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.