John Vogl, Mike Harrington and Bob DiCesare recap the Sabres' tribute to former player Rick Martin.
March 24, 2011 - 5:10 PM
John Vogl, Mike Harrington and Bob DiCesare recap the Sabres' tribute to former player Rick Martin.
March 24, 2011 - 4:36 PM
As I left HSBC Arena today following the Rick Martin memorial, as I transcribed the quotes from it and as I prepared to write the story, one thought continually popped into my head:
That was a first-class tribute and event.
The Buffalo Sabres' organization did everything right. Every detail seemed to be taken care of, every touch from the flowers to the stage to the seating to the speakers to the videos -- you name it -- was right on. It was impressive.
I write this with much respect -- and a bit of shock. I've reported on this organization for nine years, and for the past four I've been around the team at home and on the road almost daily. Let me say without hesitation, the organization has done plenty of things wrong. Who hasn't? you might ask. That's true, but there have been so many behind-the-scenes, daily-grind screw-ups and head-scratching policies that it's almost inconceivable.
Yet today, it was perfect. Terry Pegula and Co. promised to do things first class when they took over last month, and it appears they are intent on delivering.
The organization can rest assured that it is being noticed.
"It’s fantastic," said Rene Robert, who also has had plenty of complaints about the way the franchise has done things in the past. "Not to take anything from the previous owners, but this Mr. Pegula, as you’re going to find out over the upcoming years, how genuine this person is, and so is his wife. For me to say this, I have to be sincere because as you know I’ve been burned many times before. To come back in the loop under this ownership, I am looking so forward to bringing the Stanley Cup to Buffalo."
March 24, 2011 - 1:59 PM
Family, friends and former teammates of Rick Martin remembered and honored him during a public memorial service today in HSBC Arena.
Watch clips of the various speakers below, and keep checking back as more videos will be uploaded throughout the day.
Ian McPherson, friend and golfing buddy
John Vogl, Mike Harrington and Bob DiCesare recap the event
Jumbotron segment with players, coaches, coworkers and friends
Brother Robert Martin
Son Corey Martin
March 24, 2011 - 1:22 PM
Corey Martin, the son of Sabres legend Rick Martin, knew his dad was a public figure. It was obvious whenever they'd be out and people would stop by to say hello or reminisce.
Corey got a good look at much Buffalo really appreciated his father when he died suddenly March 13. Many of the folks who sent their condolences gave Corey a standing ovation today following his speech in HSBC Arena during the Sabres' tribute to their former player.
The approximately 2,500 people who attended the memorial rose to their feet following Corey's glowing tribute to Martin.
"He went out doing what he loved," said Corey Martin, who recalled the high spirits his father was in just hours before his heart gave out. Rick Martin was pleased to talk about new owner Terry Pegula and was riding with his dog to visit friends when he died.
"There was that renewed sense of optimism from my father," Corey Martin said. "You could see that little gleam in his eye."
Corey Martin was one of eight speakers, in addition to program host Ed Kilgore, who paid tribute to the left winger on the French Connection. Below is the audio of the 70-minute memorial.
March 23, 2011 - 9:00 PM
Before the memorial services Thursday, join a live chat here at 10 a.m. to leave your remembrances of high-scoring Sabres winger and Hall of Famer Rick Martin.
March 22, 2011 - 10:59 PM
MONTREAL -- The Sabres dropped the Montreal Canadiens, 2-0, in Bell Centre. Nathan Gerbe scored both goals, while Ryan Miller made 31 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and first since Jan. 6.
Miller: "I was able to see some pucks, and we’re blocking them and stepping into lanes to force them outside a lot. As for defensive efforts, that was one of our strongest."
Paul Gaustad: "Both goalies played great. Ours played a little bit better."
Lindy Ruff: "There was a lot of anger and frustration in us giving up a point the other night, and this was a real good answer for it."
Gerbe: "We’re trying to play smarter. We need to learn to win games 1-0. That’s what’s going to help toward the end here. We knew we needed to be smart."
March 22, 2011 - 7:35 PM
MONTREAL -- Greetings from the best place in the world to see a hockey game. There are a few Sabres staffers in town and in Bell Centre for the first time, and I told them there is no other place like it. Sorry, Ted Black, but this is Hockey Heaven. Of course, it helps that they invented the game. The only bad part is they don't let you forget it.
Anyway, the goaltending matchup is Ryan Miller versus Carey Price. A huge roar from the 21,273 fans just went up when Price was shown on the scoreboard.
There aren't too many places in the United States I haven't been, but I made my inaugural appearance in Vermont on Monday. Flights to Montreal are ridiculously priced, so I flew to Burlington and drove the 100 minutes to Montreal. It was pretty easy, though it wouldn't be in December or January.
Burlington is exactly as I pictured it: quaint. Hills topped with church steeples, trees galore, old-New England feel, covered bridges across flowing rivers. Postcard stuff.
Anyway, it's almost game time.
7:40 p.m.: The Sabres start the game with Tim Connolly between Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville, with Chris Butler and Jordan Leopold on defense.
7:42 p.m.: Andrej Sekera and Tyler Myers are still a defense pairing.
7:46 p.m.: Montreal gets the first power play, with Brad Boyes going for tripping with 14:50 left.
7:49 p.m.: Miller stops six shots during the penalty kill to keep it scoreless at the first commercial break. Montreal has an 8-2 shot edge with 12:39 to go. These fans like P.K. Subban almost as much as I like Dunn's smoked meat and Sortilege maple whiskey. Had a little (OK, a lot) of both Monday night.
7:52 p.m.: Buffalo gets its first chance on the power play with Hal Gill tripping Tim Connolly with 12:10 to go.
7:55 p.m.: The Habs kill the penalty.
7:59 p.m.: Subban interferes with Pominville with 8:07 to play.
8:02 p.m.: Miller makes a solid glove grab on Michael Cammalleri with 5:29 left to send the teams to the last commercial scoreless.
8:09 p.m.: Scott Gomez's pass to Brian Gionta at the top of the crease gets fired over the net to keep it scoreless with 3:58 to go.
8:13 p.m.: And the teams head to intermission knotted at 0-0. Montreal has a 12-8 shot edge.
8:31 p.m.: Game on.
8:33 p.m.: The Sabres get the man-advantage again with Patrick Kaleta's buddy Paul Mara cross-checking Paul Gaustad with 17:51 left.
8:35 p.m.: The power play last just 1:04 as Vanek gets whistled for goalie interference with 16:47 to go.
8:39 p.m.: Sabres back up a man with 14 minutes to go when Alexandre Picard trips Nathan Gerbe, just seconds before Price stones Jordan Leopold from close range.
8:41 p.m.: Still scoreless at the first commercial break with 11:56 to go. Montreal has a 15-13 shot edge.
8:45 p.m.: Gerbe opens the scoring with 11:04 left, skating through the slot and tipping Myers' slap pass from the point.
8:48 p.m.: It's still 1-0 with second commercial break hitting with 8:31 left.
8:54 p.m.: More chants of "Carey, Carey" go up as Price gets a pad on Tyler Ennis' shot with 5:11 to go. Still 1-0 lead for Buffalo.
9:04 p.m.: Habs supply intense pressure in final minute, but Sabres skate to dressing room with 1-0 lead intact. Montreal has a 22-19 shot edge.
9:21 p.m.: The Sabres are 19-2-3 when leading after two periods, while the Habs are 1-23-2 when trailing after two.
9:27 p.m.: The fast-paced hockey is finally interrupted by a commercial with 14:28 to go and the Sabres still up 1-0.
9:29 p.m.: The Sabres need to win to keep pace with the seventh-place Rangers, who beat Florida, 1-0. Carolina holds a 4-3 lead over Ottawa with three minutes left.
9:32 p.m.: The Sabres head to the power play after James Wisniewski gets called for hooking with 12:07 to go.
9:46 p.m.: Sabres hold a 1-0 lead with 2:54 to go at final commercial.
9:54 p.m.: Gerbe scoress into an empty net with 21.3 seconds left to give the Sabres a 2-0 victory.
March 22, 2011 - 12:23 PM
MONTREAL -- The Sabres are done lamenting their poor finish in the last game. They're focusing on a better start to the next.
The Sabres visit the Montreal Canadiens tonight, two days after blowing a 3-1 lead in the final 2:30 of regulation and losing to Nashville in overtime. In the Sabres' last visit to Montreal, they were down, 2-0, in the game and 2-0 in the shootout before becoming the first team in NHL history to overcome those dual deficits in the same game.
"We got off to a tough start here last time, but we played a good 40 minutes after that and ended up winning it in a shootout," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after the optional morning skate in Bell Centre. "You're looking at two teams that are similar, good speed, good transition, good goaltending. I expect this to be a real tight game. I don't expect either team to run away with the play, but I think both teams could have pockets of good play that you're going to have to take advantage of."
The Habs are coming off an 8-1 trouncing of Minnesota on Sunday that helped defenseman P.K. Subban get named the NHL's Third Star of the Week. He had a hat trick and an assist in the game.
Ruff, meanwhile, agrees with the league's decision to suspend Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke for the final 10 games of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for a head shot on the Rangers' Ryan McDonagh.
"The league nailed that one," Ruff said. "A repeat offender, lots of incidents the same, and we need them out of the game. We need those plays out of the game.
"He can miss 17 games, that's a pretty good message. I think any guy that has a head shot in his history now, a deliberate attempt, the message is pretty clear. I think that's a good message to have."
-- John Vogl
March 21, 2011 - 5:43 PM
This has been a wildly interesting afternoon full of news in the NHL. Let's go around the league:
---The big one came down in the 5 o'clock hour: Matt Cooke of the Penguins is suspended for the remaining 10 games of the regular season AND the first round of the playoffs. Will cost him more than $219,000. About time a message was sent by this league. Is it still a garage league, Mario?
5:50 p.m. update: Guess the Penguins are totally on board. Kudos to them. Read GM Ray Shero's statement, a scathing rebuke of his own player. Very, very refreshing to see.
And look at this scathing tweet on Cooke by Edmonton defenseman Ryan Whitney.
---The Penguins, meanwhile, play tonight in Detroit with the Red Wings down to 10 forwards and can't call up anyone else due to salary cap consideration. Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Jiri Hudler are all out.
---Alexander Ovechkin is nursing a groin injury and will not play in tomorrow's Capitals-Flyers showdown. He could be out 7-10 days. Hmmm. Bet this has been lingering longer than the Caps admit and is a big reason for the Great Eight's lackluster season.
---The Canucks suffered a huge blow with the news Manny Malhotra's eye injury is very serious and he will be gone the rest of the season and playoffs. A very terse release, which doesn't portend good news longterm either.
---The Blackhawks are holding their breath over what could be a serious knee injury to Patrick Sharp.
---The Senators announced a four-year, $12.75 million extension for goaltender Craig Anderson, who has been a huge upgrade over Brian Elliott since Ottawa swapped goalies with Colorado.
---The Thrashers are still stinging from Saturday's rout in HSBC Arena and coach Craig Ramsay had some serious words for his players in face-to-face meetings and again in this Atlanta Journal-Constitution interview.
March 21, 2011 - 1:39 PM
The Sabres met, talked, watched video and then skated for 30 minutes today in HSBC Arena before heading for Montreal and Tuesday night's matchup with the Canadiens. The big message was to forget Sunday's collapse against Nashville -- but also to learn from it as well.
"It was a bad situation," said goaltender Ryan Miller. "You completely own up to that, get a point and move forward. If we start hanging our heads and beating ourselves up, it's going to spin into something else and that doesn't need to happen. It's a long season. We're down to the crunch time of it and everything is magnified."
"They realized to put all that work in and to give it away to make the mistakes we made was unacceptable," added coach Lindy Ruff. "They know that. Mistakes are part of the game. We take a lot of pride in being a smarter team. We made a couple mistakes we don't want to make again."
Miller bolted off the ice after Martin Erat's overtime goal went into the net (think Dominik Hasek-Darius Kasparaitis circa 2001), and was quickly out of the locker room after reporters were let in.
"I did not like the way that played out," Miller said today. "I thought a 3-1 lead with under three minutes left and to lose? Unacceptable. On every front. Top down. So I got out of there quick and didn't talk because I had nothing good to say. Maybe you guys wanted to hear something from me but it wasn't going to be good or productive. It wasn't going to be positive."
On the injury front, Steve Montador (lower body) skated some but left early because his lower-body injury was still troublesome so he's almost certainly going to be out again tomorrow. Patrick Lalime (knee) was also on the ice before the main practice began. Ruff said Jochen Hecht (upper body) is improving and could return this weekend.
Here's audio from Ruff and Miller after today's practice.
March 21, 2011 - 12:21 PM
Rick Martin's retired No. 7 banner was lowered from the roof of HSBC Arena during Sabres practice today and hung from the bottom of the HD board after the team left the ice in preparation for Thursday's memorial service.
The Sabres have announced the following details for the event:
---It will begin at 11 a.m. and be streamed at Sabres.com.
---Doors will open at 10. The service is expected to last until approximately noon.
---Seating will be general admission on the press box side of the building and a stage will be positioned in front of the player benches.
---There will be free parking in the Sabres' surface lots on Perry Street.
March 20, 2011 - 9:22 PM
The Sabres coughed up a chance at a wonderful weekend by coughing up a two-goal lead in the final 2:30 Sunday. Tim Connolly and Lindy Ruff reflect on the 4-3 overtime loss to Nashville.
March 20, 2011 - 4:57 PM
If it seems like we all just left this space, it's because we did! Greetings just 19 hours later from HSBC Arena as the Sabres get back at it against the Nashville Predators, a team they haven't played since a 1-0 win in Bridgestone Arena on Oct. 10, 2009 -- and haven't met here since that dreary we-want-refunds 2-0 loss on Dec. 1, 2008. This is just Nashville's seventh trip to HSBC and the Preds are 4-1-1 in the first six.
And it's as huge a game for Nashville as it is for the Sabres. As we start play today, the Preds are one point in the playoffs, holding on to eighth place in the incredibly crowded Western Conference.
Quick roster notes from the warmup: Shaone Morrisonn back in on defense for Buffalo and Steve Montador is out. I don't think this is a healthy scratch. Lindy Ruff said after last night's 8-2 win over Atlanta that Montador missed time during the contest because of a lower body problem -- and then caught his finger in the bench door too. Ouch.
Ryan Miller will go back to back for the Sabres, as Lindy Ruff pretty much hinted he would Friday. This is his 60th game of the season and he's 30-21-7, 2.66, .914.
The Preds beat Detroit, 3-1, at home last night and got here in the 2 a.m. range. So they're sitting Vezina Trophy candidate Pekka Rinne (27-20-8, 2.09, .930) and going with backup Anders Lindback (10-5-2, 2.58, .914). Nashville, it should be noted is currently leading the Jennings Trophy race for fewest goals allowed in the league.
Out of town, Carolina is idle, so the Sabres can pull four points ahead of the Canes with a win and both teams would have 10 games left. Meanwhile, the Devils are in last-gasp mode, playing at Columbus in a 5 p.m. game. Two huge ones out West that Nashville will be watching: Chicago at Phoenix at 7 and Calgary at Anaheim at 8. The Hawks and Preds are tied with 84 points while the Ducks and Flames are one back at 83.
Keep it here for all your updates.
5 p.m.: Sabres officially scratch Montador, Kaleta, Hecht, Lalime.
Sabres starters: Vanek-Connolly-Pominville-Sekera-Myers. Goal: Miller
Predators starters: Spaling-Smithson-Tootoo-Blum-Klein (who ARE these guys?). Goal: Lindback
I like how we're no longer announcing the opponent as "the NHL's" Nashville Predators. That was so sophomoric. What the heck league did we think they were from. Good move. Another plus I failed to give credit for last night: NCAA Tournament scores on the out of town boards. Good move II.
Of note: Sabres 8-7 in overtime deciders. Preds are just 1-6. No excuse for this game to still be going. This baby was over. And what is Vanek thinking now with all the chances he's missed in this one?
4:33 left: Ridiculous. Miller bursts right off as the Preds win it on the first shot by Erat. Preds win 4-3.
6:53 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
16:20 left: Right now, it seems like Vanek is never scoring again. He just flubbed a great Butler feed. But all that aside, Vanek has been dominant with the puck and made a great steal in the Buffalo zone on his previous shift.
15:06 left: Suter for cross checking as Gerbe explodes into the Preds' zone on a 1-on-2.
14:39 left: Pominville. Post. No population addition.
11:51 left: Lindback stop a Mancari slapper for a faceoff. That's Buffalo's 30th shot of the night. Sabres entered the game third in the league and tied for tops in the East in shots on goal, averaging 33.1 per game.
9:09 left: Clock keeps ticking. Good period with the lead. Shots are just 4-4. Miller stops Tootoo from in tight to keep the two-goal lead intact.
7:21 left: Vanek stopped again in tight on Pominville feed.
6:00 left: Mancari has a wicked slapper. Unleashed one here that Lindback gloved.
3:00 left: A huge two points very close now.
2:27 left: Uh-oh. Terrible play by Sekera losing the puck right next to the net and Geoffion pokes it by a surprised Miller to make things nervous again. Sabres lead, 3-2.
1:28 left: Faceoff in Buffalo zone.
1:23 left: You gotta be kidding me. Lose the faceoff and Geoffrion tips Franson's shot past Miller for the hat trick. Game tied, 3-3.
1:02 left: Pominville slapper stopped.
24.3 left: Miller stops Kostitsyn from the slot.
8.0: Miller stops Kostitsyn again to save a point.
On to OT: Big boos. It's 3-3. Shots were 10-9 for Buffalo and 38-25 through regulation.
5:59 p.m. The puck is dropped. Preds are 24-4-7 when scoring first and 19-4-6 when leading after one.
19:15 left: Terrible opening shift by the Sabres. Myers with a blatant giveaway and Miller stops Martin Erat in alone.
15:45 left: Vanek robbed again on two chances from in front, including a flip to the edge of the crease that he couldn't lift enough.
14:12 left: Sabres a mess in their own end this period. Morrisonn and Weber not much of a pair on this shift. Miller comes through again. shots are 5-2 for Nashville.
12:56 left: Sensational work down low by Gaustad and Gerbe and Gerbe finally pounds it in. His 11th. The little guy has been great lately. Game tied, 1-1. And much thanks to the game presentation staff for not keeping the score off for eons. Seems like today is a quick flip-off, flip-on.
12:14 left: Bang. A 2-on-1 with Vanek making the steal at the line and Connolly going in to beat Lindback with a quick snapper. Sabres lead, 2-1. Basketball timeout, Nashville. Vanek didn't score there but he sure made the play at the line. Connolly's 11th also.
9:40 left: The Gaustad line dominates another shift wtih Gerbe nearly connecting again on a diving one-handed poke of a Gaustad pass. Gaustad and Gerbe are driving the Preds crazy down low.
9:10 left: This game has been terribly officiated, with penalties on both sides not called as guys are getting tripped and hauled down all over the place. And there was a brutal missed icing call in the first period too. We finally have our first penalty, too many men on the ice on the Preds.
2:38 left: Cody Franson for slashing. Got egged on by Gerbe and couldn't resist.
1:00 left: The Sabres convert as Ennis takes a nice drop pass from Stafford and uses Boyes as a decoy before ripping home a quick snapper off Lindback. Ennis' 19th. Sabres lead, 3-1. Assist to Miller too.
22.2 left: Puck gets behind Miller but doesn't go in as he pulls it just in front of line. Fortunate bounce.
End-2nd: Sabres lead, 3-1. Shots are 17-10 for Buffalo. Huge period.
5:08 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
17:00 left: No whistles for three minutes. A fabulous first shift by Vanek-Connolly-Pominville almost ended up with a goal in the first 30 seconds again. Connolly's shot was dropped by a shaky Lindback and Vanek just missed on a great Connolly feed, fanning on his shot from the right of the crease.
15:40 left: Ennis flying and unleashes a wicked snap shot from his off side that beats Lindback but cranks off the left post.
13:16 left: Blake Geoffrion's pass to old friend J.P. Dumont in the crease goes in off a sliding Gaustad. Predators lead, 1-0. And it's tough to fall behind this team the way it plays defense.
12:19 left: Geoffrion, by the way, is the grandson of late Montreal great Bernie Boom Boom Geoffrion. He's the Predators' first Tennessee-raised player and has four goals in 11 games since being called up from Milwaukee.
11:50 left: Connolly stopped again. Sabres have a 5-2 edge in shots. Three were great chances plus the Ennis post doesn't count. But Preds lead.
7:10 left: Vanek will score in this game if this keeps up. Just put one behind Lindback but out the other side. Sabres converted those last night.
4:46 left: McCormick stopped on a 2-on-1 with Mancari after Gerbe created space at the Buffalo line. Lindback has been good and lucky so far. Shots are 6-5 for Bufffalo.
3:17 left: Tootoo cranks a one-timer off the left post past a beaten Miller. Quite a loud ping we heard all the way up here.
2:02 left: Really like how Myers keeps pushing the envelope joining the rush. It's created a lot of pressure and Lindback has had to make a couple good stops. A huge change in Myers' game the second half of the season.
End 1st: Preds lead 1-0. Shots are 11-6 for Buffalo. No penalties, although Vanek got taken down twice on his last shift. No call in either case.
March 20, 2011 - 3:50 PM
No help for the Sabres in Pittsburgh today as the Penguins gave up four third-period goals and lost to the Rangers, 5-2. So New York has 82 points, four ahead of the Sabres as Buffalo has two games in hand heading into the 5 p.m. faceoff against Nashville.
The big story coming from Consol Energy Center, however, concerns Penguins agitator Matt Cooke, who took an incredibly foolish major for elbowing early in the third period with his team in a 2-1 lead that turned around the game. What is hypocritical Pens owner Mario Lemieux going to say about this one? He said teams should be held responsible for their players' actions after the schmaltz last month on Long Island and as part of last week's GM meetings proposed a system of team fines.
Based on Cooke's latest indiscretion, I think Lemieux should either start writing checks or do the right thing and release one of the league's dirtiest players if he wants to make a statement on head shots. Lemieux should also shut his mouth about any other team in the league as long as he employs Mr. Cooke.
Here's the video of the play and then vote in our poll for what penalty Cooke will get.
March 20, 2011 - 9:52 AM
Happy St. Patty's Parade Day, which should have exclusive events rights to this Sunday every March. As it is, the Sabres will also be in the spotlight with a 5 p.m. game against Nashville. It'll be interesting to see how much crossover there is between the two events. I, um, might kind of sort of know one writer, er, person, who is attending both.
Anyway, with an afternoon game, there is no morning skate. Here instead are your Sunday morning papers, starting right here in the goal-filled B-lo:
*The Sabres, shut out in their previous game, rebounded early and often against Atlanta. They trounced the Thrashers, 8-2, allowing fans to shout "We want nine!" as their team solidified its playoff standing.
"That was probably the most energy I've felt in this building for a long time," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Saturday. "When there's a game that has that many scoring chances, you score that many goals, that's great entertainment -- especially when you win."
The eighth-place Sabres moved two points ahead of Carolina with one fewer game played. They can move into a seventh-place tie with the New York Rangers today by beating Nashville at 5 p.m. in the arena.
*Bucky Gleason writes the Sabres sure looked motivated in an 8-2 victory over the Thrashers, one of the teams chasing Buffalo in the Eastern Conference. Today marks the first day of spring, and games are tumbling off the NHL schedule. It has been a long and trying season, but the Sabres managed to wedge themselves into a heated playoff race.
The pressure has been mounting.
Buffalo couldn't have asked for a better response than the one it had Saturday. The Sabres did what Dominik Hasek did. They dominated. They won more races, had much better goaltending, battled harder around the net, were more desperate and more opportunistic than Les Thrash.
*Mark Mancari is a scoring machine in the American Hockey League. He's been mostly a non-factor in the NHL. Same story this year. A career-high 32 goals and 64 points in Portland. No goals and one point in his first nine games with the Sabres.
That changed Saturday as Mancari finally had a breakout game in the Sabres' 8-2 romp past the Atlanta Thrashers.
"Until you get that goal, you're gripping your stick and thinking, 'When is it going to come? When is it going to come?'" Mancari said. "It finally did and after that other bounces came."
*The Sabres are alone in eighth place and if they win in regulation or overtime they will gain the tiebreaker edge over the Rangers.
*Here is the Thrashers' version of their flop, courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I have to watch exactly what I say here because a game of that magnitude to come out and play the way we did is completely unacceptable in my mind,” said goaltender Chris Mason, who relieved starter Ondrej Pavelec to start the second period. “I really can’t believe it. It’s disheartening to have a game like that and not be willing to pay the price and do the things you need to do to win, understand the magnitude of this game and the playoff implications. That was a terrible game.”
*The Nashville Predators, meanwhile, continued their recent surge on Saturday night -- and now they're back in a playoff spot. Jonathon Blum scored a go-ahead power-play goal at 8:12 of the third period, and the Predators beat the visiting Detroit Red Wings, 3-1, for their fourth victory in five games.
*As they did a year ago, the Philadelphia Flyers clinched a playoff berth by winning a shootout -- but this time, they did it with plenty of time to spare.
Ville Leino scored in the sixth round of the shootout Saturday night to give the Flyers a 3-2 victory at Dallas and assure them of their 35th trip to the playoffs since entering the NHL in 1967. They clinched with three weeks left in the season -- a big change from last year, when Philadelphia beat the New York Rangers, 2-1, in a shootout on the final day of the season to earn the last playoff berth.
*Mark Parrish's backhanded rebound eluded Braden Holtby with 2:51 gone in the extra session, lifting Portland (42-18-5-2, 91 points) to a come-from-behind 4-3 win that popped the Pirates into the American Hockey League's Atlantic Division lead.
*USA Hockey failed to repeat in the world junior championships in Buffalo this year, but the U.S. is giving its last victorious coach another chance. Dean Blais said leading the U.S. National Junior Team to a gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was the greatest achievement of his illustrious coaching career. He'll have an opportunity to equal that feat at the 2012 WJC in Alberta, Canada.
*The Sabres have taken part in two Kraft Hockeyville events, including a September visit to Dundas, Ont., and the five finalists for this year's host city have been announced.
March 19, 2011 - 7:01 PM
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.
March 19, 2011 - 6:50 PM
Dominik Hasek just completed a session with the media prior to appearing on the Sabres' new MSG pregame show and dropping the puck for a ceremonial faceoff.
Hasek, now 46, said he was happy with his season for Moscow Spartak in the KHL and said he will in fact try to play one more year in Russia. There was no real earth-shattering news from the interview, other than the media hearing that rapid-fire, often-imitated voice.
Hasek was in good spirits talking about driving again on the 33 yesterday, his first meeting with Terry Pegula earlier tonight, about Ryan Miller, and about getting named the No. 1 Sabre of all-time in our poll of the franchise's all-time players in October. Hear the audio of the session below.
March 19, 2011 - 6:38 PM
Greetings from HSBC Arena, where the Sabres are in the midst of their pregame skate. Well, all the healthy Sabres except for Shaone Morrisonn. that is.
Morrisonn will be the defenseman scratched tonight for the game against Atlanta, his second benching in six games. Morrisonn has one goal, five points and an even rating in 55 games this season.
Coach Lindy Ruff said he'd like to keep all seven blue-liners fresh, and the scratch rotation saw Chris Butler benched last game and Steve Montador on the sidelines the game before that.
The goaltending matchup, as expected, is Ryan Miller versus Ondrej Pavelec.
March 19, 2011 - 12:34 PM
The Sabres have gotten a lot of help to get back into the playoff race. And they've done plenty of work on their own, going 19-10-4 since the new year. They enter tonight tied for eighth place with Carolina with two games in hand. They will play both of those games (tonight against Atlanta, Sunday against Nashville) before the Hurricanes get back on the ice again Tuesday.
They do, however, need to win these head-to-heads. The Sabres didn't put away Toronto last week when they had a chance, nor did they put away the Hurricanes Tuesday night. Now come the Thrashers for a last-stand game. Atlanta is four points back having played one more game, and is on a 4-1-1 run that includes two wins over Philadelphia. That's a pretty big answer to a 2-9-2 slide.
"There's nobody that's going to go away and we don't need teams to go away," coach Lindy Ruff said today. "We just need to take care of our own business and that's a great situation to be in. We're not Toronto. We're not Atlanta and we're not Jersey. We've been in that situation and that's a lot tougher situation to be in.
"We went out on a road trip and worked extremely hard to get where we're at. Let's just take care of business here."
After losing to Carolina Tuesday, the Hurricanes fell to the Leafs on Wednesday. The Leafs then fell Thursday at Florida and the Devils have dropped two straight to finally halt their momentum. Looked like the Sabres were going to get a big assist last night from the Islanders, but they allowed Carolina's tying goal inside the final five minutes and lost to the Canes in overtime, 3-2.
Still, Ruff is undaunted. The Sabres aren't chasing like they were in 2008 and 2009 when they fell short. Remember, he's calling it a "best-of-12": If the Sabres win seven of the last 12, they're almost certain to be in.
"We're in great position. We just have to win games,"Ruff said. "We don't have to look over our shoulder. We just have to put the work in. If we put the work in and create the opportunities, our key guys are going to have finish and take advantage of those situations. But it starts with getting the work done."
March 19, 2011 - 12:08 PM
When the Sabres hit the ice tonight against Atlanta in HSBC Arena, it will mark the end of their three-day breaks for the regular season. No more than two days off the rest of the way for the final 12 games. Tonight, in fact, starts the first of five remaining sets of back-to-back games. That's 10 of the last 12. Yikes.
So with a back-to-back tonight and tomorrow here against Nashville, followed by Tuesday's game in Montreal, are we looking at another Jhonas Enroth start? Not necessarily. When I asked Lindy Ruff about that after today's optional skate in the arena, he seemed to indicate it's no gimme Enroth plays tomorrow.
"It will be based on what the workload looks like for Ryan," Ruff said. "I'd like to see Ryan carry the ball. I think he's capable after having three days off of carrying the ball but that isn't etched in stone. We'll take a look at the workload and where he's at."
The Sabres need every point and Enroth was a little shaky in Sunday's win over Ottawa after having a week off. Maybe Miller plays the next three and Enroth goes in one of next week's back-to-backs here next week against Florida or New Jersey. It bears watching.
There don't appear to be any lineup changes in the offing for the Sabres or Thrashers tonight. Miller (29-21-7, 2.67, .914) and Ondrej Pavelec (20-19-9, 2.68, 9.16) will be in goal in a matchup of pretty similar numbers other than the W-L records. Chris Butler looks to be the defense scratch for Buffalo.
Some key reminders: The new MSG pregame show starts tonight at 6:30 and Dominik Hasek will be a guest. No. 39, in town with Willie O'Ree for his Hasek's Heroes program, will then be part of a ceremonial pregame faceoff. Bet that brings the house down.
Also, a guest anthem singer just for tonight: Sarah Darling, who works under the Black River Entertainment label started by Terry and Kim Pegula in Nashville.
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.
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.