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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

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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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