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On mend from injury, Tropp returns to NHL

Corey Tropp didn't give the Sabres much offense in his 14 games earlier this year (one goal, one assist) but he gave them plenty of grit. After a two-month battle with a concussion, he's found his offensive game in Rochester and is back in the NHL for the Sabres' game tonight against the Boston Bruins in First Niagara Center.

Brad Boyes will not play tonight due to an undisclosed injury and Tropp has been called up from Rochester, likely to join Matt Ellis and Zack Kassian on the fourth line (Cody McCormick is skating with the team but has not been cleared for contact).

Tropp has seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points in 22 games in Rochester, and had a two-goal game Wednesday against Hershey. He has three  goals and six assists in seven February games (game-by-game stats here)

"He's come back and played really well," said coach Lindy Ruff. "He had a heckuva game down there the 
other night in Rochester and gave us a lot of good hockey. He was a bright spot, his energy, he was on top of the puck, tough guy to play against. I really liked the way he played, high compete level."

Tropp, 22, suffered his concussion here Dec. 9 against Florida and admitted he wasn't feeling right on the ice in three January games at Rochester so he sat out another month.

"My goal coming back was taking it a game at a time and continuing to get better each night," Tropp said. "Just worry about getting back to competing hard and having that energy and enjoying being out there again. I've been pretty happy how I was playing down there and hopefully I can continue that up here."

A good night to come is a game against the Bruins, who should be plenty ready tonight after the 6-0 whitewash they absored here Feb. 8. Tropp said the hit against Florida was an eye-opener but he's ready to keep his physical game going.

"That's part of the game," Tropp said. "I definitely got my bell rung there but hopefully I'm the one giving those more than taking them here more often."

Click below to hear Tropp's meeting with reporters.


Corey Tropp

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

Tropp called up

The Sabres have called up winger Corey Tropp from Rochester and he's on the ice today for their optional morning skate in First Niagara Center. Tropp is likely to replace Brad Boyes tonight; Cody McCormick is skating this morning but Lindy Ruff said yesterday he has yet to be cleared for contact.

Tropp has seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points in 22 games in Rochester.  He had one goal and one assist in 14 games for the Sabres, but suffered a concussion when he was destroyed by Florida's Dmitry Kulikov in a game here on Dec. 9; Kulikov is the same guy who took out Derek Roy last year.

Tropp returned to the Amerks in early January and played three games before having a setback. He missed 10 more games before finally returning to the lineup earlier this month.

As if anyone would want Boyes anyway, an injury now would kill any chances of renting him out at the deadline. More updates after the skate.

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

Bruins' Marchand on calling Buffalo 'worst place' in NHL: 'People have to learn how to have some fun and take a joke'

Brad Marchand has been to Newark. That still didn't stop the Bruins' forward from calling Buffalo the "worst place in the NHL" today on his Boston radio show.

Upon arriving in town this afternoon, Marchand said he was just having fun and didn't mean to offend anyone.

"It’s always cold and usually rainy when we come here, and I was just playing around," Marchand said in First Niagara Center. "I hope I didn’t offend anyone.

"The people here have always been very friendly and very nice. That was by no means a shot at them. They’re great people. I was just joking around."

The original shot at the city came this morning when Marchand was talking with two radio hosts at WEEI. One said, "Do you like Buffalo as a road trip spot? Buffalo is kind of a boring town, I would think."

"Buffalo is the worst place in the NHL," Marchand responded. "I’m not too excited to go there, but I’ll be excited to leave."

Before he does, he has to play a game and face the fans. The Sabres host the Bruins on Friday night.

"I heard it was a little cold in Buffalo, and I’m allergic to the cold," said Marchand, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia. "Like I said, it’s a little cold here. There’s not a ton to do. You come and just kind of hang around in the hotel. [Teammate Daniel Paille, a former Sabres forward] spoke very highly of it, especially in the summertime, so I’m sure it’s great. There’s nothing around so I don’t know a whole lot about the city."

He does know his owner, Jeremy Jacobs of Delaware North Companies, is from Buffalo.

"I heard that, but he’s got houses in every city in the United States, so he’s OK," Marchand said.

The left winger, who is tied for the team lead with 21 goals, is an admitted partyer -- he told Sports Illustrated this month he was too drunk to be part of the Bruins' Stanley Cup championship DVD -- but he said he's unaware of Buffalo's legendary 4 a.m. closing times.

"I wouldn’t know," he said. "I don’t drink."

---John Vogl

--Twitter.com/BuffNewsVogl

Brad Marchand

Sabres getting ready for back-to-backs against best in East

The Sabres have been going well lately. They're 2-0-1 in the last three games, 7-3-2 in the last 12. So are they finally starting to play like people expected all season?

They're about to find out.

The Sabres host Boston on Friday and visit the New York Rangers on Saturday. Boston is second in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers are first.

"Both teams, it’s a good test for us," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after practice today. "It will tell us where we’re at."

The Sabres beat the Bruins in the teams' last meeting, a 6-0 thrashing on Feb. 8. Boston arrived in Buffalo today after a 4-2 victory in St. Louis on Wednesday. They will practice in First Niagara Center this afternoon.

"When Boston rolled in here last time around, we knew it was going to be a test," Ruff said. "They had a hard game last night. I thought St. Louis maybe had the edge in play for a lot of the time, but they created a couple big turnovers where they were able to put the puck in the back of the net. They’ve got good size, they’ve got good grit."

The Sabres practiced without Brad Boyes. The forward suffered an injury midway through the third period of Tuesday's 2-1 victory over the Islanders.

"He’s a little banged-up, so we’ll have to see whether he can play tomorrow or not," Ruff said. "It happened late in the game. We dealt with it, had treatment on it yesterday, but we’ll see whether he can get through it."

Cody McCormick (upper body) practiced in Boyes' spot but is not cleared to return.

Ruff got a chuckle out of the Bruins' Brad Marchand, who today told WEEI radio in Boston that "Buffalo is the worst city in the NHL."

"I just laugh," Ruff said. "I just laugh. It’s just another guy that hasn’t lived here or been here."

---John Vogl

Lindy Ruff

Inside the NHL chat with Bucky Gleason

On one-year anniversary of taking over Sabres, team president says no celebrations until Cup victory

Sabres President Ted Black and owner Terry Pegula have been in meetings inside First Niagara Center most of the day, "running the business of the franchise," Black said. Not once had they brought up the fact it is the one-year anniversary of taking over the club.

"I’ve spent the better part of the day with him, and I haven’t heard him say anything even remotely along those lines," Black said by phone this afternoon.

Although plenty has happened in the last 365 days -- see the story in Thursday's Buffalo News for a full recap -- it's still Day One that is most memorable for Black.

"It really starts with Terry’s speech at the opening press conference," the team president said. "I had never heard Terry speak publicly before, and I really didn’t know what he was going to say. I tried to pry some of that information out of him the night before, and I really didn’t get much out of him other than he said he had about 15 or 20 minutes of material. I thought why, that seems like a really long time.

"I was dumbfounded. Even though Gary Bettman and Bill Daly didn’t say anything, I could see certainly in Bill’s eyes – and he’s probably sat through a few of those speeches of new owners before – that they were really as enthralled as everyone else. How powerful his speech was and how sincere it was and how heartfelt it was was something that really struck me as much as anyone else."

Black says the ownership group has been pretty steady through the first year, accepting the highs and the lows as they come.

"We didn’t get too full of ourselves last year when the team went on a nice run and made the playoffs, didn’t get too high even during the highs and lows of a seven-game series," Black said. "That’s just more how Terry is wired and how I’m wired. Our goal is to win a Stanley Cup, and everything short of that is going to be a disappointment. Not until it happens will we celebrate."

---John Vogl

Sabres hit the one-year anniversary of Pegula running the show

It was a year ago today that Terry Pegula looked to his right and tearfully lauded Gilbert Perreault as his hero. It was a year ago today that Sabres fans officially met the man who took his wife, Kim, to Montreal on their honeymoon so they could see a Sabres game.

It was a year ago today that the Sabres got a new billionaire owner.

As for today, it will be a quiet one. According to the Sabres' PR staff, the owner has turned down all interview requests to speak about the anniversary. His team is also taking the day off, staying away from the ice thanks to the combination of four games in six nights and a two-day break until the next game.

So, here's a look back at the stories that came out one year ago when Pegula bought the Sabres from Tom Golisano.

*For three months, Terry Pegula was merely the mysterious guy attempting to purchase the Buffalo Sabres. Confidentiality agreements prohibited him from talking, so he was forced to remain in the background. With the sale finally complete Tuesday, he wanted everyone in Sabreland to know all about him.

*The signature moment of Terry Pegula's introductory news conference Tuesday was when the Buffalo Sabres' new owner said he couldn't look to his right. Couldn't look at the section of the HSBC Arena atrium where the team's alumni were sitting because once he saw Gilbert Perreault, he'd break down and cry.

Then he did look.

*Ted Black used to think he had it made. He was vice president of the Pittsburgh Penguins during their transformation from bankrupt doormat to Stanley Cup contender. He followed that up by running FSN Pittsburgh, a wildly successful regional sports television network that broadcast a record number of live pro events.

Then he met Terry Pegula, who hired Black last year to guide his purchase of the Buffalo Sabres. The two bonded, and Black became the Sabres' newest president Tuesday when Pegula officially bought the team.

*The population of Pegulaville — 18,690 strong — rose to its feet in a unified vote of confidence Wednesday night for the man who promises to quench their 41-year thirst to sip from Lord Stanley of Preston's prized chalice.

Terrence M. Pegula, the 59-year-old Pennsylvania billionaire and longtime Buffalo Sabres fan and season-ticket holder, took center ice as the team's fourth owner to a rousing ovation from adoring blue-and-gold faithful.

*Here are two photo galleries, one of the news conference and the other from the first game.

---John Vogl

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Live from the FNC: Sabres vs. Islanders

Isles coach Capuano out tonight with flu

New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano is suffering from the same flu bug that forced goaltender Evgeni Nabakov to stay home on this trip, and he has decided to stay back at the team hotel and not direct the Isles in tonight's game at First Niagara Center.

(No truth to the rumor Capuano was completely sickened by his team's no-show Monday against Ottawa.)

Capuano will be replaced tonight by Doug Weight, the longtime NHL veteran who won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and wrapped up his career with the Isles last season. By this time, I'm guessing Weight knows who Jason Pominville is. 

You may recall that it was Weight's boarding call against Pominville during overtime of Game Six here that set up Daniel Briere's overtime goal that allowed the Sabres to pull even in the '06 Eastern Conference finals. Weight said afterward he didn't even know Pominville's first name, to which the then-Buffalo rookie famously shot back, "He knows my last name because he hit me from behind."

Great memories. And now the Sabres struggle just to climb into -- maybe -- 11th place in the East if things all go the right way tonight. Oh, well.

Be sure to join me here at 7 for tonight's live game blog.

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

Quiet skate for Sabres

A quiet morning in Sabreland as a only a few players took an optional skate in First Niagara Center prior to tonight's game against the New York Islanders. Ryan Miller will be in goal for Buffalo, and he posted his franchise-record 235th career victory Feb. 4 in the Nassau Coliseum when the Sabres posted a 4-3 shootout win. The Islanders won the first two meetings, 2-1 and 4-2, as Jhonas Enroth started in goal.

The Islanders are coming off Monday's brutal 6-0 loss to Ottawa and enter tonight's game one point ahead of the Sabres in the tight Eastern Conference standings. They struggled in goal in that game as Kevin Poulin got a quick hook after two goals in the first 95 seconds and was replaced by Al Montoya, who beat Buffalo here in November. Starter Evgeni Nabokov has been saddled with the flu since Thursday and did not make the trip.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano did not attend his team's optional morning skate due to the flu and assistant Doug Weight said that Poulin will start in goal again tonight.

Tonight's game is the 150th regular season between the teams. Buffalo leads the series, 72-55-22, and is 40-23-11 against the Isles at home.

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

Video: Sabres Update with Mike Harrington

The News' Mike Harrington takes a look at where the Sabres stand a week before the trade deadline.

On the Beat Chat with Mike Harrington

Gaustad: 'Winning here is one of my main goals'

We're at one week and counting to the NHL's trade deadline, next Monday at 3 p.m. And while the 14th-place Sabres still harbor playoff hopes standing seven points out, the realistic view on the outside is that the team should be selling, sooner rather than later. There are already plenty of players whose names have churning in the rumor mill.

"It's changed a lot over the years as far as the access to blogs, rumors, Twitter, television tickers on the bottom of the page," said defenseman Jordan Leopold, who has been traded twice at the deadline (Colorado to Calgary and Florida to Pittsburgh). "The whole thing has just evolved into a social media circus. You start reading all that stuff and start believing it, you never know. It's absolutely crazy at that this time of year. As a player, the best thing you can do is not read any of that stuff."

The player with the biggest circus tent over his head right now is center Paul Gaustad, an attractive faceoff man and penalty killer who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.  Gaustad, who turned 30 earlier this month and is in his seventh year as a regular in the Buffalo lineup,  downplayed trade talk after Sunday's win over Pittsburgh and do so again today. He insists his focus continues to be on the team he's with, not some other team he might be playing for next week.

"I've always wanted to be a Sabre and win in Buffalo," Gaustad said. "I've come to grow up here and my adult life has been in Western New York. Winning here is one of my main goals in hockey."

Gaustad, however, is getting more attractive by the day. He's got three goals and seven points in his last 10 games and his line with Patrick Kaleta and Nathan Gerbe has been driving opponents' top lines crazy.

"A lot of personal success comes from team success and we've played well as a team," Gaustad said. "When the team plays well, the personal stuff follows."

Click below to hear post-practice audio today from Gaustad and coach Lindy Ruff, who agrees that Gaustad has been playing very well and insists he's lost no belief in his team's ability to make the playoffs.


Paul Gaustad


Lindy Ruff

SCHEDULE NOTE: Be sure to join me here at 3 p.m. for our weekly On The Beat chat. It should be interesting with the deadline looming.

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

Postgame video: Sabres 6, Penguins 2

Sabres' Leopold loses young friend to cancer

Jordan Leopold has made some good friends during his monthly visits to Women's and Children's Hospital. One of the closest was Anna Rose Leavoy, who had been fighting brain and spinal cancer since December 2010.

The Sabres' defenseman would speak with the Leavoy family at length during his visits, conversations that began last season. Today's victory over Pittsburgh was tempered when Leopold learned that Anna Rose, who was 11 months old when she was diagnosed, died today.

"Very sad," Leopold said in a text message.

"We benefited from his solo visits," Jason Leavoy, Anna's father, said in an e-mail in late December. "It's a down-to-earth visit, not too flashy, with his ears open to listen to how things are really going. ... The visits are a wonderful distraction in difficult times."

---John Vogl

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Matinee Live from the FNC: Sabres vs. Penguins

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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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