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Sabres' Ennis returns to ice for Swiss team after missing time with injury

Tyler Ennis, who was scheduled to center one of the Sabres' top two lines this season, is back on the ice in Switzerland after missing time with an undisclosed injury.

Ennis played for Langnau on Tuesday night and recorded an assist during the Tigers' 5-1 victory over Rapperswil-Jona. Ennis missed seven games with the ailment.

"He’s healthy and he’s playing and that’s the main thing," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said by phone today.

Ennis is one of seven Sabres playing overseas, joining Thomas Vanek, Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers, Andrej Sekera, Alexander Sulzer and Jhonas Enroth.

"We are keeping track from a distance," Regier said. "The biggest focus is making sure that we stay in touch, at least in the stats, who’s playing, how they’re playing, how they’re doing and maybe even more importantly are they staying healthy?"

---John Vogl

Afinogenov earns prize spot in Sabres' Alumni Plaza over Hawerchuk, Satan, others

The Sabres' new Alumni Plaza has been a hit, with folks stopping by the French Connection statue to take photos during those rare days when there's a reason to go to First Niagara Center.

Another highlight of the plaza is the mural of all-time greats that extends across the walking bridge above the plaza. It's a who's who of Sabreland, with huge photos of 18 players running from the parking ramp to the arena. The players who made the cut are, in order:

Roger Crozier, Danny Gare, Jim Schoenfeld, Craig Ramsay, Mike Foligno, Dave Andreychuk, Mike Ramsey, Phil Housley, Alexander Mogilny, Pat LaFontaine, Dominik Hasek, Michael Peca, Chris Drury, Maxim Afinogenov, Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek and Tyler Myers.

Wait ... Afinogenov?

Yup, the Russian who personifies "enigmatic" made the list of team legends. He beat out the likes of Dale Hawerchuk, Miroslav Satan, Don Luce and Rob Ray.

On one hand, there's a case to be made for Afinogenov. He spent nine seasons with the Sabres. He ranks 18th in team scoring with 334 points, including 200 assists. He was popular among fans, with his jersey ranking among the league leaders in sales during the rush to the registers from 2005 to 2007.

Then again, Afinogenov's time in Buffalo is almost equally as notable for the down times. He slumped while refusing to play a team game. He suffered mysterious concussions. He was run out of town after totaling only 16 goals during his last two seasons.

Satan, meanwhile, led the Sabres in scoring for six seasons. He's 10th on the team's all-time points list with 456, including 224 goals, which ranks eighth.

Hawerchuk is a member of the Sabres' Hall of Fame after putting up 385 points in 382 games.

Luce ranks seventh with 526 points, put up in 766 games, which ranks seventh in team history.

Ray played 889 games for the Sabres to trail only Gilbert Perreault (1,191), Ramsay (1,070) and Ramsey (911). He spent 14 years in Blue and Gold while establishing an unbeatable record of 3,189 penalty minutes.

Daniel Briere played a bigger role in the Sabres' success while Afinogenov was in town, but it's tough to put up a player who still skates for a key rival (and torments his old team with goals and points).

The mural tries to include all the eras of Sabres hockey, so it makes sense that Afinogenov could beat out Luce or Hawerchuk. His inclusion evens out the decades.

But Satan and Ray could be considered contemporaries of Afinogenov. It seems both have more credentials for a prized spot in Alumni Plaza.

---John Vogl

NHL kisses November goodbye with more cancellations; Sabres have 20 games axed so far

So long for now, Eric and Jordan Staal. Maybe next year, Daniel and Henrik Sedin. And any Sabres fans who were hoping to visit Phoenix or Anaheim next month can put away the sunscreen.

The NHL has canceled all of its games scheduled for November.

In a highly anticipated move, the league announced today it is taking another significant chunk off its schedule. After chopping two- and one-week segments in its previous cancellations, the NHL went bigger with a whole month getting the ax.

"The National Hockey League deeply regrets having to take this action," Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "By presenting a proposal to the NHLPA that contemplated a fair division of revenues and was responsive to player concerns regarding the value of their contracts, we had hoped to be able to forge a long-term Collective Bargaining Agreement that would have preserved an 82-game Regular Season for our fans. Unfortunately, that did not occur.

"We acknowledge and accept that there is joint responsibility in collective bargaining and, though we are profoundly disappointed that a new agreement has not been attained to this point, we remain committed to achieving an agreement that is fair for the players and the clubs -- one that will be good for the game and our fans."

The cancellation means 11 more games for the Sabres have fallen by the wayside. They were scheduled to play five home games (Carolina on Nov. 3, Philadelphia on Nov. 16, Columbus on Nov. 21, Winnipeg on Nov. 27 and Vancouver on Nov. 29) and six road games (Philadelphia on Nov. 6, San Jose on Nov. 8, Phoenix on Nov. 10, Anaheim on Nov. 11, Philadelphia on Nov. 17 and the New York Islanders on Nov. 24).

Combined with the previous cancellations, the Sabres have had 20 games nixed.

"This is deeply disappointing for all hockey fans and everyone who makes their living from hockey, including the players," Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, said in a statement. "But it comes as no surprise.

"The message from the owners seems to be: if you don't give us exactly what we want, there is no point in talking. They have shown they are very good at delivering deadlines and demands, but we need a willing partner to negotiate. We hope they return to the table in order to get the players back on the ice soon."

While presenting its last proposal, the NHL said it would require seven days for training camp. For games to start Dec. 1, a collective bargaining agreement will need to be reached by Nov. 23.

No talks are planned, and the league withdrew its most recent offer today after the NHL Players' Association expressed little interest in the proposal.

Though the Staal brothers, who were united in Carolina during the offseason, would visit Buffalo if the lockout ends and a shortened season is scheduled, the Western Conference Canucks and the Sedin twins would be a long shot. The 1994-95 season was shortened to 48 games due to a lockout, and all the games were played within the conferences.

---John Vogl

Report: Sabres' Miller calls lockout a 'debacle,' considers signing with a team

Ryan Miller didn't like the tone of the NHL labor talks from the outset. He's really fed up now.

In an email to ESPN the Magazine, the Sabres' goaltender blasted the lack of negotiations as the league nears the cancellation of more games.

"I think that a deal is there to be made and recent events lead me to believe the NHL is simply testing us," he wrote. "After they have satisfied their curiosity about the strength of our resolve we will have real negotiating for the first time in this whole debacle.

"The two sides are close enough to a deal that missing the bulk of a season is wrong and missing an entire season is not only insane, it is a blatant disregard for the sport, the fans and the culture we have grown over decades -- just to satisfy egos, not the needs of either side."

Miller, who is in Los Angeles, may start to look for a job overseas.

"If a team needs a goalie, I need to start considering it," he wrote to ESPN.

---John Vogl

Hail Mary from the Chief: Obama asks for end to lockout

Even in the midst of an intense campaign, President Obama found time to ask for sanity in the hockey world.

During "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno on Wednesday, an audience member asked the president if he could do anything to end the NHL lockout.

"You know, I do have a comment on this," said Obama. "Every time these things happen I just want to remind the owners and players: You guys make money because you've got a whole bunch of fans out there who are working really hard -- they buy tickets, they're watching on TV.

"Y'all should be able to figure this out. Get this done. The fans deserve it."

---John Vogl

With Thursday deadline to save full season looming, NHL's Daly says 'we aren't going to have a deal any time soon'

The NHL, while making a collective bargaining proposal last week, set a deadline of Thursday to have the deal completed in order to have a full 82-game season. Sabres players said today they think that deadline has wiggle room of up to seven days.

It doesn't matter either way. Bill Daly made it clear another week likely isn't enough to save a full season.

Responding to an email from The Buffalo News as to whether the NHL's schedule included an All-Star Game and if canceling it would give the league and NHL Players' Association extra time to negotiate, Daly said yes but that one wouldn't necessarily lead to the other.

"But, in any event, it looks like it doesn't matter now," Daly wrote during an exchange of messages. "Because it's clear we aren't going to have a deal any time soon.

"Just disappointed in where we find ourselves. I thought 50-50 deal and mechanism to pay players back for reduced value of their contracts in early years of CBA would garner some traction. I guess players want more. Not sure where this goes from here."

The Sabres' Jason Pominville and Jordan Leopold, two of nine locked-out players who skated in Northtown Center at Amherst today, remain hopeful that a CBA can be reached quickly and that 82 games are possible.

"I honestly think that’s a deadline they set in stone," Pominville said of Thursday's cut-off date, "but I don’t know if it’s that realistic. I think there might an extra week maybe where you can still find a way to fit in an 82-game season. Hopefully, we can get something done in the next couple of days and get it figured out."

---John Vogl

New York Islanders moving to Brooklyn

The Islanders are moving to Brooklyn.

The Isles, who have been trying to get out of dilapidated Nassau Coliseum for years, have decided to move into the new Barclay's Center in Brooklyn. They have agreed to a 25-year lease.

"Hello Brooklyn!" Islanders owner Charles Wang said at a news conference this afternoon.

The Isles will finish their lease with Nassau County before moving west on Long Island for the 2015-16 season. They will share the arena with the Brooklyn Nets of the NBA.

"Our goal from the outset was to have the Islanders play in a local, world-class arena," Wang said. "We have achieved that goal."

---John Vogl

NHL rejects players' request to meet, cites lack of new proposal a reason for denial

Negotiations have been relatively non-existent throughout the NHL lockout, with the sides rarely requesting meetings. The NHL Players' Association expressed a desire to talk Tuesday night, but the league swiftly denied it.

“They have indicated a willingness to meet, but they also told us they had very little interest in the proposal we tabled last Tuesday,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the Canadian Press. “[They] also said they weren’t making a new proposal. What would we be meeting about?”

The union informed the league it was willing to meet today "or any other date, without preconditions, to try to reach an agreement," according to spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon.

"The league is apparently unwilling to meet," NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr said. "That is unfortunate, as it is hard to make progress without talking."

In presenting its proposal last week, the league said a new collective bargaining agreement would need to be completed by Thursday in order to conduct a full 82-game season. With no talks scheduled, it's unlikely to happen.

The league has canceled all games through Nov. 1, and a much larger chunk could be whacked this week.

---John Vogl

Audio: Amerks Ron Rolston recaps 3-1 victory over Hamilton in Buffalo

Amerks coach Ron Rolston had praise for Cody Hodgson, David Leggio and T.J. Brennan following a 3-1 victory over Hamilton tonight. The audio of his news conference is below.

---John Vogl

Patrick Kane signs in Switzerland, teammates with Bruins' Seguin

Kane
(Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Patrick Kane is the latest NHL star to commit to playing overseas, with the Buffalo native signing with EHC Biel of Switzerland's National League. Kane is set to arrive Sunday, according to Biel, which also boasts Boston forward Tyler Seguin.

Kane will play in the same league as the Sabres' Tyler Ennis, who signed with Langnau.

As is usually the case with Kane, there's an interesting angle in Biel's release announcing the signing. The team's chief scout breaks down Kane's strengths and weaknesses. According to a Google translation, Thomas Roost calls Kane "one of the best hockey players in the world." On the downside, Kane, a renowned partyer, "has (not always) the reputation of an exemplary professional," Roost said.

---John Vogl

NHLPA finds NHL's secret window to speak with players 'interesting'

The only two members of the NHL who are allowed to speak about the lockout are Commissioner Gary Bettman and his deputy, Bill Daly. The league temporarily halted that rule last week, a move the NHL Players' Association finds "interesting."

The NHL proposed a 50-50 revenue split with the players last Tuesday, and the league followed by giving its owners and general managers the green light to speak with players Wednesday through Friday to clear up any misconceptions about the offer.

The NHL did not inform NHLPA leadership.

"Most owners are not allowed to attend bargaining meetings," Steve Fehr, the NHLPA's special counsel, said in a statement today. "No owners are allowed to speak to the media about the bargaining. It is interesting that they are secretly unleashed to talk to the players about the meetings the players can attend, but the owners cannot."

Yahoo! Sports obtained a copy the memo, part of which reads: "YOU MAY NOT: "Negotiate" with a Player.  This means you may not explore alternatives or variations to the proposals on the table from either side because that would be prohibited "direct dealing".  You may not ask "What do you want?" or "What do the Players want?"  or "What should the League propose?"  If a Player tells you that he or others are trying to find a different approach, he should be told that all ideas and suggestions should be presented to the Union and not directly to you or anyone else in the League except through the Union.  You may not ask him what he or others have in mind."

There are no talks scheduled to end the lockout.

---John Vogl

Four more Sabres games officially wiped out as NHL cancels through Nov. 1

The NHL said earlier this week that it wanted to start the season Nov. 2. It stood to reason, then, that all games between Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 would get wiped out.

It officially happened today.

The NHL has announced that all games through Nov. 1 are canceled. The move deletes four games from the Sabres' schedule: next Friday in New Jersey, Oct. 28 at home against Philadelphia, Oct. 30 in Boston and Nov. 1 against Phoenix in First Niagara Center.

The NHL canceled the opening two weeks of the season earlier this month. Nine games for the Sabres have been axed.

The decision comes one day after the collective bargaining talks between the league and the NHL Players' Association took a step backward.

---John Vogl

NHL lockout chat with Sabres beat reporter John Vogl

The way to end lockout is 50-50 split, but the timeframe to get there varies wildly for NHL, NHLPA

TORONTO – The key to having an NHL season is a 50-50 revenue split. The owners and players both realize that an even partnership is the answer to ending the lockout and starting the games.

The problem is the sides still have wildly different views on how to get there – or, more specifically, when to get there.

The optimism generated earlier this week that an 82-game season could start Nov. 2 evaporated today inside the headquarters of the NHL Players’ Association. The union made three counterproposals to the offer crafted by the league Tuesday, and all were dismissed without hesitation.

Neither side was pleased.

“It’s clear that we’re not speaking the same language in terms of what they came back to us with,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “It is still my hope that we can accomplish my goal, the league’s goal of getting an 82-game season, but I am concerned based on the proposal that was made today that things are not progressing. On the contrary, I believe the proposal that was made by the players’ association in many ways was a step backward.”

The union was taken aback that its offers were shot down so quickly. The league’s representatives talked alone for 10 to 15 minutes before passing judgment.

“Today is not a good day,” NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said. “It should have been, but it wasn’t.”

Speaking with about a dozen players as a backdrop, Fehr outlined the three proposals the union offered. The first two would gradually establish a 50-50 revenue split, with the magic number being reached in Year Three in the most optimistic revenue growth projections or Year Five in more conservative outlooks.

The players, who earned 57 percent of the record $3.3 billion in revenue last season, would get about 55 percent this year. They have no desire to start at 50-50 because it would mean an immediate 12.3 percent reduction in salaries. After agreeing to a 24 percent salary rollback following the 2004-05 lockout, the players feel they have given enough.

“The suggestion that somehow the players are not moving in the owners’ direction strikes me as being fundamentally misplaced,” Fehr said. “We said here’s two avenues that you can look at in which the players are prepared to get down in a reasonable amount of time to percentages which look like yours, not all at once and not with big salary concessions, not given what happened the last time and not given the growth that we’ve had.”

The owners expect 50-50 immediately.

“None of the three variations of player share that they gave us even began to approach 50-50, either at all or for some long period of time,” Bettman said. “The proposal that we made, so we can be clear about it, at 50-50 and all the other things, was the best that we could do. We gave it our best shot. It is our best offer. We gave the players’ association what we had to give.”

The union estimates the salary rollback following the last negotiation cost players $3.3 billion during the seven years of the collective bargaining agreement. Fehr said Thursday’s first two proposals would save the owners another $796 million to $1.117 billion in the next CBA compared to the last one. Despite the givebacks, the players' annual take would grow by 5 percent to 7.2 percent, as would league revenues.

“We came in here today with those proposals thinking that we could really make some progress,” Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "To hear those words [from Bettman] kind of shuts it down pretty quickly. In a nutshell, it doesn't look good.”

The third proposal, put together before the NHL contingent arrived at the union’s offices, lacked concrete numbers. In essence, Fehr said, it called for owners to honor existing contracts by paying out the 12.3 percent reduction in salaries and using the remaining 87 percent or so as part of a 50-50 split.

“It is not a 50-50 deal," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "It is most likely a 56- to 57-percent deal in Year One and never gets to 50 percent during the proposed five-year term of the agreement.”

Anything less than 50-50, it appears, is not going to work for the NHL. It means there is a lot of negotiating ahead.

“I am, to say the least, thoroughly disappointed,” Bettman said.

The league has established next Thursday as the date by which the CBA needs to be completed in order to save an 82-game season. Fehr said the players would also like a full schedule, but they are not willing to sign a bad deal in order to achieve it.

“I don’t know what we will eventually do,” Fehr said. “I don’t know what the owners will eventually do. But if you had been in the room, the vibe you would have gotten is unless you’re prepared to sign with very minor variations, don’t bother.”

---John Vogl

Audio: Bettman, Fehr describe disappointing day in NHL labor talks

TORONTO -- Gary Bettman said he was "thoroughly disappointed." Donald Fehr said, "Today is not a good day. It should have been, but it wasn't."

Hear the rest of their takes on the NHLPA's three CBA counterproposals, all of which were rejected almost immediately by the NHL.

---John Vogl

Gary Bettman

Donald Fehr

NHL rejects union proposals, talks take step backward

TORONTO -- The optimism that the NHL lockout was nearing its end is gone. One look at Gary Bettman's face showed that.

The NHL Commissioner left today's meeting at NHL Players' Association headquarters "obviously disappointed" after the union offered three CBA counter proposals, none of which resembled the league's offer made Tuesday.

"I am, to say the least, thoroughly disappointed," Bettman said this afternoon. "I don't know what the next step is. I'm obviously disappointed"

Bettman said none of the union's offers came close to the NHL's 50-50 proposal and said the sides are again speaking a different language.

"As the calendar ticks away, we're going to do more cancellations," Bettman said.

---John Vogl

NHL lockout meeting delayed; NHLPA holds conference calls while readying counter proposal

TORONTO -- The meeting between the NHL and NHL Players' Association, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., has been pushed back at least 90 minutes while the union readies its counterproposal.

The NHLPA held conference calls with its executive and negotiating committees today, pushing back the proceedings.

The union is expected to deliver a response to the 50-50 proposal made by the league Tuesday. There are 18 players scheduled to sit it on the negotiations, including Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

The league's group will include, among others, Commissioner Gary Bettman and Bruins owner and Buffalo native Jeremy Jacobs.

---John Vogl

Bettmanfehr

The Buffalo News will be live at the NHL-NHLPA meetings in Toronto today

The NHL lockout has reached its most crucial day so far, and The Buffalo News will be live with all the updates.

Sabres beat reporter John Vogl is on his way to Toronto to cover the meeting between the league and the NHL Players' Association. The sides are scheduled to get together at 1 p.m. at the union's offices, and The News will have updates and reaction all day.

Follow along at Sabres Edge and Twitter.com/BuffNewsVogl for the latest proposals and counteroffers.

Sulzer signs with German team

Sulzer

Just because there's some movement in CBA talks, players are apparently not going to sit around and wait and see if a deal is struck. Sabres defenseman Alexander Sulzer is the latest player to head for Europe, as he signed today with ERC Ingolstadt of the German league. The team's release says he will attend his first practice session tomorrow.

Sulzer came to the Sabres last year in the deadline day trade with Vancouver and immediately became much more than a throw-in. He's expected to be in the hunt for the No. 5-6 role on the Sabres' blueline. That's, of course, if the season starts.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 
Photo: Mark Mulville/Buffalo News 

 

Schedule analysis: Sabres would have tough opening

If the NHL and the Players Association hammer out a deal in the coming days to open the season, the Sabres would have a far tougher opening to their schedule than they would have had under the old slate.

To save an 82-game season, the league would do the following:

1). Pick up the schedule as written starting with games of Nov. 2. That means the Sabres' season opener would be Nov. 3 in First Niagara Center against Carolina

2). Reschedule all missed games by adding one extra game every five weeks and then the rest in an April window that would likely extend 10-14 days past the current close (April 13).

3). There's no word from the league on this point, but you would think All-Star Weekend in Columbus might be scrapped so that time could be used to help make up games. 2:30 p.m. update: The Columbus Dispatch is reporting the league says the All-Star Game will go on if a new CBA is reached by Oct. 25 and the season opens Nov. 2

All games through Nov. 1 would need to be rescheduled. For the Sabres, that would be home games against Pittsburgh, Detroit, the New York Rangers, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Phoenix, as well as road games against the Devils, Boston and the New York Islanders. 

The schedule was to have seen the Sabres seven of their first 10 at home. If it opens on Nov. 2, they would play eight of their first 13 on the road -- including five of their first seven. Three of those seven would be against the Philadelphia Flyers.

After Carolina, the Sabres would play in Philadelphia (Nov. 6), San Jose (Nov. 8), Phoenix (Nov. 10) and Anaheim (Nov. 11), then play a home-and-home with the Flyers Nov. 16-17.

For a team that would need a fast start to take off some of the pressure on  the organization after last year's playoff miss, that would be a tough task. But there's a long way to go until we hit that point. There's that minor issue of hammering out a new CBA.

At least it's good to be pondering a schedule for a day.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @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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