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On the Beat Chat with Mike Harrington

Lindy unsure about being behind bench Tuesday

Lindy Ruff would like to get back on the bench Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils but the Sabres' coach still has some limitiations so he could be slumming it again in the press box.

Ruff, who is probably weeks away from being on the ice at practice again, watched today's workout in First Niagara Center from the bench wearing a Sabres hoodie and he's feeling better. Assistant James Patrick continued to run the team.

"Even if I do go back tomorrow, I'm going to need help beacause there's situations there where I can't vocalize loud enough, especially with the crowd, and react quick enough to have people ready," Ruff said. "So if I do go back there, I'll have James sort of in the same role."

In addition to being able to yell when needed, Ruff still can't move quickly if a stray puck comes into the bench. He said four of them did during Saturday's game against Tampa Bay and assistant coach Teppo Numminen took a glancing blow from one.

"I'd like to laugh about it but I don't want to because I don't want to get hit at the same time," Ruff said. "If I hung out by the tunnel, there's a good chance I get hit. If I stay in the same spot I normally do, I won't. I don't think we can change too much."

Cody McCormick and Jochen Hecht missed practice, with McCormick still on the day-to-day list and Hecht still hoping to play this season after having a procedure done last week on his neck.

Click below to hear from Ruff on his status, the injuries, the work of Patrick Kaleta and more. And be sure to join me here for another On The Beat Chat today at 3.


Lindy Ruff

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

Live from the FNC: Sabres vs. Lightning

Adam down, Kassian back and Lindy might be too

The Sabres have pulled the trigger on what's probably an overdue move by sending struggling rookie Luke Adam down to Rochester and calling up Zack Kassian. Adam, last year's AHL Rookie of the Year at Portland, did not have a point in his last 20 games here while Kassian has 15 goals and 11 assists in 30 games with the Amerks; he had two goals last night in Rochester's 9-4 rout of Texas.

"Right now [Adam's] confidence level is low," coach Lindy Ruff said today. "He needs to go play a lot of minutes, he needs to get back on the scoresheet. And I don't think this is unlike a lot of young players. It's been a tough stretch for him. Zack has been going well down there, he's been scoring. We'll bring him in, put him in the lineup."

Ruff said Adam could have a short stint in Rochester.

"Luke will make that decision himself," Ruff said. "He goes there and plays well, it's temporary. But he needs to go and put points up and play really well."

Kassian will go into the lineup tonight against Tampa Bay because Cody McCormick is nursing an upper-body injury suffered last night against Dallas and will sit. Ruff said McCormick's  injury is not serious and he's day to day.

The coach, meanwhile, said he's feeling better and is a "game-night decision" as far as returning behind the bench. The coach suffered three broken ribs in a practice collision Monday and has spent the last two games upstairs in the press box while James Patrick has run the club.

The Sabres are 5-0-1 in their last six games while the Lightning are 6-1-2 in their last nine and two points behind Buffalo in the Eastern Conference standings. Tampa center Steven Stamkos leads the NHL with 36 goals.

Red-hot Ryan Miller (1.11 GAA, .962 save percentage) is expected to stay in net for Buffalo while Mathieu Garon has made seven straight starts for Tampa.

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

Vote for your three stars

Live from the FNC: Sabres vs. Stars

Vanek back for game vs. Stars but won't rejoin Pominville line

Thomas Vanek will be back in the Sabres' lineup tonight against the Dallas Stars after missing three games with an upper-body injury. Paul Gaustad, who sat out yesterday for maintenance, will also play.  So that means Jochen Hecht is the only regular on the sidelines.

"[Vanek] has had a history of coming off stretches where he's been hurt, he's come back and he's gone pretty good," said coach Lindy Ruff. "We're hoping he can take off now that he's had a few games off."

Ruff said he can't see changing the lines from Wednesday's 6-0 win over Boston, so that means Ville Leino will stay with Derek Roy and Jason Pominville. Vanek likely displaces Nathan Gerbe and goes in with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford rather than rejoining Pominville, which had been one of the NHL's top 1-2 combos for the season's first three months.

"I took the [all-star] break, really came back refreshed and then in the first period [Jan. 31] in Montreal, I created chances and had a good chance myself," Vanek said. "Then the injury happened. I can create some stuff on my own ... and make my teammates better. That's my goal every game. It doesn't matter who you play with. You want to elevate their game and i want to elevate my game. So it's a good opportunity."

Luke Adam and Marc-Andre Gragnani will be the scratches. Adam has 10 goals on the season -- but not even a single point in his last 20 games. He seems closer than ever to a trip to Rochester.

"It's a thought just to get him going, get him back on the scoresheet," Ruff admitted. "He's definitely had his struggles but it isn't something we've discussed yet."

The Stars posted a 4-2 win last night in Columbus and are thus not skating this morning. Here's a stat to keep in mind that's hugely in Buffalo's favor: The Stars are 0-8-1 this season in the second game of back-to-backs. 

Ryan Miller will be in goal for the Sabres against Dallas backup Richard Bachman, who joins Jhonas Enroth as the NHL's shortest goalies at 5-10. Both were drafted in 2006 (Enroth 46th and Bachman 120th).

Late-afternoon update: Veteran scribe Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports the Stars have changed their mind and will go with starter Kari Lehtonen in goal on back-to-back nights rather than use Bachman. Heika also reports veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray will miss the game after getting struck in the foot by a puck in Columbus.

Miller's 0.95 goals-against average and .969 save percentage over the last five games are the best in his career for any five-game stretch. Bachman is 6-3-1, 2.72, .912 this season.

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

With Sabres playing well, Vanek hopes to find a forward spot in likely return Friday

Thomas Vanek, who has been the Sabres' top scorer since the opening weekend of the season, has been missing because of injury for only three games. It may have been long enough to lose a spot on the top line.

Vanek, who suffered an upper-body injury Jan. 31, practiced today and expects to be ready to play Friday when Dallas visits First Niagara Center.

"We’ll see how it reacts today, but that’s my goal," Vanek said. "We’ll see."

Ville Leino has stepped into Vanek's left wing spot on the first line with center Derek Roy and right wing Jason Pominville. The trio has combined for three goals and seven points in the three games, leading some to question whether Vanek would be placed elsewhere should he come back.

"Geez, life goes on," he said slowly with a smile. "The line’s been playing well. The three games I missed the team played great. For me, it’s just to try and find a spot in the lineup then work myself up again."

Vanek skated with center Brad Boyes and right wing Patrick Kaleta today, but that was mainly because Paul Gaustad missed the session for a "maintenance day." Gaustad will be back Friday.

"When he’s ready we’ll just have to evaluate it and drop him in," coach Lindy Ruff said of Vanek. "Obviously, we know he can make a big difference on the power play for us, but we want to make sure he’s ready, too.

"We put him through a battery of extra tests there after practice. We’ll see how he’s feeling in the morning. He’s the only one who really knows whether he can go or not, and if he says he’s ready to go and doesn’t have any ill effects from what happened today, he’ll be back in."

Ruff, who has three broken ribs, watched practice alone from Section 104 while assistant coach James Patrick kept the role of acting bench boss.

To hear Ruff's interview, which includes mention of an upcoming neck procedure for concussed forward Jochen Hecht, click the audio file below.

---John Vogl

Inside the NHL chat with Bucky Gleason

Postgame video: Sabres 6, Bruins 0

Hear from Ruff on his new role in the press box

Lindy Ruff made a surprise appearance at his regular postgame news conference Wednesday nigght following the Sabres' 6-0 win over the Bruins. 

"I felt better and better as the game went on," Ruff said. "By the end, I felt really good."

Ruff said he will be in the press box for the forseeable future, partly because he can't get out of the way of errant pucks and also because he can't yell, so it would be difficult to yell out lines over the crowd (and ostensibly resist the urge to yell at officials).

Here's the audio of the session.


Lindy Ruff

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

Vote for your three stars

Live from the FNC: Lindy-less Sabres vs. Bruins

Bruins' Julien feels for Lindy

The first thing Boston coach Claude Julien was asked after his team's pregame skate today was how strange it would be to not see Lindy Ruff on the Sabres' bench. Tonight's game, after all, will be just the second one since 1997 with Ruff absent.

Julien admitted it would be odd and said he's had several close calls in practice as well with collisions like Ruff and with pucks to the head like the one Edmonton's Tom Renney took Monday in Toronto.

"He may pop in there, you never know," Julien said of Ruff. "But I know he's been through a pretty bad fall. You don't like to see those things. Tom gets the puck in the head and it just goes to show you there's always a risk out there. 

"... It happens. That's why you've got to be ready all the time. Sometimes when you see it, you can brace yourself. When you don't, it can be a tough fall. We don't have much protection underneath that sweatsuit except for the extra weight we carry."

Julien confirmed that Tuukaa Rask, who beat the Sabres in the playoffs as a rookie in 2010, will start tonight against Ryan Miller instead of Tim Thomas. Rask is a backup goalie who hardly has backup numbers -- he's 11-6-2 and third in the NHL in both goals-against average (1.88) and save percentage (.936). But like his team, Rask has struggled of late with an 0-2-1 record, and figures of 3.26 and .884 in the last three games.

Rask is 4-3, 2.28, .931 in his career against Buffalo in the regular season. Thomas, meanwhile, is 10-9-4 against Buffalo and his stats against the Sabres (3.10, .899) are his worst in every category against teams he's played at least 10 games.

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

Patrick to take over behind the bench tonight

Lindy Ruff will not be behind the First Niagara Center bench tonight for the Buffalo Sabres for the first time since March 20, 2006, and James Patrick will be in charge as the Sabres meet the Boston Bruins.

Patrick will move from changing the defense pairs to changing the forward lines and Kevyn Adams, who has been on the bench all season, will change the defense. First-year assistant Teppo Numminen will move down from the press box to the bench for the first time since his playing career ended here in 2009. 

Patrick said Ruff is "hoping to be here" but it's certainly up in the air if the head coach if will be in the building tonight. Patrick said he could be in the press box or could simply stay in the coaches' suite in the locker room area and watch the game on the big-screen TV.

Patrick said it a little unusual to be calling forward lines but will try to keep things business as usual.

"The helpful thing is there's a lot of veteran guys with Pommer [Jason Pominville] and Gaus [Paul Gaustad] and Derek Roy," Patrick said. "It's a pretty veteran lineup. And they communicate on the bench and I don't expect any problems.

"It is a new voice but at the same time, the game plan will be the same," Pominville said. "The systems will be the same. Not much is going to change besides the person speaking and talking to us in intermission. Our focus has to remain the same. No matter who's there, we have the trust and confidence in what they're capable of doing."

"It's the ebb and flows of hockey. You can't predict how you're going to play the game either," said defenseman Jordan Leopold, whose collision with Ruff Monday caused the coach's three broken ribs. "It's one of those things. We're plenty prepared either way. If Lindy were back there, great. If not, we'll make do and stick with our system. He's made sure everything is implemented. It's just a matter of us going out there and doing it."

Patrick had a brief on-ice meeting with the team at end of the morning skate and said his message was to continue to be hard on the puck as the club has been during its 3-0-1 run. He said his first foray as a head coach should be interesting, especially if he needs to make his case known to the referees.

"Usually Lindy has to tell me to stop yelling at the referees so I've had a lot of practice at that," Patrick said. "You get answers or get a little more respect whhen you're the head coach. Hopefully that's not an issue."

Thomas Vanek skated with the team today and Patrick said he's improving. Vanek confirmed he's hoping to play this weekend, either Friday against Dallas or Saturday against Tampa Bay.

Hear Patrick's session with reporters below:


Download audio

--Mike Harrington
(twitter.com/bnharrington)

Morning skate update: Vanek on ice, Lindy not

The Sabres' morning skate is under way in First Niagara Center and it's gone as the team advertised it would yesterday: Lindy Ruff is not on the ice but Thomas Vanek is.

Aptly dubbed "the team's broken-ribbed coach" in this morning's article by John Vogl, Ruff is not skating. But remember, that's not unusual for game-day skates. We'll have to get an update on what his status is for tonight when the team is finished.

Vanek is taking his first skate with the team since suffering his upper-body injury Jan. 31 in Montreal. Darcy Regier said yesterday Vanek would not play tonight but it seems like the team is hoping he could play either Friday against Dallas or Saturday against Tampa Bay.

Stay tuned for a post-skate update.

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

Leino: Sabres get too serious, forget to have fun

Are the Sabres' too serious for their own good? Ville Leino thinks so.

The forward, in his first year with Buffalo, said Tuesday the team is finally having fun. It is also playing well. Those two go hand-in-hand, he says.

"Overall, guys are having a lot more fun out there," Leino said. "Sometimes it seems like, especially around here, I've noticed it gets a little serious. You forget to have fun, and you forget all those things you play hockey for. You get a lot more out of yourself if you're enjoying what you do."

---John Vogl

Patrick comfortable with Sabres' coaching duties, expects Ruff to return

The Sabres have held a lot of optional practices this season, and assistant coach James Patrick has run nearly every one of them, if not all. So when Lindy Ruff missed today's full practice because of broken ribs, Patrick felt right at home taking over for the head coach.

"Obviously, he wasn’t on the ice and we missed having him here, but it wasn’t too different outside of that," said Patrick, in his sixth season as Ruff's assistant.

General Manager Darcy Regier said Ruff is day-to-day and may be back for Wednesday's game against Boston. Patrick fully expects it. Ruff hasn't missed a game since March 20, 2006, a 5-0 loss in Atlanta while he was attending to a medical matter regarding his daughter, Madeleine.

"I’m hoping and expecting to see him here tomorrow," Patrick said. "I don’t know if it’ll be in the morning or later on.

"We’re going to prepare the team like normal. It’s going to be the same routine. We’re going to meet with Lindy today and go over preparation for tomorrow. We’re going to do everything we can to get ready to win a game tomorrow. That’s our focus. If he isn’t behind the bench, we’re confident we can handle it."

The Sabres will host the Bruins without Thomas Vanek. The team's leading scorer, out with an upper-body injury, skated on his own but won't be back until the weekend, at the earliest.

"It’s a huge game. That’s our focus," Patrick said. "It’s a game that we’ve got to get ready to win. We’ve got to do all we can to prepare. They’ve been probably the toughest or the best team in the East, them and the Rangers all year.

"We feel we competed with the Rangers and we had chances to win that game. We beat New Jersey in a shootout a week ago, probably the other team that’s been as hot as any team over the last month, and we know Boston is going to be a big challenge, but we feel we can beat any team in league."

---John Vogl

Sabres' Ruff misses practice with broken ribs; Regier says coach is 'day-to-day'

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who broke his ribs during an on-ice practice fall Monday, was not healthy enough to return to First Niagara Center today. General Manager Darcy Regier said the coach is "day-to-day" and may return for Wednesday's home game against Boston.

"I did speak with him this morning," Regier said. "He is in a lot of pain. He said he got about four hours sleep last night. He was, when I came in this morning, on a conference call with the coaches going over practice."

Assistant coach James Patrick has taken over the daily duties from Ruff.

If Ruff does return for the game against Boston, it's possible he could coach from upstairs. Assistant Teppo Numminen, who is normally up in the press box and communicates with a headset, would likely come down to the bench.

"We’ll see how he feels in the morning," Regier said, "and he’ll make a determination from there."

---John Vogl

Darcy Regier

Video report: Reaction to Ruff's injury

Check out our latest TBN video with my recap of Monday's practice, including Lindy Ruff's injury and the players' thoughts on their coach and the upcoming homestand.

(Kudos to photographer Mark Mulville for the double duty).

---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 | 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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