Thomas Vanek burns Tuukka Rask for his hat trick goal. (AP)
By Mike Harrington
BOSTON -- So much happened in the Sabres' 7-4 win over the Bruins that it's hard to process in the hour or two immediately after it. My sense, however, is this has the potential to be a huge turnaround game. Quick hits:
---The Sabres need to get some scoring out of more than one line but Thomas Vanek is so hot right now, it doesn't matter. He's got 15 points in just six games this season -- and 54 points (28-26) in just 46 career games against Boston. And his passing has never been better.
"He's been awesome," said coach Lindy Ruff. "That play to Tyler Ennis [to score Buffalo's third goal] was second to none. Outmuscled a guy in front of the net and really a diving type pass that helped us get back in the game."
"The puck is going in," Vanek said. "I've always been a good passer in my mind. People are focusing on it more right now because the puck is going in."
The site of the demolished old Boston Garden will be developed in front of the TD Garden (rear, as shown in this 1998 Boston Globe photo).
By Mike Harrington
BOSTON -- The Sabres are breaking ground in a few weeks on Harbor Center, Terry Pegula's $123 million pet project in front of First Niagara Center that will feature a hotel, restaurant and two hockey rinks. By the drawings I've seen and the conversations I've had with people about it, it should be spectacular and another game-changer downtown.
Mikhail Grigorenko has been a surprise in the faceoff circle. (Getty Images)
By Mike Harrington
BOSTON -- The Sabres have to be quicker on the draw. That's become plainly obvious this season. But it could really be a major issue tonight.
Buffalo enters the game last in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 42 percent -- and the Boston Bruins are No. 1 at 60.7 percent. There's been plenty of chatter on Twitter in recent days over how significant the Sabres' troubles in the circle really are. I say it's one key problem to the season (although I would list lack of secondary scoring and poor play along the blueline as bigger trouble spots).
(*I acknowledge a decent argument can be made that six games is a small sample size, although I remind you it's already 12.5 percent of the season. And it also can be pointed out that the numbers might even out a little bit as well because 42 percent is historically bad; the last-place team in the league has never been under 44 percent since 1998.).
Let's start by comparing the two teams' numbers. The NHL lists faceoffs in wins-losses format so a team or player that's, say, 20-25 has won 20 and lost 25 and is NOT 20 OUT OF 25 (Going 20-25 essentially means 20 of 45).
BOSTON -- It's been nearly 15 months but Milan Lucic-Ryan Miller was still on the media's minds today in TD Garden in advance of tonight's Sabres-Bruins game. Boston reporters swarmed new Sabres Steve Ott and John Scott in the locker room after the team's 40-minute pregame skate and peppered Lindy Ruff with questions about the Sabres' new approach.
Was adding Ott and Scott a reaction to Lucic? "It was just overall team toughness, make us a grittier team," said a clearly agitated Ruff. "It had nothing to do with the Bruins."
"You try to win the puck battles and the territorial battles. We have to win a game. Not coming out of here with points is not being successful. In a short season we need points. We've answered the physcial challenge. We've been there for each other from day one in this. We play a gritty style, a hitting style. We have to win games."
Patrick Kaleta won't be chirping at any Bruins Thursday like he did last week at Carolina's Chad LaRose. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)
By Mike Harrington
BOSTON -- Just landed at Logan Airport to official word from the Sabres on the status of injured winger Patrick Kaleta: He has been released from Buffalo General Hospital after being held for observation overnight but did not travel here for Thursday's game against the Bruins.
Coach Lindy Ruff said Kaleta was being checked for neck problems after taking a hit from behind from Toronto's Mike Brown in the first period. Kaleta, who has a history of neck issues from his robust style of play, left the ice groggily after the hit and was sent to the hospital after X-rays were done at First Niagara Center.
Ruff said after the game there was nothing concerning about the X-ray but it remains to be seen if that changed given the fact Kaleta was kept overnight.
There is no timetable yet for Kaleta's return. Look for Nathan Gerbe, who was scratched for Tuesday's overtime loss to Toronto, to take Kaleta's spot in the lineup Thursday.
Come on, admit it. I got you right from the headline of this post.
But I'm not joking either. Did you see what happened at the start of the Bruins-Devils six-round shootout last night in TD Garden?
The video above gives you the answer. Hall of Famer Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe recounts the doughy affair with this uproarious game story.(*Dupont wrote a photographer at rinkside said the object was a pretzel even if the YouTube author above said hot dog).
Matt Frattin burns Jordan Leopold and Ryan Miller for the OT winner. (AP)
By Mike Harrington
The Sabres are off today, a concession to the new CBA that mandates far more time away from the ice than the old one. No way -- and I mean no way -- Lindy Ruff would have taken today off in the past. There are too many things to work on.
So the team is off to Boston later today and I'll be heading to the airport late this afternoon as well, with the next time on the ice coming at 11:30 a.m. Thursday for the morning skate in TD Garden. Still shaking my head about last night's 4-3 overtime loss to Toronto. Lots of little nuggets percolating in my mind:
Veteran defenseman Mike Komisarek was victimized by Marcus Foligno on the memorable Jordan Leopold goal late in regulation that tied the Toronto Maple Leafs' last visit to Buffalo in April. Relive the crazy video above. There won't be any rematch of Komisarek-Foligno battles tonight.
There was so much talk about Mikhail Grigorenko this morning that reporters couldn't be in two places at once. The Sabres were skating on the ice while Darcy Regier was making his announcement that the 18-year-old was staying, so putting together tonight's lines would be total guesswork.
Grigorenko started Sunday with Steve Ott and Drew Stafford and finished it between Jochen Hecht and Marcus Foligno. But that game was played without Thomas Vanek, and the team's leading scorer is back in tonight to rejoin Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville so the lines may juggle again. Nathan Gerbe is expected to be scratched.
There are big moves on the blueline as well. Coach Lindy Ruff said Mike Weber and T.J. Brennan, healthy scratches for the first five games of the season, will both be in the lineup. Robyn Regehr and Alexander Sulzer are out.
The Sabres ended their morning skate today like they often do -- with coach Lindy Ruff calling them over to the boards across the rink from their bench for a quick chat. But as the group broke up, sticks were tapped on the ice and a few gloves face-washed rookie Mikhail Grigorenko in a form of hockey-team congratulations.
Ruff had just broken the news to the players that Sabres fans everywhere were waiting to hear: Grigorenko is staying in the NHL. He'll be in the lineup tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"It's really amazing news and I'm really happy and really excited," Grigorenko said. "It's a good step in my career and I'll do everything to show people they made the right choice."
General Manager Darcy Regier told The News Monday night that Grigorenko would likely have stayed in juniors this year had this been a regular 82-game season. But Regier said now that he's starred for half a season in the Quebec League and for Russia in the World Junior Championships, his NHL timetable was accelerated.
Darcy Regier has just announced Mikhail Grigorenko is staying the rest of the season. Regier said Grigorenko, the team's No. 1 pick last June and the 12th overall, will be in the lineup tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It will be Grigorenko's sixth game of the season, meaning his entry-level contract kicks in and he will not return to the Quebec Remparts. He will make a pro-rated $925,000 this season.
Here is the audio of Regier's session with reporters, followed by chats with Grigorenko and Lindy Ruff.
It hasn't been a happy start for Phil Kessel. (Photo from Twitter feed @PKessel81)
By Mike Harrington
As the Toronto Maple Leafs hit town for tonight's game against the Sabres, I'm still pondering this column in Monday's Toronto Star by veteran columnist Damien Cox.
Cox said the Leafs should trade winger Phil Kessel, who has no goals in five games, and not trade away their first-round pick next season (former GM Brian Burke, remember, traded their top pick in 2010 to Boston for Kessel and the Bruins turned the choice into Tyler Seguin.).
Maybe this doesn't happen until the trade deadline April 3 but it's sure an interesting scenario, given the fact Kessel is clearly Toronto's No. 1 player.
Speaking of the Leafs, here's a report from their practice Monday. Ex-Sabre Clarke MacArthur sounds doubtful due to a lacerated pinky (ouch). Meanwhile, captain Dion Phaneuf is shaking his head trying to figure out how he went minus-7 over the last two games as the Leafs dropped both, allowing 12 goals in the process, to join the Sabres at 2-3.
Old friend Derek Roy is coming off shoulder surgery but was playing nearly 20 minutes a game for the Dallas Stars before being put on injured reserve by the Stars Monday night due to a groin problem. Roy had just two assists in the four games but the Stars still think he can be part of their core.
Ryan Miller has kept his eye on the puck. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)
By Mike Harrington
Ryan Miller has gone 2-2 while playing four of the Sabres' five games and I don't think you can blame him for any of the eight goals he's given up. Some deflections (Cody Hodgson has to get out of the way of the Caps' second goal Sunday), some screens and a couple howitzers by Claude Giroux and Alexander Ovechkin that no goalie stops.
Lindy Ruff said before the season Miller would make 36-38 starts. After the way Jhonas Enroth played Thursday in Carolina, that number is almost certain to hit 40. (I say Enroth next plays here Sunday against Florida).
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.