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Sabres, now members of Atlantic, open at Detroit on Oct. 2

 

John Hickey
Photo by John Hickey/Buffalo News -- Second-year head coach Ron Rolston and his squad will host Lindy Ruff and the Dallas Stars Oct. 28.

 

By Aaron Mansfield

The Sabres, playing in the newly formed eight-team Atlantic Division, open their slate on the road against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, Oct. 2. The NHL released its regular season schedule today.

Buffalo’s home opener comes two days later against the Ottawa Senators on Friday, Oct. 4. Canisius grad Cory Conacher is a left wing for the Senators.

Jason Pominville will return to town with the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 14.

Exactly two weeks later comes the matchup many Buffalo fans are waiting for: Lindy Ruff will bring the Dallas Stars to First Niagara Center on Oct. 28.

The Sabres will host Milan Lucic and the Boston Bruins on Oct. 23, Dec. 19 and Feb. 26.

Buffalo native Patrick Kane and the recently crowned Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks will come to town March 9.

The league will take a 17-day break from Feb. 9 to 25 to allow players to participate in the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

The complete schedule is listed below:

Continue reading "Sabres, now members of Atlantic, open at Detroit on Oct. 2" »

NHL schedule release continues to hang on Olympic decision; Florida leak shows 20-day break

By Mike Harrington

If you're looking to mark your calendars for that visit by Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks or perhaps the return of Lindy Ruff with Dallas or Jason Pominville with Minnesota, you're going to have to wait at least another day.

The NHL's 2013-14 schedule, widely expected to be released late Wednesday afternoon, is not coming out even though all the teams have what is likely a final draft. The league cannot release the schedule until it wraps up a deal with the International Ice Hockey Federation to allow its players to compete in the Sochi Olympics.

The Olympics, of course, require a multi-week break in the schedule. Teams currently have two versions of the NHL slate, one with the Olympic break and one without it. Until the deal is signed, no schedule for the league can be released.

Continue reading "NHL schedule release continues to hang on Olympic decision; Florida leak shows 20-day break" »

Video: Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel focuses on trying to earn a spot with Sabres

Chad Ruhwedel discusses his personal goals and recent developments with the team.

Darcy: No talks, no new news on Miller, Vanek

By Mike Harrington

Darcy Regier met the media between periods of tonight's development camp scrimmage and there was no big news unveiled in the 10-minute chat, other than the confirmation that Chadd Cassidy has been promoted from interim coach of the Rochester Amerks to the permanent bench boss in place of Ron Rolston.

As with every chat with Regier, the topic of Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek came up again and the response was much the same. Asked if he's getting resigned to the fact he may have both of them at training camp, Regier said, "I think that's fair. The nature of this business is that as we move through July lineups get more and more settled, there's less movement. Once training camp starts, things begin to change some again."

Regier said most conversations he's had with other GMs involve taking in money, a clear reference to the fact the Sabres aren't likely to be able to move the entire contract of either Vanek or Miller in a year the salary cap is shrinking to $64.3 million.

Regier said there's been no negotiations with Miller, Vanek or fellow 2014 UFA Steve Ott. "Talking to my counterparts around the league, that's not unusual right now," he said. "For whatever reason, there's not a lot of activity on players that are going to become unrestricted in '14."

In other news:

Continue reading "Darcy: No talks, no new news on Miller, Vanek" »

Video: Sights & Sounds from Day 2 of Sabres Development Camp

The News' Derek Gee provides a glimpse of the on-ice activities in First Niagara Center:

Video: 'Surreal' day at Sabres camp for WNY natives

WNY natives Justin Bailey and Sean Malone discuss the awe of wearing a Sabres jersey for the first time at development camp.

Devil of a deal: Kovalchuk stuns hockey world with retirement, apparent bolt back to KHL

By Mike Harrington

The Ilya Kovalchuk contract, a 15-year, $100-million monstrosity signed in 2010, might be the single biggest reason we lost half a season -- and nearly an entire one -- to a lockout. It was voided in stunning fashion today and not for any further rules violation.  

Kovalchuk, the talented but enigmatic Russian who told me "who cares about goals?" after scoring an overtime winner here in 2010, has stunned the hockey world by announcing his retirement at age 30 -- with still 12 years and $77 million left on the deal. Of course, he's not really retiring, as there's already plenty of chatter he's going to play next year in the KHL. His statement through the Devils cited family reasons for his decision.

The Devils, remember, lost their first-round pick for next year as a penalty for Kovalchuk's initial 17-year, $102 million deal the league wouldn't authorize. His annual cap hit of nearly $6.7 million is gone with no post-age 35 recapture penalty.

That's all fine and well but think the Devils would have liked to have known this prior to the free agency period opening July 5? They could have gone elsewhere for help. They might have even kept David Clarkson. Just a selfish move by a selfish hockey player.

Sabres center Mikhail Grigorenko had just come off the ice at development camp this afternoon when he heard the news about one of his Russian idols.

"I don't understand. I was thinking is that some kind of joke or something," Grigorenko told me. "I'm really shocked. He's my favorite player in the NHL. He's a really good player and I was hoping he would keep playing in the NHL."

In new AHL alignment, Utica joins Amerks' division

By Mike Harrington

While the NHL dawdles over announcing the names of its new four divisions for next year (anytime now, boys), the AHL has released its new configuration in the wake of some franchise shifts and there's a new built-in rival for the Rochester Amerks.

While holding their annual meeting in Hilton Head, S.C. the AHL Board of Governors have announced that the new Utica Comets, the Vancouver farm team, will play in the North Division of the Western Conference with the Amerks, Toronto Marlies (Toronto), Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal) and Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado). The Utica franchise was transferred after last season from Peoria, Ill.

The Abbotsbord Heat, the Calgary franchise located in British Columbia, will no longer be in the absurd geographic location of being in a division with Eastern teams so the Amerks won't have to trek West anymore. The full alignment looks like this:

Eastern Conference 
Atlantic Division: Manchester Monarchs (LA); Portland Pirates (PHX); Providence Bruins (BOS); St. John’s IceCaps (WPG); Worcester Sharks (SJ) 

Northeast Division: Adirondack Phantoms (PHI); Albany Devils (NJ); Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NYI); Hartford Wolf Pack (NYR); Springfield Falcons (CBJ) 

East Division: Binghamton Senators (OTT); Hershey Bears (WSH); Norfolk Admirals (ANA); Syracuse Crunch (TB); Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (PIT) 

Western Conference 
North Division: Rochester Americans (BUF); Hamilton Bulldogs (MTL); Lake Erie Monsters (COL); Toronto Marlies (TOR); Utica Comets (VAN).

Midwest Division: Chicago Wolves (STL); Grand Rapids Griffins (DET); Iowa Wild (MIN); Milwaukee Admirals (NSH); Rockford IceHogs (CHI).

West Division: Abbotsford Heat (CGY); Charlotte Checkers (CAR); Oklahoma City Barons (EDM); San Antonio Rampage (FLA); Texas Stars (DAL).

The regular season schedule will be announced in August. The playoff format remains unchanged, with the three division winners in each conference earning the top three seeds and the next five best teams in order of regular-season points seeded Nos. 4-8. 

In other news, the league honored one club from each conference for top revenue growth in four areas and the Amerks were the Western Conference winner for group-ticket sales.

Video: Ristolainen and Zadorov eager to impress at Sabres development camp

Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov are excited to get the chance to prove themselves, The News' sports reporters say.

Ristolainen says it's either Buffalo or Finland next season

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Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was drafted by the Sabres last month.

By John Vogl

The Sabres hoped to have Rasmus Ristolainen in the organization next year, but it appears the only way that will happen is if he makes Buffalo’s roster.

After the Sabres drafted the Finnish defenseman eighth overall last month, they said he had no contractual obligations overseas. Thus, if he didn’t make the Sabres, it appeared the team could develop him in Rochester.

“I think no,” Ristolainen said today at development camp. “I’ve got a contract with my hometown team.”

The native of Turko, Finland, has spent the past two seasons in the Finnish elite league with TPS Turko. It appears he will head back there if he does not make Buffalo's roster -- unless the Sabres make him an offer he can't refuse.

Sabres sign three to minor-league deals, including Zigomanis of fax machine infamy

By John Vogl

It took 14 years, but Mike Zigomanis is finally in the Sabres' organization.

The Sabres announced today they've signed Zigomanis, West Seneca's Alex Lepkowski and forward Frederick Roy to minor-league contracts with the Rochester Americans.

Zigomanis is the most intriguing of the trio. Buffalo selected him in the second round of the 1999 draft, and it had two years to sign him. They finally agreed to a deal about a half-hour before the deadline, but their initial contract exchange had a salary error. They tried to fix it and fax the deal into the NHL, but it didn't arrive before the deadline because the league's fax machines were overworked.

Zigomanis went back into the draft, got selected by Carolina in 2001 and has played for nine NHL and AHL teams, plus a squad in Sweden.

Zigomanis had seven goals and 28 assists in 65 games with the Toronto Marlies last season.

The Sabres selected Lepkowski in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, but they didn't sign him in the two-year window that expired last month. He remained close with the organization and is participating in prospect camp this week. The defenseman had nine assists in 60 games with Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League.

Roy played in 64 games with the Amerks last season, putting up eight goals and two assists.

Pysyk eager for challenge along Sabres' blue line

By John Vogl

Mark Pysyk has watched with interest as the Sabres made moves along the blue line this offseason. They drafted two defensemen in the first round, added two more in trades and re-signed another who was expected to walk out the door.

It's made things crowded, but Pysyk doesn't mind.

"It’s definitely exciting for the future," the 21-year-old defenseman said today at the Sabres' development camp. "A lot of defensemen, a lot of challenge to make the team, a lot of competition within the team, which will be good. I think it’ll push everybody to be that much better."

In his first year as a pro last season, Pysyk transformed from healthy scratch in Rochester to key player in Buffalo. He played in the 18- to 20-minute range during the Sabres' final seven games to seemingly lock down a spot for next year.

Now he'll have to work for it. Henrik Tallinder and Jamie McBain arrived via trade, No. 8 overall pick Rasmus Ristolainen will compete for an NHL job, and Buffalo re-signed Alexander Sulzer, who is coming off knee surgery. Add in Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Mike Weber, Chad Ruhwedel and Brayden McNabb, and it's crowded.

"I’m just going to do the same thing as last year, come in in the best shape I can and be the best player I can be, and see what happens," Pysyk said in First Niagara Center. "I’m looking forward to it. I got a little taste. Once you get that taste, you’ll doing anything to get back there and keep playing there."

Pysyk participated in the first group of prospects this morning. The afternoon session, which will run from 3-4:30 p.m., will feature Mikhail Grigorenko, Justin Bailey, Sean Malone, McNabb, Ruhwedel and goaltender Andrey Makarov.

Jagr's agent: 'I have not talked to anybody in Buffalo'

By Mike Harrington

Yes, I've read all the rumors and chatter over the weekend about the Sabres being in on Jaromir Jagr, being close to signing the future Hall of Famer etc. Nothing credible at all until a report surfaced in a paper out of the Czech Republic and was reprinted Tuesday on Yahoo's Puck Daddy blog that had the Sabres as one of Jagr's main pursuers.

Forget it. It's not true.

"I have not talked to anybody in Buffalo and the Sabres have not called," Petr Svoboda, Jagr's agent, told The News by phone this afternoon from Santa Monica, Calif. "It's absolutely not true. Speculation."

Svoboda, who played for the Sabres from 1991-94 as part of a 17-year NHL career on defense, said Jagr is still considering three teams. He said one of them is not Boston, where Jagr played this year and got within two wins of another Stanley Cup.

"He had a lot of fun there but it was an unfortunate finish for Jags," Svoboda said. "It's so unpredictable. You don't know who will go all the way. He just wants to play hockey where it's fun."

Most reports have Montreal and Carolina as two of the teams going hard for Jagr with perhaps Ottawa as the third. Jagr got huge credit for his work with young players last year in Philadelphia and again this year in Dallas, where he signed before getting traded to Boston at the deadline.

The thought by many was for Jagr to sign for big money in Buffalo, work with the Sabres' young kids -- especially maybe Mikhail Grigorenko -- and then get dealt at the deadline. Not happening. 

Prospect haul given huge nod by Hockey Prospectus

By Mike Harrington

Just as the Sabres' annual development camp hits the ice Wednesday in First Niagara Center comes the annual organizational ratings from Hockey Prospectus and, for once, Sabres fans have some good news: Buffalo is currently listed as the No. 3 organization for its cadre of young players. 

The rankings are for non-NHL players only -- or players who have appeared in fewer than 25 games last season or 50 in their careers.

Author Corey Pronman admits the Sabres would have been slightly lower had Mikhail Grigorenko played one more NHL game and thus lost "prospect" status by playing more than 25 games, but says the Sabres have drafted so well in 2012 and 2013 the ranking would have been high anyway. He called the 2013 draft class "exceptional." Like many hockey observers, Prospectus loved the Jason Pominville trade that brought Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett and now, Nikita Zadorov.

Now it's all about getting these players to develop at the NHL level -- and for the NHL guys to not go belly-up once they hit Buffalo. No small task.

Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders were rated ahead of Buffalo, with Anaheim and Florida right behind. The bottom five were San Jose, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Philadelphia and St. Louis.

Sabres' development camp to feature Grigorenko, Girgensons, Pysyk and '13 draft picks

By John Vogl

The Sabres' prospects are coming to town this week for the annual development camp, and the 40-player list features last year's top draft picks and all 11 selected this year.

Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons headline the forwards scheduled to skate Wednesday through Friday in First Niagara Center, while the defense corps includes Rasmus Ristolainen, Mark Pysyk, Jake McCabe and Chad Ruhwedel. All five of the Sabres' goaltending prospects -- Connor Knapp, Nathan Lieuwen, Andrey Markov, Cal Petersen and Linus Ullmark -- will be in net.

Local draft picks Justin Bailey and Sean Malone will be joined by Eden's Alex Iafallo, West Seneca's Alex Lepkowski and Tyler Gjurich of the Buffalo Junior Sabres.

Download 2013-14 Development Camp Roster

Capitals sign Leggio to one-year, two-way contract

By John Vogl

David Leggio is on his way to Washington.

The 28-year-old goaltender from Williamsville has agreed to a one-year, two-way contract with the Capitals. Leggio spent the previous three seasons with the Sabres' minor-league clubs in Portland and Rochester.

Contract terms were not immediately available for Leggio, who made $105,000 in the American Hockey League last year.

He was an unrestricted free agent. The Sabres added goalie Matt Hackett in the late-season trade that sent Jason Pominville to Minnesota, and they have three prospects (Andrey Makarov, Nathan Lieuwen and Connor Knapp) who'll fight for playing time in Rochester.

Leggio went 38-24-1 with a 2.56 goals-against average, .924 save percentage and four shutouts in 64 games last season in Rochester. He led the AHL in wins and games played, and he ranked tied for fourth in save percentage.

He has yet to play an NHL game.

“I just wish I had a chance to throw on that sweater just once in Buffalo," Leggio told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle today. "But it’s OK, it just wasn’t meant to be. I can’t be more grateful for the opportunity I’ve gotten in the Sabres' organization. Being able to play in Rochester and train in Buffalo all summer, it has been exciting for my family.”

Reviewing crowded defense corps (again)

By Mike Harrington

As of this writing, the Sabres have no plans for any news conferences today with Darcy Regier in the wake of the Henrik Tallinder trade. Definitely an interesting transaction, one the team clearly hopes has huge benefit for the resurrection of Tyler Myers. The big guy thrived into a Calder Trophy winner playing with Tallinder in 2009-10 and hasn't been the same player since Tallinder headed for the land of Jimmy Hoffa in 2010.

(Any excuse to link to Rick Jeanneret's Dave Hannan call, right?)

But what does it mean for the defense now?

We went over what the blueline corps looked like as of yesterday, when Alexander Sulzer was re-signed. The addition of Tallinder, who certainly is immediately penciled into Buffalo's top six, makes things even murkier.

Let's assume Tallinder gets re-paired with Myers. And you can also assume Christian Ehrhoff and Mike Weber will be in the top six. Sulzer and Jamie McBain would have inside tracks for the other two spots, leaving Mark Pysyk, Chad Ruhwedel, Brayden McNabb and No. 1 draft pick Rasmus Ristolainen possibly headed for Rochester. One would likely stay in the NHL.

The Sabres just spent a No. 8 overall pick on Ristolainen. I still think he needs to open in the NHL but that's just me. Let's see how the kid looks this week at development camp and again at training camp.

And, remember, it's early July. We're more than two months away from the main camp. Pretty crowded group on defense -- especially for a team still looking for goals.

Bulletin: Sabres re-acquire Tallinder in deal with Devils

Hank
Henrik Tallinder is coming back to Buffalo. (Getty Images)


By Mike Harrington

The Buffalo Sabres have re-acquired an old friend, getting veteran defenseman Henrik Tallinder back from the New Jersey Devils for prospect winger Riley Boychuk.

Tallinder, 34, has spent the last three years in New Jersey after leaving Buffalo via free agency in 2010, when he was the rock as Tyler Myers' defense partner during Myers' Calder Trophy season. His career with the Devils never really panned out, as he spent the last two years battling injuries and sitting out as a healthy scratch.

Tallinder played in 25 games last season, posting one goal and three assists with an even rating. He was minus-11 during the 2011-12 season. He will make $3.5 million this year in the final year of his contract with a cap hit of $3.375 million. 

Tallinder was Buffalo's No. 2 pick in the 1997 draft and spent parts of eight seasons with the Sabres. He was one of the key members of the defense of the 2006 team that got to the Eastern Conference finals and the broken arm he suffered in Game Four proved to be a major factor in the seven-game loss to Carolina.

"We are excited to have Henrik back in the mix on our blue line," general manager Darcy Regier said in a release from the team. "His experience will be invaluable not only in adding more stability to our back end, but also in the development of some of our younger defensemen."

Continue reading "Bulletin: Sabres re-acquire Tallinder in deal with Devils" »

Stars plan sitdown with Seguin over social media snafus

Tyler_Cup_01 copy-1
Tyler Seguin hoists the Stanley Cup in his hometown of Brampton, Ont., in 2011 (Getty Images)

 By Mike Harrington

Old friend Lindy Ruff certainly felt like his new team acquired a No. 1 center for many years Friday when the Dallas Stars landed Tyler Seguin in a seven-player deal with the Boston Bruins. But, as the playoffs went on, Seguin's poor play in Boston was surrounded by murmurs of his party animal lifestyle and that was chronicled in this Boston Herald story.

Seguin's mother ripped the Bruins in a Toronto Star story last week, saying the team leaked some of the information to discredit Seguin. One problem? Dad admitted to the Star that kiddo is in fact prone to party. 

So what did Seguin allegedly do to commemorate his trade? Stage a big rave at his Cape Cod pad with friends. On Saturday, he then tweeted (since deleted) "Only steers and queers in Texas, and I’m not a cow.” Early Sunday afternoon, Seguin tweeted he was taking down his Twitter account due to hackers. Uh-huh. 

(4 p.m. update: The Stars have issued a statement denouncing the tweet, saying in part: "We've addressed the issue directly with Tyler and we'll continue to work on educating our players regarding the importance of their conduct on all forms of social media.")

All this can't sit well with Ruff and especially new Stars GM Jim Nill, who just sent valuable veteran Loui Eriksson to Boston as the key piece for Seguin. According to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, Nill said today that Seguin is scheduled in Dallas on Monday and they will be having a heart-to-heart about social media and other things off the ice.

"My problem with social media is you just don’t know how much of it is true,” Nill said. “I think, as a society, we are trained to believe 100 percent of it is true, and that’s obviously not the case. It’s difficult to validate how things might happen, whether someone was truly hacked, or just what might have happened. I can’t go off hearsay, I need to ask questions.”

Nill will ask plenty Monday and the Dallas media is scheduled to ask Seguin some more Tuesday. That figures to be interesting.

Blue line updates: Sulzer signs again, Pardy heads to Peg

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres have brought back a familiar face to their defense corps today, re-signing Alexander Sulzer to a one-year contract with an identical $725,000 salary as last seaason. The team has also confirmed the two-year, two-way deal with Drew Bagnall that we reported late Friday night.

Sulzer, 29, was acquired from Vancouver at the trade deadline in 2012 for Marc-Andre Gragnani and acquitted himself as a solid third-pair blueliner. Expected to contribute last year when the lockout finally ended, he played just 17 games before suffering a knee injury on a hit against the boards in the Feb. 23 loss to the New York Islanders -- Ron Rolston's first game as coach in First Niagara Center -- and did not play the rest of the season. He eventually had surgery on the knee.

Sulzer had three goals for the Sabres each of the last two years. He had one goal in 74 combined games with Florida, Nashville and Vancouver earlier in his career. 

GM Darcy Regier said at this week's free agency preview press conference that he would not offer a contract to Sulzer or fellow UFA Adam Pardy prior to Friday. But any team, like the Sabres learned the hard way in 2006, needs depth at defense and in the minor leagues. 

(Afternoon update: Pardy has signed a one-year, $600,000 deal with the Winnipeg Jets)

So the Sabres now have nine defensemen with NHL experience -- Christian Erhoff, Tyler Myers, Mike Weber, Mark Pysyk, Jamie McBain, Chad Ruhwedel, Brayden McNabb, Sulzer and Bagnall. Of course, the experience of Ruhwedel (seven games with the Sabres) and Bagnall (two games with Minnesota) is limited. And No. 1 draft pick Rasmus Ristolainen is expected to be given an opportunity to make the NHL roster in training camp as well.

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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 | [email protected]

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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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