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D'Agostini claimed on waivers from Penguins; Tropp waived to make room on roster

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Matt D'Agostini didn't have a goal in eight games with Pittsburgh. (Getty Images)



By Mike Harrington

Who said the Sabres are going status quo tonight? Not anymore. 

According to TSN The Sabres have now officially announced they've claimed forward Matt D’Agostini off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins. There's no word if D'Agostini would play tonight, but coach Ted Nolan was unusually late to his meeting with the media after today's pregame skate so there was certainly chatter something might be afoot.

The 6-foot, 198-pound D'Agostini will wear No. 27. He has one assist in eight games with the Penguins this season and is predominantly a right winger. He played parts of four seasons with tonight's opponent, the Montreal Canadiens, and had his best year for St. Louis in 2010-11 with a career-high 21 goals and 46 points. He was a sixth-round pick of the Habs in 2005.

D'Agostini signed a one-year, $550,000 contract with the Penguins in July but an unspecified injury and spotty play made it tough for him to stay in the lineup, as this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story from earlier this month explains.

In addition, D'Agostini apparently has a history with Nolan as he was an instructor at Nolan's hockey school in  Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in 2008. This story from the Sudbury Star explains.

The Sabres have to make a roster move to accommodate him, and they are putting Corey Tropp on waivers with hopes of getting him back to Rochester. Tropp had one assist in nine games and was minus-8 this year. He was still playing with a full face shield after suffering a broken jaw in the leadup to the epic preseason brawl in Toronto.

It's certainly conceivable D'Agostini is here tonight to be in the lineup but we noticed that John Scott skated fully this morning and came off the ice with the game group. So he's clearly ready to go as well to play on the fourth line with Brian Flynn and Marcus Foligno if that's the team's need.

Sounds like Sabres going status quo for Habs

By Mike Harrington

It was an optional skate this morning for the Sabres in First Niagara Center with several forwards not on the ice. John Scott came off early and Mikhail Grigorenko was the last one on, leading most observers to believe Grigorenko was getting scratched again in favor of the Buffalo enforcer. So I asked Grigorenko directly and he told me he was in. Thickens the plot.

With the visiting Montreal Canadiens apparently not using tough guy George Parros tonight, there seems to be no need for Scott. Coach Ted Nolan said it will be a gametime decision but also said he wants to keep some consistency in his lines. That would mean the same lineup as Sunday's game against Detroit with Scott sitting out. On defense, Mike Weber and Jamie McBain are expected to be scratched again.

"We want to show some kind of consistency here and see what falls off after we do that," Nolan said. "To be fair, we have to be sure we keep the same lineup for a couple games in a row and see."

In other news:

---Cody McCormick took the morning skate, his first time on the ice since leaving the game in Philadelphia last Thursday. Nolan said he's surprised at how well McCormick is coming along and that the physical forward could play this weekend.

---Ryan Miller will start tonight but Nolan said Jhonas Enroth will definitely get a start in goal this weekend, either Friday against Toronto or Saturday in New Jersey. My bet is on the road tilt against the Devils. Miller owns the Leafs, with his 30 career victories against them his most against any opponent.

---A Montreal reporter Nolan how he keeps morale up with his team's record at 5-19-1. The coach's answer: "Why wouldn't it be? I don't think they stop being paid."

Hear Nolan's session below.

Ted Nolan

Breaking down the NHL TV deal

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Ron MacLean and Don Cherry may or may not be part of the Hockey Night in Canada Broadcasts next year. (The National Post)

 

by Amy Moritz

Buffalonians have long been able to watch Hockey Night in Canada on CBC and the good news for Western New York hockey fans is that won't change -- at least in the short run.

There are nuances to the deal announced today that the NHL and Rogers Communication reached a 12-year $5.232 billion Canadian (that's about $4.9 billion in U.S. dollars) deal to be exclusive national rights-holder to the league in Canada.

And one of those nuances is Hockey Night and CBC.

Rogers will have a rights deal with the Canadian broadcast network to continue the iconic show for four years, although Rogers will have full editorial control. That raises all kinds of questions, including whether or not Ron MacLean and Don Cherry will remain part of the broadcast.

"So while CBC will be airing HNIC, it will be little more than a shadow of the juggernaut is has been for the public broadcaster," wrote Raju Mudhar for the Toronto Star. "The four-year deal looks more a transition period for the CBC as they adjust to their new cable TV landlords."

There is discussion of this deal as a body blow to TSN (think Canadian ESPN) which had been the rights holder to national games and which was outbid by Rogers for the deal.

Looking for other impacts of the deal for American hockey fans? Check out the piece by Sean Gentille from the Sporting News which also explains how NBC Sports, the U.S. rights-holder, can benefit by adding new talent and new shows to its coverage.

Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo points out that when you combine the Rogers deal with the 10-year $2 billion agreement with NBC in the U.S., the NHL has close to $7 billion in media rights fees. The NBA, he points out, has a $7.4 billion TV deal with ABC/ESPN and TNT.

Nolan says: Keep it simple

by Amy Moritz

While the Buffalo Sabres continued to work on defensive zone coverage, they also addressed the power play and scoring opportunities at this morning's practice at First Niagara Center.

The Sabres have scored the fewest goals in the league -- 44 while the power play has accounted for 11 of those goals, clocking in at just a 14.9 percent efficiency.

"We’re not setting the league on fire," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. "We have to make sure we simplify our game and that’s in all aspects of it, five-on-five or power play. We’ve got to make sure we do the simple things, get some shots on net, create some rebounds. The majority of goaltenders in this league will stop you even if you have a point-blank shot from the slot. We have to create some traffic in front of it."

Luke Adam is set to make his third appearance with the Sabres this year after being recalled from Rochester. Nolan said he was working to put his young players in comfortable spots for success while helping them adjust to the different tempo at the NHL level.

"Sometimes when young kids get called up, they think they can do the same thing they did down in the American league, but the players here are much bigger and faster and quicker," Nolan said. "Your time and space is not like it is in the minors. He’s adjusting to that plus he wants to make sure he does the safe play and he wants to try and fit in.

"A lot of things go through these younger players minds when they get called up. My biggest thing is try to make the comfortable with what they do and up their tempo a little bit. Luke has some natural ability that a lot of us would like to have. We’ve just got to up the speed level to the National Hockey League level."

 

Ted Nolan

Former NHLers, including three Sabres, sue NHL over concussions

by Amy Moritz

The concussion issue in the NHL has hit the legal phase.

Ten former NHL players, including three ex-Buffalo Sabres, filed a class-action lawsuit in Washington, D.C. claiming the league has not done enough to protect players from concussions.

The three former Sabres are Richie Dunn, Morris Titanic and Rick Vaive are part of the lawsuit led by former All-Star Gary Leema. This comes shortly after the NFL reached a $765 million settlement with retired players who also sued over the issue of concussions.

The lawsuit claims the NHL knew, or should have know, the risks of repetitive injuries to the head and said the league didn't do anything until 2010 to protect players by making a hit to the head a penalty. The lawsuit also specifically addresses the continuation of fighting, employing "enforcers" and creating a "culture of violence."

""The NHL's active and purposeful concealment of the severe risks of brain injuries exposed players to unnecessary dangers they could have avoided had the NHL provided them with truthful and accurate information and taken appropriate action to prevent needless harm," the lawsuit says.

On Monday, the league's deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, issued a statement:

"We are aware of the class-action lawsuit filed today in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of a group of former NHL players. While the subject matter is very serious, we are completely satisfied with the responsible manner in which the league and the players' association have managed player safety over time, including with respect to head injuries and concussions. We intend to defend the case vigorously and have no further comment at this time."

Michael McCann of SI.com offers a legal look at how the NHL might approach the lawsuit.

Leeman played from 1983-96 for the Toronto Maples Leafs, Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadians, Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues.

Dunn played for the Sabres from 1977-1982 and from 1985-90 played again with the Sabres and Rochester. Titanic played in Buffalo from 1974-76 while Vaive was with the Sabres from 1988-92.

NHL reaches multi-media deal with Rogers Communication

by Amy Moritz

The largest media deal for the NHL was announced this morning as the league said it reached a 12-year $5.232 billion (Canadian) agreement with Rogers Communication. The deal begins in the 2014-15 season, runs through the 2025-26 season. It gives Rogers Communication national rights to all NHL games, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Stanley Cup Finals including all multi-media platforms and all languages.

Hockey Night in Canada on CBC will continue on Saturday nights. The agreement, however, ends regional blackouts across Canada.

The deal means that TSN, the previous rights holder is out. In U.S. terms that would be like ESPN losing the NBA.

What it means for the Sabres? More revenue for each team. The average team share, as reported by USA Today, would be $7.2 million. It also likely means a drive up in the salary cap.

For a closer look at what it means for hockey fans viewing in Canada, check out the coverage in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

 

Defensive zone the focus

by Amy Moritz

It was 40 minutes of defensive zone practice. That's where the problems were for the Buffalo Sabres in their 3-1 loss to Detroit Sunday night.

Back at practice Monday morning at First Niagara Center, the bulk of the practice was spent working on cleaning up play in their own end with the focus on communication and responsibilities. 

"We have to start doing things instinctive. We just kinda react after the fact. A lot of our problems are because of breakdowns," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. "We’re going to try and correct that so that one hand knows what the other one does. We talked about communication, talking down low. We’re a very quiet team. We don't talk enough. I’ve always said good communication eliminate duplication so you don’t always end up doing someone else’s job."

The lines stayed the same in practice:
Matt Moulson-Cody Hodgson-Drew Stafford 
Tyler Ennis-Ville Leino-Steve Ott
Luke Adam-MikhailGrigorenko-Zemgus Girgensons
Corey Tropp-Brian Flynn-Marcus Foligno

The defensive pairings of Henrik Tallinder-Tyler Myers and Mike Weber-Jamie McBain were consistent while Christian Ehrhoff, Brayden McNabb, Mark Pysyk and Alexander Sulzer alternated pairings.

Expect the lines to stay the same for at least the next little while as Nolan reinforces his message of consistency.

"We have to keep them the same," Nolan said. "When we ask the players to be consistent, we have to be consistent with our message and our delivery. We can’t work on defensive zone coverage one day and forget it about for the next two weeks. We have to do it on a consistent basis and same thing with the lines. We have to keep them somewhat consistent so you learn what each and everyone does on the line."

Ted Nolan audio:

Name the three stars

Nolan's pregame notes: Pysyk back in, Flynn to stay at center

By Mike Harrington

As was suspected yesterday, Ted Nolan is scratching Mike Weber and Jamie McBain on defense for today's game against the Detroit Red Wings and putting Mark Pysyk back into the lineup after he sat out Thursday in Philadelphia. Alexander Sulzer is also playing, taking the roster spot of the injured Cody McCormick.

During a pregame briefing with the media, Nolan also said he's going to stick with yesterday's practice alignment of Brian Flynn at center with Corey Tropp and and Marcus Foligno on his wings. Foligno is a point-of-emphasis guy for Nolan today.

"Marcus will be a big power forward but we've got to see the power forward come out of him," Nolan said. "The last couple games he was OK. Young kids coming in I tell them you can't be OK. Hopefully we'll see a better effort from Marcus tonight."

Nolan said he thought Saturday's practice at Riverside Rink was what he was hoping to see from the Sabres since he took over. 

"It was almost the first day we almost started getting what we want to do here," he said. "I felt good yesterday.”

Nolan particularly wants to see better starts from his team continue. The Sabres have scored first in the last two games.

Continue reading "Nolan's pregame notes: Pysyk back in, Flynn to stay at center" »

Sabres Live: Pregame chat at 4:30 p.m.; Red Wings-Sabres updates at 5 p.m.

Wings lose Datsyuk but regain Alfredsson for today's visit to FNC

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Pavel Datsyuk works the puck Saturday against Ottawa. (AP Photo)



By Mike Harrington

The Detroit Red Wings will be without their top goal scorer for today's 5 p.m. meeting with the Sabres in First Niagara Center as Pavel Datsyuk was left home with a possible concussion after taking an elbow to the head late in Saturday's 4-2 loss to Ottawa.

Datsyuk has a team-leading 12 goals and is second on the team in scoring with 23 points. The three-time Selke Award winner and four-time recipient of the Lady Byng Trophy was hit by Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen with 7:48 to play, a clear elbow that television replays caught but neither official did.

Although no penalty was called on the play, Cowen is almost certain to hear from NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan about the play. Check it out here (it's near the top of the screen on the live run).

With Datsyuk out, Detroit general manager Ken Holland said early this morning before boarding the team plane to Buffalo that veteran Daniel Alfredsson will now return to the Detroit lineup. Alfredsson has missed the last five games with a groin pull. He has 42 goals and 84 points in 90 games against Buffalo, with the goal total tied with Jaromir Jagr for the most all-time vs. the Sabres and Alfredsson's most against any team.

Forward Todd Bertuzzi (back) also stayed home and will not play today. The Red Wings are also missing young defense star Danny DeKeyser, who suffered a shoulder injury last week.

The Wings have been a big disappointment of late, going just 1-3-5 in their last nine games and 10-7-7 overall. This will be their third game in four nights.

Thankful for clean slate, Sulzer ready to show Sabres' new bosses he can play

By John Vogl

Alexander Sulzer fell victim to the Sabres' youth movement at the start of the year. He's now part of the veteran renaissance.

Sulzer is up from Rochester and will play Sunday when the Sabres host Detroit. The 29-year-old had two goals and seven points in 10 games for the Amerks. He got the call Friday night after coach Ted Nolan and President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine attended the Amerks' 3-2 loss to Utica.

"One of the reasons we went down was we wanted to see him play," Nolan said today after practice in Bud Bakewell Arena at Riverside Park. "He’s a veteran guy. Like I’ve said, we’ve got a lot of young talent here, and we’ve got to make sure they mature at the right pace. This guy’s a veteran guy that’s been around for a while, and he could have some stability back there for us.

"That’s what we’re looking for. We’re running around in our defensive zone too much. We just need guys to stay back. We’ve got one of the better goaltenders in the world, so we just have to make sure we protect back there and get the puck up to our forwards."

Sulzer is in his third season in the organization and has played 33 games for the Sabres with six goals and six assists. He practiced alongside Christian Ehrhoff.

"I’m just excited to be back and get the chance again, just trying to play my game and prove that the decision early in the year was wrong to send me down," Sulzer said. "It’s a complete new start. Like he’s mentioned many times, it’s a clean slate for everybody. Everybody deserves that. Things didn’t really work the way they were before, so they’re just trying to look at their options and evaluate after that. I really appreciate the chance."

Forward Cody McCormick was absent from practice and will miss at least a week.

"Cody’s banged up a little bit," Nolan said. "In the modern day you’ve got to say upper body or lower body. Pick your choice. He’s got one of them."

Sabres recall Sulzer; LaFontaine updates GM search

By John Vogl

Alexander Sulzer is back with the Sabres, who are back on the ice after a day off.

The Sabres recalled the defenseman following Friday night's game in Rochester, a 3-2 loss to Utica that was watched by President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine and Sabres coach Ted Nolan.

Sulzer is back for the second time this season. He was called up Oct. 5 but did not play in Pittsburgh. In 10 games with the Amerks, the veteran defenseman has two goals and seven points.

The Sabres are using eight defensemen during this morning's practice at Riverside Ice Rink: Sulzer, Mark Pysyk, Brayden McNabb, Henrik Tallinder, Tyler Myers, Jamie McBain, Mike Weber and John Scott.

The forward line trios are: Matt Moulson-Cody Hodgson-Drew Stafford, Ville Leino-Steve Ott-Tyler Ennis, Zemgus Girgensons-Mikhail Grigorenko-Luke Adam, and Corey Tropp-Marcus Foligno-Brian Flynn. Cody McCormick is not practicing.

Continue reading "Sabres recall Sulzer; LaFontaine updates GM search" »

The GM search: Fenton confirms interest, says 'I would love to get an opportunity to talk to them'

Paul-fenton1
Paul Fenton at the NHL Draft in June. (Getty Images)

By Mike Harrington

I've heard multiple whispers today that Pat LaFontaine has been in Boston, presumably to interview Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning for the Sabres' vacant GM post.

Benning is the only known candidate the Sabres have asked permission to speak to thus far, although they're expected to be interested in PIttsburgh assistant Jason Botterill and Nashville aide Paul Fenton as well.

(Friday night update:  LaFontaine spoke to reporters at the Rochester Amerks game tonight and confirmed he has done one interview this week -- and that his short list of candidates has grown)

Fenton, a former NHL player with seven teams, spoke out Thursday night in Toronto about the job and revealed that Nashville GM David Poile has called the Sabres to talk up his assistant's candidacy.

"I believe that I’m ready,” said Fenton, 53. “I’m hoping somebody else does. (David) was talking to them about me being interested in the job. There’s no question, I would love to get an opportunity to talk to them.”

Fenton is an original Predators employee dating to the team's birth in 1998. After serving as the director of player personnel for the Predators’ first eight seasons, he was promoted to assistant general manager on June 5, 2006. He's best known in Nashville for spearheading the picks in the 2003 draft that produced standout defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. 

Quick update: No updates today with day off

By Mike Harrington

BALTIMORE AIRPORT -- Ted Nolan said a ton after last night's loss to the Philadelphia Flyers but if you're looking for anything more from him or any of the players today, you'll have a long wait. The Sabres are on one of their CBA-mandated days off today and will return to the ice Saturday morning to prep for Sunday's late-afternoon start against Detroit.

The Red Wings certainly have to look at the Sabres as another tonic to their woes. In Thursday night's 4-3 win over Carolina, they ended an implausible 0-2-6 run at home in Joe Louis Arena and an 0-2-5 stretch overall.  

But they play Saturday night in Ottawa and then have the earlier-than-normal 5 p.m. start Sunday in First Niagara Center. And it will be their third game in four days while the Sabres will be coming off two days rest. Maybe the Sabres can actually lead after the first period two games in a row? Nah.

(Why am I at the Baltimore airport? Check out the fares to/from Buffalo for BWI and then do the same for Philadelphia. Then it will be obvious why)

Nolan's 'gloves-off' address: Video of the coach's pointed comments

By Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- The gloves are officially off.

That was the message Thursday night from interim coach Ted Nolan, who was seething about penalties and turnovers over the final two periods of the Sabres' 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

"When you constantly do the same thing over and over and over again and lose for the same reasons, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out,” Nolan said. 

Continue reading "Nolan's 'gloves-off' address: Video of the coach's pointed comments" »

Postgame audio: Nolan speaks softly but sends a big message

By Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- As you can hear in the audio file at the end of this post, Ted Nolan's voice wasn't loud Thursday night in a hallway deep within Wells Fargo Center. But he has to hope his message resonates loud and clear in the Buffalo Sabres' locker room.

The interim head coach was furious after his team's 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, a penalty fest that saw Buffalo give up 34 of the Flyers' 46 shots on goal in the final two periods and all four of their goals in the final 25 minutes.

I'll be honest. I was taken aback by Nolan's comments. But he's right.

Everyone watching this team -- fans, front office types, media, even some of the players themselves -- has been lulled to sleep by what they've seen so far. It's normal to us. But believe me when I say it's jarring to folks who don't watch every game. Be it writers/broadcasters covering the opposition, scouts in the building and now the team's interim head coach, they can't believe some of the things they're seeing.

Bet Nolan can't wait for Pat LaFontaine to hire a new GM to really shake this thing up.

Click below to hear from Nolan.

Ted Nolan

Name the three stars

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

Debut of the 'Turd Burger' comes Sunday against Detroit

Ottjersey
The Steve Ott Twitter capture in September unveiled the Sabres' universally panned third jersey. (Sabres.com)

 By Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- Look out, fashion police and traditionalists: The Sabres' third jersey, a gold blob unveiled to howls of derision in early September, is going to make its way to the ice for 10 home games, the team announced today. As was previously believed, the debut will be Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings and the second game will be Wednesday when Montreal comes to town.

Sabres president Ted Black initially declined comment when first asked about the reaction. It got so big and spread so far that Black finally did address it last month it in his weekly appearance on WGR Radio the morning after the season opener.

And he did it by unleashing another one of those one-word sayings (think "suffering") that the Sabres have become so famous for.

"Judge for yourself whenever you see it. If you come into the store and you look at it and say I don’t want to buy it or you do buy it ... If it doesn’t sell, it won’t really mean anything to our bottom line. It’s a third jersey. If it’s a turd burger I’ll have to put it on a bun and eat it. It’s the way it is.”

Ahem. Fair enough. The full schedule for the tur, um, third jersey:

Nov. 24 Detroit
Nov. 27 Montreal
Dec. 5 NY Rangers
Dec. 14 Calgary
Jan. 4 New Jersey
Jan. 14 Philadelphia
Feb. 5 Pittsburgh
Mar. 16 Montreal
Apr 1 New Jersey
Apr 8 Detroit

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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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