There are days when travel can be a pain for sports teams, and then there were trips like Friday night. Things couldn't have gone better for the Sabres.
They high-tailed it out of Carolina shortly after their 1-0 victory, and they got home from North Carolina just a few minutes after midnight. Couple that with their decision to flip morning skate times with Phoenix (the Coyotes went on at 10:30 a.m. and the Sabres had an 11 a.m. meeting), and Buffalo feels fresh heading into tonight's game against the Coyotes.
"We did a good job of getting out of Carolina and getting back home," coach Lindy Ruff said in First Niagara Center. "We can’t get home that quick coming from Montreal or Ottawa, from a shorter destination. We got the proper amount of sleep. We flipped ice times to allow our players to stay home longer, which is something we’re going to do in these situations. Now it’s about puck management and playing a smart game."
The Sabres improved to 4-1 in the opening game of back-to-backs, and they'll try to equal that record in second games tonight.
Jhonas Enroth will get the start in goal following his first shutout of the season. Jochen Hecht (concussion) and Tyler Ennis (ankle) will not return, though they continue to get close. Ruff said goaltender Ryan Miller has shown some improvement from his concussion/neck injury.
"He’s still not quite right but doing better," Ruff said.
Phoenix forward Taylor Pyatt, a former Sabres winger, will play his 700th game tonight.
"It's fitting because I played a good part of my career here," Pyatt said.
To hear Ruff talk about Pyatt, Luke Adam, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Corey Tropp, click the audio file below.
The Canes didn't skate today and Maurice met the media this evening in the 5 o'clock hour with the announcement that backup Brian Boucher will play goal against the Sabres and not former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Cam Ward.
Ward is just 6-8-2 with a 3.27 GAA and .904 save percentage. Boucher has yet to start at home and is 0-2-1, 3.86. .864.
Boucher is 3-4, 2.86 in his regular season career against Buffalo, but owns wins in the playoffs in 2000 and 2011. For all that you remember Ward for in 2006, his regular season mark against Buffalo is a pedestrian 7-6-2, 2.89.
The Canes were complete no-shows in Wednesday's 4-0 loss at Montreal but this still seems odd. Your job is at stake and you put it in the hands of the journeyman over the guy with the ring? Whatever.
Join us at 7 for our live blog. The MSG telecast will be run by Kevin Sylvester, Danny Gare and Brian Duff.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Forget the fact that Tyler Myers scored his first two goals of the season Wednesday against New Jersey. It was his strong physical presence that accounted for what ranks as perhaps his best game of the season, and it came on the heels of his first career healthy scratch Monday in Montreal.
So It certainly would have been a downer to get suspended for his third-period hit on Devils forward Dainius Zubrus. Myers got a phone call from NHL disclipline czar Brendan Shanahan Thursday afternoon but was relieved to learn he was not getting suspended for the hit.
"He just wanted to discuss what my thoughts were on it," Myers said after today''s pregame skate in the RBC Center. "I can really tell he's trying to inform all the players, tell them what it a legal hit, what's an illegal hit. It's a thin line, pretty tough but it was a good conversation. There was contact with the head but there was contact with the body. If it had been a more lateral hit and just contact to the head, then there would have been a hearing and most likely a suspension."
At 6-8, of course, Myers is going to be more prone to hitting opponents in the head. It's something he said he's dealt with his entire hockey career.
"It's definitely tough," said coach Lindy Ruff. "We've obviously challenged him to be a little more phsycial and I thought he was physical in the game. I thought he played a great game, the way he needs to play as a big man. It will be tough. There are situations the way his body his, his elbows are head-high and that makes it tougher on a big man."
In roster notes, T.J. Brennan is here on an emergency basis but is not expected to play. With Mike Weber and Cody McCormick out, Ruff didn't want to be left without an extra defenseman or forward in case of a sudden illness or an injury today. Jochen Hecht is getting very close to returning, as Ruff said today he is now in the "day-to-day" category. Tyler Ennis, who is still skating in a red (non-contact) jersey is in the "every-other-day" category, the coach joked.
Here comments from Myers and Ruff on the NHL ruling and tonight's game against the struggling Carolina Hurricanes below.
Sabres owner and Penn State benefactor Terry Pegula has called upon people at his alma mater to speak out regarding the child sex abuse scandal that has engulfed the university.
"Our concern and compassion should be for the children involved in these terrible allegations," Pegula said in a telephone interview with Canadian sports outlet TSN. "Whomever may have been involved in any way, anyone who knew anything, they've got to come clean. They've got to step forward and say, 'Here's what I know, here's what happened...' and that includes you know who [ex-football coach Joe Paterno].
"Telling the truth now will go a long way towards getting everyone through this. If there's going to be a blind allegiance to anyone or anything here, it needs to be the university and to the truth. … That's how we get to the bottom of what happened, that's how we get our image back."
Tyler Myers will not be fined or suspended for Wednesday's high hit on New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus. Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's discipline czar, will be calling the Sabres' defenseman to discuss the hit, The News has learned, but no penalties will be issued.
The department of player safety determined that although Zubrus' head was the principal point of contact, Myers did not target Zubrus or have intent to injure. Thus, no discipline.
T.J. Brennan, the Sabres' top pick in the 2007 draft, announced on his Twitter page that Buffalo has called him up from Rochester. Sabres defenseman Mike Weber was injured during Wednesday's 5-3 loss to New Jersey, apparently paving the way for Brennan's promotion.
(Update at 5:36 p.m.: The Sabres have confirmed the call-up.)
Brennan is in his third season with the Sabres' organization and had yet to get called up. The 22-year-old has two goals and six points in 16 games with Rochester. He had 15 goals and 39 points in 72 AHL games last season.
The Sabres selected Brennan with the first pick in the second round in 2007. They did not have a first-round selection.
Mike Weber has spent much of the season waiting to play. He's going to have to wait again.
The Sabres' defenseman, scratched for 15 of the opening 16 games, suffered an upper-body injury Wednesday night during a 5-3 loss to New Jersey. The game was the first time he'd appeared in back-to-back outings this season.
"Mike sustained an injury that may take some time," coach Lindy Ruff said after practice in First Niagara Center. "I don’t know exactly when it happened."
Weber's final shift came on a penalty kill that ended with 5:36 left. Nothing in the play-by-play reveals a hit or blocked shot.
Weber will join forward Cody McCormick on the sidelines for at least Friday's game in Carolina -- and likely longer. McCormick was absent for the third straight day today with his upper-body injury.
"He’s just not ready to get back yet," Ruff said.
Thomas Vanek and Patrick Kaleta skipped today's workout for maintenance reasons. Tyler Ennis (ankle) and Jochen Hecht (concussion) both skated on lines, and Ruff said one may return this weekend. He refused to divulge which forward it could be.
Tyler Myers' return to the Sabres' lineup Wednesday was highlighted by two goals. The lowlights included a 5-3 loss to New Jersey and a hit on Dainius Zubrus that could get the attention of the NHL.
Myers and Zubrus, the former Sabres forward who was playing his 1,000th game, chased a loose puck along the boards midway through the second period. Zubrus stretched to reach the puck, and Myers’ check went to the head of the hunched-over player.
"I didn't like the look of it," New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said. "It looked to me like one of the head shots they are trying to get out of the game."
Zubrus required medical attention but stayed in the game.
"I understand why the receiving team would be upset with a hit like that," Myers said. "I didn’t intend to injure him. I think it was just one of those where he had the mind-set of playing the puck and I had the mind-set of playing the body. I don’t think he was ready for it. I caught him pretty good. Obviously, it’s good to see him bounce back with no serious injury."
The benching of Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers lasted just one game. Myers, scratched from Monday's 3-2 shootout victory in Montreal, will be back in the lineup tonight when Buffalo hosts New Jersey.
Myers, who was minus-6 in his previous four games, has no goals, four assists and numerous turnovers during his 16 games this season.
"The history of young players is they go through tough stretches," coach Lindy Ruff said after an optional morning skate in First Niagara Center. "He's had some good games, but recently a couple that we'd like to improve on."
Marc-Andre Gragnani will sit in Myers' place, the second time this season he's been scratched. Mike Weber, who played well in Monday's victory, will remain in the lineup and play his third game.
The Sabres have recalled right wing Corey Tropp from Rochester to replace injured forward Cody McCormick. It's the second recall for Tropp, who had a goal and assist in four games while Patrick Kaleta was serving a suspension. McCormick was injured Monday.
Jhonas Enroth will be in net against New Jersey, which sustained a 4-3 loss to Boston on Tuesday night.
Ryan Miller, lip quivering while he talked for nearly 10 minutes today, said he's suffering from headaches and whiplash following the hit from Boston's Milan Lucic on Saturday. The Sabres' goaltender has no timetable for a return to the crease.
"I’m not as well as I’d like to be, but considering, I feel alright," Miller said during a surprise appearance in the First Niagara Center dressing room. "My neck is pretty sore. I’m trying to figure out if that’s more of a source of headaches or if what I’m really feeling was my head really started hurting.
"You always are concerned. Last year I thought I had a very simple ‘get your bell rung,’ and I missed five games. This, I don’t know how to put a timeline on it, but I am encouraged that my neck feels better. Once that really feels good, I can start to make my way back."
Miller is disappointed the NHL decided not to issue supplemental discipline to Lucic for the blast, and he's also unhappy with Boston's comments that the forceful collision might not even be the source of his ailment. He has no doubt the hit is the reason for his concussion symptoms.
"We decided to talk more freely about it because there was a reason to with the incident with Lucic and the league needed to make some kind of judgment," Miller said. "It didn’t quite work out the way we thought it could. I’m definitely disappointed in that.
"The one thing I was disappointed with the assessment or what came out of Boston and some of what came out of the league was it wasn’t a head shot, so that was their conclusion to why the concussion maybe didn’t come from that. I didn’t know they were all doctors. Concussions are caused by many things, one of them including a whiplash motion that sends your brain moving laterally or however you’re hit. It doesn’t need to be a direct impact. That fact alone, I’m rolling my eyes."
The goalie is convinced his teammates have his back and is disturbed the topic has even been broached (despite the Sabres' lack of response to the hit). He says he didn't expect a full donnybrook on his behalf, and he appreciates their words the past couple of days when they said they wish they would have done more.
"I’ve been told a lot’s been said about it," Miller said, "and you know what? These guys have my back. I was disappointed in the direction that started to take where people were talking about how these guys don’t have my back. My whole job is to try and help these guys and be there for them, and they’re there for me. I was just really disappointed in the direction that started to take.
"I’ve been with a lot of these guys a really long time. For one incident and one tough stretch of hockey to start to become what it was I think is unfair to me and I think it’s unfair to the guys in here. You guys aren’t in the locker room. You guys don’t know what’s going on. We allow you in here for these interviews, and we don’t conduct ourselves the same way as we do with each other.
"I appreciate that they wanted to do more. But I mean, what can you really do? You’re going to get a suspension yourself? Lucic is a tough guy. What are you going to do? Hack him? Spear him? Cheap-shot him? Then you’re not better than he is."
MONTREAL -- This is one of those nights we could have used about five Sabres stories. There was the Tyler Myers scratch and Lindy Ruff popping off in the morning, the NHL deciding not to suspend Milan Lucic in the afternoon, Brendan Shanahan ripping Ruff at the Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony in the evening. And then you had to ask the Sabres and Ruff about the Lucic situation after the game again.
Oh yeah, there was a game? Easy to forget. And a big one too.
The Sabres rallied for a 3-2 shootout victory over Montreal, getting third-period goals from Jason Pominville and Derek Roy to wipe out a 2-0 deficit and shootout goals from Thomas Vanek and Brad Boyes. Buffalo was 2 for 2 in the shootout while Montreal was just 1 of 3 against Jhonas Enroth, who improved to 6-0 this year.
(While you're getting smoked on deadline, I completely braincramped that the shootout was over until I saw the Sabres jump the boards. They had only taken two shots! Anyway).
The Sabres weren't great through two periods. Pretty blah performance. Not terrible by any stretch but not nearly good enough either. When Ruff switched Derek Roy and Luke Adam as centers on the top two lines, it made a huge difference. Here's some thoughts in no real order.
Roy-Vanek-Pominville: Ruff went to it to get something going. Good call. He always has it at his disposal. He went to three lines in the third period with Cody McCormick ill. Ruff said he might keep it. Of course, with him that means for a period.
Enroth: The kid is killer in shootouts (and a killer for reporters looking for quotes -- doesn't offer much, but he can sure stop pucks). Said Ruff: "He doesn't look big back there but somehow he stops them in shootouts. He's cool."
Defense: The Sabres killed off an overtime power play. Underrated aspect of Patrick Kaleta's suspension is how good he's been on the PK. And the line of Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad and Kaleta had some nice physical play. But Gaustad took three bad penalties and might hear from Brendan Shanahan himself for his third period high stick to the face of a Montreal's Alexei Emelin. Wouldn't THAT be ironic?
Myers scratched: The Sabres won. Mike Weber was pretty good, especially in the physical department. Let's see if Myers stays in the press box Wednesday against New Jersey.
Dealing with the media mob: The Sabres were excellent today. There's not many times in their careers in the regular season -- in November no less -- the locker room will be the circus that it was. There wasn't a tent big enough to cover it. Probably three dozen folks or so in a very small space. On a lot of road games, it's just me or John Vogl, Paul Hamilton of WGR and a guy or two from Sabres.com. Not today. But the players dealt with it professionally and didn't let it become a total distraction.
The NHL's decision: Are you serious? That's a joke. Memo to Shanahan: Ruff is right. It is open season on goalies now. Former ref Kerry Fraser sure thinks so. He ripped Shanahan tonight on TSN.
Moving forward: It's not going to be easy. Questions about toughness will linger. The buildup to the Boston game Nov. 23 will be immense because the Sabres don't play the previous three days. And the NHL will be watching closely.
John Vogl will pick up practice tomorrow heading into the New Jersey game. Here's some audio to listen to after tonight's win.
MONTREAL -- This just in from the NHL's Toronto headquarters: Milan Lucic has escaped his league hearing with no suspension. Here's the NHL.com story detailing the thoughts of NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan, who spoke to Lucic today via conference call.
In essence, Shanahan said he could not determine an elevated level of intent on Lucic's part and that the Bruins' player was properly penalized for charging.
"The minor penalty called on the ice was the correct call," Shanahan said. "And, while it's unfortunate that Miller was hurt I saw nothing egregious about this hit that would elevate it to supplemental discipline."
There is no immediate comment from the Sabres. In situations like this, GM Darcy Regier usually speaks to the media between periods of that night's game. But you know how the Sabres feel. Remember what Lindy Ruff said this morning?
"If [Lucic] isn't suspended, it just means teams will be able to do exactly what Lucic did," Ruff said. "Their goaltender can play the puck, we can run him over. We can hurt him and all you get is a two-minute minor penalty. That's essentially what that means. You can concuss the other team's goaltender. You can run him going at whatever speed he was going. He made no attempt to get out of the way. It means it's fair game on goaltenders."
So the message is clear in the wake of Lucic's escape: If your goalie is hit, take care of it yourselves. The Sabres should have done that Saturday. They'll meet the Bruins again Nov. 23. That should be interesting.
1) "There shouldn't be game plans to run goaltenders over. I'm all for that. To say you put traffic in front of him is one thing. To run him over, I disagree with that. So again, it just kind of reinforces that it certainly wasn't meant to happen that way."
2). On why Miller played another period after the hit: "With the new protocol and the concussion stuff, I know the last three NHLPA meetings that I've been part of, they've clarified about concussions and head injuries, the main thing that they talked about is there's no such thing as getting your bell rung or seeing stars anymore. That's considered a concussion. And if you're in that position, you have to do whatever you can to take yourself out of play. And obviously, Ryan plays a big part in the NHLPA and what he does, and I respect him what he does there. That's pretty much it."
(It should be noted the Bruins' team doctors ruled Miller out after the SECOND period).
3). The Bruins remain skeptical Miller got a concussion on the hit. Said Lucic: "I've looked at it and his shoulder hit my chest, so there was no hit to his head. His helmet came flying off, but his head didn’t hit the ice."
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.
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.