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Sabres' Leino wants more minutes, should get them with Vanek, Pominville

Ville Leino played just 9:35 for the Sabres on Saturday, his lowest total of the season and his second-lowest dating back to the start of 2010-11. Although he hasn't produced much during games with more ice time, recording just one goal and one assist through 10 outings, he wants more minutes.

"That’s pretty much the least I’ve played since I’ve been in the league," Leino said today after a practice that found him centering leading scorers Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville. "It’s really tough to play with nine, 10 minutes a game and try to make something happen, feel comfortable out there. It’s pretty much every time you feel into it, you’re not playing. It definitely is not easy for me."

Based on his new wingmen, Leino should be able to do more when the Sabres host his former team, the Philadelphia Flyers, Wednesday in First Niagara Center.

"We’ll see how it goes," Leino said. "They’re good players and I know they think the same way about hockey and their games and do the same kind of plays as I, so it should be pretty easy to read those guys."

The Sabres conducted their intense 70-minute practice (plus another 20 for warm-ups) without forward Jochen Hecht, who had another concussion setback.

"He wasn’t doing so well," coach Lindy Ruff said. "It’s probably the first time since this process that I’m starting to get concerned."

To hear Ruff and goaltender Ryan Miller, click the audio files below.

---John Vogl

Ryan Miller

Lindy Ruff

Sabres' Leino gets his shot with Vanek, Pominville

The Sabres signed Ville Leino to be one of their top two centers. It hasn't worked out so far, with just one goal and one assist in 10 games. He's about to get his shot with Buffalo's hottest wingers to see if it can kick-start his season.

The Sabres are on the ice in First Niagara Center for the first time since Saturday's 3-2 meltdown loss to Florida, and Leino is skating in the middle of left wing Thomas Vanek and right wing Jason Pominville. Luke Adam had been between the wingers, who have combined for 13 goals and 29 points.

Adam has moved to left wing for center Derek Roy and right wing Drew Stafford.

The other two lines remain the same: Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Patrick Kaleta; and Cody McCormick-Matt Ellis-Brad Boyes. Jochen Hecht, who was placed on injured reserve over the weekend, is not skating with the team.

We'll have more following practice.

---John Vogl

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Sabres' quotes following loss to Panthers

The Sabres had plenty of unkind words for themselves following the 3-2 loss to Florida tonight.

Thomas Vanek: "From the get-go we didn't play good hockey ... Losing is no fun, but there's
nights you play well and lose; at least you tried. This one was, from start to finish, ugly."

Jason Pominville: "We put ourselves in a position to win a game, even though we didn’t play well. We’ve got to take more pride in closing games, especially at home. It comes from everybody.

"We know it wasn’t good enough. We’re not going to kid ourselves. We’ve got to be better, and we know it.

"There’s no reason not to be able to compete and work hard. I don’t think we competed hard enough."

Ryan Miller: "Too many mistakes, myself included. The first goal was a big mistake. ... We’re all accountable here, and we’ve all got to wake up."

Lindy Ruff: "Unacceptable. Unacceptable from a discipline standpoint, from a play standpoint. You can package that whole game and put it in the unacceptable category."

---John Vogl

Live from First Niagara Center: Panthers at Sabres

Sabres want Myers to be aggressive; Hecht returns to practice

Tyler Myers has been pretty quiet so far. The Sabres' big defenseman has no goals and two assists in nine games, not the numbers of an offensive catalyst.

Coach Lindy Ruff said today he wants Myers to be more aggressive joining the rush.

"There’s a little indecision in his game," Ruff said after an optional morning skate for tonight's game against Florida. "He had a couple games where I thought he was real good at it, then I thought there was a couple games where the young man looked tired to me, didn’t get there. We pointed out there’s situations where he needs to be there. We’ve talked about that with him even this morning.

"Those are the plays we need. Our whole system is built around those guys being able to get in the play and create those odd-numbered situations."

Sticking with the defensemen, Ruff said he's liked the recent partner swaps. Andrej Sekera is skating with Christian Ehrhoff after starting the season with Marc-Andre Gragnani. Jordan Leopold has left Ehrhoff's side and joined Gragnani.

"I’ve liked it so far," Ruff said. "Andrej has played well enough that I wanted him to have that extra ice. His ability to get up ice and create enough offense where we can play a longer period of time in the other end is something we were looking for."

Forward Jochen Hecht was one of 11 skaters to take part in the skate in First Niagara Center, one day after sitting out because he didn't feel well.

"I just developed a little bit of a headache [Thursday], so I just decided to take the day off and see how the day goes," said Hecht, who hasn't played since suffering a concussion on the second day of training camp. "The day went fine without any injuries again. I’m back out again skating."

Hecht visited a chiropractor Friday.

"He adjusted me, and I’ll see how that goes," Hecht said. "It takes away some of the stiffness of my neck and some of the discomfort I have back there that might cause the headaches. We’re trying to take every step and every measure to make me feel better."

To hear the interviews of Hecht and Ruff, click the audio files below.

---John Vogl

Lindy Ruff

Jochen Hecht

Sabres' Hecht suffers setback, Kaleta goes to full mask

Jochen Hecht was well enough to sign autographs today on his way out of First Niagara Center, but the Sabres forward could do little else.

Hecht, who has been out since suffering a concussion on the second day of training camp, had to take a day off that was "not scheduled," he said.

"He wasn’t doing that well today," coach Lindy Ruff said with a sigh following practice. "We’re just trying to figure some things out. Not to go into detail, but he could be back to full go tomorrow. He’s seeing some people today, and there’s a good chance he can practice again tomorrow."

Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta, meanwhile, added a piece of equipment to make it through practice. The right winger has an infection on his nose that has caused his face to redden and swell up, and he has been forced to attach a full cage to his helmet. He is expected to play Saturday when the Sabres host the Florida Panthers.

"We’re hoping with medication that that’ll go down," Ruff said. "He’s not the prettiest guy right now, but he can still be effective."

To hear the rest of Ruff's chat, including his comments on Jason Pominville, Luke Adam and Thursday's wild 9-8 game between Philadelphia and Winnipeg, click the audio file below.

---John Vogl

Winnipeg wins NHL's highest-scoring game in 15 years

Philadelphia tormented Winnipeg's goalies with eight goals on 48 shots Thursday -- and lost.

The Jets ripped apart Philly's goaltending for nine goals, prompting Flyers netminder Ilya Byzgalov to proclaim, "I have zero confidence in myself right now. I am terrible. I will now apologize in front of the fans, in front of my teammates. I don't know what's going on. I have no answer for you guys. I thought in the last game against Montreal (when he allowed five goals on 28 shots), that nothing worse was going to happen. Today was worse.

"I am lost in the woods right now."

Here are all 17 goals.

---John Vogl

Live from First Niagara Center: Blue Jackets at Sabres

Roswell Park teams with Sabres for fundraisers

As part of the Hockey Fights Cancer program, Roswell Park Cancer Institute is conducting three fundraisers. Two will be held tonight when the Sabres host the Blue Jackets.

Autographed hats donated by New Era Cap Co. will be sold in First Niagara Center. Also, anyone attending or watching can text "CURE" to 501501 before, during and after the game to make a $5 donation to Roswell, with funds used locally for cancer research and patient programs.

In addition, Ryan Miller "sockey" caps are being sold on Roswell's Website.

---John Vogl

Enroth to start against Columbus, Weber still odd man out for Sabres

Jhonas Enroth is well aware the Sabres are 0-2 in Buffalo this season. The goaltender doesn't see that as any reason to put more pressure on himself tonight.

Enroth will get his second start of the year when the Sabres welcome the Columbus Blue Jackets to First Niagara Center. Enroth won his only start, making 29 saves in a 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh on Oct. 15.

"It's just another game for me. That's how I'm going to approach it," Enroth said after the morning skate. "It's just two games [at home]. We're not going to worry about it."

The Sabres (5-3) will skate without defenseman Mike Weber (healthy) and forward Jochen Hecht (concussion) for the ninth straight time to start the season. As expected from someone who played in 58 regular-season games and all seven playoff outings last year, Weber isn't taking the demotion well.

"Not very well, and no player should," coach Lindy Ruff said. "He was a good part of our team last year. It’s a tough situation. There’s some things that I’m still trying to make up my mind on, the importance of certain individuals and whether we should rotate a couple of individuals. Short term, he’s the guy that’s taking the bullet."

The "individual" is rookie defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani. The power-play specialist has three assists and is plus-5, though the man-advantage unit is in a 1-for-17 slump.

"It’s definitely a need part," Ruff said. "We feel we have a certain need for who’s in the lineup and just evaluating whether that still has to be a big part of our team."

The audio of Ruff's news conference is below.

---John Vogl

Inside the NHL chat with Bucky Gleason at 9:30 a.m.

Sabres still experimenting with power play

The Sabres' experiments to get their power play moving will continue. They mixed the units up earlier in the week, but that didn't help as they went 0 for 3 during Tuesday's 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay. The blanking dropped the Sabres to just 1 for 17 with the man-advantage during the last six games.

The next step may be to rotate Christian Ehrhoff at the blue line. The defenseman proved during the preseason and the opening two games that his shot from the point is potent. Teams noticed and are trying to get in his shot lanes.

"His decision to try and shoot through people is something that we’d like to change a little bit," coach Lindy Ruff said after practice today in First Niagara Center. "Teams know what Christian’s strength is, and it is his shot. He had the one really good look [Tuesday], and it wasn’t much wide but it was wide. We may have to put him up top at times, give teams a little bit different look instead of having the one-timer from the side, have it from the middle of the ice. There’s different looks we can approach the game with."

The Sabres host Columbus on Thursday, and the visit by the Blue Jackets could help heal the power-play ailment. Though Columbus beat Detroit on Tuesday for its first victory, the team ranks last in the NHL in penalty killing at just 67.7 percent.

"Obviously, they went through a tough time very similar to what we went through at the start of last year," Ruff said. "That should really pick that team up, give them a little bit of boost. Beating Detroit is no easy task, so to get on the board against them is a big step in the right direction."

To hear all of Ruff's comments from today, click the audio file below.

---John Vogl

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Live from First Niagara Center: Lightning at Sabres

Ruff inserting Ellis' determination into Sabres' lineup

Matt Ellis will replace injured Tyler Ennis in the Sabres’ lineup for tonight’s game against Tampa Bay. The center is expected to skate between left wing Cody McCormick and right wing Brad Boyes.

"He is a consummate pro, from how hard he works, how hard he trains and an unbelievable attitude," coach Lindy Ruff said of Ellis following today’s morning skate. "If you could take some of his attributes and if you could drop one or two on different players, it’d be a hell of a player. But that comes with the battle of him trying to stay in this league, too. It’s a determination that’s pretty impressive."

The game will be Ellis’ first of the season. Forward Jochen Hecht will miss his eighth straight game. He visited with a doctor Monday but has not been cleared to return from his concussion.

The Sabres, who will be without Ennis because of an ankle sprain, are tweaking their power-play units. They will be: Jason Pominville-Thomas Vanek-Boyes, with Marc-Andre Gragnani and Christian Ehrhoff at the point; and Luke Adam-Drew Stafford-Ville Leino, with Jordan Leopold and Tyler Myers.

Ryan Miller will make his fourth straight start in net for Buffalo. The game, televised by Versus, has a 7:30 p.m. faceoff in First Niagara Center.

---John Vogl

Hull tweets painful memory

Hall of Famer Brett Hull probably won't ever be a fan favorite in these parts, what with his role in "No Goal" during Game Six of the 1999 Stanley Cup finals.

He likely won't be making any friends in these parts anytime soon since he recently brought up that painful memory with his newly created Twitter account (2ndBestHull).

Hull, the son of Hall of Famer Bobby Hull, recently had an avatar (Twitter-account mug shot) with a Brett Hull is a Cheater T-shirt created by Born in Buffalo company owned by Dave Hassett.

Included was the following tweet: "New pic for all my friends in buffalo xoxo."

USA Today got wind of it. Here's the link to its story http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gameon/post/2011/10/brett-hull-gaining-twitter-followers-while-tweaking-buffalo-fans/1#.TqWCt6_ry-w.mailto.

---Miguel Rodriguez

Ennis' ankle sprain will be week-to-week injury

Coach Lindy Ruff said forward Tyler Ennis, who sufferend an ankle injury in Saturday's loss at Tampa Bay, will be out with an ankle sprain.
"Tyler looks week to week with it. We'll just have to wait and see," Ruff said.

When asked if it was a high ankle sprain, Ruff said: "It's an ankle sprain, yeah, so it'll be a bit of time."

To adapt to Ennis' loss, it appears Ville Leino will move to the left wing.

"We're going to try some different things," Ruff said.

On the possibility of Jochen Hecht returning to the lineup?

"We'll find out more today with Jochen later, whether he can play or not. Initial, I would say no," Ruff said.

Paul Gaustad sat out practice for a maintenance day. He's dealing with a pulled muscle.

Other notes from Sabres practice:

Brad Boyes worked on the power-play unit with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville. Boyes, who played his 500th career game last Saturday and will play his 500th straight game Tuesday, will get some power-play time, according to Ruff.

"I'm pretty proud of that. ... The biggest thing is you want to play every game and knock on wood, I've been lucky to be able to do that so far," Boyes said. I want to be able to continue to do that. I got my 500th [NHL game] in Tampa in Tampa and didn't get the right result. The consecutive [streak], hopefully we get a win."

Boyes played his first NHL game before the lockout with the San Jose Sharks. He was then traded to the Boston Bruins, played the rest of the season and the lockout season with the Bruins' AHL team in Providence before becoming a lineup regular to start the 2005-06 season.

"It's weird because even between that part I didn't miss an NHL game but I guess I did miss games because I was in the minors," Boyes said of the unique streak.

Below is audio from Lindy Ruff's press conference.

 

 

---Miguel Rodriguez

Sabres take day off, Ennis update to come Monday

The Sabres, who wrapped up a run of four straight road games Saturday with their first loss away from home, are taking today off to rest. They will return to practice Monday to prepare for Tuesday's rematch with Tampa Bay.

Coach Lindy Ruff will update the status of Tyler Ennis on Monday. The left winger hurt his ankle just 2:15 into the game. The departure forced Ruff to juggle his lines, but he said that had nothing to do with the 3-0 loss.

"Guys were begging for more ice time. They got more ice time," Ruff said. "Don’t lay it on that. … I look at that as an opportunity for some guys to rise to the occasion."

Tuesday's game against the Lightning starts a stretch of five straight games in First Niagara Center.

"We’ve got to go home and play well, which is important," Ruff said. "We’ve worked hard on the road here. We’ve put together a pretty good stretch. Now it’s get our feet back on the ground and worry about improving."

---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 | [email protected]

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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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