Welcome back to our perch high atop HSB. ... Oh. Sorry. ... First Niagara Center for tonight's preseason opener between the Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes. We're all going to have to get used to that one too. I think PA announcer Jay Moran even took a breath and a hiccup when welcoming fans. I caught the hesitation.
Mike Harrington here on the blog with John Vogl manning the game story and notebook this evening while I do some other duties for our preview section -- which comes out Thursday, Oct. 6. (Get your print copy -- hint/hint). Bucky Gleason will be in his customary columnist role this season. I think it's going to be his 14th season covering the team at The News (might even be 15) in addition to his time spent with the AP.
I know a lot of you are hoping this season runs to June and we'll be with you in print and online every step of the way as long as it goes, all the way to Europe and from sea to shining sea across North America. Even Winnipeg, while our man Vogl continues to mourn the loss of trips to his beloved Atlanta.
We're in preseason mode here so we'll have some random thoughts during the game that will be focused more on who's looking good, playing with whom, etc., rather than the brute game updates our out-of-towners need.
The slugs are gone from the scoreboard, replaced by the classic circle logo and "First Niagara Center" is up on the board. It wasn't there eight hours ago when I was watching practice. Quick work. "HSBC Arena" is gone from the main marquee outside too, replaced I'm sure in the next day or two.
The "We Live Hockey" slogan the team is using got a nice run here on the HD board with a quick video featuring alumni like Jim Lorentz, Danny Gare, Michael Peca, Matthew Barnaby, Richie Dunn and Larry Carriere talking about where they're from and the places they've played in but pointing out how they now live in Buffalo. Cool.
The Hurricanes are not dressing Jeff Skinner or Cam Ward in this one. Brian Boucher -- yep, he of Philadelphia in the spring -- is starting in goal. The Sabres are starting AHL signee Drew MacIntyre and Jhonas Enroth will relieve. Sabretooth still in preseason mode with his repel -- team already on the ice and he nearly took out poor Alex Biega.
Sabres starters: Foligno-Adam-Kassian-Brennan-Biega.
Kudos to the NHL for a touching video remembering all those lost in the Russian plane crash as well as Wade Belak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard. Big round of applause when he was over.
Exhibition season on. Game on.
14;16 left: I forgot how much I miss TV timeouts to help blog. Patrick Kaleta took his first unnecessary penalty of the preseason, a charging call that was clear retaliation for a hit he took. At least he went off with Anthony Stewart (high sticking). Ville Leino had an impressive opening shift. Great puck control. sick hands while working with Stafford and Ennis. He's an upgrade in the middle.
Big names out for Buffalo include Miller, Vanek, Roy, Pominville, Regehr and Ehrhoff. That's some major money in the stands tonight.
12:00 left: The Canes' first shot is a slapper from Stewart on a 2-on-1. Nice stop by MacIntyre after Biega got caught.
The Buffalo lines: Foligno-Adam-Kassian, Ennis-Leino-Stafford, Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta, Whitmore-McCormick-Tropp. Defense: Brennan-Tropp, Sekera-Myers, Gragnani-Weber.
Nice scoreboard greeting from someone I was supposed to know I guess. No graphic so I'm clueless. Vogl, a huge wrestling guy, had to fill me in that it was C.M. Punk. Again, I guess I'm supposed to know him.
7:15 left: Sabres going to their first PP after a tripping penalty on Justin Faulk. Shots are 5-2 for the Canes. Ennis just fired wide prior to the call after a nice drop pass from Stafford. Buffalo killed off a penalty and Stafford was one of the killers along with Gerbe (Kaleta-Gaustad were the other forwards). I'd like to see elite forwards like Stafford and Vanek got more PK time this season. They need to be on the ice, not buried. Let's see if Lindy Ruff hears my call.
4:00 left: Stafford looks really strong with the puck thus far. Gragnani struggled at the point on that PP playing with Myers and the Leino line. The Adam line got PP time with Brennan and Sekera.
2:38 left: Boucher's best save on an Adam snapper. Nice feed from Kassian on the 3-on-2. In a scoreless game, the Canes have a 7-4 edge in shots.
End-1st: Zip-zip. Shots 8-7 for the Canes. Pretty nondescript period. But keep in mind the amount of Buffalo talent not on the ice in this one. Whole new world.
Of note: A bunch of you caught me on Twitter saying "Live from the Arena". I told you I was in preseason mode too. ... Leino the only Sabre with two shots on goal in the first.
19:37 left: Canes score first as Brandon Sutter dekes McIntyre on a breakaway after getting a loose puck away from Brennan. Canes lead, 1-0
15:30 left: Ice time and health will be a huge key for Stafford this year. Nice shot there that Boucher made a good save on. Interesting Lindy called Ennis-Leino-Stafford a "paper" line, as in you write it on paper and then see what works. So far, this one looks like it's a shade above paper status. Excellent start.
12:04 left: The Adam line certainly dominated during the Traverse City prospect tournament but it's a little different in the real NHL, even in the exhibition season. Adam is clearly the most comfortable and that stands to reason. Foligno just flubbed a chance for a 2-on-1 when he didn't have his stick on the ice for an Adam pass.
10:57 left: Enroth comes in to big cheers. MacIntyre stops 9 of 10.
8:57 left: Sabres have just two shots in the period and nine in 31 minutes. Not much offense on the ice and it shows.
5:22 left: They just dropped this one on the HD board -- Blue and Gold carpet walk by the players outside Saturday at 5 prior to the Leafs game.
3:00 left: Not a good night for Gragnani. Struggling with the puck on the power play. In the wake of Sekera's $11 million contract, Gragnani is in a tough spot to crack the top six of this club even in the wake of his terrific work in the playoffs in April.
2:00 left: Enroth with the save of the night on Jamie McBain. He looks sharp and crisp in the crease. Get him 22 games this year, Lindy!
End-2nd: Canes still lead 1-0. Shots are 18-14 for Carolina (10-7 in that period). It ended with Justin Krueger nearly topping into the box where Rob Ray reports from, helped by a spin from Gerbe.
Of note: Leino leads both sides with four shots. Buffalo has a 16-15 edge in faceoffs. Not a whole lot of intensity until the last couple minutes of the second period. Hardly unexpected. The Sabres' first practice was Saturday. A lot asking them to go right into five games in seven days. Unusual schedule this year. ... Justin Peters takes over for Boucher in the Carolina goal.
19:13 left: Sabres keep their momentum as Gaustad scores on a nifty backhand pass from Kaleta. Game tied, 1-1.
15:51 left: Restoring the laptop from an outage and the Gaustad line is at it against. Gaustad with a sick pass to Gerbe for a tap-in to Peters' right. Sabres lead, 2-1.
12:00 left: Sabres on the PP. As for as unheralded kids go, I like Derek Whitmore's game tonight. Been strong with the puck a couple of times, doesn't seem nervous. He should have a good run with the Amerks.
9:15 left: Don't like on the power play -- too many point shots not getting through. Bet there's been five blocked by the Canes tonight. I'm sure Christian Ehrhoff helps that issue.
8:40 left: Foligno stopped on a 3-on-1 from in tight. A pass to Adam in the slot might have been the better choice there.
6:09 left: I don't care that it's the first preseason game. I like when a team knows it's winning time. Down 1-0 after 40 minutes, Sabres have two goals and an 11-3 edge in shots in the third. Nice.
It's over: Sabres hold on for a 3-1 win with Gaustad and Enroth your key performers. Kaleta gets an empty netter right at the horn. The final shots were 27-21 for Buffalo but the 'T' box on the shot counter boards remained empty. Making me figure those totals quick on the fly. I'd Like that bug fixed by Oct. 13, please.
Kaleta and Gerbe (1-2-3) both with three points in the third period. Gaustad (1-1) with two and he went 8-4 in the circle.
They announce a sellout of 18,690. This place cleared out over the final 10 minutes. You people all going early to avoid a snowstorm or what?