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Sabres send Kassian to Portland for playoffs

Zack Kassian will get his first real taste of professional hockey. The Sabres have assigned their 2009 first-round draft pick to Portland, with the Pirates two games into their second-round AHL playoff series with Binghamton.

Kassian, who signed a three-year deal with the Sabres in November, recently completed his final year of junior hockey. He had six goals and 16 points in 16 playoff games with Windsor, but he missed the final two games for the Spitfires while serving a suspension for hitting an Owen Sound player during their series.

The 20-year-old winger will try to help the Pirates rebound from their 2-0 deficit to Binghamton. Game Three is Saturday.

---John Vogl

Video: Ice Removal at HSBC Arena

Crews cleared out the ice from HSBC Arena this week. The News' John Hickey was there to capture a little bit of it:


Video: Highlights from Sabres Year-end Presser

Sabres owner Terry Pegula and general manager Darcy Regier respond to a question from The News' Mike Harrington about hits on Tim Connolly and Rob Niedermayer in the Flyers series:

 

Sabres general manager Darcy Regier says a standard should be developed in the National Hockey League for goalie masks, with safety being the No. 1 priority.


Sabres owner Terry Pegula and coach Lindy Ruff talk with reporters after announcing Ruff's contract extension:


Gaustad, Gragnani added to world championship rosters

The hockey will continue for two Sabres, with center Paul Gaustad joining Team USA and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani playing for Canada at the world championships. The tournament started today in Slovakia.

---John Vogl

 

State of the Sabres: A video recap

John Vogl, Bucky Gleason and Mike Harrington offer some video commentary on Friday's State of the Sabres address featuring Terry Pegula, Ted Black, Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff. 

Topics include Ruff's contract extension, the team's approach to free agency, what the team needs for 2011-12, and what will change in HSBC Arena.

Click below to watch.

Pegula ticked off Sabres are done, excited to keep Ruff

Terry Pegula walked into HSBC Arena on Thursday, and he saw the ice melting and being broken up by trucks with plows. The Sabres' owner was officially agitated that his team was done for the season instead of playing in the second round of the NHL playoffs.

"It sort of ticked me off watching the ice being taken out," Pegula said today during a season-ending news conference with team President Ted Black, General Manager Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff. "As you all know, we’ve been eliminated from the playoffs. The four guys you’re looking at up here aren’t real happy about that, but life goes on."

For one of them, the coaching goes on. Ruff has signed a multiyear extension to remain behind the bench, a job he has had since 1997.

"I’m extremely excited," Ruff said. "Our goal is to win the Cup, and I think we can win the Cup."

The Sabres' brass believes the team is closer to the Stanley Cup. Black believes Buffalo will become a destination for quality players, and his dream of "Hockey Heaven" will be fulfilled.

"We've gone a long way to accomplishing that," Black said. "That's the Pegula way. They treat people like family, and I think that we're going to be on the short list -- we being Buffalo and the Buffalo Sabres -- we're going to be on the short list of a lot of free agents and players that are putting together their no-trade lists. We're going to be the exception on no-trade lists. They're going to want to come here."

---John Vogl

Video: Locker cleanout day

Interviews with Sabres players from Thursday's locker cleanout in HSBC Arena:

Ryan Miller

Patrick Kaleta

(Video shot by John Hickey / Buffalo News)

Sabres extend Ruff's contract

The Sabres have called a news conference for 11 a.m. today to announce a contract extension for coach Lindy Ruff, a source told The Buffalo News.

Sabres owner Terry Pegula, General Manager Darcy Regier and Ruff are expected to be an attendance. Ruff's contract expired at the end of the season, and bringing him back was one of Pegula's top priorities going into the offseason. Reaching an agreement was considered a formality.

Ruff has been behind the bench since the 1997-98 season and is the winningest coach in team history. He has reached the Stanley Cup playoffs eight times in his 13 seasons, including four trips to the conference finals and one to the finals. He has long stated his desire to bring the first Stanley Cup to Buffalo.

The Sabres' hierarchy also is expected to address other issues regarding their plans going into the offseason. They're expected to have their busiest summer in years. Pegula has lifted all financial restraints with the idea they can win the title in the next few years.

---Bucky Gleason

State of the Sabres comes Friday morning

The Sabres' players cleaned out their lockers and had their say Thursday morning. On Friday morning, it will be the front office's turn.

On Thursday evening, the team announced that it will have a State of the Sabres news conference with owner Terry Pegula, President Ted Black, General Manager Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff Friday at 11 a.m. in HSBC Arena.

There will certainly be some pressing issues to address with Regier and Ruff, notably their feeling on the team's unrestricted free agents and young players, as well as the status of the injured Jason Pominville -- who may not be ready for training camp or the start of the regular season. But it will particularly noteworthy to hear what Pegula and Black have to say about the team moving forward.

They've promised big things since they took over and have helped foster a rapid change in the culture of the organization. This will be their first real discussion of how they plan to handle the offseason and it should be interesting.

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

Which free agents should Sabres keep?

The Sabres spent this morning cleaning out their lockers, some of them for the last time possibly. The Sabres have six unrestricted free agents and seven restricted players. Some might not be back. The lists:

UFA: Steve Montador, Cody McCormick, Tim Connolly, Rob Niedermayer, Mike Grier, Matt Ellis.

RFA: Jhonas Enroth, Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Drew Stafford, Chris Butler, Nathan Gerbe, Andrej Sekera.

Take your vote on which UFAs the Sabres should keep.

---John Vogl

Sabres' Miller suffered concussion late in season

Ryan Miller, following a long season-ending chat today, didn't want to keep his injury secret any longer. He acknowledged the injury that sidelined him late in the year was a concussion. His head got dinged by four shots in a week, with blasts from New Jersey's Brian Rolston and Toronto's Dion Phaneuf doing the most damage, though it was the cumulative effect that sidelined him.

He acknowledged he did have a significant bruise on his collarbone area, but that wouldn't have made him miss the number of games the concussion did.

To hear Miller's thoughts on the season, the future and the Sabres' goaltending situation, click the audio below.

---John Vogl

Inside the NHL -- Live Chat

Enroth, Mancari, Ellis back with Portland

The playoffs will continue for three Sabres, with goaltender Jhonas Enroth and forwards Mark Mancari and Matt Ellis returning to Portland today. The Pirates are playing Binghamton in the Atlantic Division finals.

---John Vogl

Sabres' locker cleaning coming Thursday

The Sabres' official end to the season -- locker clean-out day -- will be Thursday, with the players heading to HSBC Arena to pack up their gear for the summer. Until then, here are a few more words from Philadelphia on Tuesday night following the Sabres' Game Seven loss.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette: "I just want to say what an incredible job the Buffalo Sabres did. They played really well down the stretch and got into the playoffs when they were way out at one point. It was really just a great job by their players and coaches to push it to seven games, when anything can happen. We got out of the first round, but they really did a great job so congratulations to their organization."

Flyers forward Danny Briere: “You know what, honestly it was probably one of the toughest series I’ve had to go through. Knowing you are facing a lot of friends, and you are going like that. It’s no secret, in the playoffs there are no friends. You are out there and it doesn’t matter who has the puck, you are going through them. Honestly, that was one of the toughest things to do.

"Looking at guys like Pominville and Jochen Hecht, two guys that when I had an amazing year there in Buffalo playing with them, and all of a sudden you have to play against them and slash them, and finish your checks and not let them win any battles. Gaustad, Vanek, Roy, Miller you can go down the list. They are all guys that I battled with and we battled hard. Honestly, it was tough at times.

"But I said it from the start there’s not really any animosity towards them, towards the Buffalo Sabres. Like I said, the people that didn’t want me there were gone. Obviously, there’s extra motivation playing in that building, the fans booing me, and all that stuff was a little extra. But there is no animosity towards that team."

Sabres center Paul Gaustad: "I am proud of every guy in this locker room. We have had a tight-knit group in here, and it is tough to take the sweater off at the end of the season. It is tough right now because we have a lot of good guys in this locker room. Again, I am proud of everybody for what we have accomplished."

---John Vogl

Sounds from the Sabres' locker room

PHILADELPHIA -- Comments from the Sabres after Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Flyers in Game Seven:


Lindy Ruff


Ryan Miller


Paul Gaustad

Vote for your three stars

Live from Philly: This is it -- It's Game Seven

PHILADELPHIA -- Greetings again from high atop the Wells Fargo Center as we get set for Game Seven of what's been a classic first-round playoff series (It's also the fifth game I've covered here since March 6 so I would be more than happy to get to the Verizon Center if the Sabres oblige this evening). 

The Sabres and Flyers have played six games, plus a combined roughy 10 minutes of overtime, and Philly's 17-16 advantage in goals is simply courtesy of Kimmo Timonen's empty-netter in Game Three. Pretty amazing. 

At this point, the Sabres are playing with the house's money here. Sure, they blew a golden opportunity to close out the series Sunday and frittering away a pair of two-goal leads might haunt them all summer if they don't win tonight. But they're the seventh seed and the Flyers are the No. 2. And even without Chris Pronger and Jeff Carter, close Flyer watchers say they've played some of their best hockey since the new year in this series. Their problem has just been some horrific goaltending.

The Flyers are going with Brian Boucher tonight and he cannot have the start he did in Game Five, when he handed Buffalo two cheapies to Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek. The odd thing to note is that Boucher actually has better numbers (2.13 GAA, .935 save percentage) than Ryan Miller (2.61/.925). Miller has two shutouts and two five-goal games in the series. The Sabres are so short-handed, you figure he's going to have to nearly pitch another shutout.

We have had all kinds of information all day on the Sabres Edge blog, including notes, quotes and plenty of audio. Be sure to go back and check it all out if you've missed it. And be sure to check out the archive of our pregame live chat.

There's been a lot of jaw-flapping in this series since the end of Game Four and it's finally time for all the words to stop. It's time to play. Sixty minutes -- and maybe more -- to decide a winner. Keep it here for all your updates.

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

LINEUP: Montador is a scratch for Buffalo. So are Ellis-Kaleta-Connolly-Pominville. Roy-Hecht-Grier-Mancari are all in.

SABRES STARTERS: Vanek-Roy-Hecht-Sekera-Myers-Miller (guess they'll find out right away if these guys can play)
FLYERS STARTERS: Carcillo-Richards-Versteeg-Coburn-Timonen-Boucher. 

7:37 p.m.: The Flyers take the ice to roars from the crowd. They pass out orange T-shirts here and EVERYONE is wearing it tonight. Quite a look.

7:38 p.m.: The Sabres hit the ice. Boos.

7:40 p.m.: Another Lauren Hart-Kate Smith duet. Hard to beat that. Pretty deafening in here right now.

THIRD PERIOD

Of note: Stafford has four shots and Gerbe three to lead Buffalo. Briere has six to lead the Flyers. ... The Sabres have the lead in faceoffs, 23-20, but Gaustad's two clean losses were crushers. The Flyers have blocked 23 shots -- 17 in the second period -- while the Sabres blocked just 11. ... Briere, Richards and Giroux all have two-point games. ... Roy has played a mostly ineffective 13:08. The Flyers have gotten 12:17 out of Pronger. Ice time leaders are Coburn (16:24) and Leopold (16:26).

9:35 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

18:01 left: Good night, nurse. Leino goes down the left wing and pounds a slapshot from inside the circle over Miller's left shoulder. Flyers lead, 4-0. And here comes Enroth. Miller taps him on the pads, Lindy says something to Miller and No. 30 disappears down the tunnel into the offseason.

16:09 left: Boucher stops Sekera from the point and the "Booosh" chants come out again. Fans having a great time here and why not? Team has played great. Flyers could easily go to the finals again if Boucher can give them consistent goaltending and Pronger keeps getting healthier.

14:00 left: The Flyers won't know their second-round opponent tonight because the Habs have beaten Boston, 2-1, and they'll play Game Seven tomorrow in Beantown. East second round if Boston wins will be WAS/PIT-TB winner and PHI/BOS rematch. If Montreal wins: WAS-MON rematch and BOS/PIT-TB winner.

13:27 left: And the Flyers still don't have a shutout this year. Myers takes a Stafford pass and beats Boucher cleanly from the slot. Flyers lead, 4-1.

12:17 left: Timeout, Philly. Sabres playing better and Laviolette doesn't want anything goofy to happen given how leads seem to disappear in this series. Shots are 7-3 for Buffalo in the period.

9:57 left: Carcillo is one of those punk players you love on your team and hate if ye's on the other team. Well, tonight he's been doing a great job around the net causing havoc and he just got rewarded as he backhanded one past Enroth while falling down. What a pest. "Icing on the Cake" reads the sign-man's sign. Flyers lead, 5-1.

8:54 left: They just announced a scoring change on the third Philly goal. It's now going to Van Riemsdyk, his fourth of the series, instead of Giroux. They ruled Van Riemsdyk tipped it in. 

8:15 left: Flyers fans singing good-bye to the Sabres as Gerbe and Carcillo are shown the gate for the night. Gerbe gets 10, while Carcillo gets 10 plus a game. Hmmm. The last few minutes as Sabres for some guys in uniform. Maybe names like Mancari, Grier and Niedermayer? What do they do about Boyes? And this is probably the end too for Connolly, Montador and Lalime?

6:29 left: Boucher hasn't been tested but you can see his confidence too. Nice stop on Sekera. Out on top of his crease. Confident in what he's doing.

5:41 left: Timonen for holding.

4:39 left: Sabres convert as Boyes tips home a Roy feed. So he won't have a donut for the series but it hardly means anything. Flyers lead, 5-2. Boyes had gone 18 games without a goal.

3:02 left: Enroth with a great save on Powe's backhand tip of a Briere feed. How has Briere been so alone in this series?

2:00 left: Enroth to the bench.

58.5 left; Sabres have zone time, lose the puck and Ennis gets a slashing penalty.

Mercifully, it's over: A 5-2 loss ends the Buffalo season. The better team won here tonight. Final shots were 36-27. The Sabres had their chance in Game Six and they'll rue that one all summer. See you in training camp.

SECOND PERIOD

Of note: AP guru Mike Haim points out the only other time the Sabres had just two shots in a first period of the playoff game was on April 29, 1997 against Ottawa. That was a Game Seven overtime win too. Hmmm.). ... In Montreal, Boston's Milan Lucic got a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a hit from behind on old friend Jaroslav Spacek. Sabres can't even get five minutes called, let alone the gate. Of course, it gets called in Montreal where if you breathe on a Canadien, the crowd goes beserk and every referee in the league gets spooked. Biggest bunch of whiny fans in the league. ... OK, I'm told Grier's glove deflected the goal. Fine. Still hate it.

Stats: Coburn and Van Riemsdyk had three shots on goal. Grier and Gerbe have the only shots for Sabres. Um, top forwards? You gonna show up? Flyers had a 12-8 edge in faceoffs. Sabres have a 15-11 edge in hits. Both teams have blocked six shots. Even with just a 1-0 score, that might have been the Sabres' worst period since the new year.

8:38 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

18:56 left: Giroux for interference. Miller made a big stop on Versteeg after just 14 seconds. Let's see if Sabres can capitalize.

17:29 left: Ennis a near miss. Couldn't tee the puck from backhand to forehand with a lot of net available and Boucher smothered. Great work at the points by Myers and Gragnani.

16:39 left: Boucher stops a Stafford wrister. Sabres have four shots in this period already.

15:20 left: Gaustad and Boyes have two routine easy clears out of the zone and fail both times. Zherdev fires wide on the first and Van Riemsdyk nearly puts it home on the second (hit Zherdev) before Myers takes an interference penalty.

15:15 left: Gaustad is killing the Sabres. Lost the faceoff and bad clear for another goal. An easy PP goal. Lost another faceoff. Shot from point hits Leopold, drops at Briere's feet and he has a tap-in. Flyers lead, 2-0. Shots are 18-6. Briere has six goals in the series.

12:20 left: Roy to the dressing room after a hard hit. Was it the leg? Pretty slow on the way off.

10:51 left: Butler for hooking on Briere. Another goal here and they blow the roof off this place.

9:41 left: There goes the roof. Pronger can't shoot but he can pass. Feeds Giroux for a bullet from the left circle. Miller might have been screened by Leopold and/or Van Riemsdyk. Flyers have 2 PP goals and lead, 3-0. The "Mil-ler, Mil-ler" chants are out and this baby is just about over. Shots are 22-8.

7:01 left: Shots are 23-9. Sabres mounting little offense. At a time like this, you think back to 2001. Can't help it. Sabres were 78 seconds away from a series-closing win before Mario Lemieux's fluke goal tied Game Six and forced overtime. Buffalo lost that one and Game Seven on the Darius Kasparaitis goal. Sabres were 10 minutes away in regulation of Game Six and couldn't get the overtime goal they needed either. With just 27 minutes left here, they don't have a sniff of this Game Seven.

6:30 left: Another Mike Haim special: Briere's six goals most in a series against Sabres since Quebec's Michel Goulet had six in 1985 -- in a five-gamer! 

4:00 left: Wild sequence sees Miller with a left glove to the face of Carcillo, which had to be a roughing penalty but wasn't called, followed by few seconds later by Carcillo doing a fake rush on Miller. Van Riemsdyk then barely misses the far post on a great solo dash.

3:32 left: Shots are 25-11. This place is insane right now. There is almost no way for you to talk to the person next to you in the press box. Like being at a heavy metal concert I would guess (no, I've never been to one).

1:12 left: Boucher with a couple good saves in tight on Stafford. Solid text reminder from Sully: Flyers did not have a shutout all season. Imagine getting one in Game Seven after all this talk about their goaltending? Carle gone for roughing.

57.8 left: Coburn and Myers go for cross-checking and slashing. Stays 5-on-4.

END-2ND: It's 3-0 for the Flyers. Shots are 27-14 (it was 12-11 for Buffalo in that period)

FIRST PERIOD

7:42 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

18:26 left: Pronger is taking a regular shift for the Flyers it would appear. Just made a steal in the neutral zone and Miller made a save on his wrist shot.

17:03: Gragnani and Briere go for holding and roughing, respectively. The lines have looked like this so far: Vanek-Roy-Hecht, Ennis-Niedermayer-Stafford, Gerbe-Gaustad-Mancari, McCormick, Boyes-Grier.

13:17 left: No whistles for quite a while. The Sabres have been pretty brutal with the puck so far. Giroux was alone in front and had most of the net but hit the post. Shots are 5-1 for Philly and the puck has hardly been out of the Sabres' zone. The defense pairs, by the way, are Sekera-Myers, Leopold-Gragnani and Butler-Weber. So Butler and Myers have been broken up.

11:53 left: Gragnani pounds Briere with a crosscheck into the goalpost. Knocks the net off and forces a whistle. No one noticed? Lucky there. Shots are 7-1.

10:52 left: Sabres' best chance is a 45-foot slapper from the boards by Grier that Boucher gloved. Buffalo has gotten nowhere near the Flyers' net so far. Shots are 7-2.

9:00 left: Sabres have held on for 11 minutes as the crowd was roaring. Let's see if they can settle this game down some. Flyers threw a pretty big roundhouse at them from the start.

8:36 left: Boyes fires wide on a 2-on-1 with Roy. Good to see him shoot but how big a pressure release would that have been for him to put that one home?

6:16 left: Shots are 11-2. That's a pretty good reflection of how the play has gone. And remember, the first period has been owned by Buffalo in this series, 11-5. The Flyers have finally found a way to get off to a good start. Don't have to worry about your goalie giving up a softie if he faces no shots.

5:45 left: Just as I said that, Boucher nearly gift-wrapped one to Hecht by losing the puck behind the net. Boucher recovers with help from Pronger & Co. Pronger has played eight shifts and 4:38 so far. Basically a regular turn. Maybe he's feeling better. Sure. But he knows this is Game Seven too. They lose, his hand will feel fine by October. A gamer for sure. 

4:37 left: Briere for boarding on Niedermayer. Another dangerous play in the corner. Niedermayer stunned for a bit. Now on the bench. And the crowd actually booed the penalty call. FlyerFan, that could have easily been five minutes.

2:33 left: Flyers kill it easily. Richards actually had the best chance with a tip of a Giroux pass that went wide. Standing ovation at the whistle.

29.3 left: Miller with an absolute stoning of Richards from the slot after a terrible giveaway pass from Leopold. Passed it right to him. Sabres desperate to get out of this period zip-zip.

18.2 left: Devastating. Sabres simply couldn't clear the zone. Too many faceoffs. They lose another one (Briere beat Gaustad) and Coburn flips one from the point that somehow gets through Miller's legs. It dropped. Gotta stop it. Miller had been the best player on the ice by far. Almost got Buffalo outta here with no damage. Flyers lead, 1-0.

END-1ST: Shots are 16-2. Are the Sabres simply out of gas in this series? Looks like it. And that might have been the worst goal Miller has given up the whole series at the worst time. 1-0 is a huge difference right now from 0-0 given the way the Flyers are playing.

Hecht, Roy, Mancari in lineup for Sabres

Here at the Sabres' lines for tonight's Game Seven:

Jochen Hecht-Derek Roy-Thomas Vanek

Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Mark Mancari

Tyler Ennis-Rob Niedermayer-Drew Stafford

Cody McCormick-Brad Boyes-Mike Grier

UPDATE: Steve Montador is the defenseman that was scratched. Andrej Sekera is dressed in his place.

--John Vogl

Live pregame chat with News hockey reporters at 7 p.m.

Game Seven history

Good omen for the Sabres: Home teams are just 2-8 in Game Seven the last two seasons -- and they went 0-4 last season as Washington fell to Montreal, Phoenix fell to Detroit, Pittsburgh fell to Montreal and Boston fell to Philadelphia.

Bad omen for the Sabres: They have a much poorer Game Seven record in their history than the Flyers. Check out the Game Seven results:

Sabres in Game Seven (1-5 overall/1-1 home, 0-4 road)

1983: L at Boston, 3-2 OT
1992: L at Boston, 3-2
1994: L at New Jersey, 2-1
1997: d. Ottawa, 3-2 (OT)
2001: L to Pittsburgh, 3-2 (OT)
2006: L. at Carolina, 4-2 

Here's a YouTube I found of the Derek Plante overtime goal that beat Ottawa

Flyers in Game Seven (8-6 overall, 5-3 home, 3-3 road)
1968: Lost to St. Louis, 3-1
1974: d. NY Rangers, 4-3
1975: d. NY Islanders, 4-1
1976: d. Toronto, 7-3
1981: Lost to Calgary, 4-1
1987: d. NY Islanders, 5-1
1987: Lost at Edmonton, 3-1
1988: Lost at Washington, 5-4 (OT)
1989: d. at Pittsburgh, 4-1
2000: Lost to New Jersey, 2-1
2003: d. Toronto, 6-1
2004: Lost at Tampa Bay, 2-1
2008: d. at Washington, 3-2 (OT)
2010 d. at Boston, 4-3

---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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