November 25, 2011 - 12:55 PM
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Not since Ryan Miller's first game in 2002 has a Buffalo player's NHL debut been so anticipated. If anyone thinks the fans are excited about Zack Kassian playing tonight, they should see Kassian.
The big right winger was full of smiles and hearty, tight-gripped handshakes this morning while getting ready to premiere against Columbus. He was one of the first players on the ice for the morning skate in Nationwide Arena, and he's ready to return to the rink tonight to face the Blue Jackets.
"You dream about this since you were a little kid. To finally have it come true, I’m very excited,'' said the 20-year-old. "My first NHL game, I’m going to try to have as much fun as I can and not put too much pressure on myself and just play hockey."
Folks in Sabreland have been waiting to watch Kassian since the team selected him 12th overall in the 2009 draft. The 6-foot-3, 228-pounder has the rare combination of skill and a physical presence. He had seven goals and 14 points in 18 games with Rochester.
"He’s played well," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "Offensively, he’s got it going pretty good down in Rochester. He can really hang on to pucks. He might be as strong a player as we’ve got. He’s a big man."
Kassian will start the game alongside center Luke Adam and left wing Matt Ellis. Kassian and Adam spent much of training camp and all of the Traverse City prospects tournament together.
"When I got sent down I just wanted to work my butt off down there and try to play as best as I can and hopefully get the call," Kassian said. "The call came. Now it’s time for me to show what I’ve got."
November 24, 2011 - 6:08 PM
The Sabres' top prospect appears set to make his NHL debut.
Zack Kassian, Buffalo's first-round pick in the 2009 draft, has been summoned from Rochester to play for the injury-plagued Sabres, according to the Twitter accounts of Kassian's friends and teammates.
"Congrats to my best friend zack kassian on getting the call up with the Buffalo Sabres!#lighterup!!" wrote Daniel Maggio, a junior player who lives in Kassian's hometown of Windsor, Ont.
Neither the Sabres nor Amerks have announced a transaction.
Kassian leads the Amerks with seven goals and 14 points in 18 games. An ankle injury to right wing Brad Boyes suffered during Wednesday's 4-3 loss to Boston coupled with a lower-body injury that kept right wing Patrick Kaleta out of practice today created the need for a forward.
November 24, 2011 - 12:08 PM
Somewhere in Rochester today, one of the Amerks forwards will get a telephone call with his turkey. The Sabres are hurting up front, and they're going to need another reinforcement.
Buffalo practiced with only 11 healthy forwards today during a short holiday session in First Niagara Center, and they'll need to boost that number to 12 before they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.
Tyler Ennis, who is still recovering from Oct. 22 ankle sprain, practiced on a line but said he is not ready to return. Patrick Kaleta (lower body) was unable to skate again after missing Wednesday's 4-3 shootout loss to Boston, so he's out. Brad Boyes got hurt against the Bruins, and he's not expected back for sometime.
That leaves Amerks forwards Colin Stuart, Zack Kassian and Derek Whitmore among the likely candidates to join the Sabres, who return home after the trip to Columbus to host Washington on Saturday.
"We’re really going to have to grind through a session here where we’re down a lot of manpower," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said today. "Playing against a healthy team last night, a full lineup against six guys out, that effort was worthy of a win. We didn’t get it. We’re disappointed. But I’m just telling you, we play that way, play that hard, we’ll get the W’s."
The Sabres' lines were: Thomas Vanek-Jochen Hecht-Jason Pominville; Ville Leino-Derek Roy-Drew Stafford; Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Corey Tropp; and Ennis-Luke Adam-Matt Ellis.
The sixth healthy defensemen were joined by injured Mike Weber, who can skate with the team but has an upper-body injury that will keep him out for weeks still.
To hear Ruff's Thanksgiving chat -- which includes comments on Hecht, T.J. Brennan and the Blue Jackets -- click the audio file below.
November 23, 2011 - 6:34 PM
The Sabres have taken the ice for warmups and Patrick Kaleta is not with them. He missed yesterday's practice for "maintenance" and then skated this morning. But he was not available to the media after the skate.
So if you're scoring at home, that's no Kaleta, no Cody McCormick, no Mike Weber and no Tyler Myers.
When it comes to Milan Lucic, looks like it's going to be Paul Gaustad or bust. Jochen Hecht will make his season debut and Corey Tropp, perhaps the scratch to make room for Hecht, stays in with Kaleta out.
Follow our live blog starting at 7.
November 23, 2011 - 1:02 PM
Milan Lucic spoke to the media for more than eight minutes here Tuesday so when he saw another gaggle of camera, notebooks and tape recorders around his locker this afternoon, did he exit stage left? No way. Went right through the line of people and stood in front of the locker to take everybody's best shot.
It's how he plays every night and nothing is changing tonight even though he's public enemy No. 1 in this town. How does he feel about that?
"It's happened to me before, a couple of years ago back in Montreal," Lucic said. "They still boo me there. It's something that comes with the game and helps build a rivalry. It's fun to be a part of rivalries like this."
Asked how strange it would be to become a bigger villain here than Zdeno Chara, Lucic smiled and said, "We'll have to wait and see what the reception is."
Like Lindy Ruff said earlier today, Lucic and Boston coach Claude Julien said Brendan Shanahan's call to the respective GMs won't really impact the way they approach the game. Lucic did admit he knows what the Sabres are going through; the Big, Bad Bruins got torched in their hometown two years ago for lack of response when Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke KO'd Marc Savard.
"It's not fun when media and people are pointing fingers around because of what happened and they start pointing fingers at guys in the room," Lucic said. "Definitely they're going to be prepared for this game, not just for this game because of the incident but also because they lost, 6-2. They're going to want to come back with a big effort so we know they're going to be fired up and ready to go tonight."
The Bruins have won nine straight and have outscored foes, 43-14, in that stretch. Yikes. Tim Thomas will play goal again tonight after posting shutouts in the last two games to extend his scoreless streak to 133:04. Thomas has three straight shutouts on the road -- a first in the NHL since Toronto's Ed Belfour in 2003-04 -- and a streak of 222:16 away from TD Garden.
Cracked Julien: "It doesn't take a brain surgeon to make that decision for tonight to go with your best goaltender."
Tonight's winner will move into first place in the Northeast with 26 points (tied with Toronto but with fewer games played). Hear Julien and Lucic's sessions with reporters below:
November 23, 2011 - 11:36 AM
A stone-faced Lindy Ruff kept the media waiting much longer than normal following today's morning skate and then didn't have much to say in advance of tonight's grudge match against the Boston Bruins. Not unusual. Ruff always has quite a gameface on after morning skates, especially in situations like this when the eyes of the hockey world are on his team.
"I'm expecting our team to come out hard in all areas," was Ruff's message he repeated during the three-minute chat. "We have to play a real hard game. That's the message in all areas. Hard on the puck, hard getting it back, hard physically."
NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan has spoken to general managers Darcy Regier and Peter Chiarelli and told them their teams are on high notice to not have any shenanigans tonight in the wake of the Milan Lucic-Ryan Miller incident 11 days ago in Boston.
"I haven't talked to the team about that, no," Ruff said. "It doesn't change anything for me."
But Ruff cut off a question about retaliation a few seconds later by saying, "I don't think Shanahan would like to hear that."
The media throng was large by regular-season standards, with several outlets from Southern Ontario joining Buffalo and Boston reporters. Many of the Sabres were already off the ice and in trainers' areas when reporters were allowed in, and no one spoke to the likes of Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta, the two likely candidates to do something with Lucic.
Pressed again on what the Sabres need to do tonight, Ruff said, "I'll answer the question one more time: We were disappointed in our response and that won't happen again."
The Sabres' response to the incident is one issue. Trying to beat a Boston team that has won nine straight is something else entirely.
"They got their game in place, getting depth in scoring, great goaltending," Ruff said. "They're back. They're proving they're a championship team. Until somebody knocks them off, they're on a roll where they think they can go out and repeat. It's a great opportunity for us to make a statement."
Ruff confirmed Jochen Hecht would make his season debut tonight but it's unknown who will sit up front. Kaleta, who missed yesterday for maintenance, was on the ice. So was defenseman Mike Weber, who skated with his teammates for the first time since suffering an undisclosed upper-body injury Nov. 16 against New Jersey.
Weber skated in the same color jersey as the injured Tyler Ennis and won't play tonight either.
Hear Ruff's session with the media below:
November 22, 2011 - 6:45 PM
Milan Lucic has no doubt the Sabres will try to fight him Wednesday night during the first Boston-Buffalo game since the big winger collided with and concussed Ryan Miller on Nov. 12. He's not scared of a fight, though.
"Never. Never in my whole life," he said today after practice in First Niagara Center. "When I was a teenager I did boxing because I enjoyed it. I’ve never lost sleep about it. I’ve never gone to a game shaking about it or anything like that."
Lucic is also ready to take his share of shots from the sellout crowd, which has been anticipating this game since Buffalo's goaltender went done and his team didn't respond.
"That’s what’s going to make this game exciting," Lucic said. "There’s the anticipation building up to this game. Even in the crowd, they’re excited for this game as well as we are as players on both sides. Wednesday night in Buffalo, there’s probably no better place to be."
Boston coach Claude Julien said his team is just looking at the game as a chance to win its 10th straight, a run that includes that convincing 6-2 victory over Buffalo.
"The one thing I’m not going to do is focus on [Lucic getting challenged]," Julien said. "It is a game that’s important for both teams. I think that win is more important than anything right now. We’re not the ones looking for revenge, if there is one. We’re looking to win a hockey game. That’s not a big issue, and I think our team has been able to handle teams that have tried to push us around, so that’s not even something we’re going to lose sleep over."
For the full interviews with Lucic and Julien, click the audio files below.
November 22, 2011 - 1:26 PM
Jochen Hecht, who has yet to play this season after suffering a concussion during the opening practice of training camp, is finally back to 100 percent. The Sabres' forward expects to be in the lineup Wednesday when Buffalo hosts Boston.
"I’m excited about it," Hecht said after today's practice in First Niagara Center. "It’s been a long time. The last game was in the playoffs against Philly, so I’m excited to get out there and play."
Hecht suffered a concussion and a setback late in the regular season last year, and he managed to return for Game Seven of the first-round series loss to Philadelphia. He skated today with rookies Luke Adam and Corey Tropp.
"There’s two young kids and the old guy," said the 34-year-old. "We are going against the defending Stanley Cup champions, a big rivalry against them, a team that’s going really well right now. It’s a very important game for us. We’ve been struggling at home, and this might be a way to turn it around."
Right wing Patrick Kaleta missed today's practice for "maintenance," coach Lindy Ruff said, while left wing Tyler Ennis suffered a setback in his return from a sprained ankle.
"A little bit sore so decided to keep him off," Ruff said. "I think some of that can be expected. We ramped up the workload, so it tells us he’s not quite there yet."
To hear all of Ruff's interview, click the audio file below.
November 22, 2011 - 8:42 AM
November 21, 2011 - 10:09 PM
It was a sensational return Monday night for Sidney Crosby with two goals and two assists in the Penguins' 5-0 win over the Washington Generals-like New York Islanders and that's the story that will dominate the hockey world Tuesday morning.
But in the Shake-Your-Head Division, Team Department, comes the story of the Boston Bruins. The Bs survived Monday night in Montreal, 1-0, to win their ninth straight game as Tim Thomas posted his second straight shutout. That means they hit town for Wednesday's grudge match in First Niagara Center against the Sabres going for 10 in a row, just another juicy subplot in a game full of them.
And then there's this: The Bruins (12-7-0) took over first place in the Northeast from the Sabres (12-8-0) by virtue of higher points percentage. That puts Boston third in the Eastern Conference -- just 16 days after the Bruins were dead last in 15th place at 3-7. Pretty incredible. The Bruins were actually second for a few minutes until the upstart Florida Panthers took over the spot with a 4-3 win over New Jersey in a game they trailed, 3-0.
The Sabres, meanwhile, fall from second in the East to fifth.
November 21, 2011 - 5:15 PM
The Sabres said all the right things about the Boston Bruins after practice Monday. If revenge against Milan Lucic is on their mind, you sure wouldn't know it. While it's reasonable to think the fan base is at least interested in a pound of flesh as it is with two points, the Sabres tried to give us the business-as-usual approach.
"I don't know what the fans are wanting," insisted Paul Gaustad. "We want to get a win. I think that's what we have to focus on: Playing our game, execute our system and try to win. ... We have to address it as taking care our business of executing the game. We're trying to win the two points. You have to focus on our systems and execute what they'll do with their systems."
Lucic, of course, said after the game in Boston the Bruins were a different team and would never allow their goalie to get steamrolled. So he bruised the Sabres on the ice and again after the game. What was Gaustad's reaction to that?
"I don't watch the media or read the newspapers," he said. "So I don't know exactly what he said. It's his opinion and we tried to put that in the past and focus on the stretch of games we've had here."
"All that other stuff, you can't think about it or talk about it too much," added defenseman Robyn Regehr. "You have to try to win a game. There's certain things that happen spontaneously and so be it. It happesn when you're playing a good hard physical, aggressive game. I don't think there's going to be any sort of premediated stuff if that's what you're implying. First and foremost, let's win this hockey game."
The only sign came from Lindy Ruff, who first tried to feign ignorance when asked if the NHL had made any pre-emptive phone call yet to the teams. Then Ruff admitted, "We're all smart enough. As the cowboy would say, 'This ain't my first rodeo.' "
November 21, 2011 - 2:14 PM
The Buffalo Sabres spent the first quarter of the season with seven healthy defensemen and Mike Weber sat most nights as a healthy scratch. Suddenly, they're very thin on the blueline.
Coach Lindy Ruff dropped a big dose of bad news on the media Monday afternoon following practice at the Northtown Center of Amherst -- Tyler Myers will be lost to the team for probably 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist suffered in the second period of Saturday night's loss to Phoenix. Ruff said Myers had surgery on the injury Monday morning.
"It happened just on an awkward play, nothing you would ever notice," Ruff said. "Just one of those freak-like incidents."
Weber continues to be sidelined by an upper-body injury so with Myers and Mike Weber out, T.J. Brennan has been recalled from Rochester. He will make his NHL debut in, of all games, Wednesday night's grudge match against Boston. Brennan will be paired with Marc-Andre Gragnani. He has three goals, four assists and a minus-3 rating in 17 games for Rochester.
"He's going to have to play a regular shift for us," Ruff said. "He's played well down there and it's not easy to step in but we need him to play well for us."
Myers had played three straight solid games in the wake of benching Monday in Montreal, although he lost coverage on Paul Bissonnette on what turned into the winning goal Saturday. He scored his only two goals of the season Wednesday against New Jersey. This will be the first time in his three-year career he's missed a game due to injury.
"He was physical, knocking people down," Ruff said. "Offensively, I thought he skated really well. That part hurts. That was a tough awakening for it and I thought he responded pretty well to it."
Among other injuries, there's no change in the status of Jochen Hecht and Tyler Ennis, who continue to improve. And Ruff said Ryan Miller is getting better, with the Sabres working more on alleviating some of his neck issues in the wake of the hit by Boston's Milan Lucic.
To hear from Ruff and defenseman Robyn Regehr on the Myers situation and the upcoming clash against the Bruins click the audio files below.
November 20, 2011 - 12:19 PM
The Sabres, who finished a strenuous stretch of six games in nine nights Saturday with a 4-2 loss to Phoenix, have taken the day off. They will return to practice Monday.
We'll find out then if they'll have Tyler Myers back. The defenseman injured his wrist or hand during the second period Saturday, and he was scheduled to be evaluated today. An update on Myers condition will come Monday.
The Sabres don't play again until Wednesday, and it's against the big, bad Boston Bruins. They have won eight straight, including a 6-2 victory over Buffalo. If you don't remember that kittenfest, in which the Bruins' Milan Lucic sidelined Ryan Miller indefinitely with a concussion and the Sabres did nothing, don't worry. You'll be hearing all about it for the next three days.
To get it started, here's a look at what happened back when the Sabres stuck up for their teammates.
November 19, 2011 - 3:06 PM
Shane Doan is one of the most accessible players in the NHL. He won the King Clancy Trophy in 2010, awarded to a player who has leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community.
He made time today to chat about "Mantracker."
"Mantracker" is a show on Discovery's Science Channel. The show, extremely popular in Canada, has two people take off into the wilderness with a map, a compass and a head start (usually 2 kilometers). Mantracker, a certified search and rescue tracker named Terry Grant, is on horseback, armed with a local guide and an arsenal of forensic skills. The "prey" have 36 hours to reach a finish line some 25 miles away without getting caught. How they escape is up to them.
Doan and his brother, Brook, were prey on a recent episode. They filmed it in July 2010.
"It was awesome," Doan said after practicing for tonight's game against the Sabres. "It was such a unique experience to do it with my brother because he was a big fan, and he got me into watching it. That’s the whole thing was he really wanted to do it. To have the experience of doing something with him that we’ll always have and kind of always remember is something that I’m very grateful for. The organization at Mantracker, the whole production, was so good to us. We had such a blast."
Doan filled me in on how they shoot the show. Grant's team and the contestants each have one cameraman with them, and he shoots as much as he can while they run up mountains, through thick brush and across streams. Then, after the chase is complete, the teams come back to film additional footage for TV.
"It’s really legit," Doan said. "People are like, 'Well, how do they not see the cameraman?’ and different stuff like that. The way that they do it for the most part is there was one cameraman with each unit. They follow you the whole time. The two guys that are with you – Lawrence [Foster] and Shifty [Mike Schaffel] were the two guys; Lawrence was with us, Shifty was with Terry – they’re unbelievable. You can’t believe how good they are, how fast they are and how he stays with you.
"Now you finish the whole chase, and at the end of the chase they go through their footage. Every time there’s something of significance that happens, they hit a GPS thing on their camera. For four days afterwards, you return to where they hit their GPS, and they watch the video. They’ll be like, 'OK, you came past that tree there, you came down this path. It looks like you came around this bush, and you stopped right there. All right, you ran across that creek and then up that side.’
"So then, they set up cameras and have you do the exact same thing again, but it’s following your exact pattern. They use a ton of the real footage, too, but they also will add in stuff so that it’s entertaining. But it’s exactly what happened. We had a blast."
The whole episode is available on YouTube by clicking here. (I'd post it on this blog, but I'm guessing there are copyright rules.) If you haven't seen it and are curious whether Doan and his brother are successful, stop reading here. The final quote will give you a hint.
"I didn’t realize until afterward how important it was to Brook," Doan said. "I knew that we were going to have fun and it was something that we would remember, but I didn’t realize to him how … I don’t know, it was just one of those experiences. Everyone has family that they want to have an experience with, and it was something that me and him will never, ever forget."
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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.
About Sabres Edge
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.
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.
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