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Delving into Miller's numbers

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.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Sabres call up Foligno, Whitmore

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.

---John Vogl

Live Chat: On the Sabres Beat with John Vogl

Miller puts in a long day after a short night

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.

Lindy Ruff:

Download audio

Ryan Miller:

Download audio 

--Mike Harrington
(twitter.com/bnharrington)

Bulletin: Vanek not on the ice for practice

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:

Adam-Szczechura-Pominville
McCormick-Roy-Stafford
Ellis-Gaustad-Kassian

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.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

The Sabres by the numbers

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.

---John Vogl

Vote for your three stars

Live from Sabres at Penguins

Big changes in Montreal with Cunneyworth, Carriere stepping behind bench

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.

---John Vogl

Vote for your three stars

Live from Maple Leafs at Sabres

Tim Connolly comes back to Buffalo happy to be a Leaf; Kaleta ailing

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)

Tim Connolly

Lindy Ruff

Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson

Sabres in HD now available to FiOS viewers

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.

---Greg Connors

Connolly's reunion with Sabres, fans comes Friday

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.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Inside the NHL chat with Bucky Gleason at 10 a.m.

The hits keep rolling: Leino out weeks

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.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Around the practice rink: A late start

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.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Three Stars: Senators 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

Live from the FNC: Sabres vs. Senators

Gaustad, Weber back while McNabb stays in

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?

Nope.

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.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

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John Vogl

John Vogl

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.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

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.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

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.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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