The Sabres host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday, the second straight meeting between the teams. With less than two minutes to play in the Leafs’ 2-0 victory Tuesday in Toronto, Buffalo forward Nathan Gerbe had a skirmish with Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul, who had his helmet knocked off by a punch. Both players earned roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
"He said something when I was going to the bench, and I turned around and he just kind of popped me, but whatever," Lupul told Toronto reporters Wednesday. "He had 58 other minutes to play hard all game, and he didn’t. So it’s always a thing that makes me laugh, when a guy doesn’t show up for the game and then, with two minutes left, tries to make something happen."
Countered Gerbe today: "I don’t worry about it. My main goal is to win a game Friday. I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team. As far as the outside things that are said, it doesn’t bother me. It’s part of hockey."
Lupul, meanwhile, continues to tweak the city. He made a plea for "windowless rooms" at the Leafs’ downtown hotel during a visit last month. Upon arriving Thursday afternoon, he snapped a picture of the rainy waterfront and tweeted, "I'm a little upset none of my Buffalo fans told me to pack my beach towel."
Join Buffalo News reporter T.J. Pignataro and a representative from MSG Networks to discuss the company's dispute with Time Warner Cable that has blacked out Buffalo Sabres games in 2012. Submit your questions and comments in the chat console below beginning Friday at 2:30 p.m.
Chat with Buffalo News reporter T.J. Pignataro and a representative of Time Warner Cable regarding the company's dispute with MSG Networks that has blacked out Buffalo Sabres games. Submit your questions and comments in the chat console below beginning Friday at 10:30 a.m.
The Sabres will have two players participating in NHL All-Star Weekend this month in Ottawa, with captain Jason Pominville being named to the All-Star team and forward Luke Adam getting selected as an All-Star rookie.
The All-Star Game is Jan. 29 in Scotiabank Place, while the Skills Competition is Jan. 28. Pominville will participate in both. Adam will take part in the skills event.
"It’s a pretty cool opportunity,'' Pominville said this afternoon in First Niagara Center. "It should be a fun weekend. I’m obviously excited. I’ve been used to having a little bit of a break, but I guess this year will be a little different."
Pominville is tied for 10th in scoring with 43 points, including 29 assists. Adam is tied for fourth among rookies with 10 goals and ranks eighth with 20 points.
"That’s pretty neat," Adam said of the selection. "To play in the NHL and then to be able to go and meet those guys and be in the skills competition, it’s a lot of fun. It’s an honor."
Thomas Vanek, who ranks 10th in goals (19) and tied for 18th in points (40), was not selected.
"It doesn’t matter," he said before the team was announced. "The people who know me, that’s not why I play the game. I’ll take the five days off."
The interviews with Pominville, Adam and coach Lindy Ruff -- whose team hosts Toronto on Friday night -- are below.
Lindy Ruff said today Derek Roy is likely to play Friday against Toronto. Thomas Vanek (food poisoning) did not skate today but Robyn Regehr, who was also felled by a meal Monday at the same Toronto steakhouse, was on the ice. Andrej Sekera continues to progress. Christian Ehrhoff returned in a non-contact role but will be out until at least next week.
The highlight of Ruff's presser was the continued discussion of the apparent target on Patrick Kaleta's back from officials. Ruff said Kaleta was "a marked man" after Tuesday's game due to his questionable charging penalty, and said Kaleta has to tinker with his game to not players while coming from a large distance.
"It is disappointing," Ruff said. "I don't think good hits should be taken out of the game. I understand there's a level of concern with what's gone on with concussions but you can't take good hits out of the game. We've asked Pat to tone it down.
Ruff admitted Kaleta is frustrated.
"He's trying to do the right things, supply some energy when he can, trying to keep his feet on the ice when he hits," Ruff said. "Obviously, he's got a target on his back."
"I'm just trying to skate and use my speed," said an exasperated Kaleta, who gave short answers and was far from his usual self while talking to reporters. "I have to find a way [to play a physical game] or else I wont be here."
Former NHL goaltender Greg Millen, now an analyst for Leafs TV and Sportsnet, got the Internet buzzing late in Tuesday night's game when he said that Sabres coach Lindy Ruff signed a seven-year contract extension last April. Ruff, of course, is beloved by owner Terry Pegula, and both President Ted Black and GM Darcy Regier maintain there is no coaching change on the Sabres' horizon. A long-term extension like that could be one reason why.
Presented with the Millen report by The Buffalo News after his normal daily session today with the media, Ruff strongly denied it.
"It's nowhere close to that length," Ruff said. "That's not true."
Told that two sources of The News insist the deal is for six years, Ruff also shot down that report. ""It's nowhere close to that either. It's a normal coach's contract. It's not a player's contract."
On the day it was announced, both Ruff and the team refused to reveal the terms, but it's long been believed to be for three years with an option for a fourth.
The Sabres are on the ice for practice in First Niagara Center and leading scorer Thomas Vanek, who was felled yesterday by what coach Lindy Ruff termed food poisoning, is not on the ice.. Luke Adam is dressed on the left wing on the top line with Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville. Robyn Regher, who played just 29 seconds out of the final 14 minutes last night, is skating; he is also believed to have suffered food poisoning.
The other bit of news is that defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is skating in a red (non-contact) jersey in his first appearance with the team since being injured in a fight Dec. 30 with Washington's Troy Brouwer. Derek Roy, who sat out last night's loss in Toronto, is taking a regular turn on his line and is a good bet to be playing in Friday night's rematch against the Leafs.
TORONTO -- Following the Sabres' 2-0 loss to Toronto, coach Lindy Ruff described the Sabres' scoring slump as possibility the worst of his tenure. Ryan Miller, meanwhile, said although the Sabres have the same record as last year, it feels different.
The Buffalo Sabres have not met the high expectations set at the beginning of the season. They’ve reached the midpoint of the season with a mediocre 18-18-5 record. News Sports Reporters John Vogl and Mike Harrington report from First Niagara Center that the Sabres have reached a critical point in the season.
With the MSG/Time Warner dispute still percolating, the Sabres will hold another viewing party in First Niagara Center for Tuesday night's game in Toronto. Doors open at 6 and the game begins at 7 on the HD board, which will be lowered to an easier viewing height. Admission and parking in the arena ramp are free.
There were long lines last Friday night when a crowd of more than 5,000 showed up to watch the Carolina game, so the Sabres say they will have more concession stands open and staff on hand to serve fans.
The team’s concessionaire, Delaware North/Sportservice, will be providing discounted food and beverage specials throughout the night and fans will get a a $4 coupon redeemable at all concession stands.
The Sabres will have in-game promotions and Doug Allen will sing the national anthem to help simulate a home-game atmosphere. But don't look for these parties to continue at the arena: The Bandits have a game Saturday night while the Sabres are in Long Island, and Disney On Ice is here next week while the Sabres are in the Midwest.
Meanwhile, Rochester hockey fans with Time Warner Cable won't have to travel the hour or so down the Thruway to the Sabres' viewing party at First Niagara Center because MSG will hold its first viewing party in the Flower City.
MSG officials made the announcement today. Bathtub Billy's at 630 W. Ridge Road in Rochester will be the site of the party, which starts at 6:30 p.m.
The viewing party is free and open to the public. MSG Network will provide appetizers as well as prizes and giveaways for Sabres fans throughout the game and staff there will also help Time Warner customers find other television providers that carry MSG, if they're interested.
The Sabres are looking for a spark, and the struggling team should get one with the next two games. They have a home-and-home series with the Maple Leafs that starts Tuesday in Toronto, and they're ready to use the passionate games against their longtime rivals as a springboard to a good second half.
"It’s huge for us," Sabres right wing Patrick Kaleta said. "You can go with the rivalry, with the big points that are needed for the standings, you can go for us starting to get back on the right track here. These next two games are huge."
Ryan Miller will start in goal Tuesday, and he's likely to be in net again when the Sabres host the Leafs on Friday in the month's final home game. Miller is 25-12 in his career against the Maple Leafs.
Derek Roy (shoulder) and Andrej Sekera (upper body) returned to practice today. Both skated in noncontact roles. Roy is a possibility for the weekend, while Sekera wasn't ready to set a timeline.
"It happened in training camp, pretty much the same injury," said Roy, who got his shoulder wrenched Friday during a faceoff with Carolina's Jussi Jokinen. "The first time I was more nervous. The second time I knew what I was dealing with. It's a weird feeling and it doesn't feel good.
"I felt pretty good shooting. Just a couple battle drills feeling it a little bit. Now we know what we need to do to get it strengthened and work on it. Stick to the program every day."
To hear coach Lindy Ruff's news conference in First Niagara Center, click the audio file below.
Things were rosy for the Sabres when they woke up Nov. 12 in Boston. They were 10-5, the seventh-best record in the NHL.
Buffalo promptly got whacked around by the Bruins, losing the game (6-2), their goaltender (Ryan Miller got run over by Milan Lucic) and a chunk of their pride (so said coach Lindy Ruff, whose team didn't respond to the collision). They haven't won consecutive games since, going 8-13-5.
When the Sabres woke up today, their 18-18-5 record put them in 23rd place in the 30-team league.
The drop from seventh to 23rd is because they are the fourth-worst team in hockey since their Boston beatdown. Here are the records of the NHL teams since Nov. 12, according to analysis by The News:
Like I said before the game, remember Thursday when Lindy Ruff said he was riding Ryan Miller and wanted to get him going? Remember Friday night in Carolina when Miller gave up the winning goal in the third period on a 2-on-1 when Chad LaRose beat him clean?
Jhonas Enroth got the start Saturday but don't read into Miller's 15th game of three or more goals in the last 18. And least not according to Ruff.
The coach said after Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss to Winnipeg that Enroth -- who made 39 saves -- started because the Sabres are going to be busy. It's a back-to-back and there are six games in nine nights and Ruff felt it would be tough to get Enroth a game. Hmmm.
Of course, Enroth had a shutout in November in Carolina. I might have started him there but Ruff doesn't generally use team-vs-team matchups in determining goalies. He goes more on rest days.
"The decision is just the schedule, just the amount of back-to-backs and six games in nine nights," Ruff said. "Ryan had a pretty busy night last night. That's really all it was. Ryan last night probably had to make more difficult saves inside that game (because of the odd-man rushes). ... If we don't get Jhonas a game when we go to use him in the six in nine, it's going to be a good period of time that he hasn't played."
The loss dropped Enroth to 8-7-3 with a 2.46 GAA and .923 save percentage -- but he's just 1-6-3 in his last 10 decisions. Miller is 10-11-2, 3.05, .901. Miller has more wins in his career against Toronto then any other team, so the bet here is he plays both games against the Leafs Tuesday and Friday. And then we'll see where Ruff is headed in net.
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.
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.
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.