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Pregame chatter: Kaleta done for the season (ACL), was slated to return to NHL next week

By Mike Harrington

NEWARK, N.J. -- Patrick Kaleta's season is over, ending Friday night in Rochester when he suffered a torn ACL to his right knee during the Amerks' win over Lake Erie. That's the word from a Buffalo News source and coach Ted Nolan pretty much confirmed that prior to tonight's game against the New Jersey Devils while adding this bombshell:

Kaleta was rejoining the Sabres for practice on Monday and was likely going to be in the lineup for their next game, Thursday in First Niagara Center against the New York Rangers.

Obviously, that won't happen now.

"It doesn't look good and that's usually the case right there," Nolan said when asked if he could confirm the injury was season-ending. "We're hoping it's not but it possibly could be."

As we posted earlier today, Kaleta was injured when he somersaulted over Lake Erie goalie Calvin Pickard while cutting in on the goal and his knee struck the crossbar. The injury came late in Rochester's 5-3 win and Kaleta had to be helped off the ice, putting no weight on his leg.

Continue reading "Pregame chatter: Kaleta done for the season (ACL), was slated to return to NHL next week" »

Sabres Live: Pregame chat at 6:45 p.m.; Sabres-Devils updates at 7 p.m.

Tough news out of Rochester: Kaleta may have serious leg injury

Kaleta
Patrick Kaleta (middle) celebrates his goal Nov. 11 with the Amerks along with Matt Ellis (left) and Chad Ruhwedel. (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)

By Mike Harrington

NEWARK, N.J. -- Only two weeks before the Rochester Amerks play their just-about-sold-out outdoor game Dec. 13 at Frontier Field against the Lake Erie Monsters, Angola native Patrick Kaleta has almost certainly been knocked out of the unique affair after suffering what appears to be a severe leg injury in last night's 5-3 win over the Monsters.

And it sounds like the calls for him to return to Buffalo are going to have to stop too.

Veteran Rochester Democrat & Chronicle beat reporter Kevin Oklobzija tweeted late this morning that there's still no official word from the team on Kaleta's status but it certainly doesn't sound good.

Oklobzija reported late last night that Kaleta barreled over Lake Erie goalie Calvin Pickard and the back of his right leg slammed into the crossbar as he somersaulted over Pickard. 

Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy would only said "it didn't look good" and "it's going to be a while" when asked about Kaleta.

Kaleta had one goal and three assists in seven games for the Amerks and had been playing a clean game with only two penalty minutes. He's back in the AHL, of course, after clearing waivers when former Buffalo GM Darcy Regier opted not to put Kaleta back on the roster following his 10-game suspension for a head shot against Columbus' Jack Johnson.

New Sabres president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine and interim coach Ted Nolan both pushed off questions about Kaleta recently, emphasizing he had to make major changes to his game to avoid suspensions before he would be a candidate for a recall.

Leaf leftovers as Sabres prepare to deal with the Devils

By Mike Harrington

NEWARK, N.J. -- In the wake of Friday's 3-2 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Sabres are staying off the ice this morning and meeting in their hotel prior to tonight's game in the Prudential Center against the New Jersey Devils. 

Jhonas Enroth is expected to be in goal and Mikhail Grigorenko and Brayden McNabb are expected to return to the lineup after serving as healthy scratches Friday night. It's possible Cody McCormick could return to the lineup as well. We'll have to wait until interim coach Ted Nolan's update around 5 p.m. for confirmation of the moves.

Tonight's game is the first of three this year against New Jersey. The Devils won two of three meetings last year -- with all the games going to shootouts.

For entertainment value, there's just about nothing like a Sabres-Leafs game in Buffalo and last night was no exception. The crowd, a pro-Leafs one, was rocking all night but the Sabres fans responded in OT to Christian Ehrhoff's game-winner, which produced a shower of beer cans to the ice from the Toronto faithful.

The Sabres were having some pretty good chuckles in their locker room over that whole scene. Captain Steve Ott captured it hysterically with this take-that tweet (and look at the numbers of RTs and favorites he's getting!)


Incredibly enough, the Ehrhoff shot went right through the skate of Leafs defenseman Carl Gunnarsson before snaking through goaltender James Reimer. Seriously. Check it out.


It was the Sabres' first overtime winner since Ott's power-play goal on March 19 in Montreal -- and their first OT winner at home since Derek Roy's power-play goal beat the Leafs on April 3, 2012, the night that Jordan Leopold score the tying goal in the final two minutes with that memorable jam-scramble in front of the Leafs net. The Sabres lost their only previous home overtime this season to Tampa Bay and were 0-2 in home-deciding OT goals in the lockout-shortened campaign.

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Sabres Live: Pregame chat at 7 p.m.; Leafs-Sabres updates at 7:30

Leafs have their own problems heading into tonight's game

By Mike Harrington

The HBO cameras are going to start to follow the Toronto Maple Leafs around next week for "24/7," the acclaimed show that chronicles the two teams playing in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic. The cameras may get an eyeful if the Leafs continue to be as bad as they've been lately.

After a 10-4 October, the Leafs are just 4-5-2 in November. They've given up 11 goals in the last two games, a 6-0 home disaster against Columbus and Wednesday's 6-5 shootout loss at Pittsburgh. They're 1-2-1 in the last four games, and the lone win was a shootout victory over Washington that saw goaltender James Reimer make 49 saves.

Reimer will be in goal tonight in First Niagara Center and figures to get plenty of work. 

The Leafs lead the NHL with 36.1 shots on goal against per game (the Sabres are 29th at 36.0). They've outshot their opponents just four times in 25 games (the Sabres have done it three times in 26). This is a team, remember, that had Boston beaten in Game Seven of the first round of the playoffs last year until blowing a three-goal lead and losing in overtime.

In Wednesday's game, the Leafs blew a 4-1 lead and were outshot 19-0 over the third period and overtime. Yes, 19 to zip. 

"I don't think you need rocket science to figure out that if you continue to give up five and six goals, you're not going to get many points," said coach Randy Carlyle. "We have to buckle down definitely in that area and get our defensive game going to a higer level. Part of that is to create a little more in the offensive zone as far as time in there."

Continue reading "Leafs have their own problems heading into tonight's game" »

Grigorenko, McNabb taking a seat for Sabres but will return Saturday

By John Vogl

It's back to the press box for Mikhail Grigorenko.

The former first-round pick has repeatedly said he learns more while playing than watching, but new Sabres coach Ted Nolan is following in the footsteps of former bench bosses Lindy Ruff and Ron Rolston in sending Grigorenko to the sideline. The forward will be a healthy scratch against Toronto tonight First Niagara Center.

Grigorenko has no points and two shots in three games under Nolan while averaging about 12 minutes of ice time. Grigorenko has two goals and three points in 18 games this season.

Nolan said following the morning skate that sometimes it's better for young players to sit back and watch.

Defensemen Brayden McNabb and Jamie McBain will also observe from the press box. McNabb, another highly drafted prospect, has been too aggressive jumping up from his defense spot, Nolan said.

The coach said McNabb and Grigorenko will return Saturday in New Jersey.

The Leafs, also playing on the first of back-to-back nights, did not skate to conserve energy.

"We know it will be a raucous building," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "We know it will be half filled with Leafs fans. Buffalo will be out to make a statement. ... We have to be on top of our game."

Plain white mask turns Jhonas into a joker

By John Vogl

Jhonas Enroth is patrolling the Sabres' crease in a plain white goalie mask rather than his usual decorative lid. Why?

"I asked for a trade," he said.

Actually, despite being a clear backup under new coach Ted Nolan, he didn't. Enroth has an equipment deal with Reebok, and the company has asked him to try a new CCM helmet in place of the rival Bauer mask he has been using.

Sabres will give D'Agostini a chance to rediscover scoring touch

By John Vogl

The Sabres can't score. They're last in the league by a large margin at only 1.62 goals per game, and they've found the net just once in each of the last four outings.

Matt D'Agostini has struggled since scoring 21 times in 2010-11. He'll be given an opportunity to boost the fortunes of himself and the Sabres.

"When you get a goal scorer, you’ve got to put him in position to score some goals," said coach Ted Nolan, who will use D'Agostini alongside captain Steve Ott and center Ville Leino. "Hopefully, that will help."

Since his career year with St. Louis, D'Agostini has 12 goals in 92 games with the Blues, Devils and Penguins. Buffalo claimed him off waivers from the Penguins on Wednesday.

"It’s just another opportunity to come in and try to prove myself and prove that I can be a good NHL player every day," D'Agostini said today after joining his new team for an optional holiday practice. "The last couple years have been struggles, obviously, to find my game and stuff like that. ... I’m hoping to get a fresh start here and rebuild myself as a player."

D'Agostini's career year came when he got a prominent role on a non-playoff team, so he and the Sabres hope it happens again.

"That was a time I got my minutes and got some goals under my belt and got some confidence," D'Agostini said. "I’m hoping to get back to those ways."

To hear more from D'Agostini, click the audio file below.

Tropp thankful for time in Buffalo, eager to show Sabres they made a mistake

By John Vogl

One of the best memories of Corey Tropp's life was putting on the Sabres' uniform for the first time and debuting in the NHL.

He's got a new uniform now. Columbus claimed the right winger off waivers this afternoon, ending Tropp's stay in Buffalo.

"I was a little disappointed with what transpired," Tropp told The Buffalo News by phone. "It was an honor to be a Sabre. One of my greatest memories is my first game I ever played at home. It was real excitement.

"They were great to me and gave me an opportunity to get my first NHL games and help me grow as a person on and off the ice. I’m just very thankful for all the help they’ve given me while I was here."

Now that the Sabres are in the past, the third-round pick in 2007 wants to show he should have been part of Buffalo's future. He's been thinking about it since being told he was going on waivers.

"I was just trying to have the mind-set of wherever I end up or wherever I go I wanted to make sure I prove to them that it’s a mistake," Tropp told The News. "I’m a passionate player, and I think that shows in my play. It was definitely tough getting the news yesterday, but it’s exciting to have a good opportunity in front of me.

"At the end of the day, I’ve got to go out and hopefully make Buffalo regret making that move."

 

Sabres lose Tropp to Blue Jackets via wavier wire

By John Vogl

Corey Tropp's four-year stay in the Sabres' organization is over.

Columbus claimed the right winger on waivers today, 24 hours after Buffalo let him loose to acquire right wing Matt D'Agostini.

The Sabres selected Tropp in the third round of the 2007 draft. He totaled three goals and nine points in 43 games with the Sabres while also playing for their minor-league clubs in Portland and Rochester. He missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury suffered in Rochester's opener.

The 24-year-old Tropp couldn't escape a fourth-line role under new coach Ted Nolan. He had one assist and a minus-8 rating in nine games this season.

"You’re happy for the young guy," Nolan said after today's optional holiday practice in First Niagara Center. "That’s unfortunate that we don’t have enough positions or room for him right now. It’s good for him to be picked up by somebody else and get his career going there. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t happening here at that moment. You take a chance, and now it’s good for Corey."

To hear more from Nolan, including his thoughts on D'Agostini, click the audio file below.

Video: Sabres players talk about what they need to do better after loss

Sabres players talk about loss to the Canadiens and what they need to do better.

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Dudley simply having too much fun in Montreal to leave for Sabres' GM post

By Mike Harrington

Rick Dudley is having too much fun with the Montreal Canadiens.

You can go through the all the complicated scenarios you want, but that's the bottom line to why the former Sabres player and coach has opted to stay as the assistant general manager with the Habs and not become a candidate for Buffalo's open GM job.

The Sabres asked for permission to talk to Dudley earlier this week, Dudley told reporters tonight in a meeting in the First Niagara Center press box. Montreal GM Marc Bergevin told Dudley he would give the permission, but wanted a chance to talk to Dudley as well. As it turned out, Dudley never talked to the Sabres. TSN reported the Habs gave him a lucrative contract extension, although Dudley wouldn't comment on those details other than to admit he got years added on to his deal.

"I went to Montreal because of Marc Bergevin," Dudley said. "I enjoy the people I work with. it's fun. It's a great gig. if you enjoy something a great deal, why change if you don't have to?

"I'm having a ball in Montreal and I want to stay there. It's been fun from day one. We've got a wonderful group of players, coaches, the entire staff. It was a situation I didn't think I could walk away from."

Continue reading "Dudley simply having too much fun in Montreal to leave for Sabres' GM post" »

Sabres Live: Pregame chat at 6:30 p.m.; Canadiens-Sabres updates at 7 p.m.

Briere on wearing Habs crest: 'It's pretty cool'

Briere
Daniel Briere is back in town tonight. (Getty Images)

By Mike Harrington

Daniel Briere has played in Buffalo many times since departing in 2007 but all of those games came while he was with the Philadelphia Flyers. Tonight is a little different for the former Sabres captain as he makes his first trip here with his beloved hometown team, the Montreal Canadiens.

Standing in the Habs dressing room early this afternoon after their pregame skate, Briere was wearing a blue Montreal T-shirt with the classic white C-H Montreal logo and I asked him what it meant to be wearing that logo after playing 16 years in the NHL with three other teams.

"It's pretty cool," Briere said with a wide smile. "I grew up cheering for the Montreal Canadiens so it's special for me personally to wear that uniform, go in and play games and have friends around in the Montreal area. I'm just trying to enjoy every single moment of it."

Briere has four goals and three assists in 14 games for the Habs this season and is playing left wing on the top line with Tomas Plekanac and Rochester-area native Brian Gionta. Briere missed 10 games with a concussion suffered Oct. 19 against Nashville -- his third in the last three years -- but has been back for the last six games.

"He's a good veteran," Habs coach Michel Therrien said today. "We all understand he had great seasons here with the Sabres and I'm sure it's going to be a special night for him to play for the Montreal Canadiens against the Sabres in a place where he had a lot of success."

News columnist Bucky Gleason spoke exclusively to Briere earlier today and they discussed concussions, the Sabres' coach/GM changes and more. Be sure to read Gleason's column in the Thanksgiving Day editions of The News.

 

Report: Dudley staying with Canadiens rather than discuss Sabres' GM job

By John Vogl

The Sabres' alumni train won't include Rick Dudley.

Dudley, considered a front-runner to return to Buffalo as new general manager, will stay with the Canadiens, according to Darren Dreger of TSN. Dreger reports the Sabres asked Montreal for permission to speak with Dudley, and the Habs responded by giving their assistant general manager a "more lucrative deal."

The 64-year-old Dudley played for the Sabres from 1972-81 and returned as head coach for two-plus seasons beginning in 1989.

Dudley joined the Canadiens in 2012 after working in various managerial capacities with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Atlanta Thrashers, Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators.

Pat LaFontaine, the Sabres' president of hockey operations, said when he was hired this month he had a short list of GM candidates.

Sabres add former assistant GM of Oilers to scouting department

By John Vogl

The Sabres continue to add to their scouting staff, hiring a former assistant general manager of the Edmonton Oilers to work with the pro and amateur scouts.

The Sabres have brought on Kevin Prendergast, a 30-year scouting veteran who was most recently the head scout for Hockey Canada. Prendergast also worked for NHL Central Scouting.

"Kevin is a very respected and well-connected talent evaluator in many different hockey circles," said Pat LaFontaine, the Sabres' president of hockey operations. “His keen eye for hockey talent, combined with his experience in the game at a multitude of levels, will be a tremendous addition to our hockey operations staff.”

The Sabres said Prendergast will work with Buffalo Assistant General Manager Kevin Devine.

The Quebec native spent 20 seasons with the Oilers, joining the club in 1990-91 as its vice president of hockey operations and becoming assistant GM in 2006-07. He also was the Oilers’ representative on the American Hockey League’s board of governors and served as the director of player personnel for the Springfield Falcons (AHL) and Stockton Thunder (ECHL).

The Sabres recently hired former Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth as a scout.

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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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