By Mike Harrington
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The door to the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room opened early this afternoon at MTS Centre and the media swarmed Steve Ott. The horde that covers the Jets had already seen stories on TSN and other North American outlets linking our post from earlier today on Ott's explosive interview with WGR and there were other questions to be asked.
When most of the inquisitors were gone, I stayed and asked Ott for a few more thoughts. The biggest one he offered came when I asked him how worried he was about the fan booing saga becoming a factor in free agents or other players being willing to come to Buffalo.
"The reason why I care so much is because I have desire to be a Buffalo Sabre for a long time," Ott said. "I don't want to go anywhere. I've made that quite clear I want to be here for a long time. If I'm a UFA guy or trying to attract players, there's nothing better than coming into a building knowing, "Wow, this is a fun place to play.' And that's obviously concerning in the aspect of UFAs and trying
to attract the right players into the Buffalo Sabres."
Ott, who is signed through next season, could be captain material if he signs an extension this summer. He said he's not worried about what the reaction will be when he gets home, with the Sabres playing three games in four days this weekend.
"They're proud, passionate fans. I love it," he said. "I think we're all that way. I'm an emotional player. They're emotional fans. We have the same attitude in this dressing room. I think it's great they show they care. Obviously, just looking for that positive atmosphere in that arena. There's a lot of great factors, things to be proud of getting closer to that playoff spot."
"I'm not worried about [fan response], not at all. We're here to work hard,to show up every single night. If we're trying to be competitive with what we have in this dressing room. Our key aspect is this last game and trying to make that playoffs."
Ott didn't back down from this morning's comments much, other than to extend the fans an olive branch by saying, "Obviously they pay a lot of hard-earned money to watch us play."
Interim coach Ron Rolston was initially tight-lipped when asked about the controversy.
"I don't think we can't worry about that. There's bigger things to worry about," he said. "It's how it is. Expectations are extremely high in Buffalo right now and we haven't lived up to that. That's partly on us. We've got to do the job too but we certainly want them to support us and we certainly want them back on our side when we get home."
Even professional tennis player Jessie Pegula, the 19-year-old daughter of Sabres owner Terry Pegula, weighed in on Twitter with a series of thoughts on Ott.
"He's right, all these young guys getting their chance to play in the show and the future of this franchise. They don't deserve to be booed," she said. "It's completely out of their control what's happened past/present/future. If you're not happy w management then do anything but boo them."
As for the game, Rolston said it's a "possibility" Thomas Vanek could play tonight although that seems unlikely based on the morning skate. Rolston denied rumors that Ville Leino had any sort of surgery in recent days but did, for the first time, acknowledge it's "highly unlikely" the winger will be back this season. Leino dealt with hip issues for more than two months, played eight games and now is out with an undisclosed muscle issue the Sabres say is not related to the hip.
Ryan Miller will be in goal for the Sabres against Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec, who is 4-0-1, 2.00, .9.36 against the Sabres since the Jets moved here.
Click below to hear today's interviews from Ott and Rolston