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Stafford back for Sabres; Miller reflects on Martin's death

The Sabres scored six goals in Sunday's victory over Ottawa, so production isn't a huge issue. Still, getting their leading goal-scorer back is a boost.

Drew Stafford, who missed the past two games with a hamstring strain, will play tonight when the Hurricanes visit HSBC Arena. Stafford has 26 goals in 49 games. He had two goals and an assist in the four games before his injury.

"I had a few good days of good rehab and treatment. I feel good, ready to go," said Stafford, whose team is 3-0-1 in its last four home games. "Every game right now is huge for us for points, and I think that has something to do with it. We're definitely tightening up our game, executing well, and we've got to keep it going."

The seventh-place Sabres can create a six-point cushion over Carolina with a regulation win, while the ninth-place Hurricanes would like to pull within two points by winning in 60 minutes.

"You can use the phrase 'biggest game of the year,' and it really is for them," coach Lindy Ruff said.

Ruff, who scratched defenseman Steve Montador for Sunday's 6-4 win over Ottawa, said his defense pairings will be a game-time decision.

Ryan Miller will start in goal for Buffalo. He spoke about the Hurricanes and talked emotionally about Sunday's death of Richard Martin. The audio of the interview is below.

---John Vogl

 

Ryan Miller

Early look: Stafford likely back

Greetings from the early stages of the Sabres' morning skate. The warm-up drill featured the following lines:

Thomas Vanek-Brad Boyes-Drew Stafford

Tyler Ennis-Tim Connolly-Jason Pominville

Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Mark Mancari

Rob Niedermayer-Cody McCormick-Mike Grier

All seven defensemen are present, as are goalies Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth.

Stafford's presence indicates he is likely to return from his hamstring strain tonight against Carolina. Jochen Hecht, who has an upper-body injury, is not on the ice.

---John Vogl

Hasek, Fuhr, O'Ree to visit Buffalo this week

Former Sabres goalies Dominik Hasek and Grant Fuhr will join NHL ambassador Willie O’Ree in Buffalo this week for the 2011 Willie O'Ree Skills Weekend. The event, hosted by Hasek’s Heroes, will run Thursday through Sunday.

The weekend will involve 45 boys and girls from youth hockey organizations throughout North America, including Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.
 
The skills showcase, which will feature NHL alumni and college and USA Hockey coaches, will include a game in HSBC Arena and attendance at Sabres practice Thursday and their game Saturday against Atlanta.
 
"I am honored to participate in this tremendous event and pleased that the National Hockey League, Buffalo Sabres and Hasek’s Heroes have joined together to support these boys and girls," said O’Ree, the NHL’s first black player. "It will be a great weekend for hockey, proving again that hockey is for everyone."

---John Vogl

Crosby returns to the ice in Pittsburgh

Sidney Crosby, feeling symptom-free for a few days for the first time since absorbing two head shots during the first week of January, skated today in Pittsburgh.

"I felt pretty good doing some light workouts," Crosby said. "I was told I had the opportunity to skate. I went out there for 15 minutes to see how I felt. No real plan going forward. I felt good, so that’s a good sign."

---John Vogl


Audio: The Rick Martin Archives

Pete Weber, the longtime Buffalo broadcaster who's now calling games for the Nashville Predators, provided us with some audio from Rick Martin's career in Buffalo.

Martin died Sunday in a one-car crash in Clarence. An autopsy today concluded he died of heart disease.

Here's some of the audio that Weber shared:

The call of Martin's 1978 All-Star Game goal:

Martin interviewed after All-Star game:

A 1981 feature Weber did on Martin:

Martin's remarks when the numbers of the French Connection were retired:

Here's a call of a Martin goal from the late Ted Darling:

Public memorial for Martin to be held March 24

The family of Rick Martin and the Sabres have announced there will be a public memorial service to celebrate the life of the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Famer and famed member of the French Connection at 11 a.m. March 24 in HSBC Arena. The Sabres will announce further details later this week.

The Sabres said anyone wishing to make a donation in Martin’s memory can direct it to Compass House, 1451 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14209.

---John Vogl

Police: Martin succumbed to heart disease

An autopsy performed on Rick Martin determined the Sabres legend died of heart disease, state police reported this morning.

Dr. Diane Vertes, who performed the autopsy at Erie County Medical Center, found Martin, 59, died of hypertensive arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease, or HAS CVD.

This is progressive and prolonged hardening of the arteries that can lead to a heart attack, heart failure and other complications.

Martin, an Akron resident, was driving westbound on Main Street in Clarence shortly after noon Sunday when he suffered an apparent medical emergency and lost control of his sedan and went off the road, state police said Sunday.

Witnesses told troopers that Martin was slumped over the wheel, and appeared to have his eyes closed, as he drifted off the road just west of Salt Road.

Passers-by and a trooper performed CPR on Martin, who was unresponsive, and he was pronounced dead soon after his arrival at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst.

---Stephen T. Watson and Henry Davis

Monday morning papers, Martin memories

Happy Monday. The Sabres are expected to be off today following back-to-back games over the weekend, including the end of a seven-game road trip. So we'll start with your usual look around the NHL, starting right here in the B-lo with the death of Rick Martin:

*Rick Martin became part of Buffalo lore because of his athletic talents. He was one-third of the most fabled line in Sabres history, and his scoring ability created fans and admirers.

It was away from the rink, however, where Martin really made an impression on Western New Yorkers. The fun-loving Quebec native took time to talk with fans when he played in the 1970s, and the long chats continued after his retirement, when he chose to stay in the area. He was quick with a joke, often told in the relaxed setting of a tavern, golf course or autograph session.

If there was a party, Martin was usually the life of it.

That was the Martin that Mike Robitaille chose to remember Sunday while mourning the death of his former teammate. Martin died Sunday afternoon at age 59 while driving in Clarence, a sudden death that brought tears to eyes throughout HSBC Arena and the area.


"What are we doing being so emotional when what he stands for is to have fun and laugh?" Robitaille said prior to the Sabres' home game against Ottawa. "Man, we should have the biggest party in the world for Richard. If he was in this situation, he'd have it for himself."

*Jerry Sullivan writes that losing Martin, the greatest pure goal scorer in Sabres history, is a death in the family of Buffalo hockey. It comes at an especially emotional time for Sabres fans, whose hopes have been soaring since Terry Pegula bought the team three weeks ago and declared that winning the Stanley Cup was his sole driving ambition.

Martin was a wondrous talent who scored 44 goals as a rookie and averaged 47 goals over his first five seasons. He touched the community with his charity work and his lively personality in charity golf outings. Apparently, he didn't know how to say no.

"Oh, God. Most everything I asked him to do, he did for free," said Larry Playfair, the longtime head of the Sabres Alumni. "He was the life of the party. Everybody wanted him in the tournament, and everybody wanted to play with him."

"It's too bad," French Connection linemate Rene Robert said. "Pegula had just put us together. He told us that night, 'Now you're going to be here until you die.' I tell you, I'm speechless. When you play that long with two guys, they're family. At least there was time to bring us all back together one more time."

*Paul Gaustad knew a lot of people in Sabreland were hurting Sunday following the death of team legend Rick Martin. Gaustad figured, aside from Martin's family, the Buffalo coaching staff might be grieving most. Lindy Ruff played with Martin and has been his friend, golf buddy and co-worker for 32 years. Martin spent time as an assistant on Ruff's coaching staff in 2003.

So while Gaustad's teammates were at one end of the HSBC Arena ice celebrating a 6-4 victory over Ottawa, the center skated to the opposite end to retrieve the game puck. It was presented to the coaching staff to bring a few smiles on an otherwise sad day.

"It was for Rico," Gaustad said. "It's a tough loss for the Sabres. I thought we responded well to it, but it's just a sad day for the Sabres."

The Sabres, playing their first home game since Feb. 26, skated to center ice following the victory and raised their sticks toward Martin's banner in the rafters in a sign of tribute and condolence.

"It was important for us to do that," forward Tyler Ennis said. "He was an unbelievable player, one of the best Sabres to ever play, so we just had to honor him."

*The News has compiled a photo gallery of Martin through the years.

*Concussions will be on the minds of the National Hockey League's general managers when they meet for three days starting today in Florida.

"If you listen to the media and read the papers north of the border, there's tremendous pressure to at least revisit [the subject of reducing head injuries in the game]," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said. "I think we're going to have to do that."

Regier says the discussion will try to stick to the facts at hand as a starting point.

"You have 30 general mangers with differing views," he said. "One of the things the league has done is bring a lot of factual information in to have a conversation, versus guys saying, 'I think it's this.' The league has done a very good job in that regard. There are equipment issues. Those things will be discussed."

*The Maine Hockey Journal writes that in the battle for first place in the Atlantic Division, the Portland Pirates will be welcoming some much needed time off.

The Pirates, who are playing a season-high 15 games in the month of March, including this current stretch of six games in nine nights, simply ran out of gas, falling to the Manchester Monarchs, 4-2, in front of 5,487 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Sunday afternoon.

---John Vogl


Postgame wrap of Sabres' 6-4 victory

Tyler Ennis had his second career two-goal game, and the rookie tied a personal best with points in three straight games (two goals, two assists). Defenseman Mike Weber matched his career high with three points (all assists), while goaltender Jhonas Enroth set personal marks for saves (34) and shots faced (38).

Enroth allowed the Senators’ Jason Spezza to have a four-point night (two goals, two assists), but the backup goalie was otherwise impressive in improving to 5-2-1.

"The kid has done a pretty good job of making big saves in timely parts of the game for us," coach Lindy Ruff said.

The Sabres finished the game without forward Jochen Hecht, who suffered a recurrence of the upper-body injury that sidelined him four times earlier this month. Buffalo started without defenseman Steve Montador, who was a healthy scratch after a minus-2 outing in Toronto.

"Good on the offensive side, he’s had a little bit of a tough time on the defensive side," Ruff said. "We’d really like to keep everybody going. It was not an easy decision to make, and they never are. We’ve got seven guys that have been playing hard for us."

Ruff on the victory: "Obviously, a sad day, but I told the team Rico would’ve wanted the team to go out and win one and want us to go out and have fun during the game. I just told them it would be nice to win one for Rico."

Ruff on Nathan Gerbe's slap shot that gave Buffalo a 5-3 lead: "Gerbe’s shot was a mirror image of how Rico scored. You don’t see those very often. As soon as it went in I thought the same thing: It was just vintage Richard Martin right there."

---John Vogl

Live from Ottawa at Sabres (sort of)

There will not be a full live blog tonight of the Sabres hosting the Senators due to the stories being produced regarding Rick Martin, but there will be a few updates throughout the night.

First off, Steve Montador is scratched for the Sabres. He and Jordan Leopold had a rough night Saturday in Toronto.

5:03 p.m.: The Sabres are wearing a stick on their helmets with Martin's No. 7 and his name. Jhonas Enroth is in net.

FIRST PERIOD

5:10 p.m.: The game is underway following a pregame salute to Martin, which featured a taped speech by Rick Jeanneret, a standing ovation by the fans and moment of silence.

5:19 p.m.: Tyler Ennis gives the Sabres a 1-0 lead with 14:20 left.

5:27 p.m.: Jason Spezza's power-play goal with 11:08 left ties the game, 1-1.

5:33 p.m.: Thomas Vanek gives the Sabres a 2-1 lead with 7:34 to go.

5:47 p.m.: The teams head to the dressing room tied at 2-2. Colin Greenling scored for Ottawa with 1:44 remaining. The Senators hold a 16-13 shot edge.

SECOND PERIOD

6:10 p.m.: Ennis scores just 1:36 in to give the Sabres a 3-2 lead. Kudos to the Sabres' PR staff, which has begun producing between-period game notes. Good job by them.

6:12 p.m.: Paul Gaustad scores just 33 seconds later, with 17:50 to go, giving the Sabres a 4-2 lead and ending the night for Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson.

6:21 p.m.: Spezza banks in a shot off Enroth from behind the net with 10:21 left.

6:36 p.m.: Nathan Gerbe rips a slap shot over the left shoulder of goalie Curtis McElhinney to give the Sabres a 5-3 lead with 5:26 left.

6:47 p.m.: The Sabres hit intermission with a 5-3 lead anbd 29-24 shot deficit.

THIRD PERIOD

7:04 p.m.: And they're back.

7:33 p.m.: And so am I. The Sabres lead, 6-3, with 2:45 left. Jochen Hecht has left the game with an upper-body injury.

7:35 p.m.: Ottawa scores with 45 seconds left, but the Sabres will win. That's all for now.

---John Vogl

Ruff, Playfair, Robitaille, Ray and Pegula remember Martin

The Sabres just held a brief news conference to remember Rick Martin, with Lindy Ruff, Larry Playfair, Mike Robitaille, Rob Ray and Terry Pegula sharing thoughts on the Buffalo hockey legend.

The full audio file is below.

"We lost a heck of a good guy," said Ruff, who played with Martin and hired him as an assistant coach. "It's a tough one to take."

Said Playfair, president of the Sabres' alumni: "Whatever he could do for the community he did. Most of you saw that."

Pegula, who spent his first game as owner in late February watching the proceedings with Martin and French Connection linemates Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert, remembers Martin as the happiest member of the trio, always smiling.

"We had a lot of plans," Pegula said as his eyes welled. "Now there will be an empty chair."

---John Vogl

 

Martin 'just had that flair'

The mood is quickly turning somber in HSBC Arena as word is trickling out that Sabres Hall of Famer Rick Martin died today of a heart attack at age 59.

"I’ve loved that man since I was 9 years old," Paula Pierce, clad in a white Martin No. 7 jersey, said while fighting back tears. "I remember I fell in love with him when he first stepped on the ice. It was like, He was mine."

The 49-year-old Pierce smiled while recalling past encounters with the winger, who stayed in the area following his playing days.

"I remember one time at the Sabres Carnival I got to sit on his lap and have my picture taken with him," Pierce said. "I remember my knees were shaking. He signed my jersey at that Farewell to the Aud thing. He was just here. We just saw him.

"I'm just crushed."

Martin earned fame as a member of the French Connection with Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert. Pierce remembers Martin as the outgoing member of the trio.

"The other two they signed their names, eh, whatever. He always just talked," Pierce said. "He always had something to say. He just seemed more personable. He just had that flair.

"I would make my aunt go get gas at his garage, Rico’s Trucks and Stuff on the boulevard. They were something special. He was always around. He never left."

---John Vogl

Sabres' statement on death of Martin

The Buffalo Sabres have released the following statement about Rick Martin, who died of a heart attack while driving in Clarence today at age 59:

"The Buffalo Sabres are saddened to announce the passing of Buffalo Sabres Hall of Famer and member of the famed French Connection, Rick Martin. Rick was not only one of the greatest players in franchise history, he was a great friend to the Sabres organization and the entire community. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Sabres organization go out to his wife Mikey and their two sons, Corey and Josh."

---John Vogl

Bulletin: Rick Martin has died

Rick Martin, one-third of the most fabled line in Buffalo Sabres history, died today of a heart attack. He was 59.

Martin reportedly had a heart attack while driving in Clarence, a law enforcement officer said on the condition of anonymity.

Martin became etched in local lore as the high-scoring winger on the "French Connection," skating alongside Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert as the infant Sabres captured the area’s attention.

Martin helped welcome new Sabres owner Terry Pegula to town late last month, skating onto the ice with Perreault and Robert and shaking Pegula’s hand at center ice as the fans in HSBC Arena cheered.

Rene Robert was already reeling from tragic news when he heard about his former linemate's death at around 2:30 this afternoon. Early this morning, Robert got a phone call informing him that his older brother, Real, had died of a heart attack in Montreal. Real, a musician, was the eldest of 10 children.

"It's like a bad dream," said Robert, who is in Florida visiting his daughter. "First my brother, then my left winger. I lose Rico (Martin). I tell you what. This one is going to be tough for everybody in Buffalo. 
It's too bad. (Owner Terry) Pegula just put us together. He told us, 'You guys are going to be here now until you die.'"

Gllbert Perreault, the center on the great French Connection line, was watching hockey at his home in Victoriaville when he heard the news.

"It's sad news," Perreault said. "It's a reminder that you never know in life. I mean, he was 59. That's young, and he always seemed to be in such good shape. I hadn't seen him much in the past 20 years, but you don't forget all the years you played together. We were together since my days in junior. I stayed at his house for a year. Oh, Rick was a guy with all the jokes. He was funny and people really enjoyed being in his presence. He was a great golfer, too. That was his passion after hockey."

Sunday morning NHL papers

Happy Daylight Savings Time Day. The Sabres welcome Ottawa to HSBC Arena at 5 p.m., so there is no morning skate. In the meantime, here are your Sunday morning NHL papers, starting right here in the B-lo:

*The Sabres were 20 minutes away from solidifying their hold on seventh place and denting Toronto's hope of spring hockey. Instead, they allowed the Maple Leafs to spring back to life. Buffalo let a 3-2 lead slip away in the opening minutes of the third period and dropped a 4-3 decision in Air Canada Centre. The setback allowed the 10th-place Leafs to climb within four points.

"You've got to be able to hold a lead this time of year and we didn't do it," Miller said.

The goaltender and his teammates bused home following the game accompanied by a 4-2-1 record on their road trip. It was a journey that saw them climb from 10th place into a playoff position, but ending the trek with a disappointing loss stung.

"We can look at it and say we got a good majority of the points, so that's good," said Miller, who stopped 25 of 29 shots. "But every night becomes independent almost. We allowed the Leafs to breathe a little bit, and that's not what we need to do."

*One period away from an almost certain sentence to another long offseason, the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled off one of their most clutch 20 minutes of play in years Saturday night. It came at the expense of the Buffalo Sabres and kept the Leafs' playoff hopes alive.

The Leafs scored two goals in the third and rookie goaltender James Reimer's 39 saves in the game proved decisive in a massive 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres in a roaring Air Canada Centre.

The Toronto papers used big, bold headlines in the morning to bill this one as one of the franchise's biggest games in years. The Leafs, who entered it in an 0-2-1 rut, got within four points of a playoff spot with a win -- when it looked like they would fall eight back with a loss.

*Bucky Gleason catches up with Tim Kennedy, who made his season debut last week and returned to the NHL with the Florida Panthers after a seven-month exile that included five teams, three organizations and an equipment bag full of heartache. Yes, hockey can be a cold, unsentimental business riddled with cruel and unusual punishment.

Key word: business.

The South Buffalo native earned a Ph.D in hockey business -- and monkey business -- after being thrown on his keister by the Sabres last summer. He woke up from the nightmare in the AHL, where he became a prisoner of his ability, his $550,000 contract with the Rangers and the NHL's waiver rules.

"I could be doing something else with less stress," Kennedy joked last week by telephone from South Florida. "I get paid to do something I love. I've wanted this for my whole life. If you can work through the adversity, you'll be so much better for it. Things could be much worse. There are people out there who are having a hard time getting jobs. I'm playing hockey. For people like me to [complain] is just stupid."

*Larry Felser offers some credit where credit is due to the previous Sabres owners. As 2010 turned into 2011 the Sabres began playing far better hockey on a much more consistent basis. One major reason was the development of their young players, who were here before the era of Terry Pegula began.

*Portland Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen found out how well new backup goalie Jeff Jakaitis could play Saturday night, and the Pirates found another way to win, the Portland Press Herald reports.

Jakaitis, a journeyman playing in only his fifth AHL game, made 45 saves, and Colin Stuart scored a power-play goal with less than two minutes left as the Pirates eked out a 5-4 win before a sellout crowd of 6,854 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

*The Toronto Star reports on the role of Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, who may have his detractors, those who believe he’s not worthy of wearing the C. But with his team 20 minutes from playoff oblivion on Saturday night, the captain took control of his team.

In a game billed as a must-win, the Leafs were trailing by a goal heading to the second intermission, when Phaneuf decided to address his mates.

“Dion was talking in here, trying to get the boys fired up,” said goalie James Reimer. “Mike Komisarek, all the veterans (followed), saying what we need to do. As a team we just kind of settled in here and took some time to realize what we each had to do out there to be better, and it worked.”

*The Ottawa Sun reports the Senators had a quiet day at the office Saturday. After arriving in Buffalo at 2 a.m. following a 2-1 victory over the Lightning Friday night, the Senators cancelled practice and went to the HSBC Arena for an off-ice workout.

Coach Cory Clouston felt it was more important to give the players rest than have them take a 45-minute skate.

“There’s a lot of hockey in a short period of time and a lot of travel,” said Clouston. “We’re more worried about rest and recuperation than getting on the ice right now.”

Clouston also said he will hold one-on-one meetings with the players to make sure their effort level stays strong.

*The Ottawa Citizen makes a prediction about today's game: The Sabres blew a third period lead in a critical loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. Expect Lindy Ruff to have his group ready for a bounce-back against the Senators. Ottawa 1, Sabres 3.

*The seventh-place Rangers pulled two points ahead of the eighth-place Sabres (with two extra games played) with a 3-2 shootout win in San Jose.

*It's official, NHL.com reports, the New Jersey Devils have even amazed their coach, Jacques Lemaire, after finally reaching the .500 mark.

But despite another dramatic one-goal victory on Saturday, a 3-2 overtime triumph over the New York Islanders that lifted the Devils to 32-32-4 on the season, Lemaire refuses to discuss his team's playoff chances until the Devils are no more than five points from the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

As it stands right now, the Devils, who've never been at .500 during the season, are six points out. After a 10-29-2 first half, they are 22-3-2 in their last 27 games with 14 matches remaining.

---John Vogl

Vote for your three stars

Eastern Conference standings update

TORONTO -- The Rangers are playing tonight in San Jose (it's a 10:30 start), so keep in mind the following figures will not include that game. After tonight's wild results, there are just six points separating teams 7-12 in the Eastern Conference. Here's the rundown:

7. BUF 74 pts, 68 GP
8. NYR 74 pts, 69 GP (Pending San Jose result. Buffalo will have two games in hand after tonight)
9. CAR 72 pts, 69 GP (lost to Columbus at home, 3-2. Ouch)
10. TOR 70 pts, 69 GP (massive third-period rally)
11. ATL 70 pts, 69 GP (wiped out 3-0 deficit after two for 5-4 OT win at Philly. Wow. Andrew Ladd got tying goal with 45 seconds left and Ron Hainsey won it at 1:17 of OT)
12. NJ  68 pts, 68 GP  (beat Isles, 3-2, on Anssi Salmela's goal in overtime). Are an incredible 22-3-2 in their last 27 games to go from 27 points out of eighth to just six. No NHL team has ever made the playoffs by overcoming a deficit of bigger than 12 points!)

The Devils have to be a little bummed. Had the Sabres and Flyers held on, New Jersey would be in 10th place right now.

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

Live from the ACC: Sabres vs. Leafs

Banners TORONTO -- As I type under the watchful eyes of the retired banners of the likes of Red Kelly (No. 4), King Clancy (7) and Ted Kennedy (9), greetings from high atop the Air Canada Centre for tonight's Sabres-Leafs game. Gotta love the way they display numbers here. Full pictures of all the greats. Like the ones I named and modern ones like Sittler, Mahovolich, Clark, Gilmour. It's a really, really sharp feature of this building.

(I didn't bring a camera tonight. Found this image on the Internet someone took from the seats. You can click on it for a better view. And keep in mind I'm sitting by the roof and am right at eye level of the players pictured.)

And they have lots of nice Stanley Cup banners too. Of course, none since 1967 but why quibble, right?

There's not going to be any this year either. The Leafs, in fact, are in complete desperation mode just to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. And if they lose tonight, especially in regulation, they will drop eight points out of eighth and things will be very tough for them. The media here is making this one out to be a playoff game and there were some questions this morning about playing it like a Game Seven. Um, it's March 12. Let's not overkill it.

Out of town, Carolina is hosting Columbus in a 7 p.m. game while the Rangers are at San Jose at 10:30.

It will be Ryan Miller and James Reimer in goal here. Keep it here for more as faceoff approaches. That's likely to be in the 7:10 range (thank you, CBC).

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

Third Period

Of note: Leopold leads all player with six shots on goal through 40 minutes. Vanek and Hecht have four. MacArthur leads the Leafs with three. ... The Leafs have won 29 of 42 faceoffs. Yikes. Sabres miss Gaustad in that area. ... Carolina still down, 2-0, in the third to Columbus. The Devils have fallen behind the Islanders, 2-1, in the third. Atlanta down, 3-1, in the third at Philly. Le Thrash are toast. ... The Leafs have to throw the kitchen sink and the dining room sink at the Sabres in the third period here. BUFFALO IS 17-1-2 LEADING AFTER TWO THIS YEAR. Toronto is 3-26-3 trailing after two.

9:07 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

15:57 left: Just no way to think the Sabres are going to hold on for an entire period like they seemed to want to do here. Great cross-ice pass by Carl Gunnarsson is gunned home from the right circle by Mikhail Grabovski. His 27th. Game tied, 3-3. Great work at the point by Phaneuf just prior to the goal.

13:24 left: Then the Sabres make a brutal play of letting Kessel loose down the right wing. He fires one home -- might have gone in off Montador. His 28th. Leafs lead, 4-3.

10:26 left: Myers for high-sticking. Leafs 0 for 41 against Buffalo on the PP. This would be quite a time to snap that.

8:42 left: Miller holding firm. Shots are 7-3 for Toronto in this period.

7:35 left: Reimer with a game-saver there, stretching to stop Boyes on the doorstep on a rebound of a Vanek slapper.

5:15 left: Grabovski fails to convert MacArthur pass on 3-on-1. What a groan went through the building. Great feed.

4:40 left: The Go Leafs Go chant is rockin right now.

3:47 left: Carolina loses to Columbus, 3-2. They will stay two points back of the Sabres pending a potential comeback in this one by Buffalo.

3:16 left: Hecht just misses Vanek feed at the goalmouth.

1:02 left: Lupul misses empty net from just inside cneter ice.

52 left: Hecht stopped.

It's over: Leafs hold on for huge 4-3 win. They're four points back. Shots were 42-29.

Second Period

Of note: The Hurricanes are losing, 1-0, to Columbus after one period. The Devils, meanwhile, have a 1-0 lead through one over the Islanders -- setting an NHL record with their 16th straight scoreless first period against. Wow. The Devils can move ahead of the Leafs with a win tonight and a Toronto loss in regulation.

8:09 p.m.: The puck is dropped. And Carolina is now down 2-0 to the Craig Rivets, who come into the game with six losses in a row.

19:23 left: Kulemin has a great chance in front but the puck is stopped, by either Myers or Miller. Close call.

15:40 left: Great shift for Ennis-Connolly-Boyes, with Connolly just missing a couple of loose pucks on the edge of the crease.

14:43 left: Vanek stopped on a breakaway -- a wicked slapshot that leaked through Reimer but the goalie managed to smother.

12:25 left: Myers with a bullet from the right wing off Reimer's collarbone and he's hurtin'. Gotta keep firing.

10:30 left: Miller stops Bozak on a clean breakaway. He got in too deep. 

9:50 left: Puck never left the zone and Bozak gets another chance in front. Flips it in in front of Leopold. Leafs lead, 2-1. Leopold-Montador and the trio of Grier-Parrish-Niedermayer couldn't get off the ice on that shift. And three morons two seats down from me stand up and applaud when the puck goes in. Um, what's up with THAT? 

9:21 left: Shots are 25-17 for the Sabres. That's 13-10 in this period. Reimer getting the job done for the Leafs against Buffalo again.

8:56 left: The Sabres come right back to tie it up. Reimer makes one save as Sekera goes to the net to try to tip a Vanek feed but Buffalo -- finally -- converts a rebound with Hecht tapping it home. Game tied, 2-2.

4:47 left: Grabovski goes for high sticking Niedermayer at center ice.

4:29 left: Great passing in the Leafs zone by Leopold and Ennis. Leopold fires one from the point and in it goes off the left post on Buffalo's 31st shot of the night and 19th of the period. Sabres lead, 3-2.

End-2nd: Sabres lead, 3-2, through two. Shots were 20-12 for Buffalo in that period and 32-19 for the game. That's 42 shots in the middle period over the last two games for the Sabres.

First Period

Sabres starters: Ennis-Boyes-Parrish-Myers-Sekera. Goal: Miller
Leafs starters: Kessel-Bozak-Lupul-Phaneuf-Aulie. Goal: Reimer 

7:16 p.m.: The puck is dropped (Thanks for nothing, CBC).

17:05 left: The "Go Leafs Go" chants are out but they just got quiet. Mike Weber floats a wrister over Reimer's shoulder thanks to the help of Grier screening in front. Weber's fourth. Sabres lead, 1-0, on the first shot of the game.

15:30 left: Reimer stops Boyes in alone on a backhand and fumbles a Leopold shot from the point. Sabres need to keep shooting. Especially after that early goal, the rookie looks shaky.

14:31 left: Sekera for hooking. Leafs have gone 0 for 40 on the power play over the last 11 games against the Sabres since March 27, 2009. Yes, I said 0 for 40.

12:50 left: Just seven seconds into the power play, Miller absolutely stoned Joffrey Lupul alone in front. Monster save. He just stopped MacArthur now and the Sabres are 19 seconds from making it 0 for 41 for the Toronto power play, worthy of being called Laffs even if the team no longer is.

12:04 left: The penalty is over. During the commercial, we see military salutes in every arena but here is a different touch: A standing ovation for six families of Toronto police killed in the line of duty since 1960. Nice.

10:16 left: Sabres have a 7-2 edge in shots. Reimer made his best save at the 11:15 mark, stopping Hecht in alone on the tail end of a 3-on-2 on a great feed from the right side by Parrish.

9:45 left: The lines at the start were Ennis-Boyes-Parrish, Vanek-Hecht-Pominville, Niedermayer-McCormick-Grier and Gerbe-Connolly-Mancari. Noticed Connolly and McCormick flipped the last couple shifts. Myers and Sekera are reunited on defense with Butler out. So are Montador and Leopold. Weber goes with Morrisonn.

9:30 left: Couple Toronto reporters on Twitter point out this is the sixth straight game the Leafs have given up the first goal. Ouch. That's not a recipe for success.

8:37 left: Old friend Clarke MacArthur drills one past Miller. Wicked slapshot. Rattles off the left goalpost through a Myers screen. It's his 20th of the year and Dion Phaneuf fishes the puck out of the net for him. Game tied, 1-1.

6:53 left: Big stop by Reimer on Connolly's deflection of Myers' wrister from the point. Shots are 9-5 for Buffalo and the crowd is back in the game now after the MacArthur goal. MacArthur's previous career high, by the way, was 17 goals for the Sabres in 2008-09.

4:44 left: Reimer is giving up too many rebounds but not this time. Stood up strong and smothered Leopold's shot from the point. Still, Sabres have to keep shooting and charging the crease to scoop up some garbage. Shots are 11-5 for Buffalo.

2:11 left: Tough hit by Phaneuf on Parrish at the Buffalo line. Morrisonn tomces over to lodge an objection. No penalties.

End-1st: We're tied at 1-1. Shots are 12-7 for Buffalo. Leafs came on much better in last 9 minutes, especially after MacArthur goal.

Injury update: Gaustad, Stafford, Butler all out

TORONTO -- We just had our pregame meeting with Lindy Ruff and here's the injury rundown:

---Paul Gaustad and Drew Stafford are out tonight but Jochen Hecht will return to the lineup. Mark Parrish is up from Portland and will play and Mark Mancari remains. So there's you group of 12 forwards. "We got enough," Ruff said.

---Chris Butler is out tonight and Mike Weber will take his place.

---Ruff acknowledged Gaustad was injured during his fight Thursday in Boston against Adam McQuaid. Wonder if it's some soreness in the shoulder that has bothered him in the past. Ruff did say, however, that there's a good chance Gaustad could play tomorrow night against Ottawa. Here's the replay of that one:

---Stafford (groin strain) is feeling better and could skate tomorrow morning, Ruff said. He won't play against the Senators but is aiming to be back for Tuesday night's showdown against Carolina.

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

Pegula on CBC at 6:40

TORONTO -- Terry Pegula will be interviewed live on CBC's "Hockey Tonight" pregame show tonight at about 6:40. The pregame show is also broadcast over the NHL Network. The Sabres-Maple Leafs game itself is on its usual spot on MSG at 7.

Pegula was in Springfield, Mass., last night with GM Darcy Regier to watch the Portland Pirates move into first place in the Atlantic Division with a 5-3 win over Springfield. They were scheduled to drive to Toronto today. I'm told Pegula likes driving and is as apt to do that to get places as he is to hop into a plane.

John Vogl and I both chatted with CBC host extraordinaire Elliotte Friedman, one of the media world's great guys, during today's morning skate and he was pumped about talking to Pegula. A big, big forum for the Sabres' new owner.

---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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