December 31, 2011 - 6:18 PM
The Sabres have just taken the ice for warmups prior to tonight's game here in First Niagara Center against Ottawa and backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth has led them on the ice. There's no official word until we get the lineups shortly before 7, but that usually means Enroth will get the start.
Ryan Miller has started eight straight (going 2-4-1 with a no-decision) and 11 of the last 12 (4-4-2). He certainly could use a break with Buffalo playing for the third time in four nights.
Enroth, however, has been in a brutal slump. He gave up the winning goal on a weak backhand by Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin on Dec. 17 and is just 1-6-1 in his last eight decisions with four straight losses. What's in his favor? A 3-0 career mark against the Senators, including 2-0 this year with a 1.44 goals-against average.
Enroth started the season 5-1 but is currently 8-7-1 with a 2.54 GAA and .918 save percentage. In December, he is 0-3, 4.00, .873. Miller has been barely passable this month as well, at 4-4-2, 3.23, .893.
Aside from woeful offense and injuries, the goaltending certainly has to get huge blame for the Sabres' current troubles.
Stay tuned for our live game blog beginning at 7.
December 31, 2011 - 3:30 PM
It's no secret the Sabres' offense is struggling. They have one goal in a game seven times -- seven! -- since Thanksgiving, including both games on the road this week in New Jersey and Washington.
In fact, the Sabres have just 32 goals in 16 road games all season. The goal total and the 2.0 average is 29th in the 30-team NHL. The home average is markedly better at 3.05, which is middle of the pack. The 64 goals at home in 21 games rank second.
"The road scoring for me is something that's been alarming," coach Lindy Ruff said today. "The home scoring has been a lot better. Some of that may be based on the fact I get my matchups with my lines but we're going to have to work around that. We've been a better road team than that but we're going to have to be better."
Of course, offense has been tough to come by all over for players like Derek Roy (two goals in the last 20 games) and Drew Stafford (two in the last 24). By on the road, Thomas Vanek is the team leader with just six goals. Luke Adam has five while Jason Pominville and Jordan Leopold have four each.
After starting 8-3 on the road, the Sabres have lost five straight. They better fix that issue in a hurry. After hosting Edmonton here on Tuesday, nine of the final 11 games in January will be away from First Niagara Center. Yeesh.
December 31, 2011 - 12:55 PM
The Sabres had a later-than-usual meeting this morning in First Niagara Center with only injured players Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Myers, Tyler Ennis and Corey Tropp taking the ice. Coach Lindy Ruff said Gerbe will take the warmup prior to tonight's Tux and Pucks game here against Ottawa and could play.
T.J. Brennan has been called up from Rochester to replace Christian Ehrhoff, who was injured in his first last night with Washington's Troy Brouwer. Ruff said team doctors will be looking at Ehrhoff's upper-body injury again today and that the timetable of weeks will hold but that the injury is not season-ending.
So minus Myers, Andrej Sekera and Ehrhoff, that's three defensemen who play 20 minutes a game regularly out of the lineup for extended periods.
"I've never seen it like this before," Ruff said. "I hope I never see it like this again."
Ruff said the six remaining defensemen -- Jordan Leopold, Robyn Regehr, Mike Weber, Brayden McNabb, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Brennan -- should see pretty even minutes tonight with a couple going over 20 and all six pushing 16-17.
"We play a lot of games in a short amount of time and injuries are a part of it," Weber said. "We just need to make sure we stay focused here. The guys in this room are the guys that are going to have to play tonight. If we focus on what we need to do and how simple we can make the game and how easy we can make it for our forwards, that's going to help us get the two points."
"It's a shame to see guys get injured obviously but I just want to help the team as much as possible," said Brennan, who had a goal and an even rating in three games last month. "It seems like everyone in Rochester and here in Buff has been fighting injuries all year. It seems to be the problem. You just have to fight through it and hopefully get a couple wins."
Ruff wouldn't name a starting goaltender but Jhonas Enroth is 3-0 in his career against the Senators with a 2.27 GAA and a .935 save percentage. Ryan Miller has started eight in a row and 11 of 12. With this being the third game in four nights, he could use a break. Craig Anderson goes for Ottawa.
December 30, 2011 - 7:18 PM
WASHINGTON -- Hello from my iphone for the second straight game. Once again, my computer cannot connect to the arena Internet, so there will be no live blogging. I will provide updates at twitter.com/BuffNewsVogl
December 30, 2011 - 12:27 PM
WASHINGTON -- Anyone hoping the return of Tyler Myers will spark the Sabres will have to keep hoping. The defenseman isn't sure when he'll be back from the broken wrist that has sidelined him since Nov. 19.
"It's not quite where it needs to be for me to jump back in," Myers told The News after the Sabres' optional skate for tonight's game against the Capitals. "It's just taking a little longer than we hoped for. I'll come back as soon as I'm ready. It's just a matter of making sure I don't come back too early to put it at risk for reinjury."
Myers, who has been alternating between wearing a hard splint and a soft wrap this week, has a doctor visit scheduled for Monday.
December 30, 2011 - 10:17 AM
WASHINGTON -- As you hopefully read this morning, the Sabres' need to pick up the pace when it comes to scoring. Here is what the players are on pace for, compared to the number of goals they scored last year.
Thomas Vanek 41/32
Jason Pominville 27/22
Luke Adam 22/3
Derek Roy 18/10 (in 35 games)
Jochen Hecht 17/12
Jordan Leopold 14/13
Drew Stafford 14/31
Zack Kassian 12/--
*Tyler Ennis 12/20
*Nathan Gerbe 8/16
*Ville Leino 8/19
*Tyler Myers 7/10
Patrick Kaleta 7/4
Christian Ehrhoff 7/14
Brad Boyes 6/17
Paul Gaustad 5/12
*Andrej Sekera 5/3
Matt Ellis 5/0
Marc-Andre Gragnani 3/1
Cody McCormick 0/8
Robyn Regehr 0/2
Mike Weber 0/4
*Numbers for injured players reflect if they were to return tonight against Washington, though they won't.
December 29, 2011 - 3:28 PM
RESTON, Va. -- Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera, who left Wednesday's 3-1 loss to New Jersey with an upper-body injury, confirmed today he will be out "weeks."
"You want to play, but injuries are part of the game sometimes and you can’t prevent them," Sekera said after being the only player to skip today's practice in SkateQuest. "I guess I just have to take time and get better."
Sekera has played in all 36 games, scoring twice and adding six assists. He got hurt on a boarding penalty by the Devils' Eric Boulton.
"I didn’t really see the hit. I just hit the boards, then I was struggling from there," Sekera said. "I saw him coming, but I didn’t expect him to hit me that way. I was turning toward the boards, I was going to move the puck, and he come smoke me, and that was the end of the story."
Marc-Andre Gragnani, who has been scratched for the past four games, will take Sekera's spot in the lineup for Friday's visit to Washington.
"I’m looking forward to it. It’s been a little while now," Gragnani said. "I have to play harder in my zone. I started well and then I got maybe a little bit away from that. I’d like to contribute more offensively, too. I need to jump more in the play, and we’ll see what I can do."
Coach Lindy Ruff said left wing Nathan Gerbe, who is recovering from a concussion, could play this weekend. The Sabres host Ottawa on Saturday.
The full audio of Ruff's chat is below.
December 28, 2011 - 10:39 PM
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Sabres dropped a 3-1 decision to New Jersey, their fourth defeat in five games. Here's what they had to say about it:
Center Luke Adam: "We fought hard. We were an opportunity or two away from a win. It’s a fine line. We’ve just got to find ways."
Left wing Thomas Vanek: "Obviously, we know we’ve got to put a streak together, but you get down, 3-0, it’s tough to win games. Overall, I thought we played good, but we’re not in a position where good is going to win games."
Captain Jason Pominville: "We’ve got to score more than one goal to win a game."
Coach Lindy Ruff on Andrej Sekera, who suffered an upper-body injury while getting boarded by Eric Boulton: "He’s going to be out for a while. He’s got a serious enough injury on a hit from behind again that he’s going to miss weeks."
December 28, 2011 - 7:04 PM
NEWARK, N.J. -- Hello from my iPhone in Prudential Center, which is severely deficient in Internet availability. Therefore, there will be no live blog of Sabres at Devils. Sorry.
December 27, 2011 - 5:54 PM
The Sabres haven't won back-to-back games since taking three in a row from Nov. 5-11. They've played 19 games since, going 6-10-3.
I've been going over the record books and found a knock-my-socks off stat. Get this: Nineteen games without two straight wins is the longest stretch for Buffalo since the lockout and the longest since the Sabres went 23 straight without a winning streak (7-9-4-3, noting four OT losses, three ties) from Jan. 14-March 4, 2003.
"We can be happy with the way we played [in Monday's 4-2 win over Washington] but on the other hand, we have to make sure we come out the same way tomorrow [at New Jersey] and get on a little roll here," Christian Ehrhoff told me today. "It can't be that we have one good game, then we don't play the way we want to the next game."
December 27, 2011 - 2:06 PM
The Sabres skated for about 45 minutes today in the Northtown Center of Amherst before heading to the airport and taking off for tomorrow's game in New Jersey. They got Jochen Hecht and Brad Boyes back for last night's win over Washington and are getting closer to the return of Nathan Gerbe as well.
Gerbe skated again in a non-contact role today but passed his concussion testing in the morning and should take a full role in Wednesday's morning skate. That means he's likely less than a week away from returning to the lineup. Gerbe hasn't played since getting drilled from behind Dec. 7 by Philadelphia's Marc-Andre Bourdon.
"Today was a no-contact day, tomorrow we'll start ramping it up," said coach Lindy Ruff. "[Concussions] are all different. Some players have been able to do a pretty heavy workload before they get to the ice, some get on the ice and they're not even close to being ready. In Nathan's case, he got in some pretty good off-ice work. Now after 2-3 days, we'll get a pretty good idea of where he's at."
Click below to hear the full audio from Ruff's meeting today with reporters, including discussion of the team's improved power play, the work of Christian Ehrhoff and the need for the Sabres to forge their first two-game winning streak since early November.
And be sure to join me here at 3 for a live chat about all things Sabres and NHL.
December 26, 2011 - 1:02 PM
Dale Hunter was one of the most reviled opponents in Sabres history, a complete nuisance on the ice who got under the skin of players and fans alike during his days with the Quebec Nordiques in the 1980s and again for the Washington Capitals as they beat the Sabres in the 1998 Eastern Conference finals (left).
Hunter is back in town tonight in his 12th game as the head coach of the Caps. He's 5-5-1 since taking over for Bruce Boudreau. And he got a chuckle when I asked him what's he like to return to a place where he was Public Enemy No. 1 for a long time.
"That's a long time ago," Hunter said. "You come here, you know you're going to play hard and stuff happens out there. ... What you remember is the fans and there were always great battles in the playoffs and stuff. It's a hockey town."
Hunter may be a bit of a lame duck as the Washington Post reported last week his contract is only through the end of the season so the Caps might be searching again but for now, at least, he's trying to put more of a defensive style into the once free-wheeling Caps.
"Bruce was an offensive guy who really wanted to outscore teams and really cared about goals and Dale can care less," said veteran Mike Knuble. "If you play a stingy defensive game and win 1-0 or 2-1, he's comfortable playing in those games. He's conitioning to play calm in those situations and not get antsy. If the game is going to finish 1-0, hopefully we've got the one."
Getty Images photos: Hunter roughs up Brian Holzinger during the 1998 Caps-Sabres series and behind the Caps bench last week.
December 26, 2011 - 11:49 AM
Lo and behold, there's actually very good news on the Sabres injury front. Coach Lindy Ruff confirmed after today's morning skate that Brad Boyes and Jochen Hecht will both play tonight against the Washington Capitals, while Thomas Vanek will also be in the lineup after missing the third period Thursday in Toronto.
Hecht is going to center Vanek and Jason Pominville on the top line while Boyes will join Derek Roy and Drew Stafford on the second line.
"It's going to help, no doubt," Ruff said. "Jochen back in the middle should help against other teams' top lines. Brad was going pretty good when he got hurt, was good on the power play and should give us a couple stronger lines."
Hecht missed the first 20 games with concussion symptoms, played eight and then missed the last six after getting struck on the foot by a shot during the Dec. 9 game against Florida. Boyes, who played more than 500 consecutive games in the NHL , has missed 13 games with an ankle sprain suffered Nov. 23 against Boston.
Hecht had three goals and was plus-4 in his eight games. Boyes had two goals, six assists and was even in 21 games.
"It was frustrating getting injured again but I'm out there to do my job," said Hecht. "If I've got to block a shot, I block a shot. That happens. It's not what I was looking for but here we go again."
Boyes said it was an odd feeling to see the team skating with nearly two dozen players on the ice, a rarity the last six weeks.
"And it's an odd feeling coming off early too," Boyes said with a smile. "Normally I have to stay out and get bag-skated [extra drills run by the assistants for injured players] so that was a good feeling too."
Marc-Andre Gragnani will again be a scratch and Paul Szczechura is still here, likely just to make sure Hecht is OK. Derek Whitmore has been returned to Rochester.
December 26, 2011 - 10:08 AM
The Sabres have just taken the ice for the first time since ending the Christmas break and there are more guys skating than we've seen in a long time. We'll have to wait until Lindy Ruff's post-skate update to see who is actually going to be in the lineup tonight against the Washington Capitals but here's what we can glean at this point:
1). Thomas Vanek is skating so he may be ready to try to gut through another game like he did Thursday in Toronto.
2). Jochen Hecht is on a line, with Vanek and Jason Pominville, for the first time in a few weeks.
3). Brad Boyes is on a line with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford
4). Tyler Ennis is skating in white with Matt Ellis, Zack Kassian, Paul Szczechura and Luke Adam. You would think two from this group won't play tonight.
5). Tyler Myers is again skating with the defensemen. He's paired with Marc-Andre Gragnani, who's likely to again be a healthy scratch.
6). Nathan Gerbe and Corey Tropp both skated in red non-contact jerseys with the team for the first time since suffering concussions and then left the ice when drills started. Derek Whitmore is not here and has likely been sent back to Rochester.
At one point during warmups, the Sabres had 24 players on the ice (14 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies) Been a while for that.
Stay tuned for Ruff's update.
December 23, 2011 - 12:19 PM
The Sabres were on the ice for an hour this morning in First Niagara Center -- they started a couple hours early -- and then headed on their NHL-mandated holiday break (teams can't practice on Dec. 24 or 25). Lindy Ruff said after Thursday's loss in Toronto the team would probably have a light skate today but they instead had a full practice. It wasn't punitive, as there was no quibbling with the effort in the 3-2 loss, but Ruff clearly felt the Sabres needed to shake that game and get one more workout in.
Ruff closed the practice with a few words to his team and some holiday good wishes and then headed off. Some players started to follow but captain Jason Pominville called them to the boards in a tight circle for another quick chat. Pominville wouldn't divulge much but said the break was at a good time.
"This break has to be an advantage for us to regrouup, refocus and energize ourselves for what's ahead of us," he said.
The Sabres look ahead still hoping to get healthier. Ruff said there's concern about Thomas Vanek, who is believed to have some sort of shoulder injury and couldn't play in the third period Thursday. Tyler Ennis (ankle) wanted to skate Friday but had pain in the ankle and didn't. Brad Boyes (ankle) is a possibility for Monday. Jochen Hecht (leg) skated on his own before practice and is progressing. So is Tyler Myers (wrist), who skated with the team but still isn't involved in any physical drills.
"He's got a ways to go,'" Ruff said of Myers, who has another checkup Monday. "He can't handle the puck very well or shoot yet but I think that will come quickly."
For the full audio of Ruff's chat with reporters, click below.
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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, is in his sixth season covering the Buffalo Sabres. 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.
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