January 31, 2012 - 12:42 PM
MONTREAL -- Tyler Ennis, who has been out since spraining his ankle a second time this season Dec. 17, will return to the Sabres tonight against Montreal.
Not only is he excited to be back, he's thrilled to be making a return to center. He played in the middle in juniors and the minors. With Jochen Hecht sidelined by a concussion, the Sabres needed someone to play center and are ready to try Ennis.
Paul Gaustad may also return from injury. He will skate in the warm-up and coach Lindy Ruff will make a game-time decision on the center's status.
Marc-Andre Gragnani will be the healthy scratch on defense.
To hear the interviews with Ruff and Ennis, click the audio files below.
January 30, 2012 - 5:53 PM
The Sabres practiced for 75 minutes late this afternoon with some hard up-tempo drills in their first workout after returning from the all-star break. Then they took their early-evening flight to Montreal.
The spector of trades looms over this club, especially in the wake of President Ted Black's comments Saturday in Ottawa that "Our commitment is to winning, not to any particular group of players that are labeled as a core."
"He wants to win," said goaltender Ryan MIller. "I'm sure there's frustrations in his situation just like there are in ours. When things aren't going the way you'd hope they would go, you try to make adjustments and that is an option for management. For us, it's not an option to think about how we can change parts. We are the parts and we want to make it work with what we have in here and the coaching staff and training staff. You search for ways to make it work.
"If they think something is not working on that level, that's their business. That's going to be handled there. It's not anything we can control, not anything we can influence."
As for roster updates, Tyler Ennis is back in tomorrow night after his second run of 17 straight games out due to a high ankle sprain. The ankle was originally injured in October, Ennis returned and hurt it again Dec. 17 in Pittsburgh and has gone back and forth with it in practice since. But Ennis looked good in practice Monday.
"You can't be concerned about it," Ennis said. "You have to go mentally strong and physically strong. You can't think about it."
Paul Gaustad (upper body) might play tomorrow. Brayden McNabb (concussion) might be back by the weekend after having his first full practice after getting hit Jan. 13 against Toronto and missing the road trip.
Miller's interview lasted more than seven minutes and got into his deep-thinking mode when analyzing how there's no singular answer for what's gone on so far. He was chipper and upbeat, even admitting near the end he was "just trying to take a spin here for the positive."
"No one has been able to quite figure it out amongst you guys and ourselves," Miller said. "The thinktank that is Buffalo hasn't really yielded too many results."
To hear the full audio, click below.
January 30, 2012 - 2:49 PM
Here's the attendance report as the Sabres have just opened practice in First Niagara Center:
---Jason Pominville and Luke Adam are not here. They went directly to Montreal from Ottawa.
---Jochen Hecht and T.J. Brennan are not on the ice as they continue to battle their concussions.
---Brayden McNabb is back on the ice in his first workout with the team since getting concussed against the Leafs on Jan. 13, the night before the Sabres left for their road trip. Tyler Ennis is also skating on a line with Nathan Gerbe and Drew Stafford. We'll see if he returns tomorrow.
---The lines aren't that valid because Adam and Pominville aren't here. But for the record, it's Vanek-Roy-Gragnani, Gerbe-Ennis-Stafford, Kaleta-Boyes-Leino and McCormick-Gaustad-Ellis. The D pairs are Sekera-Myers, Weber-Regehr and Leopold-Ehrhoff.
Stay tuned for a full update after the workout ends.
January 30, 2012 - 10:14 AM
Instead of their usual 11:30 a.m. practice time, the Sabres won't skate today until 2:45 in First Niagara Center to allow players to get back into town after the long all-star break. Then they'll jet to Montreal for Tuesday night's game against the Canadiens. Luke Adam has already tweeted that he's heading right from Ottawa to Montreal, and I assume Jason Pominville is doing likewise.
The late practice times means 1) later-than-normal post-practice updates here on The Edge and 2) a change in our normal 3 p.m. On the Beat chat.
So for this week, join me here at 1 p.m. to talk all things Sabres heading into Tuesday night's game. You want to talk Ted Black's pronouncement he's not wedded to a particular core (hmmm), the all-star game, buyers or sellers or anything else, this is the place to be.
On The Sabres Beat chat, today at 1.
January 29, 2012 - 8:02 PM
OTTAWA – The talent level at NHL All-Star Games is downright ridiculous. The players in today’s exhibition have combined for 5,136 goals and 13,558 points during their stellar careers.
Amazingly, if given the chance, Jason Pominville would pass on acquiring all of them.
The relaxed, good-natured feel of the All-Star event shined through shortly after Team Chara earned a 12-9 victory over Team Alfredsson. Buffalo Sabres rookie Luke Adam grabbed a microphone and interviewed teammate Jason Pominville, who had a goal and assist in a losing effort.
Adam’s final question was about all the talent in Scotiabank Place.
"If you could pick one player on this team to be part of the Buffalo Sabres, do you think you could pick one player?" Adam asked. "Did you notice one guy you had a lot of fun playing with or see someone out there?"
"I don’t know if I’d pick a player," Pominville said in a serious tone. "I like our team. I like everybody we have. I like the chemistry we have in our locker room, so I would keep it that way."
January 29, 2012 - 6:34 PM
OTTAWA -- USA Hockey has announced plans to hold an annual all-American prospects game starting in September. Buffalo is on the list of possible hosts. The site will be announced in the spring.
The event will showcase 40 U.S. players who would be eligible for the following season’s draft.
January 28, 2012 - 8:39 PM
OTTAWA -- Patrick Kane just won the breakaway challenge at the All-Star skills competition. Here's why.
January 28, 2012 - 3:24 PM
OTTAWA -- Donald Fehr, the well-known union boss who heads the NHL Players' Association, is in Ottawa for the All-Star Game. He spoke for more than 20 minutes about realignment, upcoming CBA negotiations and, in an interesting debate with a Montreal reporter, how fans view him.
The audio is below.
Sabres' president hopes team's struggles lead to future greatness, reiterates support for Ruff, Regier
January 28, 2012 - 2:15 PM
OTTAWA -- Ted Black isn't giving up on this Sabres season, but it appears the only good that may come out of it will be in the future.
The Sabres have won just four of their last 18 games and sit second last in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star break. It's not yet a lost season, Black said today, but the pained look on his face hinted otherwise.
"I wouldn’t say that about any season because you never know where the seeds of greatness are going to be planted," the team president said following a board of governors meeting. "So I wouldn’t say it’s a lost season because that would suggest somehow we’re abandoning our efforts, and we’re not."
Black looks at the subpar stat lines for his players and has little doubt why the team is on pace to miss the playoffs for the third time in five seasons.
"It’s a tough year," Black said. "Guys are just on pace to have career-low years in key categories such as goals. If you had a team that had Lemieux, Gretzky, Orr and Howe, and imported their worst statistical years, you’d probably have a team that wasn’t going to make the playoffs. There’s no slight to those great players, the fact is every player has a career-best year, and every player has a career-worst year.
"Unfortunately, we’ve got a lot of guys that are on track to have their worst year on the same team in the same year."
Black once again retiterated his support for General Manager Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff -- "If this was a court reporter, I’d ask to read back the record on prior answers" -- and was asked if he is still as confident in the core players (a group that includes Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad and Drew Stafford).
"That’s a word that gets thrown around, and to me our commitment is to winning, not to any particular group of players that are labeled as a core,'' Black said. "Take that for what it’s worth."
January 27, 2012 - 1:06 PM
OTTAWA -- Pat LaFontaine, whose career was cut short by multiple concussions, is healthy now. But he can still vividly remember the bad days brought on by his head injuries.
"A bad day is you have no enthusiasm," LaFontaine said today in the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. "You have a migraine headache. You’re anxious. You don’t want to leave the house. You’re very emotional. You just can’t see the light. There’s no spark. There’s nothing, and you can’t find it. It’s a very confusing place. I wouldn’t be able to sit and have a conversation."
It's those recollections that have the Hockey and Buffalo Sabres Hall of Famer worried about the health of today's NHL players. Head injuries seem as commonplace as breakaways nowadays, and LaFontaine is concerned for players like Sidney Crosby, who has missed most of the past two seasons with concussions.
"I think everybody wants to come to a place where the players are protected, they can play a long career," LaFontaine. "Why should anybody in any great sport have to be concerned about their livelihood when they’re done?
"It’s a serious, almost epidemic these days. It’s not going away. The forces are there. You have to understand what’s giving is the head and the neck, and we need to continue to put in the proper rules, whatever it takes to protect the head and the neck in our game."
LaFontaine is hoping Crosby can return. He also knows the Pittsburgh superstar is in a tough place.
"I’m hopeful, but I also know science," LaFontaine said. "I also know what happens if you get multiple head injuries. When you’re at this point and it’s taken you not much of a hit to put you that far out, it’s very concerning. Very concerning."
LaFontaine is in Canada's capital to help open a playroom for sick kids in the Ottawa hospital, much like the Lion's Dens his Companions in Courage Foundation opened in Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Women's and Children's Hospital of Buffalo.
"At the end of the day, we’re up to almost impacting 45,000 to 50,000 kids a year around North America," LaFontaine said. "It never gets old when you open up a room like this for kids."
To hear the full interview with LaFontaine, click the audio file below. In the picture, LaFontaine (right) is having a video conference with a child in a Buffalo hospital. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (left) and Philadelphia's Sean Couturier (seated) also take part in the talk.
January 26, 2012 - 9:00 PM
Join Mike Harrington and Bucky Gleason for this video look at what's gone wrong for the Sabres in the first half and what the team might do the rest of the way.
January 26, 2012 - 3:00 PM
Tim Kennedy is on the move again. The South Buffalo native (left) who has hopscotched from Buffalo to New York and Florida in the last two years with some AHL spots in between, was traded again Thursday by the Florida Panthers to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for defenseman Sean Sullivan.
Florida appeared to be a good landing spot for Kennedy because of his success in the Sabres organization in Portland under new Panthers coach Kevin Dineen. But Kennedy had just one goal and two points in 27 games and had gone back and forth three times between the Panthers and their San Antonio affiliate.
Kennedy now goes to Worcester, his fourth AHL stop. From 10 goals in 76 games with the Sabres in 2009-10 to a career as a vagabound, mostly in the AHL. All because his agent pressed the Sabres in arbitration. A big mistake, one that Kennedy's career has yet to recover from.
Photo: Kennedy on the ice with the Panthers in Buffalo in December/Mark Mulville-Buffalo News
January 25, 2012 - 11:39 AM
The Sabres are taking off from practice today, the last day they're allowed to work out prior to the NHL all-star break. They return to the ice Monday at First Niagara Center and have their next game Tuesday in Montreal, where they might be able to add Tyler Ennis and Paul Gaustad back to their lineup.
---Maybe pigs do fly because the Sabres won a road game with Tuesday's shootout win at New Jersey. Guess that means no trades and no firings? Oy. Still no back-to-back wins though with the next chance coming in Montreal. The Sabres are 10-19-5 since their last winning streak and the 34 games currently stands as the third-longest drought in franchise history -- behind only 40+-game lulls in their first two seasons. Ugh.
---Forget about trading Jochen Hecht for a pick at the deadline. Forget hockey altogether. It's time to worry about the veteran's health in general after he apparently got another concussion Saturday in St. Louis. For Lindy Ruff to say, "Emotionally, he was really unstable" after last night's game is nothing short of alarming.
---Bucky Gleason's column today talks back to the fans and answers some of their fury.
---There's only one game today and it's Detroit at Montreal at 7:30 on NBC Sports Network. The Habs, Islanders and Sabres are all tied at 45 points. If Montreal loses tonight in regulation, it would drop to 14th place while the Islanders would improve to 12th and Buffalo to 13th. The Sabres would stay in 14th if Montreal gets a point.
---This week's edition of "NHL 36" is tonight at 6:30 and it features 36 hours in the life of Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. His first day was last Monday, when the Sabres were in Detroit, and the cameras rolled pregame and during the contest. Might be an interesting watch.
---NHL.com has Jason Pominville pegged as Mr. Irrelevant in the all-star fantasy draft, as in the last guy chosen. At least he would get a car for his troubles. I loved the draft last year. It was better than the game.
---Jerry Sullivan offers this take on Tim Thomas' snub of the Bruins' White House visit. Good post, good reasoning but I don't agree. My feeling is Thomas should have been a teammate and gone. A fun argument for sure on both sides.
---Speaking of the All-Star Game, James Neal will replace Alex Ovechkin in Ottawa. Caps owner Ted Leonsis obviously did not agree with the Great Eight's suspension, as he wrote the other day on his blog. Boo to that, Ted. He jumped and contacted the head. Almost automatic these days. To me, it was a test case to see if Brendan Shanahan would give a Shanaban to a name player. He passed.
January 24, 2012 - 12:50 PM
NEWARK, N.J. – The woebegone Sabres can’t even get through a morning skate anymore without a troublesome incident.
Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller left the team’s warm-up today after taking a high, hard shot from teammate Marc-Andre Gragnani off the collarbone area. Right after the puck clanged the goalie, he got to his skates and headed directly to the dressing room area, stopping only briefly to angrily put his stick on the bench.
The agitated goalie spent time in the medical room with Tim Macre. The athletic trainer then met privately with coach Lindy Ruff.
Miller, while preparing to leave Prudential Center, gave a quick, “Yeah,’’ when asked if he was OK. He then walked to a back room.
“I think he’s OK,” said Ruff, whose team plays the Devils tonight in the final game before the All-Star break. “He took a shot. I didn’t see it, but I think he’s OK.”
The Sabres did get good injury news. Defenseman Robyn Regehr will return from a shoulder injury.
“I’m going to go out there and try to help us win a game,” said Regehr, who has missed four games. “It’s come around the last couple of days, and I was able to take some slap shots.’’
The Sabres opened a spot for Regehr by sending defenseman Joe Finley back to Rochester.
January 23, 2012 - 1:18 PM
Christian Ehrhoff, who has been out since suffering a rib injury Dec. 30, has been cleared to play for the Sabres and will return Tuesday when Buffalo visits New Jersey.
In addition to helping on the ice, the defenseman wants to bring excitment off the ice, too.
"I'm happy to get back, and hopefully we can get out of this hole tomorrow and get a win," Ehrhoff said after practice in Northtown Center in Amherst. "Just bring some confidence and some fun. I think it's been a tough few weeks for the guys that have been playing, and I'll just try to come in and bring a little excitement and try to give them some confidence."
He is the only injured player who is set to return. Defenseman Robyn Regehr and left wing Tyler Ennis skated today but aren't ready. Forward Paul Gaustad did not skate, while forward Brad Boyes also missed the session with the flu.
Captain Jason Pominville, meanwhile, said the team remains committed to winning with Lindy Ruff as coach and Darcy Regier as the general manager. His interview, and Ruff's chat, are below.
January 21, 2012 - 7:40 PM
January 21, 2012 - 4:00 PM
ST. LOUIS -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock goes back a long way with Lindy Ruff. Everyone remembers the 1999 Stanley Cup final against the Dallas Stars and there was the memorable 2006 first-round series against Hitchcock's Philadelphia Flyers that was won by the Sabres in six games. Buffalo's 8-2 win in Game Two led to this classic Lindy-Hitch postgame exchange that we always find any excuse to play here whenever possible (the voice going at it with Hitch, by the way, is our man Jerry Sullivan).
But Hitchcock and Ruff are friends too. They served as assistant coaches together on Team Canada's gold-medal team at the 2010 Olympics and Hitchcock said he understands how tough the Sabres' current plight is on a coach.
"The feeling that when I watch them play, is they go great and there's the 'oh-no.' And when the oh-no comes in, it's the hardest thing in coaching to put the brakes on," Hitchcock told me today in Scottrade Center. "It's hard to even get an evaluation on what you need or whatever. They got the 'oh-nos' going. They play very well and then you get a bad play and it seems like every bad play ends up in your net. I'm feeling for Lindy. We've all been through that stuff."
"We were through that in Columbus. We took the big step, made the playoffs [in 2009] and we're thinking things are really gonna go and then we get the oh-no games going. We're on the wrong side of every darn road game so you get a bad feeling amongst your team. You feel for the guy."
But don't look for Hitchcock to have too much sympathy. Hitchcock is 21-5-6 since taking over for Davis Payne on Nov. 6 and his Blues are the NHL's best defensive team (1.94 GAA). They've won back-to-back 1-0 games and it took until the final six minutes to get the goal to beat Edmonton on Thursday, so Hitchcock wants more offense, starting tonight.
"I know what's going on on the road with Buffalo," he said. "We've had this tendency the last little while to let teams hang around and not discourage them. We want to get that out right away, get going and make them defend as much as possible."
For plenty more neat insight from Hitchcock on his team, tonight's game and the Sabres' plight, click the audio file below. One of the main voices you hear asking questions is Hall of Famer Bernie Federko, the longtime Blues center and now a television analyst for the team.
January 21, 2012 - 1:55 PM
ST. LOUIS -- The Sabres have lost a franchise-record 11 straight games on the road, completely out of character for a team that's been good away from home in recent years -- and one that started this year 8-3 in enemy rinks. Thomas Vanek didn't mince any words today when talking about it.
"It's embarrassing," Vanek said after the pregame skate in Scottrade Center. "Since day one when I got here, I always prided myself -- and it's what I learned from the older guys -- to be a good road team which I thought we've always done a great job at. Right now it's a mistake and it goes south for us. Up front, we're not doing much either."
The Sabres have been trying to put on a happy face this week. Practice in Chicago was very upbeat and guys were relaxed at yesterday's optional skate here. But that's often an athlete's facade.
"Mentally, it's tough. I'm not going to lie here and say we're doing just great because we're not," Vanek said. "Obviously guys are trying to fight through it and bring a good attitude which is positive. We know sometimes it takes one [win] and it would be good to do it tonight against a very good hockey club."
The Sabres growing problem is other teams' knowledge of the streak. No one wants to be the team to let Buffalo up off the mat. Teams are going to get the Sabres down fast and let the bad feelings re-emerge.
"I would do the same thing if I was on the other side," Vanek said.
"I imagine [the Blues] are licking their chops. They should be," said coach Lindy Ruff. "Any time you see a team and the end of a road trip that's struggled, I'm sure they're going to really, really want to come after us, press us with all five guys."
Vanek is in his first slump of the season, with no goals in seven games and just one in his last 11. He didn't have much to offer on his own game.
"It hasn't been my personal best stretch but I'm trying to play the system hard," he said. "When I get a chance, I just need to bury it."
In other news, Patrick Kaleta appears to be good to go but T.J. Brennan did not come to the arena today because of the flu and will likely be replaced in the lineup tonight by Joe Finley. It will be Ryan Miller in goal against red-hot Jaroslav Halak, who has posted back-to-back 1-0 shutouts over Dallas and Edmonton and is working a shutout streak of more than 148 minutes.
Click below to hear from Vanek and Ruff.
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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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