By Mike Harrington
The Sabres are waiting until after warmups for today's 2 p.m. game against the Calgary Flames in First Niagara Center to make a key decision on their lineup. Center Cody Hodgson, who missed Thursday's game in Ottawa with an undisclosed injury, skated on his own this morning and interim coach Ted Nolan said he is feeling better. Hodgson will take the warmup but Matt Ellis has been recalled from Rochester and will skate in his place if Hodgson can't go.
Nolan attended last night's "Frozen Frontier" outdoor game in Rochester between the Amerks and Lake Erie and was duly impressed with Rochester's entertaining shootout victory.
"It was just a great atmosphere to watch. ... You could tell the players enjoyed themselves and the fans enjoyed themselves," Nolan said. "It was a great event. It just doesn't start here. It starts everywhere within the organization with what Rochester is doing now. They're doing a great job."
Ellis revealed that Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy gave him the news of the callup on the ice in the immediate aftermath of his shootout-winning goal -- his first shootout attempt since he was in the East Coast Hockey League in 2002. Ellis said teammate Colton Gillies suggested to Cassidy that Ellis get a crack in the sixth round with the shootout tied at 2-2.
"Sure enough, Chadd said, 'Ellie you're up,' Ellis said here today. "I was excited, a little nervous. It was a strange situation for me but I was pretty pumped to helped bring the two points home."
Ellis has been in Rochester all year but said it's been tough to see all the struggles going on in Buffalo, even from afar.
"I have a personal connection to most of the guys in this locker room, to the staff and to this community," he said. "This is the community I still call home and I'm definitely connected. It's been a unique year to say the least. You talk to guys, hear the ins and outs and it has been hard to watch and know what some of my close friends have had to go through this season."
After the long, cold night outside, is Ellis worried about fatigue if he gets the call? No way.
"I got plenty of energy if need be," he said with a smile. "I would have played at 10 o'clock this morning if I had the chance to."
In goal, it will be Jhonas Enroth for the Sabres against Calgary's Karri Ramo. Enroth (1-6-2, 2.67, .906) posted a 2-1 win over Calgary in his only start against the Flames, which came here in 2011. Nolan also said Brayden McNabb will get back into the lineup, with Mark Pysyk likely to be the scratch on defense (analytics freaks, you may now freak out).
The Flames' lineup will feature ex-Sabres Chris Butler and Paul Byron and West Seneca native Lee Stempniak but the big news is the return of stud rookie Sean Monahan, who has missed seven games with a broken bone in his foot. Monahan, the No. 6 pick in the June draft, has nine goals and six assists in 24 games.
Click below to hear our noon-hour conversations with Nolan and Ellis.
taggedCalgary Flames | Cody Hodgson | Jhonas Enroth | Matt Ellis