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No morning skate for Sabres

CHICAGO -- The Sabres canceled their morning skate today at the United Center late last night so we won't have any updates for you until after meeting with Lindy Ruff at approximately 4:30 Eastern time.  The game is at 7:30 Eastern on NBC Sports Network, so all you Time Warner customers can rejoin the suffering for at least one night.

Because of the 6:30 local start, the Sabres (like most teams would) opted against their usual 11:30 a.m. morning skate on the road. The Sabres contemplated going at 9:30 a.m. but decided last night not to do that either. The biggest item hanging because we won't see a workout is who is in goal tonight. The guess is Jhonas Enroth, and I'm figuring Ruff gives us no clues in his pregame chat. So that means wait until the team takes the warmup shortly after 7 p.m. to find out.

In case you missed today's stories, here's some of the words of Ruff after practice yesterday. 

I had a chance to talk to Patrick Kane yesterday, and the South Buffalo native is happy to face his hometown team again and trying to kick-start his season.

Jerry Sullivan's notes column today leads off with this question: How can Ruff ride Ryan Miller in net when Enroth has better numbers?

Keep it here for the latest Sabres news and be sure to join our live game blog beginning tonight at 7:30

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

Ruff: 'I've seen a lot worse games'

CHICAGO -- The Sabres' late-afternoon practice is over in Chicago and Lindy Ruff's lone injury update was that Patrick Kaleta is sick and stayed back in the team hotel. Much of our conversation with Ruff centered on his role, as the heat is growing on the men who has been behind the Sabres' bench since 1997.

My assertion was that Monday's 5-0 loss at Detroit was one of the worst Sabres' games I've seen in many years. Sure, many others have had wider margins but the Sabres were completely non-competitive for the final 42 minutes. Ruff didn't agree.

"I've seen a lot worse games. I've seen a lot worse games when it comes to work ethic and skating," Ruff said. "When I'm standing behind the bench, I've got to guard against not letting that frustration show. It's not a time to yell and scream and rant and rave. We've had some discussions in the room but 
my frustration can't show. I've got to be the guy that leads them through this."

Ruff, however, seems unable to do so. How about a trade to help? Ruff said one-player deals only work once in a while. I suggested a multi-player deal and he wasn't buying what I was selling.

"My responsibility is to get this team going and I'm going to take full responsibility for that,' Ruff said. "There is an obligation on my part to do the best to get this team going and I feel that's my responsibility. Darcy and I talk about every option. That includes trading players. It includes bringing up players and sending down players."

Hear the full audio from our meeting with Ruff today by clicking below.


Lindy Ruff

Meanwhile, the folks at NBC Sports Network are breathing down Ruff's neck. Check out this clip from Jeremy Roenick and Mike Keenan.

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

Ryan Miller's postgame audio (sans profanity) from Detroit

Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller addresses the media after the team's loss to Detroit, 5-0:

You'll notice a profanity was censored at around the 2:30 mark. For more on why The News chooses to censor profanities, check out this blog post from News editor Margaret Sullivan.

Kane on Sabres: 'The fans get on Miller a little bit too much'

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane hears plenty of chatter about the hometown team and the Chicago Blackhawks winger said he's curious to see what the struggling Buffalo Sabres put on the ice tomorrow night in the United Center.

"I know the owner [Terry Pegula] and the fans aren't really too happy with the way things have been going down there," Kane said today after practice at Johnny's Ice House, just down West Madison Avenue from the UC. "That's fine with me. I can't really care any more about the Sabres. Hopefully we can make it even worse for them and get a win against them."

Of particular interest to Kane is the problems of former U.S. Olympic teammate Ryan Miller, who has dropped to 42nd in goals-against average (3.12) and 40th in save percentage (.898). 

"I still think the fans get on Miller a little bit too much back in Buffalo. He's definitely the guy there," Kane said. "He's not having the kind of season he wanted to and maybe things are getting caught up in everything back there. I think they can be a good team. They've got everything in place to do well. You want them to do well, especially being from there.  Not better than you're doing but at the same time, growing up there I know a lot of people who root for the Sabres. It's a city that deserves the team to do well."

For his part, Kane's 10 goals and 39 points have him on pace for career lows. 

"It's something you're going to deal with in your career," he said. "I'm trying to have a new clean slate when I come to the rink every day, whether it's practice or game day. Not get too high or too low."

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

Poll: What should the Sabres do?

It's time, right? After Monday's 5-0 debacle against the clearly superior Red Wings, the Sabres need to do something, don't they?

They can't stop the puck, with goaltender Ryan Miller falling to 42nd in goals-against average (3.12) and 40th in save percentage (.898).

They can't score. They rank 24th in goals at 2.44. They have just 36 goals in 20 road games. They have scored one goal or none in five of the last 10 games.

They can't win on the road, losers of a team-record nine straight. They struggle at home, having won 11 of 25.

They either don't have talent (which falls on the GM and players) or can't get anything out of that talent (which falls on the coach and players).

So, what would you do?

---John Vogl

Quick thoughts from Gate 21

GATE 21, DETROIT METRO -- On the way to Chicago,  here's what I'm thinking after a wacky Monday night in Motown that was easily one of the worst Sabres road games I have ever seen.

---The Sabres have 36 goals in 20 road games. That's pathetic. Period.

---Ryan Miller gave us more great quotes after the game. Sprinkled in an F-bomb too. The more I think about it, the more I'm baffled by his quotes, however. 

"If you want to just destroy a team and go out and be reckless and do something, yeah," Miller said when asked about a potential trade. "Then there's going to be new guys in here. But other than that, this locker room is going to be pretty much the same."

Can this locker room really stay the same? Really? Don't they have to do something, almost anything here?

---Jason Pominville said he was frustrated the team was playing better when the score was 5-0 than when it was 0-0. Naturally. It's easier to play when there's no pressure and when the opponent has its foot off the gas. Just no mental toughness.

---Lindy Ruff's post-game presser last night lasted 90 seconds. He seems to have no answers, no anger, nothing right now.  Like he knows this team is just about toast. 

---As for today, the Blackhawks have a public practice today at 11 a.m. at their facility down the street from the United Center. The Sabres are scheduled to take the ice at 1 pm. (The United Center is unavailable due to the Bulls' game against Phoenix).

I probably have a few more things here on ye olde laptop but gotta run to the Southwest lines, which I loooove so much. 

Later.

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

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Live from Motown: Sabres vs. Red Wings

Live chat on the Sabres' beat with John Vogl

It's Miller vs. Miller: Hear from the brothers

DETROIT -- The Red Wings are going for a franchise-record 15th straight home win and the Sabres are trying to break their all-time skid of eight straight road losses in regulation tonight. That's Story 1A at Joe Louis Arena. But a clear 1B is the fifth career meeting of Ryan Miller and his younger brother, Red Wings winger Drew Miller.

The Millers haven't met in two years (Drew was a healthy scratch last season in Buffalo and Ryan missed the teams' December meeting with his concussion), and even got to spend all day together yesterday as the Sabres got the day off after arriving from Long Island. Their father was out of town but a younger brother and sister and some family friends had lunch and dinner at Drew's house.

"We didn't talk about hockey so that was nice," Drew said. "It didn't work out the last two years. I wanted to play last year and I know he wanted to get back from his injury to play against us. It will be fun to get back on the ice and play against each other."

"A lot of people are looking down like he's playing horrible and I don't think it's all on him," Drew said. "I don't think he's playing that bad. I think he expects more of himself. The injury is improving every day. The injuries have been pretty unfortunate for him and the team hasn't been winning like they'd like to so a lot of the pressure goes down on their big players. He's one of their guys that has to answer to that and that's tough."

As is usually the case here, Ryan had some long chats with Detroit-area reporters. Among the items he discussed was a change from a titanium mask to steel to help ease some of the puck impacts on his head.

As for the Sabres predicament tonight, Miller said, "This is a good place to start for this season. It's time to get our feet under us and play consistent hockey. [The Red Wings] had a little bit of a slower start than I think they wanted. It just shows they demanded something higher and they turned it up a notch."

The Sabres will get Andrej Sekera back tonight in place of Robyn Regehr. Joe Finley looks like a healthy scratch with T.J. Brennan arriving from Rochester and appearing to be in the lineup as well (Lindy Ruff said that would be a game-time decision)

Click below for audio from both Drew and Ryan Miller. (Sorry for the abrupt end to Ryan's interview as I had to jump off to chat with Andrej Sekera).


Drew Miller


Ryan Miller

Click below to hear Ruff's pregame chat, where he updates the injuries,  gives his thoughts on the Red Wings' streak, the problems of the Buffalo defense and Miller's road back from the concussion.


Lindy Ruff

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

Brennan gets another call to join thin D corps

DETROIT -- Greetings from Motown, where the Sabres have recalled defenseman T.J. Brennan from Rochester in the wake of the injury Robyn Regehr suffered Saturday night on Long Island. The team is hopeful Andrej Sekera can return to the lineup tonight after missing eight games but Lindy Ruff told me yesterday that's still uncertain. The morning skate here at Joe Louis Arena doesn't begin until 11:30 so we'll have to see how Sekera holds up.

If Sekera can't play, the Buffalo defense would be woefully thin going against a Detroit team looking for its franchise-record 15th straight home win. Brennan, Joe Finley, and Marc-Andre Gragnani would make up half the D corps, which would mean plenty of ice time for Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold and Mike Weber. Sekera, Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff and Brayden McNabb all out.

Holy moly.

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

Ruff on Vanek, defense and Kaleta

DETROIT -- The banged-up Sabres stayed off the ice today, like they often do on Sundays, and will skate Monday morning in Joe Louis Arena prior to their game against the red-hot Detroit Red Wings -- who will be trying to set a franchise record with their 15th straight home win.

I caught up to Lindy Ruff by telephone this afternoon and the Sabres coach had the following updates:

---Thomas Vanek's jaw and eye were evaluated and he has no broken bones in the wake of getting struck by a Jochen Hecht shot Saturday on Long Island. Vanek, who is still trying to overcome the flu, finished that game wearing a full cage and Ruff said he didn't know if that would continue Monday.

"That will be based on Thomas' own preference, on how tender the area is," Ruff said.

---Defenseman Robyn Regehr is staying on the road with the team but is likely to miss all four games this week with the upper-body injury he suffered Saturday night. Ruff is hopeful,  but not yet certain, that Andrej Sekera can slide back into the lineup tomorrow in Regehr's place.

---Jordan Leopold was also battling the flu last night but still managed to play 25 minutes, 41 seconds.  Tyler Myers (31:05) and Mike Weber (26:58) were forced into huge minutes because of the Regehr injury and the spotty play of Marc-Andre Gragnani and Joe Finley. The Buffalo defense was guilty of several grievous turnovers Ruff said simply can't happen.

"When you throw people into bigger minutes, you see how that can impact their game," said Ruff.  "We need better play. Our puck management has to be a lot better. We threw some pucks into the middle that were point-blank opporutnities. We won't be able to get away with that stuff [Monday]."

---Ruff is still mystified by yet another charging call against Patrick Kaleta, this one coming on what replays showed was a clean shoulder-to-shoulder hit of Islanders forward Andrew MacDonald. Kaleta scored Buffalo's first goal in the game and has three points in his last two games since Ruff said NHL officials have made the Angola native "a marked man."

"With his forecheck pressure and the way Pat can skate, he can turn himself into a weapon if he worries about the puck more than the hits," Ruff said. "There's obviously heightened awareness of any physicality from him.  Last night was a good hockey play with two players competing for the puck. Their guy was coming as hard as our guy. He protected himself at the same time and got the short end of the stick on it."

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

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Live from Sabres at the Islanders

Ruff says Sabres need more from Gragnani with McNabb out; Finley called up

UNIONDALE, L.I. -- Sabres defenseman Brayden McNabb is still in Buffalo after suffering a possible concussion Friday night, so the team has called up blue-liner Joe Finley for tonight's game against the New York Islanders.

Coach Lindy Ruff, though, will have his eyes on defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Gragnani has played 9:03 or less in the last three games. With McNabb out, someone will need to play more. Ruff wants Gragnani to earn it.

"I need him to play harder defensively," Ruff said this evening in Nassau Coliseum. "His minutes went way down because his battle … we know what he can bring offensively, but his battle on the defensive side of it wasn’t good enough. He’s on the ice for too many scoring chances that he himself can do something personally about. The minutes dropped down.

"I think that was the reason he didn’t get here sooner [spending four seasons in the minors]. His battle was better last year when he got here, and it needs to get to a higher level because we’re at a desperate stage right now."

McNabb, meanwhile, is still feeling the effects of a collision with Toronto's Nazem Kadri.

"He’s still not doing well today," Ruff said. "It’s going to be a little bit."

The full audio of Ruff's chat is below.

---John Vogl

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Live from the FNC: Sabres vs. Leafs

Ruff: 'Right now, we're close enough to win games'

Owner Terry Pegula's words in this morning's Buffalo News resonated in the Sabres' locker room prior to tonight's game against the Leafs, with players saying they appreciated his support in the wake of the Sabres' disappointing season (If you missed more from Pegula too, be sure to check out Bucky Gleason's blog post).

"What I know of Terry since day one is that he cares," said Thomas Vanek. "He cares just as much as all the guys in here. He's been supportive. He showed that in the offseason and he showed that with this room [the team's multi-million dollar locker room renovation]. I think he knows it's tough when you have injuries but at the same time, we still have enough guys playing who can play better, myself included. 
It's good to hear that he's still behind us. I kind of knew he was. But we have plenty of guys in here to make plays."

Coach Lindy Ruff, armed with a longterm extension he signed in April, certainly appreciated Pegula's words too. But Ruff made it clear this morning he's ready to cast injuries as a reason his team continues to struggle.

"I still think nobody is happy. None of us are happy," Ruff said when asked about Pegula's comments.  "You want to win and you want to win through any circumstances. I feel that right now, we're healthy enough to win. We've got enough pieces back that we're not going to blow anybody out but we're going to have to win some tight games. Yes, that [the injury bug] was a big factor. Never before had we had the number out. But right now, we're close enough to win games. We can eliminate any other excuses.

"We've been in some tough situations but we're not the only team. We've talked as a team that now's the time. We're able to keep some lines together. I think our defense is playing well enough as a group now. It will all start in goal, getting a big effort in goal and moving out forward from there."

Ryan Miller returns to the hot seat to play the red-hot Monster, Jonas Gustavsson, in goal tonight in a rematch of Tuesday's 2-0 win by the Leafs.

Derek Roy, who missed Tuesday's game with a shoulder problem, will play but Ruff admitted he may spot other players on certain faceoffs in place of Roy. Matt Ellis is the likely scratch at forward. The Leafs canceled their morning skate and opted to simply hunker down at the Embassy Suites on Delaware rather than come to the arena.

Guess that's more time for Joffrey Lupul to tweet pictures and make Buffalo cracks

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

More from Sabres owner Terry Pegula

Terry Pegula addressed the state of his team during an interview Thursday, blaming injuries for most and practically all of Sabres’ problems. Pegula was asked several questions about other topics, but the conversation eventually turned back to fighting through the injury bug.

Here are a few other comments from the owner that didn’t make the story in today’s Buffalo News

On whether he understood the frustration fans were experiencing going into the second half of the season: "We’re keenly aware of the frustration because everyone in our locker room feels the same way –- coaches, everybody. Obviously, they’re not pleased with the way the season is going.”

After being told some people would view his comments about injuries as an excuse for poor play and other problems leading to the Sabres’ struggles the organization: “This is not an excuse. This is a fact of life. This is not your Buffalo Sabres. I’m not putting down the guys that came in. But guys like Corey Tropp, Colin Stuart, Zack Kassian, Marcus Folingo – they would have never come up to Buffalo this year unless something crazy happened. It’s the sheer volume, the names.” 

When asked whether his feelings have changed regarding GM Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff: “My attitude is the same as it was at the beginning of the season. No. 1, the whole world thinks you’re going to get a star player for nothing. These other GMs might have been born at night, but they weren’t born last night. If you want to trade for a quality player or someone who can help your lineup, well, guess what? You might have to give your future away. As far as making deals, especially when they know your season isn’t going as well as projected, they try to pick you even worse.”

On whether the Sabres can rebound and make the playoffs after an 18-19-5 start for the second straight season: “It’s not impossible when you know you were 10-5 at one point. You know you can win hockey games. Obviously, part of what goes on, is that there’s new faces are in the lineup every night. Everybody says, ‘Well, the goalies are having a bad year.’ Sometimes, [the goaltenders] look in front of them and it’s like a revolving door.”

On whether the Sabres have looked stale at times: “I’m not going to say anybody is getting stale until we put the team together. They came out of the chute 5-1 and were looking pretty good.”

-- Bucky Gleason

Sabres postpone Power Play Luncheon

The Sabres' Power Play Luncheon, scheduled for noon today in the First Niagara Center Harbour Club, has been postponed. It will be rescheduled for a later date.

---John Vogl

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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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