The Sabres' late run toward a playoff spot has taken a serious blow. Defenseman Tyler Myers has earned a three-game suspension for boarding Montreal's Scott Gomez on Monday, the NHL announced this evening.
Myers will sit Wednesday's home game against Colorado, Saturday's matchup in Florida and Monday's game in Tampa Bay. He will forfeit $14,189.19 in salary, which goes to the players' emergency assist fund.
"It’s tough. There’s no doubt," coach Lindy Ruff said today. "He’s been a big part of our back end."
Myers went into today's phone call with Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's disciplinarian, with the feeling a punishment was coming.
"This morning it looked a lot worse than a lot of guys thought it did last night when it happened," Myers said. "Especially with 12 games left in this tight race, it’s not a good feeling to even be in this situation."
The Sabres will need to make a minor-league recall to fill Myers' spot. Brayden McNabb is the likely candidate.
Tyler Myers will have to explain himself to Brendan Shanahan today.
The Sabres' defenseman earned a boarding penalty Monday night during the 3-2 win over Montreal, and Shanahan -- the NHL's vice president of player safety and the discipline czar -- has scheduled a hearing for this afternoon with Myers.
Myers had phone call with Shanahan earlier in the year for a hit on Dainius Zubrus but escaped supplemental discipline. Going against Myers this time could be the fact it's his second incident of the season and the possible appearance of intent during the hit on Gomez.
Myers took a stick to the face from Canadiens defenseman Chris Campoli along the boards, then immediately responded with the big hit on Gomez. The video is below.
Thomas Vanek missed Saturday's game in Ottawa after getting crushed Thursday in Boston by Johnny Boychuk and skated this morning for the first time since the hit, but he's going to be back in the lineup tonight when the Sabres host the Montreal Canadiens.
Vanek was belted Jan. 31 by Montreal's Erik Cole and has been dealing with lingering shoulder issues for several weeks, even though he insists they have not been a factor in his rough play (just four goals in 2012). Vanek said today the Boychuk hit caused a different problem, believed to be related to his neck.
"I didn't see him coming until I was laying on the ice," Vanek said. "It's part of the game, part of hockey. It happens and I've got to have my head up. It was a good hockey hit. I saw the replay and I just had my head down."
Vanek was unable to do any off-ice work while the team was in Ottawa but said he felt much better today.
"Each day I got a little bit better," he said. "Obviously the first couple of days after, just tight and stiff and sore. The last two days, I came a long way so I feel pretty good. i would like to play, especially this time of year it hurts missing games and watching them. We're not in a position to sit back and relax obviously."
Elsewhere on the injury front, coach Lindy Ruff said Matt Ellis suffered a knee injury Saturday and will be out for an extended period. Ruff refused to call it a season-ending injury, although that's what it seems like. The news on defenseman Andrej Sekera continues to be grim, with Ruff saying he's now been diagnosed with pneumonia and has yet to leave him since he became ill. Alexander Sulzer will play his fourth straight game tonight in Sekera's spot. Patrick Kaleta (neck) couldn't finish the game Saturday but he will play tonight.
Marcus Foligno, who scored his first career goal Saturday, will make his regular-season home debut tonight. He said his father, former Sabres captain Mike Foligno, will make the trip from his home in Sudbury, Ont., to watch the game.
Click below for audio from Vanek and Ruff, who had some interesting thoughts on comparing the Folignos.
OTTAWA -- On the way out of town for the drive home, which will by highlighted by the St. Bonaventure-Xavier game broadcast, let's review a crazy Saturday night in Scotiabank Place.
It started with a flubbed version of "O, Canada" by local country singer Tara Holloway, who was too much into an American Idol act and couldn't get through French lyrics. Credit to her for keeping it together -- and for the crowd for helping out. Memo to Tara on the Star Spangled Banner: It's "O'er the land of the free" and NOT "Over the land of the free." Yeesh.
OTTAWA -- The pregame warmups have just begun in Scotiabank Place, and the Sabres will be without Thomas Vanek for tonight's game against the Ottawa Senators. Marcus Foligno will join the Buffalo lineup for his second NHL game. Andrej Sekera, who is not on the trip, will miss his second straight game with the flu and Alexander Sulzer will again skate in his place. Patrick Kaleta, who sat out practice yesterday and today's optional skate, is on the ice.
Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson who was reported by CBC to be a game-time decision due to general soreness after Thursday's game against the Rangers, is on the ice. But so is Matt Carkner, who would replace Karlsson if he can't go.
Be sure to stay tuned here for our live game blog, which begins at 7.
OTTAWA -- The Sabres held an optional pregame skate today in Scotiabank Place and we'll have to wait for the warmups to see what kind of lineup they field tonight against the Senators. Marcus Foligno took the skate and seems to think he's going to play his second NHL game (his first was also here in December).
Lindy Ruff, meanwhile, would only say that Thomas Vanek and Patrick Kaleta are game-time decisions; Kaleta, however, rarely stays off the ice even for an optional. He wasn't out there today so his prospects may be shaky.
"I'm not as nervous as I was the first time around," Foligno said. "I know what to expect and I'm looking forward to the second game. The only thing I've done is staying extra in practice to get the heart rate going. Practices have been intense in Rochester. I haven't played in a week but I still feel really good, really confident."
"He covers a lot of net," Ruff said. "We're going to work off his backside and create rebound opportunities where he's going to have to make second saves. A goalie that big, obviously the first save I think he can make. We have to get him scrambling for at least that second opportunity. It's tough nowadays to even get a third."
CBC's Cassie Campbell is reporting that Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, the NHL's leader in points from the blueline with 67, is a game-time decision tonight after getting banged up in Thursday's win against the Rangers. He has a goal and three assists in five games against Buffalo this year. That would be a big loss.
OTTAWA -- The Sabres wouldn't rule Thomas Vanek out of Saturday night's game here after practice Friday but in case he can't go, they have again called up Marcus Foligno on an emergency basis from Rochester.
Foligno is on his fourth recall to Buffalo because he was jet-trotting the continent earlier this week in case he was needed. The only game he's actually played was the 4-1 loss to the Senators here on Dec. 20. He made his NHL debut that night against the team featuring his older brother, Nick, and game two might be another family reunion.
Marcus Foligno is tied for second in scoring on the Amerks with 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists), and has 70 penalty minutes in 55 games.
OTTAWA -- Thomas Vanek is questionable for Saturday night's game at Scotiabank Place against the Ottawa Senators but coach Lindy Ruff said today there doesn't appear to be any longterm issues from the hit Vanek took Thursday from Boston's Johnny Boychuk.
"He's doing OK. He's a little bit sore but doing OK," Ruff said at Ottawa's SensPlex practice facility. "I can't answer that question [if Vanek will miss the game]. It all depends on how he's feeling tomorrow."
Even if Vanek plays, it appears the Sabres are going to shuffle lines after the offense's second straight one-goal game on the road. Ruff said Tyler Ennis will move back to center with Ville Leino back on left wing. At least Friday, Cody Hodgson -- finally getting in his first practice -- got a bump up to what was the top line. The Sabres skated only three full lines Friday, with Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick also on the ice. They looked like this:
As for other players, McCormick appears close to being ready after suffering his second concussion last month. Patrick Kaleta was held off the ice Friday due to maintenance but defenseman Andrej Sekera is suffering even worse flu symptoms and won't play again tomorrow.
"He's going for more tests," Ruff said. "He's either got a real severe flu or we're trying to figure it out what it is but he's not feeling well."
BOS -- Good (early) morning from the Boston airport. The Sabres are already in Ottawa as losers of two of three, but they will wake up in essentially the same playoff predicament they found themselves in Thursday morning.
With 14 games left, the Sabres not only need to catch the teams they are chasing, they need to finish the season ahead of them. Buffalo lags well behind in the first tiebreaker -- regulation and overtime wins -- so merely pulling even will not get them into the playoffs.
The Sabres are scheduled to skate at noon in Ottawa. Part of their focus should be performing better in crunch time. They entered the third period tied, 1-1, against both Winnipeg and Boston this week, but they lost both games, 3-1. The Sabres are tied for the third-fewest goals in the NHL during third periods.
BOSTON -- The Sabres will again turn to newcomer Alexander Sulzer on defense tonight against Boston, with blue-liner Andrej Sekera sidelined by flu-like symptoms. Sekera did not even make the trip to Boston with the Sabres but could join the team in Ottawa if his health improves.
Forward Cody McCormick, who has been sidelined by a concussion, has been cleared to play. The tough winger will take part in the pregame warm-up against the Bruins in TD Garden but is likely to sit.
Jochen Hecht, who also has a concussion, has "good days and bad days," according to coach Lindy Ruff. It remains unlikely the 34-year-old will return this season.
To hear Ruff's pregame audio, click the file below.
BOSTON – The Sabres, as expected with back-to-back games and an arduous schedule, have elected to hold a team meeting at the hotel in lieu of a full morning skate. They are scheduled to hold a Lindy Ruff-less optional in TD Garden, with Jhonas Enroth expected to take part.
The appearance of Enroth and absence of Ryan Miller doesn’t foretell which Buffalo netminder will be in the crease tonight against Boston. Enroth, who has made just one start in the past 22 games, would likely want to take a few pucks whether he was starting or watching from the bench just to make sure he stays sharp.
Miller, who has made those other 21 starts in the last 22 games, would likely get a day off from practice whether he was playing or not. With his workload and impressive run (12-3-3 in his last 18 decisions), getting rest would take priority over any practice session.
“I’m just trying to find rest where we can get it,” Miller said after Wednesday night’s 3-2 overtime victory against Carolina. “That’s going to be the way the season goes from here on out. We’ve got a lot of hockey and a lot of games that mean a lot. Just rest when you can, play hockey when you have to.”
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.