December 22, 2011 - 4:45 PM
TORONTO -- More than 12 years after it closed its doors as the city's sports palace, Maple Leaf Gardens was reborn two weeks ago when the first phase of its redevelopment opened. As a Loblaws. Yes, a supermarket. But don't laugh.
I went and checked it out a couple times over the last two days and it's a spectacular example of urban re-use. And it really makes you shake your head even more about what wasn't done down at the Aud, which is still a big, ugly hole in the ground.
And it's only Phase I. The next part is taking the upper floors of the old arena and converting them into a new home for the Ryerson Tech athletic program, specifically the hockey team. So there will be hockey played in the next year or two at the old barn. That part isn't open for viewing yet (but if you click on the link and play the Toronto Star video, you can see what's inside).
I went to maybe a half-dozen Leafs games at the Garden, three of them with our late friend/News Sports Reporter and Leafs fan extraordinaire Tom Borrelli. (I do wonder what he would think about the Gardens as a supermarket!).
The Loblaws is even better than the cavernous Wegmans that we see back in Buffalo. There's an 18-foot wall of cheese, a deli with slabs of meat behind glass, a pizza/pasta/prepared foods station that is just huge. There are pastries, chocolate, seafood, everything you can imagine.
But what I like is they just didn't just bulldoze the place and plop a supermarket in. They understood this was Maple Leaf Gardens. The marquee out front has been reborn for starters (above left). Inside, there's exposed brick. There's a giant Maple Leafs logo statue hanging above an escalator -- made of old blue seats from the building (left).
The tables where you can sit and eat have glass tops that cover old clippings of all kinds of events from building's glory days, from hockey to wrestling to Billy Graham. There's a giant mural near the entrance that replicates one that used to be in the building. and there are several old Gardens seats in front of it for you to rest. There are poles in each shopping aisle showing great moments in the building's history (right).
And there's even this: In aisle 25 -- directly next to the Spam (really!) -- there's a big red dot on the floor (left). There's no sign telling you what it is (there should be; take care of that, Loblaws). What is it? The exact spot where center dot was on the old rink.
Now that is pretty cool.
You can read all about the store and the Loblaws project at this link. There is also a neat virtual tour that really gives you a good view of the place's features. The video is on this page and you have to click on the virtual tour.
You can read about Ryerson's new athletic complex at this link.
You can also click on all the pictures for a closer look.
December 22, 2011 - 1:08 PM
TORONTO -- Thomas Vanek will play tonight in the Air Canada Centre but the Sabres' leading goal scorer is clearly struggling with whatever lower-body injury he suffered Saturday in Pittsburgh. Vanek had no shots on goal Tuesday in Ottawa (he insisted this morning the stats were wrong), and didn't appear to be going full strength this morning either.
Vanek has skipped the team's last two practices and didn't know how long he would continue to do that.
"We're just looking for big win tonight and I'm just hoping to use these three days and get ready again for the second half," Vanek said.
Vanek said he senses the tension in the Sabres' locker room, especially from some of the young players, as the team tries to snap its two-game losing streak and improve on its 1-3-1 slide.
"Play your game. I understand we're in a little bit of funk,' Vanek said. "Guys care. They care a lot. They want to win. Sometimes when you want it that bad, it goes backwards. It's tough to tell somebody to relax and just play but that's what it comes down to."
Vanek skated this morning with Derer Roy and Jason Pominville. Derek Whitmore was on the second line with Paul Szczechura and Drew Stafford (who had that combo in your pre-Christmas line pools?). The other lines were Adam-Gaustad-Kaleta (making his first appearance since Dec. 2) and McCormick-Ellis-Kassian.
Still, Kassian was on the ice for a long time, working with the likes of Brad Boyes, Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis, and several of us media types wonder if the Sabres are thinking about scratching him. Marc-Andre Gragnani was off early and could be used as a forward. We'll have to watch the warmup.
One other thing from today -- Lindy Ruff again brought up goaltender safety in the wake of Evander Kane's crash through Al Montoya of the Islanders last night in Winnipeg and Jimmy Howard's drilling last night in Vancouver.
Howard was run over by Jannik Hansen in last night's 4-2 Red Wings loss in Vancouver and was furious about it afterward when he said, "I'm just sick and tired of being run over. It’s every single game."
"I turn on TSN this morning and the goalies getting bumped almost falls in that open season category," Ruff said, referring to the phrase he used when Ryan Miller got drilled by Milan Lucic. "... We're in danagerous territory with some of that stuff."
December 22, 2011 - 8:35 AM
Finally, it seems, Marcus Foligno can rest. He could use the down time.
The Sabres' prospect finished a whirlwind run Wednesday night. He had a goal and assist in Rochester's 4-1 victory over Lake Erie, his fifth game in six days. And the day off wasn't easy, either. The recap:
Friday: Amerks at San Antonio
Saturday: Amerks at Texas (Austin)
Sunday: Amerks at Houston
Monday: Fly from Houston to Atlanta to Rochester; get in car and ride to Ottawa
Tuesday: Sabres at Ottawa
Wednesday: Lake Erie at Rochester
"Obviously, playing [Tuesday] night in the NHL, I’ll take it anytime," Foligno said in Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial. "Definitely, the legs are feeling the tiredness right now, but that’s what the break is for. I’m pretty happy."
Foligno's father, Mike, watched his son make his NHL debut Tuesday (against another son, Senators forward Nick Foligno) and was in the stands again Wednesday in Rochester.
"It’s unbelievable," Marcus Foligno said. "[Tuesday] night was just something I’ll never forget. Obviously, the first NHL game, but to have family there – 30-plus family members and friends – it’s something special. Obviously, to have a proud father there was great for me and Nick. Nick was really excited and so was I, but I think the family was even more excited than we were.
"All in all, it was just an amazing night."
December 21, 2011 - 9:26 PM
ROCHESTER -- Greetings from Rochester, where I've left the team sponsored by the Red Cross (the Sabres) to visit its affiliate that plays in Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial (the Amerks).
A few thoughts collected during the Amerks' 4-1 victory over the Lake Erie Monsters, the Colorado Avalanche's affiliate:
*The Sabres' injury problems have the Amerks scrambling. They had four skaters on the roster playing on tryout contracts (Evan Rankin, Igor Gongalsky, Scott Campbell and scratched Rob Bordson) and two up from the ECHL (Riley Boychuk and Corey Fienhage).
*Not surprisingly, the fans like Marcus Foligno. Folks in Rochester no doubt followed the career of his father, Mike, in Buffalo, and they gave him the loudest applause one day after his NHL debut.
*Drew MacIntyre doesn't have the best numbers -- he entered the night 4-9-1 with a 2.84 goals-against average and .910 save percentage -- but he's a talented goalie. His confidence in the crease at this level is evident, especially compared to his short stints with the Sabres.
*Travis Turnbull has some speed. The center left a few Monsters behind while skating on the right side. He drove the net, took a shot and celebrated as Mark Voakes buried the rebound on the first goal of the game.
*The fans also love Thomas Vanek. The one-time Amerk was the most-worn jersey in the crowd.
*Dennis Persson has been around a long time for having never played an NHL game. He got drafted when Mike Grier was still playing for the Sabres -- the first time. The first-round pick in the 2006 draft played his 281st pro game Wednesday, and none have been in the NHL. The defenseman scored his first goal of the season on a power-play slap shot in the first period.
*Jay McKee and Chris Taylor are still two of the classiest guys you'll meet.
*Ron Rolston concludes every chat with me by saying, "Thanks, we appreciate the coverage." Oops, I probably shouldn't say that. A couple of people with the big club will probably tell him to stop.
*The boards in here rattle a lot more than the ones in First Niagara Center.
*Speaking of Mike Foligno, he's here watching Marcus play after seeing him Tuesday night in Ottawa.
*Lake Erie head coach David Quinn got kicked out midway through the third period. You don't see coach-ref spats like that in the NHL.
*Sabres goaltenders have had a five-hole problem lately. A goal allowed by MacIntyre midway through the third should have been stopped but scooted through his pads.
*Evan Rankin, playing on a 25-game professional tryout, continues to push for a contract. He scored for the seventh time in his 12 games with the Amerks. He also has four assists.
*MacIntyre made up for the five-hole goal with big glove and blocker saves late to keep Rochester up by two before Foligno scored an empty-netter. MacIntyre finished with 33 saves.
December 21, 2011 - 1:28 PM
Earlier this month, I was fortunate to catch up with Brent Peterson in Nashville. The former Sabres center, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, was preparing for his second step in a four-step process called deep brain stimulation. DBS uses electrodes implanted in the brain to control Parkinson's symptoms.
This video from WKRN-TV in Nashville shows the completion of the four steps, and the results are amazing. Congrats to Brent, and hopefully the Predators' adviser continues to improve.
December 21, 2011 - 1:03 PM
TORONTO -- The Sabres practiced for an hour today have just taken the ice here at the Air Canada Centre and the injuries continue to cause line shuffling. The good news is some returns are also responsible for it.
Thomas Vanek is not practicing again, sitting out as he did Monday, and Derek Whitmore is in his spot with Derek Roy and Jason Pominville. Patrick Kaleta and Brad Boyes are on lines. Tyler Myers did some skating and stickhandling work and left the ice when the team's workout started. There are six defensemen and Marc-Andre Gragnani, a scratch Tuesday in Ottawa, is skating at forward.
Here are the lines:
(Braincramp update: We all just realized here that Paul Szczechura isn't on the ice either. That turnover that led to Ottawa's winning goal might have gotten him a ticket back to Rochester)
POST-PRACTICE UPDATE: Szczechura remains here, with Lindy Ruff saying he's "a little banged up" but should be OK for tomorrow. Boyes still doesn't feel like he's ready and Ruff didn't sound optimistic either. Kaleta should play. So should Vanek, who simply sat for maintenance.
December 21, 2011 - 11:30 AM
TORONTO -- The Sabres don't practice until 12:30 in the Air Canada Centre so our normal practice updates will be a little later than usual. Here's one nugget the team has announced: Marcus Foligno has been returned to Rochester.
That could mean either Patrick Kaleta or Brad Boyes are ready to return to the lineup tomorrow against the Leafs. It could also just be the Sabres saving a day of salary cap money too (Foligno makes a pro-rated $900,000 on his NHL deal while Derek Whitmore, who is still here, makes just $525,000 pro-rated).
The naked eye and the stat sheet say Whitmore was definitely the more effective of the two making their debuts last night as he had a couple good scoring opportunities over the final 40 minutes. Whitmore played 14:08 and had two shots on goal while Foligno had one shot in 13:19 and was a minus-1.
But Foligno certainly will never forget his debut against his older brother with his father and 30 relatives in the stands. A neat Christmas story for sure.
December 20, 2011 - 1:23 PM
OTTAWA -- Check my earlier post to see the lines the Sabres will likely start with tonight against the Senators. Ryan Miller will be in goal and Marc-Andre Gragnani will be the scratch. Thomas Vanek got through the morning skate OK and should play.
As for injured players, Lindy Ruff said Patrick Kaleta and Brad Boyes both might be options for Thursday's game in Toronto. Tyler Myers was cleared to hold a stick and did plenty of drills on the ice with Teppo Numminen as well.
"We got good news with his last visit [to the doctor]," Ruff said. "He can hanlde the puck now and hopefully we can progress him along quickly."
So it's possible that Marcus Foligno and Derek whitmore's trip here tonight might only be for one game.
"There's a lot of light at the end of the tunnel here," Ruff said. "We've got a lot of them on the shelf but the shelf life looks short for quite a few of them right now."
Whitmore has played nearly 300 AHL games and has a four-goal game for the Amerks this year. He's from the Rochester suburb of Greece and played pee wee games at then-Marine Midland Arena.
"It definitely means a lot," he said. "This year has been good so far. It means a lot wearing the Rochester Americans jersey being from Rochester but at the same time Buffalo was my team as a kid
growing up. I remember playing a couple pee wee hockey games at Marine Midland Arena and wondering if one day I'd ever be able to play in the NHL let alone for the Buffalo Sabres. It's definitely a dream come true."
Hear from Ruff and Whitmore below.
December 20, 2011 - 1:15 PM
OTTAWA -- The media swarmed the lockers of both Nick and Marcus Foligno here today in advance of tonight's Sabres-Senators matchup. While it will be Nick's 303rd NHL game, it will be the career debut for Marcus, the 20-year-old who was a standout for Team Canada in last year's World Junior Championships in Buffalo and got the call from Rochester last night.
The Folignos said they expect nearly three dozen friends and family to make the 5-hour drive from Sudbury, Ont., to the game. Included will be dad Mike Foligno, the former Sabres captain who was just fired as an assistant with Anaheim.
"[Nick] was pretty pumped. He was texting me all day yesterday to see if I was getting called up," Marcus Foligno said. "He was giving me advice. He's been doing that all year. He's excited and told me to prepare myself."
"It's a pretty neat opportunity for both of us," said Nick, who is third on the Senators with 10 goals. "I got to play against my dad last year and now my brother and hopefully we can do that for a long time. We're very fortunate to be able to do this and his first game against me is pretty exciting for the whole family."
The trash talking started a little too. Nick said "he's ugly" when asked about Marcus and Marcus responded with "I got the better looks in the family" and "definitely family members like me more."
Through all the laughs, there is deeper meaning to the game. Mike Foligno's wife and the brothers' mother, Janis, died of breast cancer in 2009.
"We think it's probably the best Christmas present we ever got," Nick said of the brothers matchup. "We feel like my Mom probably had a little something to do with that. It's pretty special."
"The family as a whole has gone through some tough times here in recent years," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "To have Marcus play against Nick and for Mike to be here, a former teammate of mine and he's a helluva guy. Both kids are great kids. It's a great family.
"For both his boys to be able to play in the NHL, you gotta be one proud father. In this situation, unfortunately he gets to watch in his case [because he got fired in Anaheim] but he's going to be smiling from ear to ear sitting up in the stands watching this one."
Marcus Foligno said he probably would have to do his father's patented jumping stomp if he scored a goal (Nick did it for his first NHL goal). Cracked Ruff: "If Marcus scores I'll do the leap. Put the camera on the bench, boys."
Here's the audio from Nick and Marcus. Check back in a few minutes with another post featuring Ruff's injury updates.
December 20, 2011 - 11:38 AM
OTTAWA -- You want crazy mixed-up Sabres lines from the morning skate? We got 'em. (No guarantees this is what suits up tonight, of course, given Lindy Ruff's habitual shuffling).
Vanek-Roy-Pominville (an old standby back together again)
For those scoring at home, that's four guys who started the year with Amerks out of 12 forwards. And throw in defenseman Brayden McNabb as wel.
Brad Boyes and Patrick Kaleta, who won't play tonight, are also skating. There are seven defensemen on the ice. Ruff said this morning on his weekly radio appearance that McNabb is back in, so I would guess Marc-Andre Gragnani is going to sit. UPDATE: Tyler Myers has joined the team as well to do some skating drills with Teppo Numminen.
Nick Foligno was swarmed in the Sens' dressing room for a chat about his brother. He said their father and former Sabres captain Mike Foligno is planning on being here tonight as well as about 30 friends/family from Sudbury, which is about five hours ago.
More from both sides after the Sabres complete their skate.
December 20, 2011 - 6:00 AM
The basic eye test says Ryan Miller is not having a very good season, and that doesn't just get based off Saturday's disaster in Pittsburgh. Miller has given up three goals or more in 10 of his 17 appearances. That just doesn't get the job done.
Miller put in plenty of extra work at practice Monday and was surprised to learn about owner Terry Pegula's comments following Saturday's game. In today's paper, Jerry Sullivan says it's time for Pegula to act on fixing this team and one way might be dealing Miller. Of course, no one is trading for a $6 million goalie who can't stop the puck, so Miller first has to get his game back on course.
Here's a deeper look at some Miller numerology:
---Career GAA and save percentage through Saturday: 2.59 and .914
---GAA/SV Pct in 2010-11: 2.59 and .916 (spooky)
---GAA/SV Pct in 2011-12: 3.12 and .902
---Home stats this year: 4-4-2, 3.58, .890
---Road stats this year: 4-2-0, 2.44, .922
---First 5 games this year: 4-1-0, 1.61, .950
---The 12 games since: 4-5-2, 3.85, .879
---Since returning from concussion: 3-0-2, 3.58, .891
Miller, remember, didn't get the loss Saturday night so remains with no regulation losses since coming back from his injury. Under the goofy NHL scoring rules, that went to Jhonas Enroth because he gave up the fourth goal in an 8-3 loss. Just out of principle, Miller should have gotten the loss for giving up the Penguins' 60-foot opening goal. And I think that should be the rule anyway -- do it like a pitcher in baseball because that was the goal that put his team down for good.
December 19, 2011 - 7:19 PM
The Sabres will have two more players join their NHL debut list after calling up forwards Marcus Foligno and Derek Whitmore from Rochester.
Foligno is in his first professional season. The son of Sabres legend Mike Foligno has nine goals and 12 points in 27 games.
Whitmore leads the Amerks with 13 goals and 20 points in 29 games. He is getting his first shot after playing 272 games in the Sabres' minor-league system.
The Sabres, who have nine players out, will visit Ottawa on Tuesday. Foligno's brother, Nick, is a forward for the Senators.
December 19, 2011 - 1:38 PM
So what's up with Ryan Miller? It's the biggest question in Sabreland in the wake of Saturday's 8-3 loss to Pittsburgh, a flameout that saw Miller get pulled twice and owner Terry Pegula issue a surprising and stern rebuke of Miller and Jhonas Enroth.
Miller stayed on the ice at First Niagara Center for more than 90 minutes today working on his game -- and was out an extra half-hour after many of his teammates were already out of the building to prep for the flight to Ottawa. When you're 37th in the NHL in goals-against average (3.12) and 32nd in save percentage (.902), there's definitely work to be done.
"You want to put it away and you come the next day to do as much as you can to work through it,' Miller said. "My cousin Kevin taught me that when I was a kid. He played a long time and when he had a bad game, the only thing you can control is how hard you come out and work. I'm trying to put the work in and get caught up to where I need to be."
What did Miller think of Pegula's comments? He had not heard them until they were relayed by The News.
"He owns the team. I guess he wants to see a little bit better play," Miller said. "I don't know. It's for us to come to the rink and work to get better. ... I'm trying to get better and put my best game out there and I obviously didn't have a very good game. That's pretty apparent. I got pulled twice. I mean, come on. That's pretty bad. ... It's unfortunate we didn't have a better game. I'm sure Terry [a Pennsylvania native] wanted to see us play better in Pittsburgh."
Miller insisted he's healthy coming off his concussion but coach Lindy Ruff wonders.
"I think he is but I've seen in the past where a Pominville came back from his and it took a long time to get in the groove," Ruff said. "There's been a history of players that when they come off. I don't know the answer. I believe he's healthy but I've definitely seen in the past guys come off head injuries and in some cases it's weeks, some cases it's even longer before they play well."
On the injury front, Thomas Vanek was held out of practice with an upper body injury but Ruff said he's probable for Tuesday night. The coach was pleased to see Brad Boyes skating well and didn't rule him out of Thursday's game in Toronto, although that still seems a longshot with Boyes still in a non-contact role. Tyler Ennis was going to skate Monday but was unable to on his bad ankle so he's likely out this week. Colin Stuart's injury suffered Saturday is to his knee and he will be out at least a month.
Ruff said two players will likely be recalled from Rochester, with Derek Whitmore and Marcus Foligno the top candidates. Said Ruff: "It's dire here and it's probably even worse in Rochester. I've never seen anything like it really."
Cracked captain Jason Pominville: "We might need a priest to come in the room and give us a little more luck that way but we don't want to use any excuses."
As noted earlier today, the Sabres only had three full forward lines for practice. Crazy stuff. Click below for the full audio from Ruff and Miller.
December 19, 2011 - 11:07 AM
The Sabres are on the ice at First Niagara Center a half-hour early so they can get on the plane to Ottawa and the injury hits just keep on coming as leading goal scorer Thomas Vanek is not practicing.
Vanek, easily Buffalo's most consistent player of late, took what was close to a knee-on-knee hit late in Friday's game against Toronto and appeared to struggle a couple of times in Pittsburgh too. We're going to have to wait until after practice to see if this is a "maintenance" day or if there's some issue.
Tyler Ennis and Patrick Kaleta are also off the ice today and the Sabres are thus getting woefully thin up front. They don't even have four lines at practice today. Right now the lines are:
Marc-Andre Gragnani is skating as a forward with Brad Boyes, who is not close to being ready. The other six defensemen are on the ice. Clearly, the Sabres might need another forward (Marcus Foligno? Derek Whitmore?) for Tuesday's game and perhaps beyond.
December 18, 2011 - 11:24 AM
PITTSBURGH -- Good morning from the Steel City, a place the Sabres are happy to be home from following their 8-3 dismantling Saturday night. Before I head back to the B-lo as well, here are a few numbers from a team that has to be nearing rock bottom:
1 -- The number of goals for Derek Roy in the last 15 games.
2 -- The Sabres haven't had two straight wins in five weeks.
3 -- The number of goals for Drew Stafford in the last 19 games.
5 -- The number of goals for Paul Gaustad in the last 51 games.
8 -- The total scored by the Penguins, the most allowed by Buffalo since an 8-2 loss to Los Angeles on Dec. 6, 2007.
9 -- The Sabres' injury total following another ankle sprain for Tyler Ennis ("It’s not going to be as long as the original one, so I think that’s good news," he said) and a lower-body injury to Colin Stuart.
17 -- The team-leading goal total for Thomas Vanek, who found the net for the fifth time in six games.
32 -- Ryan Miller's save percentage rank in the NHL with his .902.
37 -- Miller's goals-against average rank in the NHL with a 3.12.
169 -- The number of coaching changes in the NHL since Lindy Ruff was hired in 1997.
December 17, 2011 - 10:31 AM
SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BUFFALO AND PITTSBURGH -- The Sabres' division has been shaken up again, this time with familiar faces taking over in Montreal.
The Canadiens have fired coach Jacques Martin and replaced him with Randy Cunneyworth, who will take over on an interim basis for the rest of the season. Cunneyworth is a former Sabres forward and was a longtime coach of the Rochester Amerks.
The Canadiens also announced this morning that Larry Carriere, another former Sabres player who later became an assistant to General Manager Darcy Regier, will be behind the bench as an assistant coach.
As for the Sabres, they are holding a team meeting at their hotel before an optional skate for tonight's game in Pittsburgh.
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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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