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Live from St. Pete Times Forum: Sabres at Lightning

Sabres hope to keep hot streak vs. Tampa going

TAMPA, Fla. -- No surprises at the Sabres' morning skate in Tampa, with Drew Stafford and Paul Gaustad returning after a day off Friday and Ryan Miller getting selected to start against the Lightning tonight.

The Sabres have won eight of their last 10 games in Tampa. Coach Lindy Ruff talks about the success in the audio file below.

---John Vogl

Ruff: Gaustad, Stafford should be fine for Tampa

TAMPA, Fla. -- Lindy Ruff gave forwards Paul Gaustad (hip flexor) and Drew Stafford (undisclosed) the day off today, but the Sabres' coach expects both to be ready to play Saturday night when Buffalo visits the Lightning. The Sabres will enter the game on a three-game winning streak.

To hear Ruff's thoughts on Jochen Hecht's improvement from a concussion and how Tyler Ennis is handling his pointless start to the season, click the audio file below.

---John Vogl

Gaustad, Stafford sitting out Sabres practice

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Sabres have hit the ice for practice at the Ice Sports Forum without two forwards. Paul Gaustad is sitting out with a hip flexor injury suffered during the third period of Thursday's 3-0 victory over Florida. The center, walking with a limp, said he's just taking a day off.

Coach Lindy Ruff will update Stafford's status following the workout.

The injuries have forced Ruff to switch his forward lines for the skate. They are:

Thomas Vanek-Luke Adam-Jason Pominville

Tyler Ennis-Derek Roy-Brad Boyes

Nathan Gerbe-Ville Leino-Patrick Kaleta

Jochen Hecht-Matt Ellis-Cody McCormick

All seven defensemen and both goaltenders are on the ice.

---John Vogl

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Live from BankAtlantic Center: Sabres at Panthers

Ice-T gets to know Nathan Gerbe on Law & Order

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Nathan Gerbe joined most of the Sabres on a yacht with owner Terry Pegula on Wednesday night, so the left winger wasn’t watching the NBC drama "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." He learned he should have tuned in.

The episode focused on a Buffalo family that had its car stolen while their baby was in it. The child’s aunt explained to police how the baby's parents named him.

"She wanted to name the baby Ty," the woman said, "but he wanted Nathan, for Nathan Gerbe.’’

As one officer, played by rapper Ice-T, gave a look of unfamiliarity, the other cop said: "He leads the Sabres in penalty minutes."

Said Gerbe, who got multiple messages about the unexpected appearance: "It’s funny. I was laughing."

---John Vogl

Ennis hoping to find offense with Sabres' new lines

SUNRISE, Fla. -- After five games, Tyler Ennis is still waiting for his first point. Lindy Ruff is giving new linemates to the Sabres' left winger, and Ennis hopes the results will be different.

Ennis will skate alongside center Derek Roy and right wing Drew Stafford tonight when the Sabres visit the Florida Panthers. Ennis' former mates, center Ville Leino and right wing Brad Boyes, will have Cody McCormick on their left. Nathan Gerbe, who was with Roy and Stafford, is reuniting with his preseason line featuring center Paul Gaustad and right wing Patrick Kaleta.

"I’ve just got to work hard," Ennis said after the morning skate in BankAtlantic Center. "That’s all I can control. The puck hasn’t been going in, but what I’m going to control is my work ethic and going to the net. Hopefully, good things will happen."

The starting six defensemen remain the same and Ryan Miller will start in goal for Buffalo, which practiced without forward Jochen Hecht. He's been out since suffering a concussion on the second day of training camp.

"He just wasn’t feeling very well, so I kept him off the ice," Ruff said. "It might be just a one-day thing."

Ruff's chat with the media is below.

---John Vogl

Dineen, Soupy look forward to seeing Sabres

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kevin Dineen, who coached the Sabres' minor-leaguers the previous three seasons, had several former players to say hello to today. The Florida coach is seeing many of them for the first time. Hear from him and Florida defenseman Brian Campbell below.

---John Vogl

Kevin Dineen

Brian Campbell

Inside the NHL chat with Bucky Gleason at 10 a.m.

Live from Bell Centre: Sabres vs. Canadiens

Sabres sticking with Gragnani

MONTREAL -- Marc-Andre Gragnani has known since Saturday night he had a rough game against the Penguins. The Sabres' defenseman learned for sure today that it won't cost him a spot in the lineup.

Gragnani will again be on the blue line for the Sabres tonight when the visit the Montreal Canadiens. Buffalo has Mike Weber waiting for a chance to play, but he'll keep waiting.

"You don't want a player to be in a situation where it's one poor game and you've got somebody sitting there you're waiting to put in," coach Lindy Ruff said after the morning skate in Bell Centre. "He has been a difference maker for us in a lot of situations, and he needs to bounce back. It might have been one of his toughest games, especially puck possession-wise, and we're just hoping he can show us in a game and a city that I think he's going to like playing in that he can bounce back and play well."

Gragnani, a Montreal native, likes that one bad showing doesn't equal a spot in the press box, but even he's not sure it's a sound policy.

"I don't think I have any leeway. I'm not saying that it shouldn't be like that, but that's how I feel," Gragnani said. "Being the only rookie on defense, and look at the guys that we have on this team, it's a hell of a D corps, so if I'm not performing like I should be, it's only right that I shouldn't be in the lineup. He obviously puts the six D that he thinks he has the best chance to win, so if I'm not up and ready to perform like I did last year and I did in the first three games of the season, I shouldn't be playing."

To hear Gragnani's interview and Ruff's marathon session with the media, click the audio files below.

--John Vogl

Marc-Andre Gragnani

Lindy Ruff

Hecht, the fourth line and Gragnani

Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after practice forward Jochen Hecht is progressing and getting better. Ruff acknowledges that when Hecht is good to go, he'll have a difficult decision as to which forward to pull from the lineup.

On an aside, Hecht wasn't practicing on a regular line Monday. If you want to read the tea leaves, it would seem to indicate Hecht won't be a go Tuesday night in Montreal but things do have a habit of changing over the course of 24 hours.

Other notes, Ruff referred to the fourth line of Paul Gaustad-Patrick Kaleta-Cody McCormick as "the dirt and the oil for us.

"They're hard to play against, they're a good defensive. They're a line I can throw out there when we've had a little trouble in our own end. ... They've been in on some good opporutnities but for the most part we're relying on them to provide some of the dirty work for us."

Ruff also said it's not a given that defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani will be one of the six in the lineup Tuesday even though the game is in Gragnani's hometown. Gragnani is on the Sabres' top power-play unit but struggled with the puck in his own end during last Saturday's win in Pittsburgh.

"We know what he provides for us. He's made some great plays on the power play for us. It's the defending that Marc still has to work on. ... No guarantee (he'll play Tuesday)," Ruff said.

Below is audio from Ruff's meeting with the media following Monday's practice, one in which Patrick Kaleta scored on a shootout toward the end, a tally similar to the one-handed backhand against the grain Forsberg used during the 1994 Olympics.



---Miguel Rodriguez

@Twitter: miggyrod33

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Live from the Burgh: Sabres vs. Penguins

Enroth gets the call in goal tonight

PITTSBURGH -- Jhonas Enroth gets the call in goal tonight as the Sabres meet the Penguins in Consol Energy Center and coach Lindy Ruff insisted after today's optional skate that he's turning over a new leaf in the way he uses his backup goalie. 

"We plan on using Jhonas a fair amount," Ruff said. "So in back to back situations we're defeinitely going to use him. The overall plan for him is every three or four games to get him in. He had a great preaseason for us, had a great finish to the year for us so I don't have any hesitation putting Jhonas in."

Ruff, of course, has had plenty of second thoughts about using backups since Martin Biron was traded in 2007. But Enroth seems like he won the coach over with his play last March when Ryan Miller was injured. Enroth was 9-2-2 overall last season with a 2.73 goals against average.

"We've got faith he can play well for us and that's important," Ruff said. "We're in a busy part of our schedule and we're looking for him to step in."

"I'm very excited," said Enroth, who has been idle since the Oct. 4 exhibition in Mannheim, Germany. " It's going to be a lot of fun to finally get a game under my belt."

Although Enroth is used to being a starter, he said he's adjusting to the fact he won't be getting every-day work.

"The biggest difference is you have to practice harder, stay out there a little bit longer every day and try to stay sharp that way," he said. "When it comes to a game, it's always the same thing."

More from the pregame skates:

---The Sabres will continue to scratch Jochen Hecht, Matt Ellis and Mike Weber, who is a Pittsburgh native. Cheap plug: Read more from Weber in Sunday's Sabres notebook.

---Sidney Crosby skated fully for the Penguins but there is no timetable as to when he will return from his concussion. Crosby does not speak to the media on gamedays while he is not in the lineup. Evgeni Malkin (leg) is out tonight while East Amherst's Brooks Orpik (abdominal) skated on his own prior to the team. Coach Dan Bylsma said Orpik, who has yet to play this year, is improving.

Bylsma noted the two short-handed goals the Sabres gave up last night against Carolina and said teams that play 1-3-1 sets or four forwards on their power play (Buffalo does both) can be susceptible to quick breakouts if they lose puck battles along the boards. The Penguins are dangerous killing penalties but Ruff said the Sabres won't change their approach.

"We're not going to get defensive on the power play," he said. "We're just going to make some smarter decisions. ... There's no chance you're going to be successful on the power play if you take a defensive approach. We're not going to do that. If you give up the odd opportunity being overly aggressive, that's OK but we're not going to do what we did last night."

---Mike Harrington

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Live from the Home Opener: Sabres vs. Canes

A quick look at the Canes; Maurice to coach 900th game

Fans in Buffalo know all about the Sabres, so here's a quick look at tonight's opponent, compliments of the notes sent Thursday night by the stellar Carolina Hurricanes PR staff:

*Tonight’s game marks coach Paul Maurice’s 900th regular-season game behind the Carolina franchise’s bench. Maurice is just the seventh coach in NHL history to coach 900 games for a franchise, and trails only Nashville’s Barry Trotz (986) and Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff (1,068) among active coaches in games coached with their current teams.

*Strong in the Circle: Alternate captain Brandon Sutter notched his first assist of the season on Wednesday against Boston. In his fourth NHL season, Sutter is proving to be a formidable force on faceoffs, having won 45-of-73 (61.6%) of draws thus far in 2011-12. Sutter won 44.3 percent of faceoffs in 2010-11.

*Skinner Streaks Snapped: 2011 Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner has five points (1g, 4a) in the first four games in 2011-12. Skinner’s three-game point streak and two-game assist streak were snapped on Wednesday against Boston. He manufactured a five-game point streak and had assists in three consecutive games in his rookie season. Skinner skated in all 82 games last season, collecting 62 points (31g, 32a) and 46 penalty minutes.


·Carolina trails all-time 67-91-20-1 (179), including 38-39-13 (90) at home and 29-52-7-1 (89) in Buffalo.

·The Hurricanes and Sabres tied the 2010-11 four-game series, each going 2-1-1.

·The Carolina franchise has earned points in every season series (dating back to 1979-80 and includes games as Hartford), but has won only six of the 30 series during that span.

·Buffalo is the only NHL team with which the Carolina franchise has not conducted a trade of any kind.

·The Canes are 3-7-0 in their last nine trips to the First Niagra Center.

·CAR career point-per-game players vs. BUF: Jamie McBain –  4 pts (1g, 3a) in 4 games

·Cam Ward is 6-6-2, with a 2.87 GAA and two shutouts in 14 career appearances against Buffalo. Brian Boucher: 3-4-0, 2.14 GAA in seven games.

·BUF career point-per-game players vs. CAR:  – Derek Roy – 28 pts (12g, 16a) in 23 games

·Ryan Miller is 11-5-4 with a 2.61 GAA in 20 career appearances against the Hurricanes. Jhonas Enroth: 1-0-0, 0.97 GAA in one game.

·No player on either team’s roster has played for both Carolina and Buffalo. Carolina assistant coach Tom Barrasso was drafted by the Sabres in the first round, fifth overall, in 1983, and played his first five-plus NHL seasons with Buffalo.

---John Vogl

Amerks afterthoughts

ROCHESTER -- Here's what's still in my notebook and my mind after the Amerks' dismal 5-1 loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in Thursday's home opener.

---The Amerks need offense. And I'm not talking Matt Ellis. Their center play has been poor so far. Michael Ryan has to lead the offense and he's been invisible so far. Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno have been ordinary at best. The lack of offense was a fear.

---Had a good chat with T.J. Brennan, who was brutal in this one but said he's moved on already. He took responsiblity and said he knows as a third-year AHL player that guys look to him for leadership.

"We have 10 guys born after 1990 so it's not exactly time to hit the panic button," Brennan told me. "Guys are learning how good this league is. It's not a joke. You have to play every night. We'll learn quick."

---There was definite disappointment in not putting on a better show for the crowd of 9,217.

"We wanted to come out firing and it didn't work out that way," Brennan said. "I hope it's not one game and they come and give up. You have to have a short-term memory here."

---Joe Finley and Nick Crawford  on defense  tonight with Dennis Persson and Drew Schiestel both out with injuries. The Amerks are denying a Hamilton Spectator report that Schiestel is out 4-6 weeks with a sprained knee ligament suffered in Saturday's opener at Hamilton, Schiestel's hometown. Hmmm.

--Loved the way the Amerks handled the alumni reunion, both on the red carpet in the atrium and on the ice. And great moment to see the announcement of Joe Crozier's impending induction to the AHL Hall of Fame.

---If you're a Sabres fan, you should come to a game here. The seating bowl was redone a few years ago and sightlines are great. Pegula & Co. forked over 200K for a new video board. There's no shots on goal counter anywhere I saw. Needs to be fixed.

---Got a few tweets about disastrous lines at concession stands too. The concourses are old and tight and that's a problem. But folks behind the counter have to work too. I went at 6:15 -- 45 minutes before  faceoff -- to check it out and they were already out of pizza and trying to make more? Gotta be more prepared than that.

---A veteran baseball writer gets really messed up covering Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for 14 years and now being told he's covering Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. 

---Mike Harrington

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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 |

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 |

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 |