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Sabres-Panthers numerology

Fla arnea
The view from the [BN] seat at BB&T Center.

By Mike Harrington

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Empty arenas (above) and early edition stories get me poring through game notes so you get some extras prior to tonight's 7:30 start. Cheap plug: Be sure to come back for the live blog around faceoff time. Numbers to watch:

---Minus-39: The Panthers' NHL-worst goal differential. No one else is worse than minus-22.

---2: The number of Los Angeles Kings scouts listed on the press box roster, including assistant GM Ron Hextall (yep, the fighting ex-Flyers goalie). Bet they're watching more Sabres than Panthers.

---3: Number of goals the Panthers scored in losing the last three games. Of course, Tampa was on a three-game skid Tuesday and we know how that turned out.

Continue reading "Sabres-Panthers numerology" »

Brennan to skate for Panthers against Sabres' 'Blitzkrieg'

By Mike Harrington

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Sabres have a long bus ride back to Fort Lauderdale so they had a quick pregame skate and exited BB&T Center without giving too many clues to tonight's lineup.

"We're confusing people right now," said a smirking interim coach Ron Rolston. "We came in, it was Blitzkrieg. We came in, quick pregame, so you have to wait for the lineup there."

Continue reading "Brennan to skate for Panthers against Sabres' 'Blitzkrieg'" »

So Iginla goes to .... Penguins?

By Mike Harrington

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Went to bed and Jarome Iginla was headed to the Bruins. Got up and he's a member of the Penguins, likely reuniting his Olympic line with Sidney Crosby

Say what?

It all went down about 1:30 a.m. ET when the rumored deal to Boston was trumped by Calgary's announcement that their franchise player was going to Pittsburgh for the Pens' first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft and the rights to unsigned draft choices Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hanowski. Doesn't seem like much of a haul for the franchise player, does it?

So now the Penguins have added Douglas Murray, Brendan Morrow and Iginla to a team that's on a 13-game winning streak. Amazing.

Quick thoughts:

1. With the Penguins going crazy, won't other teams want to look at big names like ..... Thomas Vanek or Jason Pominville?

2. Still want the Sabres to finish eighth and sneak into the playoffs? How long will that first-rounder with Pittsburgh last? Yikes.

Iginla scratched as deal for Flames icon looks imminent

By Mike Harrington

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Calgary Flames have taken the mega-unusual step of issuing a release stating that Jarome Iginla is going to be a healthy scratch for tonight's game against Colorado. That can only mean the long-awaited deal for their iconic franchise player must be close and the Flames don't want to risk an injury derailing the move.

This CBC column posted earlier today traces Iginla's lineage in Calgary all the way back to Kent Nilsson in 1979, the first year the franchise moved from Atlanta. The Puck Daddy blog on Yahoo Sports is one of many places saying Iginla's likely landing spot is Boston. The Bruins, remember, are in Buffalo Sunday night.

Buffalo chapter of Professional Hockey Writers' Association home to 15 members this season

By John Vogl

For decades, the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and its members have strived to deliver timely, accurate and interesting news about the sport of hockey. The PHWA has chapters in all 30 NHL cities, including Buffalo, and has 285 members this season. The Buffalo chapter has 15.

As the PHWA name implies, it's open to professional hockey writers, people who derive all or a portion of their income from the coverage of hockey. The group includes reporters, magazine and Website owners, columnists and bloggers.

Continue reading "Buffalo chapter of Professional Hockey Writers' Association home to 15 members this season" »

Stafford will return Thursday, Vanek a question mark

By Mike Harrington

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Sabres worked out for about an hour this afternoon in the BB&T Center, home of the Florida Panthers. All of them, that is, except for Thomas Vanek. Interim coach Ron Rolston said Vanek has an upper-body muscle strain but wouldn't automatically rule him out for Thursday's game against the Panthers.

Vanek, however, was seen walking around the locker room area rather gingerly and not looking like a guy who might be on the ice in an NHL game in about 30 hours.

Drew Stafford skated in Vanek's spot with Tyler Ennis and Ville Leino and Rolston said Stafford, a healthy scratch the last two games, is playing tomorrow night whether or not Vanek can go.

"We just want him to go out there and make things happen for our team and lead the way for us," Rolston said. "He's in that position [an assistant captain] because he earned it and that's what he's got to do. Lately, it's been a reminder about the things he's got to get back to more than anything. All of our guys just can't take for granted they're going to be in the lineup. We need them to play a certain way."

Rolston wants Stafford to shoot. He wants anybody to shoot. The Sabres had 14 shots on goal Tuesday, with their forwards combining for only 10. 

"It's real basic. Same on the power play," Rolston said. "We have a tendency to be too cute, try to make one extra pass. You don't score many goals that way. We just have to get pucks to the net."

With less than a week left until the trade deadline, Stafford said he's simply trying to improve his game and is not focused on going somewhere else.

"That's not something I was thinking about. I need to ignore the noise, focus on getting better and improving myself," Stafford said. "Being out of the lineup, my No. 1 priority is focusing on coming back, playing strong and playing hard and helping this team win games. That's all about where my head is at."


Postgame audio: No explanation for no-show

By Mike Harrington

TAMPA, Fla. -- You want me to say something? Seriously? After that?

Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Lightning was hard to fathom. Just a no-show against a team going nowhere. Seven shots in the first two periods. Just no explanation. Let them try to explain it. Click the files below. Ron Rolston's disgust comes through pretty clear

Ron Rolston

Ryan Miller

Jason Pominville

Jordan Leopold

Vote for the three stars

Live from Tampa Bay Times Forum: Sabres at Lightning

Conacher thrilled with Ice Griffs' run to NCAA Tournament

By Mike Harrington

TAMPA, Fla. -- Cory Conacher never got to play in an NCAA Tournament game in his first years at Canisius but the Tampa Bay Lightning rookie is thrilled some of his former mates are going to get that chance Saturday against No. 1 seed Quinnipiac after the Griffs surprising run to the Atlantic Hockey championship last weekend.

"It's going to be a lot of fun to watch them again," Conacher told me today after the Lightning's morning skate. "I've watched Quinnipiac too this year ... and they have a chance at beating them as long as they stick to the game and the goalie (Tony Capobianco) is hot. Their goalie has been hot all year. Hopefully he can continue to be hot and they can put a little run together like RIT* did."

(*RIT, remember, was one of the most surprising Frozen Four teams of all time when it played in the 2010 event in Detroit.).

As you would expect, Conacher's favorite part of the Canisius run was its semifinal victory over archrival Niagara.

"That was impressive," he said. "Niagara is a great team. They're in the tournament too because of the way they've played this year. That was very impressive. It was awesome to see them beat the Purple. We always have a huge rivalry against Niagara right across the [Grand Island] bridge and it was nice to get that win there."

Big changes for Lightning, no changes for Sabres; Yzerman calls Lindy after tabbing Cooper

By Mike Harrington

TAMPA, Fla. -- No changes for the Sabres tonight as Ryan Miller will be in goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning, while Andrej Sekera (injured) and the tandem of John Scott and Drew Stafford (healthy) will be the scratches. Interim coach Ron Rolston said Sekera could play Thursday at Florida.

Big changes, of course, with Tampa as AHL coach Jon Cooper has been hired to replace Guy Boucher but will make his debut Friday night. Assistants will run the Lightning again tonight as they did Sunday in Winnipeg.

Tampa GM Steve Yzerman met with the media today to discuss the coaching change but didn't give a whole lot of clarity into the situation when I asked him about the possibility of hiring Lindy Ruff.

Continue reading "Big changes for Lightning, no changes for Sabres; Yzerman calls Lindy after tabbing Cooper" »

No Lindy for Lightning

By Mike Harrington

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Lightning have officially confirmed the multiple reports on Twitter from CBC, TSN and Sportsnet among others say that revealed Jon Cooper is getting  promoted from Syracuse of the AHL to become the team's new head coach. So no Lindy Ruff. 

Cooper ran the Crunch practice today and will make his Tampa Bay debut here Friday night against New Jersey.  Assistants Dan Lacroix and Steve Thomas will run the team Tuesday against the Sabres; Martin Raymond was on the staff as well but has been sent to Syracuse to work under new Crunch coach Rob Zettler. 

Click here for my story on the Sabres' thoughts on Ruff showing up on the Tampa bench or, for that matter, any other. And interim coach Ron Rolston has some thoughts on Cooper, his former AHL rival.

No word on Lindy but Sabres' curiosity is piqued

By Mike Harrington

TAMPA, Fla. -- No, Lindy Ruff is not in the building. At least not yet as far as anyone knows. All is pretty quiet around Lightning Land because the team -- and General Manager Steve Yzerman -- was on a 10 a.m. flight back from Winnipeg and is not scheduled to practice today in the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

But folks who cover the Lightning are on high alert for some decision about the team's coaching situation today. Yzerman could hire Ruff or AHL coach Jon Cooper or simply stick with assistants  Dan Lacroix, Martin Raymond and Steve Thomas running the bench like they did for Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Jets. You wonder if that might happen for tomorrow since the next game isn't until New Jersey is here Friday and that would give a new coach some practice time.

The Sabres, of course, have their curiosity piqued about potentially seeing Ruff tomorrow. Among the thoughts during a quick circle of the locker room after practice today:

Continue reading "No word on Lindy but Sabres' curiosity is piqued" »

Sabres getting used being in - and winning - one-goal games

By John Vogl

When the Sabres dropped Montreal, 3-2, Saturday night, it continued a trend of being in -- and winning -- one-goal games.

Eleven of Buffalo's last 13 games have been decided by one goal. The Sabres are 6-2-3 in the close contests.

"It’s so tight across the whole league that you pretty much expect to play a one-goal game every night," right wing Brian Flynn said.

Continue reading "Sabres getting used being in - and winning - one-goal games" »

Lightning's Yzerman looking to have coach in place 'as quickly as possible'

By John Vogl

Steve Yzerman sounds like he knows who he wants behind the Tampa Bay Lightning's bench. He's still trying to make it happen.

Yzerman, the vice president and general manager of the Lightning, fired coach Guy Boucher this morning. He met with media in Winnipeg, where Tampa plays tonight, to discuss the coaching search. The leading candidates are former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff and Jon Cooper, who coaches the Lightning's minor-league club and won the AHL title last year.

"I will tell you I’m hopeful that I can get something in place as quickly as possible, and I’m not looking to drag things out," Yzerman said. "I have an idea of what I want to do and a plan for what I want to do, and I’m trying to get that accomplished as soon as possible."

Continue reading "Lightning's Yzerman looking to have coach in place 'as quickly as possible'" »

Tampa Bay fires coach Boucher; Ruff has ties to Lightning's Yzerman

By John Vogl

MONTREAL -- The Tampa Bay Lightning fired coach Guy Boucher this morning, possibly giving Lindy Ruff his first opportunity to accept or turn down a coaching job since being let go in Buffalo.

The Lightning are 13-17-1 and sit 14th in the Eastern Conference despite offensive talents such as Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Canisius product Cory Conacher. They've struggled in goal, however, and Boucher is gone.

Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman said assistants Martin Raymond and Dan Lacroix will share coaching responsibilities for the game tonight against the Winnipeg Jets.

Continue reading "Tampa Bay fires coach Boucher; Ruff has ties to Lightning's Yzerman" »

Sabres 2, Canadiens 1: Vote for your Three Stars

Live from Bell Centre: Sabres at Canadiens

Sabres stick with Miller in net despite his struggles, Enroth's surge

By John Vogl

MONTREAL -- Ryan Miller is the Sabres' No. 1 goaltender. There's no question about that.

There was a question of whether he'd start tonight against Montreal, though. Miller has been struggling, while backup Jhonas Enroth was stellar in a 3-2 overtime win Tuesday against the Canadiens. Folks were eager to see which netminder would leave the morning skate in Bell Centre first, which is typically the signal for that night's starter.

Miller left first and will play for the second straight game. Interim coach Ron Rolston said he gave no thought to going back to Enroth.

Continue reading "Sabres stick with Miller in net despite his struggles, Enroth's surge" »

Stafford's disappointing season descends further as Sabres forward will be scratched in Montreal

By John Vogl

MONTREAL -- As Drew Stafford said today, it’s no secret he’s struggled to produce offensively. The former 30-goal scorer has found the net just four times in 31 games while falling from a top-six forward to a fourth-line player.

His descent is continuing as Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston announced he’ll scratch the right winger tonight against Montreal.

“It’s definitely disappointing, but it’s his decision and something I have to respect,” Stafford said in Bell Centre. “I have to work my way back into the lineup. It’s no secret I haven’t been getting on the score sheet.

Continue reading "Stafford's disappointing season descends further as Sabres forward will be scratched in Montreal" »

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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 |

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 |

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 |