Greetings from high atop and above Section 319 of HSBC Arena for tonight's Sabres-Thrashers game. Look for a big roar when Dominik Hasek is introduced prior to this one to drop a ceremonial first puck. No. 39 is back in town for a big Hasek's Heroes weekend and meet the media about a half-hour ago. Be sure to go my earlier post to hear the audio of Dom's session.
Since we're on the topic of Hasek, let's talk about Ryan Miller for a bit. The Sabres need more from No. 30 if they want to push into the playoffs. Miller's is just 3-3-1 in March with a 2.71 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. Pedestrian at best but about what he's done every month this season outside of a strong November (2.29, .929). Miller really needs to step it up at home -- where he's just 2-4-2 in his last eight decisions but has posted a 2.37 GAA and .927 save mark in that stretch.
Miller is 29-21-7 on the season -- or 29-28 to you and me. Last year, he was 41-18-8 -- or 41-26. Big difference. Let's see if Miller can make the difference in Lindy Ruff's so-called best-of-12 series heading to the finish line.
Sabres starters: Vanek-Connolly-Pominville-Sekera-Myers. Goal: Miller
Thrashers starters: Ladd-Little-Wheeler-Bogosian-Enstrom. Goal: Pavelec
7:10 p.m.: Hasek gets a roaring standing ovation as he's introduced and drops the puck between Thomas Vanek and Andrew Ladd. Players on both sides tapping their sticks and Lindy Ruff and the Buffalo staff applauding heartily.He exits behind the penalty box through the stands, high-fiving folks on both sides of the aisle. Just trot him out for a couple minutes and people love it. That's how you do things in the 40th anniversary season. Should have been like this all the time all season. Thanks for nothing, Tom and Larry. Great moment.
No idea how much time left (turns out to be 16:33): Boyes takes a rebound off the boards and taps it home. That will be Mancari's third point of the night, a first for him at the NHL level. Sabres lead, 6-2.
14:22 left: Boyes stopped on the doorstep. Barring a miracle, the Sabres will be 3-0-1 this year against the Thrashers. Bad performance by Le Thrash when they needed it. Buffalo will have a two-point lead over Carolina with a game in hand to be played here tomorrow against Nashville.
10:44 left: Still 6-2. Internet struggling. Doing print stuff. Shots 6-6 in this period.
3:25 left: Tyler Ennis just got into a bear hug with Evander Kane. He probably had second thoughts. Good idea. Officials break 'em up.
3:08 left: Niedermayer breaks in and backhands one home. First two-goal game as a Sabre. Doubles his season total to four. Sabres lead, 7-2.
No idea how much time left: 2:40 left: The Thrashers have totally quit. See ya next season. Connolly pounds one in. Sabres lead, 8-2.
It's over: An 8-2 win. Shots were 30-28 for Atlanta. Miller gets his 30th win of the season. See you tomorrow night for the Predators.
Of note: Great stuff from Sabres info guru Kevin Snow: Ryan Miller is now 12-1 all-time on penalty shots. Among active goalies who have faced 10 or more, only Marty Turco is better (13-14). Opponents are now 18 of 54 on penalty shots all-time against the Sabres. ... Mancari's goal was his first since March 10, 2010 vs. Dallas. Butler's was his first since Jan. 18, 2010 at Phoenix.
8:07 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
15:16 left: We're having a terrible Internet night up here. Got on just in time to tell you that Alexander Burmistrov just burned Miller over his right shoulder with another terrible, bad-angle goal. Sabres lead, 3-2.
13:00 left: I neglected to mention Chris Mason is in net for Atlanta. That's OK. Everyone here did too. He wasn't announced until three minutes into the period.
11:00 left: They just changed the third Buffalo goal to Niedermayer on the deflection. The right call. That's his third of the season and first at home. Butler goes back to zero. Of course, they still have the wrong time on the PA, but who's quibbling.
8:49 left: Gerbe and Mancari bang away at a loose puck in the crease and Gerbe is finally the one to lift it past Mason for his 10th of the year. He's been feisty all night. Sabres lead, 4-2. Mancari with an assist for his second point.
6:59 left: Ennis roofs a breakaway over Mason's shoulder. Fabulous shot. Would have been a penalty shot had he not because Bogosian threw a stick at him. Ennis' 18th. Sabres lead, 5-2. Sabres had just one shot in the first 11 minutes of this period. They have six in the last three minutes and two goals.
6:00 left: Vanek foiled on a breakaway. Hits the post, hits Mason in the back, hits the crossbar. Too bad Vanek wasn't trying to play a game of H-O-R-S-E. No one could do that if they tried.
End-2nd: Mancari went for hooking with 14 seconds left. Sabres hold their 5-2 lead. Shots are 12-8 for Atlanta and 21-19 for the Thrashers through two.
7:11 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
19:36 left: Hasek effect. Myers to Connolly behind the net to Pominville in front. Bang, No. 29 puts it home. Sabres lead, 1-0.
18:50 left: Heard sirens and horns. Didn't hear this new goal song we heard all about heading into Tuesday's shutout. Maybe they didn't have it cued up at the start?
15:50 left: Boyes gets in alone and is stopped on the backhand.
13:44 left: The Hasek ceremony was terrific and long overdue. How good is April 8 going to be with the Sabres inviting any alum who wants to come? I want to see Randy Wyrozub again.
12:58 left: Evander Kane hooked from behind by Leopold. Penalty shot. Loses the puck. No real shot.
11:54 left: Miller beaten off the faceoff on a terrible angle by Chris Thorburn. Review. is it in? It's in. Miller can't let that one in off a faceoff. What did I write at the start of this blog? Uh-huh. Not the way to make The Dominator proud. Game tied, 1-1.
11:07 left: Myers hard to the net to create a rush and Anthony Stewart goes for holding.
10:08 left: Ladd gets four minutes for high sticking Ennis off a faceoff. So a two-man advantage for 1:01.
8:04 left: Crazy power play ends on Mancari tipping home his first on a Myers shot from the point. Came shortly after Myers lost the puck at the blueline and gave Radek Dvorak a clean breakaway. Sabres had three other great chances and Connolly also hit a post clean. Sabres lead, 2-1.
6:25 left: Vanek stopped on a breakaway and he was slashed away at and no call. Vanek and Ruff unhappy, especially in the wake of the weak penalty shot call earlier.
5:00 left: You have to love the Sabres suggestion box. Terrific for the fans to have their voice heard. Here would be one of my suggestions to Ted Black: The game presentation staff started this one a few games ago and it's driving the media CRAZY -- Whenever the Sabres score a goal, every game clock in the building is wiped out for a few seconds after the goal, both on the main board and the end ribbon boards for this crazy blue-and-gold Sabres logo display. That can't happen. Stat people have no time, radio and TV announcers have no time and your intrepid blogger has no time. It's amateurish. I'm already getting ready to yell at the Bisons for taking down the score between innings because I know that's coming in April on their new board.
Repeating: THE TIME AND SCORE SHOULD ALWAYS BE SOMEWHERE IN THE BUILDING AT ALL TIMES. Thank you. Returning to our regular programming.
NO IDEA HOW MUCH TIME IS LEFT: (OK, it's 4:51): Sabres win the draw and Butler flips it from the left point. Either Niedermayer or Grier tipped it. Sabres lead, 3-1. Update: It's Butler's goal for now.
2:20 left: They announced the time of the Butler goal as 15:10. It was 15:09. That's because the stat crew can't see the time, game staff.
1:48 left: Bogosian for tripping. Another power play coming.
26.0 left: Nothing much happens. Vanek gone for hooking.
End-1st: Sabres hold their 3-1 lead. Shots are 11-9 for Buffalo.