December 16, 2011 - 12:37 PM
Tim Connolly doesn't recall exactly when he knew his time as a Sabre was over. As he returned to Buffalo today to face his old team, the Maple Leafs' center is sure of at least one thing.
"I’m certainly happy I ended up in Toronto," he said.
Connolly will take the ice in First Niagara Center tonight for the first time since signing with Toronto in July. He spent eight seasons with the Sabres, coming over in the Michael Peca trade in 2001, but he says he didn't talk with one former teammate today.
"Nope, just came in early, haven’t really talked to anybody. Just getting ready for the game tonight," said Connolly, who didn't take part in the Leafs' optional skate. "It should be pretty exciting being on the other side of a Leaf-Sabre game in this building. It’s always a good atmosphere. It should be pretty fun."
Connolly, whose play in Buffalo was overshadowed by numerous injuries, got booed by the home fans often last season. He expects the same tonight.
"I’m sure there’ll be a few boos tonight, but that’s a sign of a good group of fans," Connolly said. "I had a great time [with the Sabres], a great group of guys that I played with, a great organization. We had some good teams and some teams that didn’t make the playoffs, but overall I had a lot of fun playing in Buffalo."
It's unclear whether Connolly will face one former teammate. Sabres right wing Patrick Kaleta, who was scheduled to return from a groin injury, missed Buffalo's morning skate and is questionable for tonight.
"Pat got in this morning and wasn’t feeling well," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We’ll get him through it and get him going. That’s all you can do. There’s nothing else you can do about it."
---John Vogl (twitter.com/buffnewsvogl)
Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson
December 16, 2011 - 11:01 AM
Just in time for tonight’s Buffalo Sabres game, the Madison Square Garden has turned the switch to make its high-definition feeds available to Verizon FiOS viewers.
MSG Network’s ownership and Verizon had been in a legal battle over the HD feeds of MSG programming, which the sports network maintained it should not be required to provide to “phone companies” that compete with cable TV providers. The Federal Communications Commission ruled in Verizon’s favor on that issue, and this week a three-judge panel refused to grant MSG a stay of the FCC ruling.
Tonight’s Sabres game versus Toronto starts at 7:30. Verizon FiOS viewers will find the MSG HD broadcast on Channel 577.
December 15, 2011 - 2:03 PM
The Toronto Maple Leafs hit town Friday night for their first visit of the season and they will be bringing along an ultra-familiar face in center Tim Connolly, who joined the Sabres in a 2001 trade with the New York Islanders before finally leaving last summer via free agency.
Injuries and inconsistent play wore out Connolly's time here but it's no shock he's doing well in Toronto when healthy. He's been out twice already there but has six goals and nine assists in 18 games. What kind of reaction does Connolly expect here? He has a pretty good idea.
"It should be pretty interesting," Connolly told reporters Wednesday in Toronto. "They tend to boo their players when they come back."
Lindy Ruff reminded the media today that Connolly's injury in Game Six of the playoff series against Philadelphia -- when he took a hit from behind into the boards from Flyers captain Mike Richards -- really helped tipped the scale in the series toward the Flyers because it crippled the Buffalo special teams. The Sabres said it will be strange to see their longtime teammate in the sweater of perhaps their biggest rival.
"It was weird in preseason to look over there and see him in a Leafs jersey," said winger Thomas Vanek. "When Danny [Briere] left and then Dru [Chris Drury] and you saw a Flyers or Rangers jersey, that's definitely weird. But when you see someone in a Leafs jersey, that makes it even more awkward."
Here's part of Connolly's meeting with reporters Wednesday in Toronto.
December 14, 2011 - 2:21 PM
Maybe we should all just blame Mlian Lucic. Ever since the Bruins forward bullrushed Ryan Miller on Nov. 12, it just seems like you're not getting through a Sabres game or practice without another injury update.
Lindy Ruff dropped another big one this afternoon: Ville Leino is out several weeks with a lower body injury suffered last night against Ottawa. Leino played 14:49 in the game but took only one shift in the final 9:25 of play, a 56-second run that ended with 1:01 left.
So it's pretty clear he had some sort of knee or foot problem he was dealing with. (Just guessing here but players often skate with a broken bone in their foot that's set in their boot until they take the skate off and the injury is discovered).
Leino has three goals and seven assists thus far, a huge disappointment after signing his six-year, $27 million contract that currently ranks as one of the NHL's biggest boondoggles of last summer. But he had five points in his last seven games and was easily playing his best hockey of the season between Luke Adam and Zack Kassian.
So the injured list now reads: Leino, Patrick Kaleta (who practiced fully Wednesday and could play Friday), Tyler Myers, Brad Boyes, Nathan Gerbe, Jochen Hecht and Corey Tropp.
Matt Ellis skated in Leino's spot Wednesday, leaving the Sabres' roster of centers as Paul Szczechura, Derek Roy, Ellis and Paul Gaustad. Yeeesh.
In other injury news, Myers (broken wrist) said he's hoping he'll be able to return around the Christmas break so that's a good nugget. Boyes (ankle) said he still has some pain while skating and has no timetable. Ruff said Hecht is going to be out for a while longer and that his lower-body injury is "not really a broken bone but it's complicated more than that." Whatever that means.
December 14, 2011 - 12:19 PM
The Sabres got a late start to things today at First Niagara Center as Lindy Ruff's whistle to start practice didn't blow until 12:15, a full 45 minutes past the normal 11:30 a.m. start time. Pretty clear there was an extended video session/meeting going on.
Some quick news items:
---Ville Leino is not on the ice for practice. Matt Ellis is in his place centering Zack Kassian and Luke Adam. All other healthy players are skating and that includes Patrick Kaleta, whom the team hopes can play Friday night against Toronto.
---Ottawa winger Milan Michalek, who took over the NHL goal-scoring lead with his 19th of the season here last night, is going to miss tonight's game against Boston with a concussion suffered in his huge hit with teammate Erik Karlsson last night. Michalek played a shift or two after the hit and didn't return.
An aside here: It was classless for the Sabres to award the hit the nightly Carrubba Collision, both in house on the HD board and on its television broadcast. You don't make fun of injuries, especially in the era of heightened sensitivity for concussions. That's bush league.
---Defenseman Mark Pysyk, the Sabres' No. 1 draft pick in 2010, has been selected for Team Canada in the upcoming World Junior Championships in Calgary and Edmonton.
December 13, 2011 - 12:10 PM
The daily Sabres medical report comes with a twist today: Paul Gaustad (shoulder) and Mike Weber (rib) will be back in the lineup tonight against the Ottawa Senators, but does Weber's return mean an instant ticket back to Rochester for rookie Brayden McNabb?
Coach Lindy Ruff was coy on his plans but said in no uncertain terms that McNabb, whose physical presence has been impressive in his seven-game stint, is staying in the lineup for now.
"He's earned a spot right now the way he's played," Ruff said today. "We look at it that we've got to win games. When we get even more numbers back, maybe things change. There's a lot of factors that you guys have mentioned that you have to evaulate on. Some of it is dictated by other stuff."
Specifically, we asked Ruff about salary cap concerns and such. It seems the Sabres don't have to make a real decision until Tyler Myers is ready, which is still a few weeks away. With Weber back and McNabb staying in, you wonder if the struggling Marc-Andre Gragnani will be in the press box. Everyone can see how tough it's been for Gragnani lately, but he's somehow plus-5 in the last four games and a team-best plus-11 on the season -- tops among NHL rookies. So it will be interesting to see what the Sabres do.
As for Weber, his broken rib has healed sufficiently to let him play in just his fourth game of the season.
"I'm a little bit ahead of schedule," Weber said today. "That's just because I was feeling so good, was able to get the proper rest and strengthening working out. It was a bone, it wasn't anything muscular. Four days after I got hurt, I was back skating and working out fullbore. I'm just happy that's over and I'm ready to get back.
"I can't change what happened the first 20 games (when he was a healthy scratch 15 times) or the fact I got hurt and missed another three weeks. I can control what I do tonight and here forward. Hopefully
it's 53 straight here."
The Sabres are 8-1-0 in their last nine against the Senators, who come to town two points behind the Sabres but in a 1-3-2 slide. The goaltending matchup will be Ryan Miller vs. Craig Anderson.
December 13, 2011 - 8:49 AM
Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, the Sabres' prospect who set a record by scoring in eight straight games this season, will not get a chance to show his skills on the international level. Canada made its first round of cuts to the world junior roster, and Gauthier-Leduc was among them.
The defenseman, selected in the third round of the 2010 draft, has 18 goals and 47 points in 31 games for Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Defenseman Mark Pysyk, the first-round pick in 2010, remains hopeful of playing in the world juniors, as does blue-liner Jamie Oleksiak. The world juniors, held last winter in Buffalo, will begin Dec. 26 in Edmonton and Calgary.
December 12, 2011 - 1:26 PM
The Sabres, in a change of pace, are actually getting healthier.
Defenseman Mike Weber and forwards Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta participated fully in practice today. Coach Lindy Ruff said both forwards might play against Ottawa on Tuesday, while Weber told The News he is cleared to return.
"I’m just extremely excited to hopefully get back in the lineup tomorrow and be ready to go," said Weber, who will now be a coach's decision. "I got cleared by the doctors, so I’m just glad I get to play now. We’ll find out tomorrow, I guess."
Weber told The News he suffered a broken first rib during a hit against New Jersey on Nov. 16.
"The first couple days were pretty painful, but after that I’ve been back practicing," Weber said. "I was just waiting for the bone to heal. That took the longest time, so I’m just ready to go now."
The injury didn't prohibit Weber from skating, so he feels he's in game shape.
"I was able to skate and keep the cardio up and get to move at game speed," Weber said. "I think it’ll help."
Rookie call-up Brayden McNabb is still with the team. If Ruff opts to insert Weber, the Sabres could send McNabb back to Rochester or scratch struggling D-man Marc-Andre Gragnani.
Kaleta is recovering from a groin injury that has limited him to just seven minutes of ice time since Nov. 19. He had been skating in a noncontact role.
"Today is the best day by far," Kaleta said. "I’m on the verge here of coming back. It was nice to get out of that ugly color by myself. I’ve done what I can do off the ice whether it’s studying other players or video. I’m ready to get back out there and compete."
Tyler Myers, out since suffering a broken wrist Nov. 19, has begun light puckhandling drills. The defenseman is still expected to be out another one to three weeks.
"He skates early every day," Ruff said. "He’s actually now just handling the puck on a limited basis. He’s been doing off-ice workouts. He’s been doing the on-ice skating. He just can’t handle the puck to a high degree right now.
"The encouraging part is he’s got the stick back in his hand, and he’s using it."
December 10, 2011 - 10:39 PM
Jhonas Enroth's numbers aren't bad this season. Following tonight's 4-1 loss to the Rangers, he is 8-6-1 with a 2.43 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.
Those averages, though, have come from a hot start and extended slump.
Enroth began the season 7-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .935 save percentage. In his last seven decisions, he's 1-5-1 with a 3.10 and .905.
"My numbers are still pretty solid, but the last couple games have been a little bit worse than the beginning of the year," Enroth said. "But this is hockey, and hockey is up and down just like your normal life, so it’s nothing that I’m working on or thinking about. I always trust myself and my skill set. I just need to come back here Monday and work hard."
Enroth had a rough night against the Rangers. The second goal trickled through his pads and the third sailed past his glove.
"We need to score a couple more goals, but I think I could have given up one goal," Enroth said. "That’s three goals I needed to save. That’s pretty bad."
December 10, 2011 - 3:30 PM
Rangers coach John Tortorella doesn't want to call Marty Biron his backup goaltender but the facts are the facts. Henrik Lundqvist is the king in New York and the 34-year-old Biron, the longtime former Sabre, will be making just his seventh appearance and sixth start of the season tonight against the Sabres in First Niagara Center.
"He's played really well and he's going to play some games," Tortorella said today. "The greatest thing about Marty is he's such a great teammate. He keeps the room loose and he's a veteran guy who understands his role, which is very important. And he's won games. Look at his record since he's been with us. ... Everything about him has been good for this organization. His personality, being a teammate and how he's played on the ice."
Biron is 4-1 with this year with a 1.94 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. And against the Sabres since leaving in 2007, he's 8-3-1, 2.82, .917 with two shutouts.
Biron's career began way back on Dec. 26, 1995 in Pittsburgh as an 18-year-old with the Sabres. He's fourth on the team's all-time win list with 134, fourth in games (300) and third in shutouts (18).
Biron was his usual chatty, happy-go-lucky self today when he met with the media.
Click below to hear Biron talk about life with the Rangers, playing a depleted Buffalo team, the new visiting locker room, even going to dinner last night at Chef's. That's what it's like with him. From topic to topic.
December 10, 2011 - 1:02 PM
Colin Stuart, come on down.
The Sabres are giving that instruction to someone in Rochester seemingly every day and the Amerks' captain got the call last night to drive west on the Thruway rather than hop the Amerks' bus East to Glens Falls. Corey Tropp (concussion) and Jochen Hecht (lower body) were injured last night and won't play tonight against the New York Rangers. They'll be replaced by Stuart and Ville Leino, back after a one-game NHL suspension.
Stuart, 29, is second on the Amerks with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists). He had 16 goals and 28 assists last year in 72 games for Portland, and played three pointless games for the Sabres. He said the Sabres' injury bug has been a daily topic of conversation in the Amerks' dressing room.
"There are a lot of familiar faces here, which makes the transition easier but it's been an interersting situation so far," Stuart said. "It's been pretty wild. When you're down there, you're focusing on doing your best and playing best for the team but the situation up here has definitely been followed pretty closely. We're surprised like everybody else is.
Coach Lindy Ruff said Hecht's injury is not a long-term one but was not as optimistic on Tropp. Tonight will feature backup goalies Jhonas Enroth and Martin Biron, the ex-Sabre.
Asked about the success of Paul Szczechura, who has yet to practice with the team but has three assists in three games including one on Jason Pominville's OT winner, Ruff joked, "Maybe we should have everybody not practice with us. Maybe that's the secret. Our practices suck maybe."
Meanwhile, Ruff continued to heap praise on Brayden McNabb but remains down on Marc-Andre Gragnani, whose turnover created Claude Giroux's overtime winner Wednesday. Gragnani lost the puck to Stephen Weiss on an early power play Friday that saw the Panther beat Ryan Miller but have his shot clang off the post.
"We need more," Ruff said. "We need better focus, better intensity. We need him to be better in those situations. I don't sense tentative. His strength is with the puck. He's misplayed it, thrown some blind plays. I sense some frustration. I see him slamming his stick but you've got to get by that. The frustration part sometimes gets the better of a player."
December 10, 2011 - 11:31 AM
Gotta run to hear from Rangers coach John Tortorella, so some quick updates with more to come as the Sabres held a meeting with an optional morning skate that only a few players took the ice for:
---The backup goalies will go tonight as Jhonas Enroth goes for the Sabres against ex-Buffalo goalkeeper Marty Biron.
---Lindy Ruff said Jochen Hecht's lower-body injury will be short term but that Corey Tropp's injury, probably a concussion, is not so good. Ville Leino is back in tonight off suspension. Paul Gaustad remains out.
---Amerks captain Colin Stuart is here and will play tonight. That makes five players (Stuart, Matt Ellis, Zack Kassian, Paul Szczechura and Brayden McNabb) expected to be playing for Rochester on the ice in Buffalo tonight. And Tropp would be another.
December 9, 2011 - 3:00 PM
The Florida Panthers have a seven-point lead in the Southeast Division and get this: They will take over first place in the Eastern Conference if they beat the Sabres tonight. Florida hasn't held that spot since it was 28-15-13 on Feb. 12, 1997 -- when Lindy Ruff was a Panthers assistant and the franchise was nine months removed from its lone trip to the Stanley Cup final.
The Panthers posted a 2-0 win last night in Boston, are gunning for their first four-game winning streak since 2007 tonight and their first back-to-back wins ever in Buffalo (they posted a 3-2 victory here on Oct. 29). They figured to be improved with so many new faces, but first in the East?
"We've really made an effort to downplay it," said first-year coach Kevin Dineen, who directed the Sabres' minor leaguers in Portland the last three years. "It's one game and then somebody plays tomorrow night and they fip-flop back over you. We had a win last night that we probably were thoroughly outplayed and were fortunate to walk out of Boston with two points.
"The margin of first overall or a playoff spot is just so low you don't sweat those areas. We know we'll have our hands full. We played a game in Los Angeles last week where I thought we thoroughly outplayed Los Angeles in every aspect of the game (outshooting the Kings, 42-26, in a 3-1 loss) and didn't get a point so it has that kind of give-and-take and I think the standings are the same way."
Still, this is a franchise that hasn't played a playoff series since 2000 and has won exactly one postseason game since getting swept in the '96 final by Colorado. So this is heady stuff.
Admitted Dineen, "It's really nice waking up your team is in a playoff spot and has a certain level of respect, but things are very fleeting."
This is a tough stretch for a team that always has rugged travel. Florida is on game seven of a run that has seven out of eight on the road. The Panthers have gone 4-2 so far.
Watch the Florida defense tonight. Panthers blueliners have an NHL-high 74 points (15-59-74), with Jason Garrison's eight goals leading the NHL and one more than he had in 113 games heading into this season and former Sabre Brian Campbell tied for fourth in the NHL with 22 assists.
December 9, 2011 - 11:36 AM
The key points from Lindy Ruff's post-skate briefing with reporters: Jordan Leopold will return to the lineup tonight but Paul Gaustad will not and a forward will be coming from Rochester. Ruff would not say who (there are salary cap considerations involved) but I'm guessing it will again be Paul Szczechura, who has been pretty decent in his prior stints here.
(2 p.m. update: It IS Szczechura who is coming up from Rochester and he will be in the lineup tonight. Joe Finley was sent back down)
So Leopold, Cody McCormick and a callup are in, and Ville Leino is suspended. Nathan Gerbe (concussion) joins a injured list that includes Gaustad, Tyler Myers, Mike Weber, Brad Boyes, Patrick Kaleta.
Leino on his suspension: "I understand that hits on the head are big issues and you don't want to have concussions. I don't want to hurt people. I respect the game and people I play against. I think the one game is fair for everybody."
Ryan Miller will be in goal. Looks like backup Scott Clemmensen will go for Florida after Jose Theodore, who's been battling the flu, had a 40-save shutout last night in Boston.
December 9, 2011 - 10:23 AM
The Sabres are taking a full morning skate in First Niagara Center and, at least for now, there's no new callups from Rochester to replace any injured players or the suspended Ville Leino. In fact, Paul Gaustad, Cody McCormick and Jordan Leopold are taking regular spots and Joe Finley is not here.
The lines look like this:
The defense pairs are: Ehrhoff-Gragnani, Regehr-Sekera and McNabb-Leopold.
Patrick Kaleta is skating in a red (non-contact jersey). Leopold is still on injured reserve but ostensibly could be taken off for Nathan Gerbe (concussion).
More to come.
December 9, 2011 - 9:18 AM
The Florida Panthers can take over first place in the Eastern Conference tonight by beating the Sabres.
Yes, that's right, the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers won their third straight game Thursday night, riding 40 saves from Jose Theodore to a 2-0 victory over Boston. The win gave them 36 points, just one behind Philadelphia. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Panthers were first in the Eastern Conference after October was Feb. 12, 1997 (28-15-13, 69 points).
"We have to keep this going. We’re playing confident right now," forward Tomas Kopecky told the Miami Herald. "We’re trying to prove those people [wrong] who never believed in us. I think we’re doing a pretty good job of it."
The Panthers lead the Southeast Division by seven points over Washington. Florida will be in the same conference as the Sabres when the league realigns.
December 8, 2011 - 10:05 PM
The NHL ruling has just come down -- Ville Leino gets a one-game suspension for his elbow on Philly's Matt Read and will thus miss Friday's game against Florida and be out $24,324.32. Seems fair enough, although let's remember that Jordin Tootoo only got two games for bullrushing through Ryan Miller last week.
But that's NHL justice for you. Here's Brendan Shanahan's explanation.
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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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