he's listed as day-to-day.

Kopitar ---One player who is not day to day is Kings sniper Anze Kopitar. He suffered a broken ankle (right) in Saturday's 4-1 win over the Avalanche and that puts a major crimp in LA's hopes. The Kings have a six-point lead over ninth-place Dallas, which has eight games left, but how far can they go in the playoffs without their leading goal scorer and without Justin Williams (separated shoulder)?

---Can the defending Cup champion Blackhawks actually miss the playoffs? Sure can. They have just a one-point lead on Calgary and a two-point edge on Dallas with eight games left after a 2-1 home loss to Anaheim that allowed the Ducks to jump one point ahead of Chicago into seventh.

---And finally, in the late-night special that ended after 1 a.m., the Flames posted a 5-4 shootout win in Edmonton -- after trailing, 4-1, entering the third period. Chicago has 88 points, Calgary 87 and Dallas 86. The Flames, however, have only five games left.

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

Photos: The Sabres celebrate Saturday's win (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News) and Anze Kopitar in agony (Associated Press)

Vote for your three stars

Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Devils

Greetings again from HSBC Arena for the second half of the final home back-to-back on the Sabres' schedule. It's the Sabres and the New Jersey Devils. The Sabres split one in November (Los Angeles-Tampa Bay) and have gone 1-0-1 in the other two (beat Atlanta/lost to Detroit in shootout, beat Atlanta/lost to Nashville in overtime). So a win tonight gives them their first home back-to-back sweep of the season.

There should be big roster news from the warmup (confirming the scratches) so we're starting the live blog early. Keep it here.

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

6:30 p.m.: The teams take the ice and it is, as we speculated this morning, Mark Mancari and Jordan Leopold who are out tonight with Steve Montador and Jochen Hecht back in the lineup.

7:05 BULLETIN: Darcy Regier just met with the media in the press box and informed us Jordan Leopold will be seeing a hand specialist Monday. He has a broken hand and will definitely miss the rest of the regular season. His status for potential playoff games is uncertain.

THIRD PERIOD

Of note: Every score out of town is going the Sabres' way. Carolina down, 3-2, to Tampa Bay. Montreal still down, 1-0, to Washington and Toronto down, 2-1, at Detroit. This could be a big, big night in the standings and suddenly make sixth place a realistic possibility for the Sabres.

8:46 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

17:08 left: McCormick for high sticking. Came right after Miller made three point-blank stops on the first shots of the period for either side.

15:36 left: Grier limps off (right leg). Got tackled with Mark Fayne at the right point and might have gotten a skate.

13:29 left: Faceoff. Brodeur made good stops on Hecht and Pominville, with Hecht's shot leaking through but going just wide of the post.

12:43 left: Old friend Henrik Tallinder goes for tripping.

10:40 left: No clincher on the PP like the Sabres got last night. Still have to work through these last 10 minutes.

6:00 left: Gerbe hauled down hard behind the net by Clarkson but no call. Clock keeps ticking. There's 14 minutes left in Carolina and the Lightning still lead, 3-2.

5:39 left: Grier comes back on and gets hit again. Same leg. Limps off.

2:59 left: Miller stops Tallinder from the point. Shots are 9-5 for the Devils and 29-28 for New Jersey in the game.  If he can hold on, Miller would tie his career high with five shutouts on the season.

1:30 left: Clock ticking.

38.7 left: Faceoff on offside. Brodeur out.

10.9 left: Faceoff after icing. Bad call. The Devils made the pass down the ice. It should be over.

0:00: And now it is. A 2-0 win keeps the playoff express on track. Final shots were 30-28 for Devils in Miller's fifth shutout.

SECOND PERIOD

Of note: Tampa Bay and Carolina are 2-2 after one. Washington leads Montreal, 1-0, late in the first while Toronto trails, 1-0, at Detroit.

7:57 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

14:10 left: Kovalchuk fires just wide and the puck bounces off the backboards through the crease. Kovalchuk then limped off (was typing..sorry didn't see what happened---update he blocked Vanek's shoot-in with his leg). There are loads of empty seats. Lots of folks stuck outside in the concourses because there's so few whistles. Listen to the two-minute bell, people!

13:00 left: Shots are 6-3 for New Jersey. Devils quite a bit more interested.

12:00 left: Miller with a neat save on an Elias deflection.

11:32 left: Rick Jeanneret has the T-shirt launcher -- and he just made the ice from the press box with two missiles. Dude is dangerous.

10:40 left: Tough hit on Weber by Palmieri. Weber is gimpy going off.

8:27 left: Clarkson alone in front of Miller. Goes to a couple dekes and backhands it wide. Sabres would do well to return to this one. Shots are 20-18. It was 14-3.

6:56 left: They keep showing this dude in a Cleveland Browns jersey dancing on the HD board. He keeps getting booed loudly. Didn't know there was that much Browns hatred here. Not like he's got a Jets, Patriots or Dolphins tog on.

4:25 left: Brodeur with the nifty glove save on Gerbe from the slot.

3:33 left: Ennis for tripping. First penalty of the night.

1:59 left: Elias for boarding after he smacked Pominville in the corner in the New Jersey zone.

End-2nd: Sabres survive to hold their 2-0 lead. Shots were 10-7 for the Devils and 23-19 for Buffalo through two.

FIRST PERIOD

7:07 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

Sabres starters: Gerbe-Gaustad-Boyes-Butler-Montador. Goal: Miller
Devils starters: Elias-Zubrus-Rolston-Tallinder-Fayne. Goal: Brodeur

16:00 left: Hecht is reunited with Vanek and Pominville. The other lines are Gerbe-Gaustad-Boyes (for Mancari, who has been returned to Portland), Ennis-Connolly-Stafford and Niedermayer-McCormick-Grier.

15:43 left: That little rat Gerbe sneaks around from behind the to Brodeur's left and fires a laser from the faceoff dot just under the bar. Gerbe's 14th. Sabres lead, 1-0.

13:00 left: Wonder if Ilya Kovalchuk thinks the Devils are done tonight?

10:00 left: Maybe the Devils are. Shots are 9-2 for Buffalo.

8:00 left: This baby is flying with no whistles basically. We've played 12 minutes in 15 minutes of real time.

4:38 left: We finally have a whistle. Shots are 11-3. Devils look pretty disinterested. Wow. Just lost 10 minutes, 14 seconds with no whistles! This is the first TV timeout. Crazy. Looks like Hecht is now between Stafford and Ennis.

3:43 left: Vanek pops home a Pominville rebound from the edge of the crease after Connolly wins a faceoff.  Sabres lead, 2-0. Shots are 14-3. Devils playing exactly like Kovalchuk said. They're done. Vanek's first goal since March 13.

2:00 left: Miller takes  a slapper right off the mask from Brian Rolston. He's a little stunned. Takes the mask off at the whistle.

:32 left: Miller's best save on Nick Palmieri from in tight.

End-1st: Sabres hold their 2-0 lead but Devils came on in the last three minutes. Shots were 16-9.

 

Lemaire seems OK with Kovalchuk's comment

I think $100 million man Ilya Kovalchuk made a big mistake last night in Pittsburgh when he said "I think we're done" when asked about the Devils' playoff chances. Now, Kovalchuk is certainly right. The Devils' 1-3-1 slide has basically ended their hopes, leaving them 10 points behind the Sabres with eight to play. It was a great run as they cut a 27-point deficit to six.

Still, I'm not of the ilk that any player -- let alone the big-money star -- should run up the white flag. Speaking to Devils' beat reporters prior to tonight's game, New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire clearly understood both sides to the argument but said he sympathized with Kovalchuk too

"You've got to be realistic," Lemaire said. "If Buffalo would lose their goalie the rest of the season and they would lose (Tyler) Myers, (Jason) Pominville and (Derek) Roy. If they were all at the hospital, maybe you would have a chance. I won't say we're done, but I will say it will be tough. It gets tougher and tougher."

---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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