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Grigorenko still front and center at Sabres' camp

The Sabres will soon have to decide whether Mikhail Grigorenko will be on their opening-day roster. The team has to be down to the 23-player maximum by Friday afternoon.

Though practice indicates he'll be in the lineup Sunday against Philadelphia -- the 18-year-old center remains between veteran wingers Steve Ott and Ville Leino -- coach Lindy Ruff says the team is still deciding whether to keep the first-round draft pick and give him a five-game tryout, or return him to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

"It really is the toughest question to answer," Ruff said after practice today in First Niagara Center. "I just know if we feel he’s ready to help us win, we’ll use those games. We’ll make that decision at the end of the week. If we feel he’s ready, that he can help us win hockey games, he’ll in all likelihood be there."

One of the hardest parts for Ruff is projecting how Grigorenko will compete once pucks drop for real. The Russian, who has dominated the junior level, has never played against men.

"You’d love to see him in preseason games," Ruff said. "You’d love to see him against somebody else’s competition. It’s a great way to see where a guy’s at.

"Then along the way, there’s the physical part of it, the mental, the grind of the schedule. There’s everything inside of that. But when you’re evaluating those young players against an opposition that’s coming after you, you get to see a guy under the gun. We don’t have that luxury so we’re trying to do it in this intrasquad games, we’re tying to do it in practice.

"He’s had three good days, so for me you watch him play at the world juniors. You put value in that. You put value in the growth and if he keeps growing, a week from now where’s he going to be at? It’s just all the stuff we’re going to, steady as she goes, try to evaluate and make the right decision to make us a better team."

---John Vogl

Lindy Ruff

Around the rink: New buyouts, Girgensons, Giroux

By Mike Harrington

Some items from the late afternoon:

---The NHL and NHLPA have made a quick side agreement to allow a team to have a compliance buyout right now, rather than in June. The impetus for the deal was Montreal telling Scott Gomez to stay home and make his $7.3 million rather than risk injury now, which would prevent a buyout come June. Same with Wade Redden, due $6.5 million from the Rangers.

Gomez and Redden of the Rangers will be bought out now, although the teams won't save on their cap until next season.  But it allows them to play this year. A team can use one of its two buyouts between now and Sunday -- although it will still keep the cap hit even if the player signs with another team. 

I wouldn't expect any other buyouts. More of a courtesy to two players really stuck. (So you can stop the Sabres' Ville Leino chatter -- he was on the top power-play unit at today's practice)

---The American Hockey League has announced that Syracuse winger Richard Panik has been given a three-game suspension for his hit Saturday night on Rochester's Zemgus Girgensons, the Sabres' second No. 1 pick last June. 

---The Flyers will name Claude Giroux their captain Thursday at an open practice in Wells Fargo Center. They have been without a captain since Chris Pronger went down in November, 2011. Pronger's career is apparently over due to concussions.

Giroux is expected to come to town here Sunday without Danny Briere, who is doing better from his hairline wrist fracture but is still expected to miss the weekend. The Flyers open Saturday against Pittsburgh before coming to Buffalo.

Nothing new on Grigorenko

By Mike Harrington

Pretty quiet day at First Niagara Center. The Sabres had a pair of one-hour practices with a 15-minute break in the middle. They'll do the same thing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and it's all open to the public with free admission.

Lindy Ruff, of course, was asked again today about Mikhail Grigorenko, the 18-year-old Russian who was one of the standouts at Monday night's scrimmage. When the team did a shootout drill Tuesday, Grigorenko's sick set of multiple dekes against Jhonas Enroth was the prettiest goal of the day.

It seems obvious to many observers that Grigorenko will be in the lineup for Sunday's opener against Philadelphia. The Sabres, of course, aren't tipping their hand this early in the week.

“It’s too early to say,” Ruff said. “He had a good scrimmage last night. He had a good practice. You like his hands. So far, his compete inside practice drills is good. His compete last night was good. So there’s a lot of things to like about what he’s done so far in these two days."

Grigorenko, for the record, still does not have a stall in the Sabres' dressing room. He simply sits on a folding chair and takes off his equipment. There are no other stalls left. He's the one extra -- for now. 

"I totally understand where you guys are coming from," Ruff said. "You're saying, 'Let's just put him in here and bring him along.' He's come a long ways, even from a year ago. And from the start of the year to now, he's grown as a player."

No injuries, no player moves, everyone accounted for at practice. With all the roster moves coming later in the week and the compression of the schedule, this figures to be a rare day.

Canisius' Conacher gets huge shot with Lightning

By Mike Harrington

Former Canisius College star Cory Conacher had a big day Monday at Tampa Bay Lightning camp -- playing left wing on a line with one of his idols, Bolts center Vinny Lecavalier.

Conacher has 12 goals and 28 points in 36 games this season for Syracuse and is one of just two AHL players in Tampa Bay's camp. Barring something unforeseen, he's making the team. Especially since he was AHL MVP last year with 39 goals and 80 points in 75 games for Norfolk, which rolled to a Calder Cup title.

Play the video below to hear Conacher's chat with reporters Monday in Tampa. 

Regier would prefer trade to waivers to clear up Sabres' logjam on defense

Darcy Regier lost one player for nothing today. He'd rather it didn't happen again.

The Sabres' general manager has a surplus on the blue line, with nine NHL-caliber players competing for six spots. (See the full list here.) At least one player is going to have to go before the roster is finalized at 5 p.m. Friday.

"You’d prefer trade versus waivers for the individual," Regier said tonight after a scrimmage in First Niagara Center. "If the player can’t play here, you’d hope that they’d have an opportunity elsewhere and you can get something in return for that as well."

The Sabres lost minor-league defenseman Joe Finley on waivers to the Islanders this afternoon.

"What’s obvious is we have nine guys that can play," coach Lindy Ruff said. "It’s a decision that we’re going to have to make when it comes down to our first game on who those six guys are going to be."

To hear more from Regier and Ruff -- including their thoughts on the 1-1 scimmage tie, which featured goals by Brian Flynn and Thomas Vanek in front of 10,175 fans -- click the audio files below.

---John Vogl

Darcy Regier

Lindy Ruff

Sabres have sold out four games already; only single seats remain in lower bowl for other 22 home contests

The NHL lockout had no effect on the ticket-buying public in Buffalo.

Individual games don't go on sale to the general population until Tuesday, but the Sabres have already sold out four games for the upcoming season. For the remaining 20 contests to be played in First Niagara Center, only single seats remain in the 100 and 200 levels. Approximately 18,000 tickets are left in the 300 Level, which equates to only 818 per game.

The sellouts are Sunday's opener against Philadelphia, a visit by Pittsburgh on Feb. 17, the March 12 game against the New York Rangers and Washington's appearance March 30.

The tickets were sold via presales to season-ticket holders, mini-pack customers and followers on the Sabres' social media sites. The Sabres set a single-day sales record Sunday.

They also drew 10,175 fans to their free scrimmage tonight.

"The first thing I thought was, 'Wow. Cool,'" General Manager Darcy Regier said. "I think it’s amazing. I think it’s great to see so many young kids in the stands because I think kids remember that stuff. That’s great for them, and it’s even better for us. It’s quite a statement about this community."

---John Vogl

Scrimmage lineups set

By Mike Harrington

Here is the breakdown of the line combinations for tonight's scrimmage. There will be drills at 5:30, with three 15-minute periods opening in the 6 p.m. range. Admission is free and so is parking, although there's quite a line up Washington Street coming from Perry Street and the ramp.

TEAM WHITE
Goalie: Enroth
Forward lines
Vanek-Hodgson-Pominville
Ott-Grigorenko-Leino
Scott-Sundher-Mancari 
Defense pairs 
Regehr-Myers
Leopold-Sekera
Brennan-Biega 

TEAM NAVY
Goalie: Miller
Forward lines 
Foligno-Ennis-Stafford
Ellis-Hecht-Kaleta
Varone-Adam-Flynn (McCormick available)
Defense pairs 
Sulzer-Ehrhoff
Weber-McNabb
Pardy-Pysyk 

Girgensons knocked out of Amerks' lineup, likely with concussion

By Mike Harrington

I wonder if tonight's Sabres scrimmage in First Niagara Center would have included a look at Zemgus Girgensons, the Latvian center the Sabres took two spots after Mikhail Grigorenko in the first round of the draft last June. Won't happen now because the 18-year-old was KO'd in a game Saturday night against Syracuse and Rochester coach Ron Rolston said today Girgensons will be out of the lineup for at least this week.

Girgensons was nailed by a late hit from Syracuse winger Richard Panik Saturday night at the Onondaga County War Memorial and was helped off the ice. Defenseman T.J. Brennan, who joined the Sabres here Sunday, jumped in to fight Panik.

"I didn't like the hit," Brennan said after Sunday's practice in the FNC. "It was something you do where you stick up for your teammate."

Panik is likely to get suspended by the AHL, and he admitted today the hit went over the line as well.

Girgensons has three goals and six assists in 31 games as he's being brought along slowly in his first pro season. Here's a look at the hit. It starts at about 25 seconds in. Not a great replay admittedly but certainly looked late.

Poll: Sabres have logjam on defense, so which players should be in lineup?

The Sabres' dilemma on defense -- how to fit nine blue-liners into six spots -- got even trickier today.

With minor-leaguer Joe Finley getting claimed off waivers by the Islanders today, it's all but certain the Sabres won't risk sending T.J. Brennan back to Rochester via waivers. That's one alleviation option gone for Buffalo General Manager Darcy Regier.

So who should the Sabres keep and use on the blue line? You can vote in the poll below.

Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff, by virtue of their status and contracts, are not included. They're locked in. But everyone else is eligible to stay or go. Here are some pros and cons:

Jordan Leopold -- He has 23 goals and 36 assists over the last two seasons, making him one of the Sabres' most consistent defensemen. He also makes a reasonable $3 million. But he's in the final year of his contract and could be lost for nothing at the end of the season.

Robyn Regehr -- Acquired prior to last season, Regehr was viewed as the missing, physical, stay-at-home piece of the Sabres' puzzle. He is tough, but he's also 32 and in the last year of his contract, which pays $4 million.

Andrej Sekera -- The 26-year-old is in the second season of a contract that averages $2.75 million. Blessed with offensive skills, especially skating, he has underachieved. He had three goals and 13 points in 69 games last year.

Alexander Sulzer -- Acquired at the trade deadline as a throw-in to the Cody Hodgson deal, he blossomed in Buffalo and was arguably its best defender down the stretch. He had three goals and eight points in 15 games. The 28-year-old signed a one-year, $725,000 deal.

Brennan -- He leads the Amerks with 14 goals and 35 points in 36 games. He had just one goal and no assists in 11 games with Buffalo last year. He makes $550,000.

Mike Weber -- A physical defenseman, Weber has had his ups and downs with Buffalo. There have been times he's a vital piece to the blue line, and others when he can't even crack the lineup. He makes $900,000.

Adam Pardy -- The biggest unknown among Buffalo's defenders. Acquired as part of the trade that brought Steve Ott to town over the summer, Pardy had three assists in 36 games with Dallas last season. He played 30 games for the Stars the previous year after 57- and 60-game campaigns with Calgary. He's in the final year of a contract that pays $2 million.

---John Vogl

Sabres lose defenseman Finley on waivers to Islanders; likely will impact Brennan decision

Joe
Joe Finley: Claimed by the Islanders. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

Anyone hoping the Sabres could sneak T.J. Brennan through waivers later this week found out this afternoon the answer is no.

The New York Islanders have claimed Buffalo minor-league defenseman Joe Finley off waivers. The hulking 6-foot-8, 249-pounder had one goal, five points and 81 penalty minutes in 36 games with the Amerks. As could be expected, he also provided a physical presence for the club.

Finley signed a three-year, $1.575 million deal with the Sabres prior to last season. He played five games for Buffalo and recorded 12 penalty minutes and a minus-3 rating in very limited ice time in 2011-12.

Brennan, who reported to Sabres training camp Sunday, leads the Amerks with 14 goals and 35 points in 36 games. He will need to clear waivers to return to the Amerks.

The Sabres have nine defensemen on their roster, so it was possible the team would try to sneak Brennan back to the minor leagues through waivers later this week as one way to alleviate the logjam. With the lesser-skilled Finley getting claimed today, it's nearly certain the Sabres won't risk losing Brennan.

Rochester goaltender David Leggio and defenseman Drew Schiestel cleared waivers.

---John Vogl

           

Repurchases by Sabres' season-ticket and mini-pack holders help team set single-day sales record

The Sabres have a lot of tickets to sell in a short amount of time. Their season-ticket and mini-pack holders took care of a record number of them Sunday.

The Sabres sold 31,213 tickets to set a single-day record, excluding the day Winter Classic tickets for 71,000-seat Ralph Wilson Stadium went on sale. The previous mark, set over a two-day sales period, was 11,170 tickets.

"With the uncertainty surrounding the schedule and the timing of the start of hockey, we didn’t know what to expect," Sabres President Ted Black said in a statement. "However, Sunday’s ticket sales took us by surprise and, frankly, blew us away."

Though the Sabres have some uncertainty as to how fans will respond post-lockout, it's no surprise they had such great one-day success.

All mini-packs sold prior to the lockout were voided. The ticket-sale window for those who kept their money with the Sabres during the work stoppage (which was nearly everyone) opened Sunday. Each mini-pack consists of at least four games and as many as 24, so every ticket holder purchased multiple games.

Because mini-pack tickets went on sale to the general public this morning, prior ticket-holders had only one day to buy to secure the best seats.

Also, full season-ticket holders and members of the Blue and Gold season-ticket waiting list were given a presale opportunity Sunday to buy individual game tickets.

The Sabres had a season-ticket renewal rate of 99 percent for the 2012-13 season, with the number of tickets capped at 15,400 per game. There are more than 3,000 people on the waiting list.

There is an additional single-game presale today for Sabres Insiders and social media followers. Individual game tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Capacity in First Niagara Center is 19,070. Based on the season-ticket count, that left 3,670 seats available for each of the 24 home games prior to the presales. The first game is Sunday when Philadelphia visits at 12:30 p.m.

"The extraordinary fan response makes us humble, grateful and even more committed to our core mission," Black said. "We can’t wait to drop the puck before a full house."

---John Vogl

Hecht: Best situation came out by return to Sabres

Jochen
Jochen Hecht returned to the Sabres Sunday. (Harry Scull/Buffalo News)

By Mike Harrington

Jochen Hecht is the senior Sabre, having first joined the team in a 2002 trade with Edmonton, and ranks 20th in franchise history in games played (566), goals (133) and points (331). But when he left First Niagara Center on locker cleanout day in April, his time in Buffalo looked over and his NHL career seemed on its last leg as well in the wake of two seasons dogged by concussions.

But Hecht insisted that day he was healthy and wanted to come back. He proved it with some good games in the DEL, the top league in Germany, where one of his linemates was Jason Pominville.

So there was the 35-year-old Hecht on Sunday, taking the ice midway through practice at First Niagara Center to a stick-tap salute from his teammates. Hecht took his physical and signed a one-year deal with a $1 million cap hit, likely cementing a place on the roster as one of the team's four centers.

"There was a time during the summer where I didn't think it was going to happen but everything worked out," Hecht said. "The situations are imagined, the best one came out by returning back to Buffalo."

Hecht said the Sabres haven't discussed a role with him yet but it's pretty obvious he's here to play his usual solid game up the middle and to kill penalties. And at a much more cap-friendly price (he was making $3.525 million), it's not a bad deal to bring a guy in who knows your system with just a week to get ready for the opener.

Hecht played six games for Adler Mannheim, his hometown team, and had five goals and 13 points. Even he was surprised at how fast his timing returned.

"I didn't play for 10-11 months," he said. "To come back to a pretty good league that had already played 30 with guys in midseason form, I stepped in there and I didn't think it would go that well. It came back right away. The timing and positioning out there came back."

Click below to hear my chat with Hecht after practice today.


Jochen Hecht

Audio: Grigorenko, Ruff give their take on opening day of Sabres' training camp

Grigs
Because he's a rookie, there's no locker for Mikhail Grigorenko after practice in the Sabres' dressing room. (Harry Scull/Buffalo News)

Mikhail Grigorenko feels he fits in with the Sabres. Coach Lindy Ruff says it's early, but he can see the talent level possessed by the Russian rookie.

The next week or two will show whether 18-year-old will fit in with Buffalo this season or next.

Grigorenko, the 18-year-old center drafted in the first round, participated in his first practice with professionals today as the Sabres opened training camp with two sessions in First Niagara Center.

"I feel great," Grigorenko said. "I was very excited and a little bit nervous before the practice, but I finally met all the guys, and all the guys tried to help me on the ice. I felt really comfortable."

Because he remains eligible to play for Quebec in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Russian has a limited window to show he belongs in the NHL. He can play up to five games as a tryout before the Sabres would need to send him back to Quebec or burn a year of his three-year, entry-level contract.

"You notice his playmaking, his passing ability," said Ruff, who put Grigorenko between left wing Steve Ott and right wing Ville Leino. "Skating-wise, I thought he moved around the ice pretty good. He looks big out there."

Grigorenko's next test will come Monday when the Sabres hold a scrimmage at 5:30 p.m. It is open to the public.

To hear more from Grigorenko and Ruff, click the audio files below.

---John Vogl

Mikhail Grigorenko

Lindy Ruff

Sabres take the ice for first time; Grigorenko skating in middle of Ott, Leino

The Sabres' 2013 season is under way.

Practice has just begun in First Niagara Center, and coach Lindy Ruff is getting right into it with five-on-five work rather than breakout drills or goalie warm-ups.

The session's style allows for an early glimpse at the Sabres' forward line hopes. The units:

Thomas Vanek-Cody Hodgson-Jason Pominville

Marcus Foligno-Tyler Ennis-Drew Stafford

Steve Ott-Mikhail Grigorenko-Ville Leino

John Scott-Matt Ellis-Cody McCormick

Nathan Gerbe-Jochen Hecht-Patrick Kaleta

The nine defensemen --Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Jordan Leopold, Robyn Regehr, Andrej Sekera, Mike Weber, T.J. Brennan, Alexander Sulzer and Adam Pardy -- are also on the ice. Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth are in net.

Jochen Hecht is rumored to be in the building but is likely completing his physical and contract. Kaleta's placement with the injured Gerbe is intriguing, but it's possible they are just waiting for Hecht.

UPDATE: Hecht arrived midway through the first session to a stick-tap salute from several teammates.

---John Vogl

Quick thoughts and breakdowns of the schedule

By Mike Harrington

The NHL is going to an unbalanced schedule for this season, with no games against the other conference. After plenty of dribs and drabs leaking out, we finally got the goods late Saturday night. Here's how it breaks down for the Sabres:

Northeast Division (4 or 5 vs. each team--18 total)
Boston--5 (3 home, 2 road)
Montreal--5 (2-3)
Ottawa-4 (2-2)
Toronto-4 (2-2)
(Comment: It would have been good to avoid the fifth game with Boston, which remains the division favorite. Sabres didn't get that break) 

Atlantic Division (3 vs. each team--15 total)
NY Rangers (2 home, 1 road)
NY Islanders (2-1)
New Jersey (2-1)
Philadelphia (2-1)
Pittsburgh (1-2)

Southeast Division (3 vs. each team -- 15 total)
Winnipeg (2 home, 1 away)
Carolina (1-2)
Washington (1-2)
Tampa Bay (1-2)
Florida (1-2)
(Comment: These work mostly in the Sabres' favor. They play a heavy home schedule against the tougher Atlantic Division, going only to Pittsburgh twice. And a real break by having to go to Winnipeg just once, the only team in the Southeast Division they don't travel to play twice. Plus lots of Sabres fans who live there or here love Florida trips and there are two of them, just like in a normal season.)

More notes on the schedule

By days: Saturday (9), Sunday (11), Monday (2), Tuesday (11), Wednesday (1), Thursday (9), Friday (5).
(Comment: The impact of requesting fewer Friday home games is clear. The team played just one Sunday game last season and now has 11).

By months: January (7), February (14), March (15), April (12).

How tight is it? Nine back-to-backs and a stunning eight sets of three games in four days.
(Comment -- Memo to Lindy Ruff: You're going to be watching plenty of video and not doing much practice on the ice after this week.)

Sabres' variable pricing plan to feature five Gold games, 15 Silver, one Bronze and three Value games

In conjunction with the release of the Buffalo Sabres' schedule, the team has also revealed its variable pricing plan for the season.

The Sabres will have five Gold games, 15 Silver, one Bronze and three Value games. Individual games tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the First Niagara Center box office and Tickets.com.

Below are the pricing charts and schedule breakdown.

Section

Value

Bronze

Silver

Gold

200 Club

$113

$127

$146

$185

200 Ends

$113

$127

$146

$185

100 Pref. Rink

$113

$127

$146

$185

100 II Rink

$113

$127

$146

$185

100 III Rink

$113

$127

$146

$185

100 Preferred   

$81

$93

$142

$170

100 Level II

$66

$75

$108

$147

100 Level III  

$51

$60

$87

$124

100 Level IV

$39

$46

$66

$109

300 Level I

$53

$62

$85

$94

300 Level II

$39

$46

$66

$78

300 Level III

$2

$39

$53

$64

300 Level IV

$29

$39

$53

$64

Buffalo Sabres 2012-13 Variable Pricing Schedule

     Day        Date            Opponent        Time (E.S.T.)       Designation
Sunday        January 20        PHILADELPHIA    12:30 p.m.        SILVER
Friday        January 25        CAROLINA        7:00 p.m.        SILVER
Tuesday    January 29        TORONTO        7:00 p.m.        SILVER

Sunday        February 3        FLORIDA        3:00 p.m.        VALUE
Thursday    February 7        MONTREAL        7:00 p.m.        SILVER
Sunday        February 10        BOSTON        7:00 p.m.        SILVER   
Friday        February 15        BOSTON        7:00 p.m.        GOLD
Sunday        February 17        PITTSBURGH        12:30 p.m.        GOLD
Tuesday    February 19        WINNIPEG        7:00 p.m.        VALUE
Saturday    February 23        NY ISLANDERS    7:00 p.m.         SILVER

Saturday    March 2        NEW JERSEY        3:00 p.m.        SILVER
Tuesday    March 12        NY RANGERS        7:00 p.m.        VALUE
Saturday    March 16        OTTAWA        3:00 p.m.        SILVER
Thursday    March 21        TORONTO        7:00 p.m.        SILVER
Saturday    March 30        WASHINGTON    7:00 p.m.        GOLD
Sunday        March 31        BOSTON        7:00 p.m.        SILVER

Friday        April 5            OTTAWA        7:00 p.m.        SILVER
Sunday        April 7            NEW JERSEY        7:00 p.m.        BRONZE
Thursday    April 11        MONTREAL        7:00 p.m.        SILVER
Saturday    April 13        PHILADELPHIA    3:00 p.m.        GOLD
Sunday        April 14        TAMPA BAY        5:00 p.m.        SILVER
Friday        April 19        NY RANGERS        7:00 p.m.        GOLD
Monday    April 22        WINNIPEG        7:00 p.m.        SILVER
Friday        April 26        NY ISLANDERS    7:00 p.m.        SILVER

---John Vogl

Sabres' schedule released, includes 10 of final 14 games at home

The NHL playoff races figure to be tight in a shortened 48-game season. If things come down to a late-season rush for the Buffalo Sabres, they’ll have the benefit of home crowds to carry them to the end.

After a long wait for the NHL and its players’ association to complete a memorandum of understanding to formally end the lockout, the Sabres finally were able to release their 2013 schedule late Saturday night. The Eastern Conference-only slate includes 11 games on Sundays, including seven in First Niagara Center. The first is the season opener at 12:30 p.m. next Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Sabres begin the year at home and end it with a flurry at the foot of Washington Street. Ten of the final 14 games are in Buffalo, including the season finale April 26 against the New York Islanders.

Though the Sabres have just nine sets of back-to-back games after specializing in them the previous three seasons, they should get ready for a hectic pace. They play seven games in 11 days in January and follow that with 14 games in 28 days in February. There’s little time to breathe in March with 15 games in 31 days, and they play 12 times during the first 26 days of April.

In conjunction with the schedule, the Sabres also announced their variable pricing ticket plan. They will have five Gold games, 15 Silver, one Bronze and three Value games.

The single-game prices will range from $64 to $185 for Gold, $53 to $146 for Silver, $39 to $127 for Bronze and $29 to $113 for Value. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the arena box office and Tickets.com.

The 48-game season has resulted in an unbalanced schedule. The Sabres will play two Northeast Division rivals (Boston and Montreal) five times, and they will face the other two (Toronto and Ottawa) four times. The Sabres will visit Boston twice and Montreal three times, while the other two series are split at two home games per team.

The Sabres will face the other 10 conference opponents three times each. They will visit Carolina, Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida and Pittsburgh twice. Philadelphia, New Jersey, Winnipeg, the New York Rangers and New York Islanders will all come to Buffalo twice.

The Sabres’ longest road trip is four games from March 3-10 and features visits to the Rangers, Carolina, New Jersey and Philadelphia. They have two three-game homestands. The first is Feb. 15-19 and includes appearances by the Bruins, Penguins and Jets. Buffalo welcomes Montreal, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay for a three-game run April 11-14.

The NHL and NHLPA have insisted they wanted to put the lockout behind them. They needed it to officially end first, and it took an inordinate amount of time.

Lawyers for both sides continued to work on a memorandum of understanding well into the night Saturday. Teams were unable to sign players, make trades or release schedules until the document was signed, so the 2012-13 lockout dragged on toward a slow, agonizing demise nearly a week after it unofficially ended.

The memorandum is a written framework of the collective bargaining agreement the sides tentatively agreed to last Sunday. The owners ratified the CBA, 30-0, Wednesday, and the union answered with overwhelming approval Saturday. During a two-day process, the players voted, 667-12, in favor of the deal. Eleven percent (84 of the 763 members) abstained.

Sked

---John Vogl

NHLPA votes to ratify CBA, but sides still working on memorandum of understanding

The NHL lockout continues to crawl agonizingly along.

The players have voted to ratify the new collective bargaining agreement, the NHL Players' Association announced this afternoon, but the league remains closed for business.

Lawyers for both sides continue to work on the memorandum of understanding, which is a written account of what the players and owners voted for in recent days. Until it is done and signed, there is a hold on trades, signings and the release of the schedule.

There remains hope it will be completed tonight so training camps can open Sunday.

---John Vogl

With players' vote complete, NHL needs signed memorandum of understanding to begin business

The NHL Players' Association concluded its ratification vote on the collective bargaining agreement at 8 this morning, but that was expected to merely be a formality of the players voting "yes."

The real NHL-shaking move today will be the signing of a memorandum of understanding.

The league and its players' association need to sign the agreement before any business can begin. The only word so far is the signing will come "today," probably not until this afternoon.

Once signed, the NHL will release its schedule and open its doors to signing and trades. The Sabres' first move will likely be to sign Jochen Hecht, who agreed to a one-year deal Friday.

While there is no formal announcement of the Sabres' schedule, it's all but certain they will start against Philadelphia at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 20 in First Niagara Center. It's possible we have a glimpse at 15 of the other 24 home games.

Tickets.com, the Sabres' ticketing outlet, has 15 dates listed for "Sabres Parking." If they are correct, Buffalo will open the season with plenty of road games and close it with a home rush. The dates listed:

Sabres Parking Feb 23     Feb 23 2013 7:00PM
Sabres Parking Mar 2     Mar 2 2013 7:00PM
Sabres Parking Mar 12     Mar 12 2013 7:00PM      
Sabres Parking Mar 16     Mar 16 2013 3:00PM      
Sabres Parking Mar 21     Mar 21 2013 7:00PM
Sabres Parking Mar 30     Mar 30 2013 7:00PM      
Sabres Parking Mar 31     Mar 31 2013 7:00PM      
Sabres Parking Apr 5     Apr 5 2013 7:00PM      
Sabres Parking Apr 7     Apr 7 2013 7:00PM      
Sabres Parking Apr 11     Apr 11 2013 7:30PM      
Sabres Parking Apr 13     Apr 13 2013 3:00PM      
Sabres Parking Apr 14     Apr 14 2013 7:00PM      
Sabres Parking Apr 19     Apr 19 2013 7:00PM
Sabres Parking Apr 25     Apr 25 2013 7:00PM      
Sabres Parking Apr 26     Apr 26 2013 7:00PM

Again, that is not official. What is official is Ryan Miller knows it will take hard work to erase the pain of the lockout. Read his thoughts here.

---John Vogl

Sabres set to open training camp with scrimmage Monday evening

The Sabres will open training camp Monday, and it should be intense from the start.

Buffalo will conduct a scrimmage at 5:30 p.m. Monday in First Niagara Center, with the team playing three 15-minute periods. Admission and parking in the arena ramp will be free, and there will be "family friendly" concession prices.

The Sabres will practice from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Those sessions are also open to the public.

The Sabres will conduct physicals and on-ice testing this weekend, and those are closed events.

Buffalo is expected to begin the season at home against Philadelphia at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 20. The schedule will likely be released Saturday morning.

---John Vogl

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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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