By Mike Harrington
The Sabres are off today so we won't have any practice updates. They'll be back on the ice Wednesday** in First Niagara Center before heading to the airport for the flight to Carolina.
(**Couple of inquiries: We're in regular season mode now, which means practice is closed to the public. Game-day morning skates, the few of them that there may be in this shortened season, will be open for the Sabres only and closed for visiting teams).
I'm working on a little update on Jochen Hecht for Wednesday's paper. Monday was one year to the day of Hecht's last concussion, during a loss at St. Louis, and Thursday is one year to the day of his breakdown in the locker room after the morning skate in New Jersey, when it seemed like his career was done. Hecht has been pretty valuable on the penalty kill in these first two games, excellent value for a $1M pickup the week of "training camp".
Here's plenty of other things percolating in my mind after Monday's 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs:
---Ryan Miller was the story in this one. Made 34 saves and once again dominated the team he has more career wins against (28) than anyone. Nearly posted his fifth career shutout against the Leafs too.
Miller in two games thus far: 1.50 GAA, .953 save percentage. Zero questionable goals against. Looks strong in the crease. Loved how there were few rebounds last night. Shots were sticking to his pads.
Lindy Ruff said this morning on his weekly WGR Radio appearance that Jhonas Enroth will play one of the two games this week against Carolina.
---Your goaltender is your best penalty killer but Miller had a lot of help. Didn't like Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold much in Sunday's opener against Philadelphia but I loved them last night. Leopold played a team-high 25:12 and had a game-high four blocked shots; Regehr played 4:49 of PK time out of his 17:42, blocked three shots and did an excellent job with his positioning.
---Calling Tyler Myers, calling Tyler Myers. Trainwreck so far. Unforced errors, bad passes. Bad two games for a guy making $12 million this year. And yes, the money changes how everyone looks at him. He's not on an entry-level deal; he's getting paid like a Norris Trophy candidate.
---Cody Hodgson looks great down the middle. Two fluky goals without his stick but it's no fluke he was in position on both of them.
---Vanek attack. An NHL-high six points so far, tying the most in back-to-back games in his career. The way he stripped Nikolai Kulemin and fed Jason Pomvinille for Monday's second goal was a superstar play.
---Secondary scoring needed. Vanek-Hodgson-Pominville have five of the seven goals thus far. No goals yet from Foligno-Ennis-Stafford, although I thought Ennis had a strong game Monday.
---Faceoffs are an issue. The Leafs won a staggering 45 of 64 draws Monday -- including 21 of 25 in the third period. The Sabres have won just 12 of 44 in the first period of their two games. Win faceoffs, get possession. Lose faceoffs, scramble to get possession and too often only get the puck when it's in your net. Major area to work on.
---Team toughness. Drew Stafford, John Scott, Patrick Kaleta, Marcus Foligno. Lots of answers to challenges so far. Just as advertised.