January 20, 2013 - 9:17 PM
January 20, 2013 - 5:12 PM
BY JOHN VOGL
Thomas Vanek got a glimpse of life alongside Cody Hodgson at the end of last season. The two skated together for the final 11 outings, and Vanek put up a point per game with three goals and eight assists. Obviously, he liked the combination.
Hodgson’s audition next to the Buffalo Sabres’ most potent scorer deserved an encore, so coach Lindy Ruff began the season Sunday with the center in the middle of Vanek and right wing Jason Pominville. Obviously, Vanek still likes it.
Vanek had the best day of his career during a 5-2 victory over Philadelphia, scoring twice and adding three assists as a sellout crowd in First Niagara Center welcomed the NHL back in a rollicking way.
“It’s a lot of luck when you get that many points,” said Vanek, who had the best outing by a Buffalo player in five years. “I was fortunate every pass I made went in, and when I scored, I scored. You won’t have many of those nights. You enjoy it, you like the win and you move on.”
Vanek can attribute the outing to luck all he wants, but he earned the avalanche of points. He skated hard, controlled pucks, made nice passes and tortured the Flyers and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
“He’s got a lot of special talents, and he used them all,” said Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, who snapped a 2-2 tie with 5:03 left.
Myers’ goal was one of three power-play tallies for the Sabres, who went 3 for 6 with the man advantage in a game that featured 20 penalties. Steve Ott opened the scoring and Hodgson added the fourth goal. Pominville had three assists.
“That line was the difference,” Ruff said. “Van was fabulous, [Hodgson] was terrific and Pommer was right somewhere between those two. We look at those guys as being our top line that can push us to that next level.”
Hodgson is embracing the top-line opportunity he has craved. He wanted out of Vancouver because he was stuck on the third line, and skating with Pominville and Vanek means significant minutes.
“He’s pretty excited about this opportunity he’s getting,” Pominville said. “He took advantage of it.”
The Sabres took advantage of the Flyers’ trips to the penalty box. The opening goal of the season came with 11:07 gone and gave the power play a perfect start.
Vanek, from behind the net, fed Pominville near the bottom of the left circle. The captain spotted Ott alone in the slot, and the newcomer crouched low to rip a one-timer past Bryzgalov.
The Flyers caught the Sabres flat-footed to start the second. Philadelphia took the first five shots and needed less than five minutes to take a 2-1 lead on goals by Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux.
The Sabres’ power play struck again to tie the game with 4:06 left in the second, and Vanek’s goal was a beauty.
Pominville, from his own zone, hit Drew Stafford along at the boards at the Flyers’ blue line. Vanek took off down the middle, got behind Philly’s defensemen and accepted Stafford’s pass for a breakaway.
Bryzgalov didn’t stand a chance. Vanek made one deke left, the goalie bit and the winger went around him on the right to dump the puck into an empty net.
“We talked about playing the game quick, not slowing it down, which we were pretty good at in the past,” Vanek said. “That was a good example of that.”
Myers had just hopped off the bench to join the play on the winning goal. He rushed into the Flyers’ zone, got a cross-ice pass from Tyler Ennis and spotted Vanek in front. Myers kept his shot along the ice in hopes of a deflection, and the puck hit Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen and caromed through Bryzgalov’s legs.
The goalie stopped Vanek on a breakaway with just under four minutes to play, but the rebound popped into the air and landed in the crease. Hodgson rushed in to tip it home, with the puck going off his skates and stick as he hit the brakes in the blue paint.
“I had three or four point-blank shots earlier in the game, and all it took was for me to stop in front of the net for me to get one,” he said.
Vanek, fittingly, sent the crowd of 19,070 home with an empty-net breakaway goal in the final minute. He and the Sabres hopped on the bus for Monday's game in Toronto after giving the fans a stick-waving salute from center ice.
“Our line played real well,” Hodgson said. “There’s always openings out there and lots of free ice playing with those guys because guys key on them so much. I just try to complement them as much as possible.”
January 20, 2013 - 4:10 PM
By Mike Harrington
Thomas Vanek's five-point game in Sunday's 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers was the first of his career -- and the first by any Sabre since Drew Stafford had five (including three goals) in a 10-1 win over Atlanta on Jan. 18, 2008.
(4:45 p.m. update: According to the Sabres and the Elias Sports Bureau, Vanek is first NHL player to record five points in a season opener since Phoenix's Steven Reinprecht on Oct 5, 2006.)
Vanek was a big talking point in the locker room, as were Cody Hodgson, Steve Ott and Drew Stafford.
Click any of the files below to go around the room.
Coach Lindy Ruff
Click any of the links below to download the audio files:
January 20, 2013 - 11:00 AM
January 20, 2013 - 10:09 AM
By Mike Harrington
The Sabres have just issued a terse one-paragraph release that says Hall of Fame broadcaster Rick Jeanneret is ill and will not be at today's game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Jeanneret, who received the Foster Hewitt Award for broadcast excellence from the Hockey Hall of Fame in November, will be replaced today by WGR's Paul Hamilton with Rob Ray on analysis. The game will be televised by NBC, which means Jeanneret was scheduled to be on a radio-only call today.
The team release says, "Rick is at home and hopes to be back in the broadcast booth in the coming days."
January 20, 2013 - 8:00 AM
By Mike Harrington
Greetings and welcome to Sabres season! Bet many of you never thought we'd say that this year.
But lo and behold, here we are at First Niagara Center getting ready for today's opener against the Philadelphia Flyers.
I'll be joined here today by John Vogl, Bucky Gleason and photographer Harry Scull. Here's a look at our coverage plans for the Sabres-Flyers game, which will air on Ch. 2 and WGR Radio with a 12:30 faceoff:
---I'll be on the WGR Radio roundtable from 11-11:40, discussing the season with Brian Koziol, Paul Hamilton and Brian Duff. Hamilton is doing the radio play-by-play today for the ill Rick Jeanneret.
---At noon, I'll host a special opening day chat on the Sabres Edge blog for 30 minutes.
---Then stick around for our in-game blog all afternoon and a special 15-minute "Sabres flashchat" we'll have during the second intermission. We'll have intermission flashchats from time to time throughout the season; make your questions good, as only the best will make it in that short timespan!
---After the game, be sure to look for audio from the locker room and our postgame video wrap-up.
Today's Buffalo News includes our annual NHL preview section, featuring everything you need to know about the Sabres and presented through the auspices of award-winning Graphics Editor Vince Chiaramonte, sports page designer Andrea Zagata and cover artist Dan Zakroczemski.
In our cover story, Vogl talks about the Sabres' situation at center, where Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson are vastly inexperienced compared to most teams' No. 1-2 guys down the middle.
Vogl's team preview discusses a Sabres team that might have lost some offense but picked up some sandpaper edge that has been missing.
My main contribution looks at the question of whether a goalie -- Ryan Miller, perhaps? -- can steal a short season for his team.
Follow this link for Vogl's four reasons for optimism and his four reasons for pessimism.
What do I think the Sabres have to do in a short season? Not stumble out of the gate at home.
Vogl talks to Pat LaFontaine to take a look back at the '94-95 Sabres, who finished 22-19-7 and were a first-round loser to the Flyers.
Bucky Gleason says it's all on Lindy Ruff now.
In our Mixed Media column, Greg Connors says NBC is ready to finally get this thing going. The network did a great job yesterday showing the Kings' banner-raising and then switching to Flyers-Penguins.
Outside of the preview section:
In announcing Darcy Regier's contract extension, owner Terry Pegula said Saturday "this looks like a good team." We'll see.
Ville Leino's status for today's game is uncertain due to a leg injury.
January 19, 2013 - 8:00 PM
By Mike Harrington
CBC always does an incredible job with its video montages. This is the 60th year of Hockey Night in Canada, the sport's longest running program. Here's how it opened Saturday night. Amazing stuff.
January 19, 2013 - 3:30 PM
January 19, 2013 - 2:29 PM
By Mike Harrington
The big news Saturday at Sabreland was the contract extension signed by Darcy Regier. On the ice on the eve of the opener, the Sabres may start the season Sunday without Ville Leino.
Leino missed practice Saturday with what coach Lindy Ruff called a "nagging issue" that cropped up Friday, believed to be involving his leg. Ruff said Leino will skate Sunday morning to determine if he can play
Jochen Hecht moved to Leino's spot on the wing Saturday with Mikhail Grigorenko and Steve Ott. Ruff said Patrick Kaleta could also be an option. Matt Ellis would thus go from likely healthy scratch to fourth line.
Grigorenko was surrounded by reporters after practice in the wake of Friday's announcement the 18-year-old had made the team and said he doesn't expect to be too nervous in his NHL debut.
"Hopefully after warmup, I'll be good," Grigorenko said. "I don't think nerves will last more than 1-2 shifts. ... I don't care about other teams. I just want to prove to the Sabres they made the right choice in drafting me."
Here's Grigorenko's meeting with the media today.
January 19, 2013 - 2:06 PM
By Mike Harrington
After making the customary apology to fans virtually every NHL owner has made this week in the wake of the lockout, Sabres owner Terry Pegula dropped a surprise on reporters at the start of his 22-minute news conference today in the Lexus Club at First Niagara Center: He has agreed to a contract extension with General Manager Darcy Regier.
Regier, who took over the club in the summer of 1997, signed what's believed to be a two-year extension in the fall of 2010 and it's not completely clear how long this extension will run. The Sabres do not release contract terms but Regier's original deal was not expiring after this season anyway.
"Both sides are happy with the arrangement," Pegula said. "And we look forward to continuing to work with Darcy into the future. The timing of this decision was not today. We've been talking about this. We had this agreement for quite some time. I approached him. Darcy is a talented guy. ... We work very well together and we're looking forward to the future."
Said Regier: "I am very grateful and honored to be able to continue in this capacity working with this ownership."
In other notes from the press conference:
---Pegula on the lockout: "It's good to be back. I can tell you as an organization, the Sabres are very glad to be playing hockey again. We apologize to the whole hockey fan base, the media, our sponsors and our supporters for the hardship we may have put people through but sometimes things happen that you don't plan for in life."
---Pegula he talked often to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman during the lockout and said he felt it was necessary to help struggling small market teams. Pegula said he did not push for a quick resolution: "I'm a new owner so I'm not about to say, 'OK, here's what we're going to do, guys."
---Pegula said the Sabres' goal remains to win the Stanley Cup and he's been heartened by watching Boston and Los Angeles end droughts in the 40-year range by winning it the last two years.
---Regier said the team has already had organizational talks about the contracts of stars Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek -- all of which expire after next season.
---Pegula on this year's club: "I think our team is a lot different than the team I inherited when I bought it. It's got a new imprint on it, a new mark. It looks like a good hockey team."
---Pegula used the term "totally inaccurate" when asked about numerous reports in Pennsylvania he paid $1.3 million to augment the salary of Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien and keep him in Happy Valley so he wouldn't jump to the NFL.
Full audio of the press conference is here
Terry Pegula/Darcy Regier/Ted Black
January 19, 2013 - 10:23 AM
By Mike Harrington
One more day for Sabres fans to wait but Saturday is finally Opening Day for the NHL -- three months and nine days later than the orginal Oct. 11 date on the schedule.
The Sabres are holding a 10:30 practice at First Niagara Center that will last until about 11:15. Owner Terry Pegula, president Ted Black and GM Darcy Regier have a noon press conference planned in the Lexus Club to preview the season, which begins tomorrow at 12:30 against Philadelphia.
(Sabres.com is scheduled to stream that presser live and we'll have full coverage here on the Edge this afternoon).
In today's paper, check out my story on Mikhail Grigorenko, who has made the Sabres roster for at least the first five games. And in my Sabres notebook, Lindy Ruff will be watching the TV to see how officials call things today.
As for the rest of the NHL, it's opening day on 13 fronts. Obviously, the one we'll be paying the most attention to is the Flyers' 3 p.m. game in Philly against the Penguins (Ch. 2). NBC will open the broadcast with the Kings' Stanley Cup-banner raising ceremony in Los Angeles (prior to their game against the Blackhawks, and then switch Eastern viewers to Philadelphia).
Here's what I'm most interested in:
Rangers at Bruins -- An early heavyweight battle. Every team will be a little rusty but it will be interesting to see how a potential Eastern Conference final might look.
Leafs at Canadiens -- Which team is going to stink less? The Habs have kept No. 3 overall pick Alex Galchenyuk, just as the Sabres have done with Mikhail Grigorenko.
Caps at Lightning -- The NHL debut of former Canisius star Cory Conacher in Tampa, as well as the Lightning's new monstrous scoreboard in the Tampa Bay Time Forum.
January 18, 2013 - 5:54 PM
By Mike Harrington
The Sabres have issued the following information regarding the weekend, including Sunday afternoon's season opener against the Flyers:
---First Niagara Center doors will open at 10:15 a.m. for the 12:30 p.m. faceoff.
---Concession stands will offer family-friendly pricing on the following items: popcorn for $1, peanuts for $2, a hot dog/potato chip combo for $3 and a souvenir Sabres soda for $4.25.
---The Sabres Store will open at 9 a.m. and the Fan Appreciation Sale that began Monday (50 percent off all items) will run throughout the game.
---Two fans, Nancy Saia of Williamsville and James Kretz of Tonawanda, will drop a ceremonial puck prior to the game to mark the ceremonial opening of the season. Saia, a season-ticket holder, and Kretz, a member of the Blue & Gold Club, were both selected at random to participate.
---Practice on Saturday will be open to the public beginning at 10:30 a.m. with free admission and free parking in the FNC ramp. But fans should be aware it is going to be a day-before-game practice and will likely last only until 11:15. The Sabres Store will be open during Saturday's practice.
January 18, 2013 - 4:12 PM
By Mike Harrington
The Sabres' 23-man roster looks set for Sunday's opener against Philadelphia, with today's announcement that Mikhail Grigorenko has made the team for now with Cody McCormick and Nathan Gerbe going on injured reserve.
The team will thus start the season with 13 forwards on the roster, eight defenseman and goaltenders Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth. McCormick and Gerbe don't count against those totals. The scratches most likely will be Matt Ellis, Mike Weber and T.J. Brennan.
The breakdown of skaters looks like this:
Thomas Vanek-Cody Hodgson-Jason Pominville
Marcus Foligno-Tyler Ennis-Drew Stafford
Steve Ott-Mikhail Grgorenko-Ville Leino
John Scott-Jochen Hecht-Patrick Kaleta
The six defensemen are skating in these pairs
Christian Ehrhoff-Alexander Sulzer
Tyler Myers-Robyn Regehr
Andrej Sekera-Jordan Leopold
January 18, 2013 - 4:11 PM
Watch other segments -- including ones on Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff and Ryan Miller -- from this week's "Bucky & Sully Show" here.
January 18, 2013 - 1:40 PM
The Buffalo Sabres' roster is set for Sunday's season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers, and General Manager Darcy Regier confirmed today that 18-year-old center Mikhail Grigorenko will be a part of it.
Grigorenko, the Russian who was Buffalo's top draft choice last June and a star of this year's World Junior Championships in his native country, will get his five-game junior tryout. After that, the Sabres keep him and his entry-level contract kicks in or he'll return to junior play with the Quebec Ramparts, where he had 29 goals and 50 points in 30 games.
Regier would only commit to Grigorenko being on the roster, saying it was a "coach's decision" if he would play. But there were plenty of smirks in the room with Lindy Ruff standing nearby. Grigorenko is centering Steve Ott and Ville Leino on Sunday, just as he has all week.
"I think we should keep him around little longer and then the coach will have to decide if he's going to play him a lot," Regier said.
January 18, 2013 - 8:30 AM
By Mike Harrington
It was one year ago tonight that I was on the road with the Sabres in Chicago in the midst of that miserable January road trip that ultimately killed their season. It was a relatively routine affair, with the Sabres in a 2-2 tie in the middle of the second period and playing much better after getting waxed, 5-0, two nights earlier in Detroit.
Then it happened.
Ville Leino made a blind back pass in the Chicago zone trying to feed Drew Stafford, and the Blackhawks' Duncan Keith easily picked it off and fed Marian Hossa for the breakaway goal that turned the momentum in an eventual 6-2 loss. Watch here:
Soon after, NBC's Pierre McGuire did an on-bench interview with Lindy Ruff where Ruff blamed Stafford for messing up the play. Instantly, my phone, email and my Twitter feed began to light up. I saw the interview in the United Center press box but there was no sound over the noise in the building so I didn't know what was said. Fans and friends were wild that Ruff had exonerated Leino.
The Sabres fell apart after the play. McGuire talked about their deer-in-the-headlights look on the bench. It was a ridiculous play by Leino and Ruff never sat him a single shift. It was my feeling that young players like Luke Adam and Marc-Andre Gragnani got benched or even scratched for things as simple as a sneeze while a big-money signee like Leino got off free and clear for a game-changing miscue of epic proportions.
We went to interview Ruff after the game and he again blamed Stafford. I challenged him, pointing out it was a terrible pass, and he finally admitted that but said he hadn't see the play (which I think was garbage because Ruff looks at all kinds of video between periods and sometimes even before he meets with us).
Then I asked why Leino didn't sit when the kids do. I was annoyed at the lack of answers. Ruff was annoyed with me. Too bad. Some people said I was unprofessional. Again, too bad and I strongly disagree. Watch a Yankees or Red Sox press conference once in a while. I kept pressing and Ruff finally waved his hand, let out a "aaaaaaaaa" and walked away. He took a few steps, turned around in the door of the coach's office and let out the classic, "Mike, YOU coach".
I immediately went into the press room and tweeted that quote and it has become part of the lexicon on my Twitter feed. (I also blogged about the situation). There is, sadly, no audio of it. I clicked my tape recorder off as Ruff walked away and only got "Mike". Paul Hamilton of WGR clicked off too. Sabres.com has the link to the video of Ruff's postgamer if you want to watch it but it's fairly benign, slyly edited to cut off early before things turned and Ruff stormed away.
Over time, "Mike, you (fill in the blank)" or "You [fill in the blank], Mike" have become a cottage industry on Twitter. I have retweeted many of the classic ones over the months (wish I kept a list) and many people are trying to be sly enough to earn my RT. Others are, understandably, sick of the shtick.
So as we head to a new season, one year later, today we are officially retiring "Mike, YOU coach." You can tweet me your cracks, but the RTs are over. (Update: First twitter response came within one minute from old friend Brian Moritz, brother of our Amy and long time former Bonnies beat writer at the Olean Times Herald: "You retire your schtick, Mike.")
It was great fun and thanks to Lindy for a great line. We'll just have to see if he comes up with a new classic in some postgame presser this season.
The next night in Winnipeg, Ruff had a smirk on his face as he opened his pregame session. "Are we friendly or still fighting?" he asked me. I told him "we're always friendly but sometimes we disagree" and we moved on.
Still wish I had come to that session wearing a whistle and ready to coach. Once more for old times, listen below.
Lindy Ruff postgame in Chicago, Jan. 18, 2012
January 17, 2013 - 8:09 PM
By Jay Skurski
The life of the NHL enforcer is a migratory one.
That's part of the reason John Scott is a Buffalo Sabre. Teams around the Eastern Conference are bulking up. Consider the following roster moves:
- The Islanders claimed 6-foot-8 defenseman Joe Finley off waivers from the Sabres.
- Carolina acquired Kevin Westgarth from Los Angeles.
- Florida traded for George Parros from Anaheim.
- New Jersey signed Krys Barch away from Florida.
- Montreal signed Brandon Prust away from the Rangers.
That doesn't count the other enforcers such as Colton Orr with Toronto, Chris Neil with Ottawa and a trio of Bruins (Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara and Shawn Thornton).
"It's good for me. More enforcers, the more chances I'll play," Scott said. "I think you see that from year to year, the shift from West to East, with the tough guys. I think last year all the tough guys were in the West, and the West did pretty well, so the Eastern Conference teams wanted to bulk up and be a little more physical. … It's good. I enjoy going up against the more physical guys. It’ll be a fun year."
The Sabres play Carolina home and home next week. To get you ready for what that might look like, watch this:
You can read more about Scott and his role with the Sabres this season in this story from Friday's editions of The News.
January 17, 2013 - 3:56 PM
By Jay Skurski
Former Canisius College star Cory Conacher survived final cuts today to earn a spot on the Tampa Bay Lightning's opening-day roster.
"I like his grit, I like his relentlessness, I always have and he deserves it," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said today, via the team's official Twitter account.
Conacher, 23, won the MVP award in the American Hockey League last season after finishing with 39 goals and 80 points with the Norfolk Admirals, who the Calder Trophy.
He's played left wing on a line with Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell during the Lightning's training camp.
Conacher was mentioned today by TSN's Bob McKenzie on Twitter as a candidate for the Calder Trophy, which goes to the NHL's rookie of the year.
January 17, 2013 - 12:17 PM
Adam Pardy's career in Buffalo could be over before it starts.
The defenseman, acquired from Dallas as part of the Steve Ott trade, was waived at noon. If no team claims him during the 24-hour waiver process, the Sabres will assign him to Rochester.
The Sabres have 26 players in camp and need to be down to 23 before 3 p.m. Friday. It's possible they could put forwards Nathan Gerbe and Cody McCormick on injured reserve to buy more time.
Pardy was the biggest unknown on the Sabres' crowded blue line. The 28-year-old played just 30 games for the Stars last season and registered three assists. He also spent time with the Stars' minor-league club.
The coaches' unfamiliarity with Pardy made him a long shot to make the Sabres. They had nine defensemen in camp, and Pardy needed to wow the organization for it to decide to keep him over holdover Mike Weber or prospect T.J. Brennan.
Pardy will make $2 million this season whether he plays in the NHL or AHL.
The Sabres also waived Rochester forwards Kevin Porter and Nick Tarnasky.
The Sabres signed Porter over the summer to a two-year deal worth $1.075 million, and the Amerks made him their captain. He is on a two-way contract this year, according to CapGeek.com, and makes $105,000 with the Amerks and would earn $525,000 with the Sabres if called up. The second year of the deal is a one-way deal that pays him $550,000 whether he's in the NHL or AHL.
Porter has 11 goals and 30 points with the Amerks.
Tarnasky also has a two-way deal that pays $105,000 and $525,000. The agitator has eight goals, 13 points and 96 penalty minutes in Rochester.
Toronto, meanwhile, waived former Sabres center Tim Connolly.
January 16, 2013 - 3:57 PM
After almost nine months off, the Sabres skated for four days. It's apparently time for another day off.
The Sabres have canceled their practice scheduled for Thursday morning. They will return to the First Niagara Center ice at 10:30 a.m. Friday for a two-hour session. It will be open to the public, as will Saturday's skate. It, too, will run from 10:30 a.m. till 12:30 p.m.
The hole in the Sabres' practice schedule coincides with the final waiver period before rosters must be set. The Sabres have 26 players in camp -- 15 forwards, nine defensemen and two goaltenders -- and they must be at 23 by 3 p.m. Friday. Mikhail Grigorenko can freely be sent to juniors, but any other player trimmed from the roster must clear waivers in order to remain in the organization with Rochester.
"It’s going to be interesting decisions," goaltender Ryan Miller said today. "We have guys to make decisions on. With that amount of talent, there are some guys in my mind – maybe I shouldn’t even say it because it could spark somebody’s interest – but waivers becomes an issue for some of our guys, so it’s going to be interesting to see what decisions are being made.
"We have a lot of talent here. Everybody in this room can contribute and play a part. It should be interesting."
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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.
About Sabres Edge
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.
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