By Mike Harrington
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Sabres have won three in a row and took the day off from the ice today to make the long charter trip to the True North for Tuesday's game against the Jets. Your intrepid beat reporter made the drive to Toronto for the direct flight (thank you, Uncle WestJet) to The Peg as well.
(When I arrived, it was 21 degrees. The temperature is not slated to get out of the 30s the entire time I am here. Yes, I have already covered Opening Day for the Blue Jays and Bisons so I'm living a bit of a bizarro existence. The scene above was what I see off to one side of my hotel parking lot. There's about an inch covering everywhere but that's still weird to see in April.
(I suppose I shouldn't gripe. When I was here nearly 15 months ago, the wind-chills were around minus-30 and there were bulletins on TV that it was cold. In Winnipeg.)
So with no practice today as scheduled, it looks like it would be very iffy to see Thomas Vanek play Tuesday night. Ron Rolston hasn't been real open on injuries during his tenure but a player -- especially the leading scorer -- missing seven games on a "day-to-day" basis is not cool one iota. Vanek is hurt, there's no question. But they need him on the ice and it would be nice to get a better handle on how long-term this is going to be.
So the morning skate will be interesting.
The Jets are reeling. They had a five-game losing streak and were 2-7 in their last nine until Saturday's 4-1 win over the Flyers. They had a lock on the Southeast Division and third in the East and now would be tied with the Sabres (with Buffalo owning a game in hand) if Buffalo pulls out a regulation win tomorrow.
Ryan Miller has been great in the last three games, stopping 91 of 96 shots and posting a 1.62 GAA. Be sure to read my story on him in Tuesday's editions. Awfully reminiscent of the run he put together last year after the Gaustad trade.
The fans here are awesome. They scream and yell and often stand like it's a college game. Of course, it's the second year of the franchise. They're not jaded by disappointment. Still don't get all the fuss after Sunday's game against the Devils. What kind of reaction did the Sabres think the fans would have to being hemmed in their zone for two minutes at a time?
Yes, the FNC crowd is about the most ornery in the league right now. But I would say Sabres fans have a pretty good reason to be cranky. The players simply need to keep playing like they are and let the fans be fans. Then see where we all are in a couple of weeks. That's my 2 1/2 cents for the evening.