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Live from the FNC: Sabres vs. Jets

Bulletin: Enroth leads Sabres on ice, will apparently start against Jets

Remember when Lindy Ruff said he was going to ride Ryan Miller and get him going? That apparently lasted all of one game.

Jhonas Enroth -- who is 1-6-2 in his last 10 decisions -- led the Sabres on the ice for pregame warmups prior to tonight's game against Winnipeg. Miler is on the ice as well so this appears to be a coach's decision and not injury-related.

Miller, of course, is struggling mightily and has given up three or more goals in 15 of his last 18 starts. The game-winning goal by Carolina last night on a 2-on-1 by Chad LaRose was one that had to rankle Ruff because Robyn Regehr had the pass played and Miller didn't stop the shot.

So we have a pretty easy question at the start of tonight's postgame presser.

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

Jets coach remembers time in Tonawanda

First-year Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel played just seven NHL games with the 1979-80 Washington Capitals but had a long minor-league career before moving into coaching. His first professional stop: The 1975-76 Buffalo Norsemen (remember them?) of the old North American Hockey League.

The Norsemen played just one year and had a roster that featured former NHLers Guy Trottier and Steve Atkinson (who had played for the Sabres in the early years). They played at the Tonawanda Sports Center, which was then turned into a tennis facility. Noel, then a 20-year-old, was making $225 a week and loving life.

Aficionados of Buffalo sports history remember that the Norsemen's season ended when they forfeited Game Five of a playoff series in Johnstown, Pa., after the host Jets initiated a pregame brawl. It's a scene that was the basis for one of the memorable moments in the hockey classic "Slap Shot"

"I remember the ride back on the bus when I thought , 'This is gonna be a heck of a career if we've got to play in this league for five or six years,' " Noel said today. "I think it scared me to death enough to work out in the summer and hope I get an opportunity. I signed with the Buffalo Sabres (and played in the organization with the Hershey Bears) ... it scared the bejeezus out of me."

Click below to hear more of Noel's memories of his year in Tonawanda, including playing against the Hanson Brothers of Slap Shot fame, and the brawlers in Quebec known as the Beauce Jaros who led the NAHL that season.


Claude Noel

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

Updates on Roy, Leino and the NHL/NHLPA realignment flap

On-ice news first: The Sabres did not skate this morning after their late-night arrival from Raleigh. Ville Leino will be back in the lineup tonight, and both Leino and Brad Boyes will need to spend some time at center with the injury to Derek Roy.

Coach Lindy Ruff had said Thursday that Leino was being overly optimistic about playing tonight against Winnipeg but the Sabres need Leino now.

"Some of it is necessity, some of it is that if you ask Ville, he says he's ready," Ruff said. 

As for Roy, the center was hurt on a faceoff last night in Carolina and is believed to have suffered some sort of arm/shoulder injury. 

"Right now initially, they don't feel it's too bad," Ruff said. "But it's going to be more than days."

The big news of the day, however, was the league's announcement Friday night that realignment and the new scheduling matrix are out for next year because the NHLPA has declined to consent to the changes. Players association representatives Paul Gaustad of Buffalo and Ron Hainsey of Winnipeg both met the media today to explain their side of the situation.

The biggest sticking points are the league's lack of information on travel and a playoff format that has some teams in eight-team conferences and others in seven-team groupings. The top four in each would make the postseason, making it tougher for 16 teams to get in.

"It has to be fair for everybody," Gaustad said. "Teams play an an entire season for a shot at the playoffs and for one conference to be harder to make the playoffs than the others didn't sit well with the players."

"There were a few things suggested and we were refuted in the attempt to sit down and meet about it or even tinker with it," Hainsey said. "If you're in an eight-team conference for your entire career, you're at a 7 percent disadvantage [of making the playoffs] for your entire career."

The Jets will apparently stay in the Southeast Division again next year, which means plenty of long road trips East. But they're OK with that based on what they didn't know about the new plan.

"The travel, from what limited stuff we got, could possibly be worse for some Western teams including Winnipeg," noted Hainsey. "Without knowing what that looked like, it's hard to consent or not consent when the potential is there for worse travel."

While the league clearly indicated the players blocked the proposals by not giving consent, the players said they were willing to continue discussion. The league is citing advance time needed to draw up a schedule as the reason to maintain the status quo in 2012-13.

"We didn't block it. That's incorrect," Hainsey said. "We asked to continue to meet to address concerns. That's not blocking."

"The best way is to solve it is just discussion between the PA and NHL owners and just find the best scenario for everybody," Gaustad said. "We didn't see a lot of data. They didn't give us a lot of stuff supporting why they did certain things and that was another issue."

Click below to hear Gaustad and Hainsey's sessions.


Paul Gaustad


Ron Hainsey

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

Hockey really is fun in other places

OK, so you're probably in a bad mood. The Sabres are still a trainwreck and Darcy Regier told John Vogl in an exclusive interview after Friday's loss in Carolina that no shakeup is imminent with this team. Maybe you have Time Warner and can't even see the games (right now at least, maybe that's not a bad thing). Your only hope is that the state attorney general really can have some pull.

Hockey is no fun right now so we'll give you a little levity. No Sabres news for a while as the team won't skate this morning and won't even meet in First Niagara Center until 11 a.m.

So let's take it back for a second to Thursday night. Did you catch the World Junior gold medal game in Calgary between Sweden and Russia?

The Swedes had a 58-17 advantage in shots on goal but it took an overtime tally by Mika Zibanejad to finally give them a 1-0 victory. It was the Swedes' first title since 1981 and it set off a wild celebration on the ice -- and on the Swedish television broadcast.

Take a look at the call of the Golden Goal and the aftermath. Hysterical. (More Sabres news later).

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

Buffalo News exclusive: Darcy Regier says no shake-up imminent for struggling Sabres

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Sabres have been stagnant since early November, seemingly begging for some kind of change. Don't expect one soon.

In an exclusive interview with The News following tonight's 4-2 loss in Carolina, General Manager Darcy Regier said the struggling team isn't in need of a shake-up.

"I wouldn’t call it a shake-up," Regier said in RBC Center. "If there’s a move that makes sense for us, we’ll do it if something is going to improve our hockey club. There’s nothing imminent, as I said, right now.

"At this time of the year and where we are, I’ve done a lot of talking to teams around the league, so I’m aware of some of those situations. Right now there’s nothing imminent, and that’s part of the business. We’ll keep working."

There are numerous players rumored to be on the market -- most notably Anaheim stars Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan -- but at the moment price seems to be a sticking point.

"Without specific rumors, there’s truth to those rumors," Regier said. "But the price right now, and I think things will build between now and the trade deadline. I think teams that are going to be sellers are going to try and maximize what they can get for what they are selling. I think that will build as we get closer to the trade deadline. That will be the threshold point."

The Sabres are just 11th in the Eastern Conference and haven't won consecutive games since Nov. 11. Regier feels they're hanging around close enough to a playoff spot.

"We’re close enough, but we’ve got to convert some of these chances into goals and those goals into wins," he said. "I still go back to if we can get to where we’re finishing better, getting more scoring, getting secondary scoring, that will go a long ways to helping us."

The full interview is below.

---John Vogl

Darcy Regier

Vote for your three stars

Live from Sabres at Carolina

Myers excited to step in for Sabres, wants team to raise its game

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Tyler Myers says the Sabres can win without him. Thing is, they really haven't, going just 6-9-4 since he broke his wrist Nov. 19.

Now that he's back, more is expected from the team and the defenseman, starting with tonight's game in Carolina.

"It’s a long process, but I’m very excited this game came," Myers said today in RBC Center. "It’s always frustrating when you’re not doing as well as you want to, but I’m not going to stand here and say they need me to win. I’m very happy to be back and help the team as much as I can, but they were doing just fine, but we know we have to be better.

"It’s not just one or two guys. It’s the whole team, and we need the whole team to have the success that we expect out of ourselves and the fans and everyone around us expects out of us. We’re going to come together as a group and figure it out."

Myers will replace T.J. Brennan in the Buffalo lineup. Cody McCormick will be the healthy scratch among the forwards. Ryan Miller will start in goal.

Myers practiced on the first power-play unit, skating on the point with Jordan Leopold while Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Drew Stafford worked up front. The second unit featured Brad Boyes, Jochen Hecht and Luke Adam, with Derek Roy and Marc-Andre Gragnani on the blue line.

"There will be a little rust there," coach Lindy Ruff said of Myers, "but I’d like to see him step in and continue from where he was in the previous couple games before he got hurt. He took a big step in the right direction, was on the offensive side of it, played physical, and we know what he brings to our team."

---John Vogl

Tyler Myers

Lindy Ruff

Hear Miller on Miller

There's usually never enough space in a story for all the interesting things Ryan Miller can say in one interview and my story in Friday's paper on Miller is no exception. From his quest to break Dominik Hasek's team victory record to his own sub-par play this season to Jeremy Roenick's critical comments in an NHL.com blog, Miller was his usual forthright self following practice Thursday.

Here's a large chunk of that interview as the Sabres hope the change in the calendar from 2011 to 2012 will help change Miller's fortunes.


Ryan Miller

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

Ruff: 'I really want to get Ryan going'

Get ready for lots of Ryan Miller in the Buffalo Sabres' net. For starters, figure on both games this weekend.

That was the clear message Lindy Ruff gave after practice Thursday in First Niagara Center before the team took off for Carolina. Miller is just 10-10-2 this year with a 3.05 goals-against average and .900 save percentage, easily the worst figures of his career. 

"I really want to get Ryan going," Ruff said. "If he's feeling comfortable playing well and not tired, I'm going to try to lean on him a little bit more and see if that helps him."

Ruff's decision isn't easy. Miller has been below par and backup Jhonas Enroth in a 1-6-2 slide. Looks like the only choice may be to ride the $6 million man.

"You worry about numbers in short periods of time," Ruff s aid when asked about Miller's stats. "Don't worry about the global numbers. Worry about your next game, that those numbers are good. Put a good three-game stretch together. Short-team goals, smaller goals. What's behind him right now is behind him and he's got to put together the best 40 games he's ever put together."

"Right now it's just win and the stat you really start to care about is the wins," Miller said. "I know people pay close attention to it and I even make preseason goals of where I want to be and I'm not 
anywhere near where I'd want to be. You look at it from where you're at in this point in time. You do the best you can from this point forward. I can still have good stats from here on out, help the team get to the playoffs."

Tyler Myers said he's ready to go for Friday night's game. Ruff said Ville Leino is being overly optimistic about playing Saturday against Winnipeg, but next week is likely for him. Tyler Ennis had another setback with his ankle and didn't practice today, with Ruff saying he's going to keep him off the ice the next two days and that he may be on a week-to-week schedule.

Click below to hear Ruff's full chat on injuries, Miller and the Sabres' need to forge that two-game winning streak that's eluded them since mid-November.


Lindy Ruff

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

Inside the NHL chat with Bucky Gleason

Sabres to host viewing party Friday night

The Sabres, who are caught in the middle of the Time Warner Cable/MSG television fight, will host a viewing party in the arena Friday night for their road game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the first 3,000 fans will receive vouchers for free soft drinks and popcorn. Half-priced beer and family-friendly prices on hot dogs, pizza, nachos and combination platters will also be available.

---John Vogl

Myers hoping to return to Sabres' lineup Friday

The Sabres are about to get healthy in a big way.

Defenseman Tyler Myers, out since suffering a broken wrist Nov. 19, said today he is fully healed and is hopeful of returning Friday when the Sabres visit Carolina.

"It doesn't do any damage to really bear down, so it's just a matter of these next couple practices getting ready for Friday," Myers said in First Niagara Center. "Hopefully, by Friday I'll be ready to go."

Sabres forward Ville Leino, meanwhile, is still aiming to return Saturday when Buffalo hosts Winnipeg. Winger Tyler Ennis is also a possibility to return this weekend.

Jason Pominville, Jochen Hecht and Brad Boyes skipped practice for maintenance, coach Lindy Ruff said, but all will be fine by the next game.

"We've got a lot of good news coming," Ruff said. "We're getting good players back."

---John Vogl

Three stars: Sabres 4, Oilers 3

Live from the FNC: Sabres vs. Oilers

Ruff has cautious optimism on Pominville, Boyes

Lindy Ruff was cautiously optimistic after today's morning skate that captain Jason Pominville will play tonight against the Edmonton Oilers. Pominville, who came down with the flu on Sunday and left practice early on Monday, was not on the First Niagara Center ice this morning.

"We held him off. I think he'll be all right," Ruff said.

The coach also said he's not completely sure about Brad Boyes, who did skate after suffering a stinger to his injured ankle in practice Monday.  So the line combinations, which reunited struggling Derek Roy with Thomas Vanek and included Zack Kassian on the other wing, would get changed again if Pominville is able to play.

Ruff wouldn't say if he would keep Roy with Vanek, and said that's no panacea for his No. 1 center's trouble either. Roy has two goals in his last 21 games.

"I look at how many inside opportunities a player gets and it's not whether somebody  else can get him going. You've got to get yourself going," Ruff said. "And that's by getting to the inside. That's when you've got to get down on your knees and stick the puck in your teeth and crawl into the net. that's how dirty you've got to get when it isn't going as good as you want it to go."

One other good bit of news: Ville Leino skated with the team for the first time since suffering what he revealed to be a broken foot suffered when he blocked a shot Dec. 13 against Ottawa.

"It's his first time out but he skated a couple times on his own," Ruff said. "In his case, he should be able to progress pretty fast."

After a half-hour of extra skating, Leino surprised me by saying he's not ruling out Saturday's game here against Winnipeg for a return, although sometime next week is likely more realistic.

"It was a lot of fun," Leino said. "It's been a while and it's exciting to be back on the ice. Actually, I"m in a little better shape than I thought I was. They made me work to be tired and I most definitely am but it's fun."

Ryan Miller will start in goal tonight against Edmonton's Nikolai Khabibulin. The Oilers will be without NHL rookie scoring leader Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who suffered a shoulder injury during Monday night's 4-3 win in Chicago.

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

Bulletin: Pominville not at morning skate, more line shuffles

Captain Jason Pominville is not on the ice for the Sabres' morning skate today. Lindy Ruff said yesterday Pominville became ill Sunday, and Pominville left the ice early Monday.

Without Pominville, Ruff has shuffled his lines yet again. No way to tell if these will be what we see tonight against Edmonton, but they're rolling this way right now:

Vanek-Roy-Kassian
Boyes-Adam-Stafford
Gerbe-Hecht-McCormick
Kaleta-Gaustad-Ellis

Ville Leino is skating for the first time with the team in a red (non-contact) jersey. Tyler Myers is not here as he's undergoing another CT-scan on his wrist. Update: M yers has now joined the skate a little late.

More after the skate.

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

On the Beat Chat with Mike Harrington

We just got done with post-practice stuff at the FNC so we're going to have a delay in today's chat to 3 p.m. Join me here while you watch the opening of the Winter Classic and we'll talk all things Sabres. And there's plenty to talk about!

Today's line combos at practice

Quick update as Sabres practice begins in First Niagara Center with the current line combinations:

Vanek-Hecht-Pominville
Gerbe-Roy-Stafford (Gerbe gets a bump up after a strong game Saturday)
Boyes-Adam-McCormick
Ellis-Gaustad-Kaleta

Zack Kassian, who was scratched Saturday, is skating as an extra forward with Tyler Ennis. Tyler Myers is skating as an extra defenseman with the six who played Saturday (Leopold, Regehr, Weber, Gragnani, McNabb, Brennan).

---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 | [email protected]

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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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