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Grigorenko hopes to excel with Amerks, show Sabres he'll be ready for NHL

By John Vogl

Sabres prospect Mikhail Grigorenko joined the Amerks for practice today and will play Wednesday when Rochester hosts Syracuse. He played two playoff games for the Amerks last season.

“This year is going to be better for me than last year because I have two, three weeks to be more part of the team,” he said in Rochester. “I really have a chance to help the guys.”

The Amerks could use the assistance. They are 0-7-2 in their last nine and have fallen out of a playoff spot. They have nine games left.

“Hopefully, it’ll be a good jumpstart for us,” Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy said. “Obviously, he brings in a lot of offensive ability. We’ve had a hard time scoring goals, and every little bit helps.”

Grigorenko started this season with the Sabres but was sent to his junior team in Quebec shortly after Ted Nolan and Pat LaFontaine took over in November. The 19-year-old views this as an audition for the coach and General Manager Tim Murray.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for me,” Grigorenko said. “I’ll do my best and show the new general manager and Ted Nolan that I can step to the NHL next year.”

Murray, Nolan share common vision to improve Sabres now that coaching job is stable

By John Vogl

The finalization of Ted Nolan's contract today is more of a start than a finish. It allows the Sabres and their fans to know that an important position -- head coach -- is stable after a wild year of uncertainty and down times in Sabreland.

“I’m really excited about going with the next step,” Nolan said this afternoon during a joint news conference with General Manager Tim Murray. “Hopefully, one day we’ll battle for a championship.”

Nolan will be on board for the next three seasons after signing a long-awaited contract extension, which removed his interim status. Murray didn’t have a “Eureka!” moment when came to deciding Nolan should stick around. Rather, the GM saw a talent-lacking squad respond to its coach on a daily basis.

“Every day has been a trying situation,” Murray said in First Niagara Center. “There’s been very few games we haven’t been competitive.

“From the players, all I’ve heard is positives.”

Dealing with the players is the next step. Murray and Nolan, a pair of midseason replacements, are aware the roster will need an overhaul for Nolan to do the best job possible.

“We have to get him better players,” Murray said.

The full news conference is available below.

Sabres, Nolan agree to contract extension

By John Vogl

Pen has finally met paper as Ted Nolan signed a contract extension today to stay on as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres.

“We are very happy to get this deal done and have Ted Nolan as our permanent head coach going forward,” General Manager Tim Murray said in a statement. “Teddy has proven time and again that he is an exceptional leader, motivator and teacher. He is exactly what we need in a head coach for our hockey team, and we’re confident in his ability to guide our players and turn this team around.”

Nolan, who was named interim coach in November, was set to sign the extension last month before the chaos erupted involving the departure of Pat LaFontaine, his friend and president of hockey operations. Nolan took a break to reassess the matter, and the contract has been in the hands of his agent for weeks.

“I said back in November that it was a dream to be able to come back and coach the Sabres, and that’s still true today,” Nolan said. “Hockey is my life, and Buffalo is a special place for hockey. I’m excited by the challenge facing our team and our organization, and I’m truly thankful to have this opportunity.”

The contract is believed to be a three-year deal. Nolan finally has the long-term contract with the Sabres he had desired since 1997, when he was named NHL Coach of the Year but left the team after a mere one-year offer by incoming GM Darcy Regier.

The Sabres were 4-15-1 when Nolan took over Nov. 13. They have gone 16-30-8 with him on the bench.

The Sabres' next game is Tuesday, when they host the New Jersey Devils.

Grigorenko headed to Rochester

By Mike Harrington

The Rochester Amerks are in a Maple Leafs-like collapse out of the AHL playoffs, going 0-7-2 in their last nine games. With all the injuries in Buffalo, they're not getting many reinforcements from the parent club anytime soon but they got at least one interesting body added today.

Center Mikhail Grigorenko has been transferred to Rochester now that his junior season with the Quebec Remparts is complete. After being sent back to junior by the Sabres following his stellar play for Russia in the World Junior Championships, Grigorenko had 39 points in 23 games for Quebec (15 goals, 24 assists). He also had nine points in five playoff games against Rouyn-Noranda. (1g, 8a).

The 19-year-old has established he can dominate junior players but now it's time to see what he can do in the AHL, the level he's probably most suited for at this stage of his career. He played two Calder Cup games for the Amerks last season, once the junior campaign had ended.

Grigorenko played 18 games with the Sabres this year, with two goals and three points. He did not impress new coach Ted Nolan or then-hockey operations president Pat LaFontaine and agreed to return to junior in mid-January after initially declining the assignment.

Nolan said Saturday the Sabres would likely send Grigorenko to the AHL because of the Amerks' dire roster situation. Rochester is off until hosting Syracuse Wednesday in Blue Cross Arena. The Amerks have nine games left and entered Sunday's play three points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The 'own goal': Lightning's Stamkos isn't alone with his goof

By Mike Harrington

Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos gave the Sabres a lead Saturday night with a rare "own goal" -- sending the puck 180 feet into his own empty net during a delayed penalty. Oddly enough, the call was on Buffalo's Cory Conacher, who got credit for the goal as the last Sabre to touch the puck.

The Sabres weren't able to fully take advantage of the break, as Stamkos got his revenge by scoring in overtime to give Tampa a 4-3 win. But it certainly had folks in First Niagara Center going through their minds recalling similar plays.

Patrick Kane did it this year in Chicago, handing a goal to the Edmonton Oilers on a similar delayed penalty situation.

And the Leafs handed one to the Sabres in the last minute of a game in 2004, with the goalie pulled in the final minute trying to get the tying goal. And this one got credited to Sabres goalie Mika Noronen, still the only time a Buffalo goaltender has been credited with a goal.

Interesting to note that at 30 seconds of the video below, Adam Mair is clearly yelling from the bench to grab the puck, as he recognized Noronen was the last player to touch the puck.

Stamkos joked after the game that it was an "uncharacteristic hat trick" Easy to joke about it when you consider he has 23 goals in 29 games this season (he missed 45 due to a broken leg).

Click below to hear postgame audio from Conacher and Stamkos on the play

Cory Conacher

Steven Stamkos

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Sabres Live: Pregame chat at 6:20 p.m., Sabres-Lightning updates at 7 p.m.

Numerology on tonight's visit by red-hot Lightning

By Mike Harrington

I'll resist the urge to give you 39 things about tonight's Sabres-Lightning game, which will be preceded by the Sabres Hall of Fame ceremony to induct Dominik Hasek.

---Former Ch. 7 legend Rick Azar will be at the Sabres Store from 5-7 p.m. signing copies of his new book, "Tales from Azar's Attic." The Hasek ceremony kicks off at 6:50. So for all of you constantly rushing the gates at 7 or maybe even strolling in at 7:15, get there early for once!

(I have no clue why we always have such late-arriving crowds in First Niagara Center. This isn't LA, folks. People like their pregame beers in other places too).

---The Lightning and Bruins are the only teams in the NHL to get points in each of their last 10 games. Tampa enters tonight 6-0-4 in the last 10 while the Sabres, of course, are 1-9 in the last 10. They have also dropped 10 of their last 11 since their 3-1 win over the Lightning on March 6 in the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Tampa's 10-game run is their most since an 18-game unbeaten streak in 2003-04.

---The Lightning have 37 goals in the last 10 games -- but have given up 32. In the last 11 games, the Sabres have been outscored, 34-12

---The Lightning appears pretty much locked into a first-round playoff matchup with Montreal, as the 2-3 teams in each division will meet under the new postseason format. Detroit and Toronto are both nine points back of Tampa Bay heading into their huge wild-card showdown tonight in Air Canada Centre.

Continue reading "Numerology on tonight's visit by red-hot Lightning" »

Leino still out, plus talk on contracts and Grigorenko

by Amy Moritz

Ville Leino showed up for today's morning skate. But once again he wasn't feeling well, didn't take the ice and went back to be evaluated by doctors. He won't play tonight against Tampa Bay.

Leino played just one full shift Thursday in Nashville before leaving the game with lightheaded symptoms. Could it be a concussion?

"He never got hit though," interim coach Ted Nolan said. "He just felt it before the game. He had one shift. He went out felt a little woozy. He felt a little dizzy and it wasn’t, don’t quote me 100 percent but I don’t think he got hit. He was just out one shift and came back.

"When you’re talking about the head, it’s not like the elbow or knee or something, but your head so we have to be very, very cautious."

Nolan again addressed his contract after some Canadian insiders reported that he had a done deal with Sabres general manager Tim Murray.

"One thing with those insiders they have a lot of information from somewhere I’m not too sure where they get it," Nolan said. "No, like I said last week Tim and I are real close on getting something done. As I mentioned all along I’m very excited about the possibility of staying here. Now it’s to a point where it’s really close and I'm going to be really excited when we get it officially done."

Mikhail Grigorenko finished his season of major junior with the Quebec Remparts. With the injuries in the organization, it looks like Grigorenko could continue his season, likely in Rochester.

"Tim and I will discuss that but my full concentration is trying to figure out who’s going to play for us right here with the injuries after injuries after injuries," Nolan said.

When asked if the injuries would create a spot for Grigorenko in Buffalo, Nolan added, "Rochester needs some players too."

For Nolan's full comments from the morning skate, take a listen here:

Nolan, Hasek share friendly chat

by Amy Moritz

Ted Nolan and Dominik Hasek had not spoken since 1997.

Friday afternoon, Nolan said he had a nice chat with the Sabres goaltending legend who will be inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame tomorrow night.

The 1996-97 season was the last one for Nolan in Buffalo and ended in the second round of the playoffs after the winning the Northeast Division title. There was division and some power struggle within the organization and it ended with Hasek having a knee injury that kept him out of the playoffs.

But that was then.

"I still don’t know what really transpired back then," Nolan said. "You know back then is back then. But he looks well. He’s all happy and excited about being back here and I said we had nice talk. We had some good times and everybody looks at one incident. One incident doesn’t form a relationship. In the media sometimes I guess we blow things out of proportion and make it worse than it really was and it wasn’t that much. People have disagreements all the time."

As for the current Sabres, expect Zemgus Girgensons back in the lineup after he missed 11 games with an undisclosed injury. He should center a line with Cody Hodgson and Brian Flynn.

Still injured are Tyler Myers, Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell. Ville Leino also missed practice after playing just two shifts in the first period on Thursday leaving the game after reportedly feeling lightheaded.

"It was strange what happened to him so we’ll get some doctors to look at him," Nolan said. "Hopefully he’s OK. ... He just started not feeling very well. When something like that happens out of the blue, you’ve got to make sure you’re careful with it."

For all of Nolan's comments, give a listen here:

'The Sabres stay in my heart,' says Dominik Hasek on the eve of his hall of fame induction

by Amy Moritz

Buffalo holds a special place for Dominik Hasek. Over nine seasons he set franchise records and established himself as one of the all-time great goaltenders in National Hockey League history.

But at Friday morning's press conference, he was asked if he truly was retired. The Sabres, after all, could use a goaltender.

"Thank you," Hasek quipped.

"I know the Sabres, they don’t do so well this year. Of course I follow what’s going on and like I’ve said before, the Sabres stay in my heart so I know what’s going on and with the changes and how they do however like I said, thank you but no thank you."

Hasek will be inducted in the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame before Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team announced today that it will retire Hasek's No. 39 sometime next season.

In case you need a refresher in Hasek's numbers:

  • He owns the best career goals against average (2.20) and save percentage (.922) among goaltenders with at least 500 NHL games played.
  • He was the first goaltender in NHL history to win the Hart Trophy twice (1997 and 1998).
  • He won six Vezina Trophies.

But the awards, the hall of fame the pending jersey retirement, those are things which humble Hasek.

"It is very nice and I appreciate it, however there are new goals in life and always something new to prove," Hasek said. "The hockey career is something behind me. What great years, what fantastic things to do something you enjoy, you love to do and be very well paid and be around people you love and spend great time with. However every professional player has to retire one day. You wake up and you enjoy life in different ways."

For the complete audio of Hasek's comments:

Sabres to retire Hasek's No. 39 next season

by Amy Moritz

Dominik Hasek will be inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame tomorrow.

And then next year, fans will get to see No. 39 hanging in the rafters.

The Sabres announced they will retire Hasek's No. 39 sometime next season. He joins six other Sabres who have had their numbers retired -- No. 11 Gilbert Perreault, No. 7 Rick Martin, No. 14 Rene Robert, No. 2 Tim Horton, No. 18 Danny Gare and No. 16 Pat LaFontaine.

Other Sabres to have worn the No. 39 include Brian Curran, Don McSween, Trent Kaese and Clark Gillies.

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Sabres announce 'Fan Appreciation Month' for their three April home games

By John Vogl

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Sabres have expanded their annual "Fan Appreciation Night" to include all three home games in April, and they've dubbed it "Fan Appreciation Month."

The first two games -- April 1 against the Devils and April 8 against the Red Wings -- will feature autographed jersey giveaways to 26 season-ticket holders, a 40 percent discount in the Sabres Store and reduced prices on select concessions.

The traditional "Fan Appreciation Night" will be held April 13 during the season finale against the Islanders. There will be a party in the plaza at First Niagara Center from 2:30-4:30 p.m., players will give select season-ticket holders the jersey off their back following the 5 p.m. game, and 2,000 balloons will be dropped from the rafters, with hundreds containing prize coupons.

Buffalo is also hosting a contest at in which two winners will receive tickets to the game against the Islanders, and they will compete to win four round-trip airline tickets from Delta Air Lines.

Fans watching the finale on television can win a pair of season tickets for 2014-15 and an autographed jersey by scanning a QR code that will appear on the screen during the broadcast.

Despite long day, Ristolainen ready to replace Myers on Sabres' blue line

By John Vogl

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's been a long day for Rasmus Ristolainen, but he's ready to play.

The Sabres recalled the defenseman after he played for the Amerks on Wednesday night. He departed Rochester at 6 a.m. and made it to the Sabres' morning skate in Bridgestone Arena. He'll play in place of injured defenseman Tyler Myers tonight against the Predators.

"It’s been a long day," Ristolainen said, "but it’s fine. I’m ready to play tonight."

While Ristolainen skated in the optional workout, forward Johan Larsson headed to the team hotel to rest. He'll play in place of injured Torrey Mitchell.

Myers, who crashed into the goal post Tuesday in Montreal, could return Saturday when the Sabres host Tampa Bay.

"He’ll hopefully be ready for the next game," coach Ted Nolan said. "It’s one of those day-to-dayers, and we’re hoping it’s that.

"Mitchell could be longer. He has one of those strange injuries that can heal real fast or linger."

Ted Nolan

Sabres Live: Pregame chat at 7:45 p.m., Sabres-Predators updates at 8

Sabres recall Ristolainen, Larsson

By John Vogl

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The reinforcements are back.

With injuries up and down the lineup, the Sabres have recalled defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and forward Johan Larsson from Rochester on an emergency basis. They are expected to play tonight when the Sabres visit the Nashville Predators.

Ristolainen just spent five games with the Sabres, but he was sent down when Tyler Myers returned to the lineup Tuesday in Montreal. Myers got banged up again against the Canadiens, so Ristolainen is back.

The Sabres have injuries up front to Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell, so Larsson is on his way. He hasn't played for Buffalo since early January.

Injuries keep coming for Sabres; Hackett earns another start

By John Vogl

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The first five questions of Ted Nolan's post-practice chat today dealt with injured players. Obviously, things aren't getting much better in Sabreland.

Tyler Myers, Marcus Foligno, Torrey Mitchell and Zenon Konopka missed the Sabres' workout in Bridgestone Arena with various ailments, while goaltender Michal Neuvirth has been sent back to Buffalo for further evaluation of his lower-body injury.

"Every game somebody goes down," Nolan said. "It’s one of those things when things go bad, they go bad."

While Foligno should be back Thursday when the Sabres visit the Nashville Predators, he's the only definite. Myers is banged up after crashing into a goal post, Konopka is out with a back injury suffered on an airplane ride and Mitchell is unlikely to play after getting hurt in Tuesday's 2-0 loss in Montreal.

"Tyler Myers, more of a rest day," Nolan said. "He took a pretty good bang last night crashing into the goal post, so maintenance day today. We’ll see how he mends later on. We’ll probably make a call later this evening whether he can go or not.

"Mitchell, his is something that’s maybe a little more serious, but we’ll take a look at him later, too."

Nolan said a couple of players in Rochester will be put on call if it looks like players won't be ready.

"There’s a silver lining for everything," Nolan said. "Now it gives more kids from Rochester who are playing well maybe have a chance to play up here."

One recent callup from Rochester will play again. Matt Hackett has earned another start in goal after stopping 33 of 35 shots against the Canadiens. He had 35 saves during a 3-1 win over Edmonton last week.

"Hackett definitely earned it," Nolan said. "That’s one thing about now, it’s audition time. When you audition and you do a couple good things in the auditions, you should get another one. He played well the last two games, particularly the last game in Montreal. I thought he was a difference maker. It could have been a lot worse, but he kept us in the game."

Postgame audio from Toronto: Miller on life with the Blues

By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- With the media mob down the hall and focused on the collapsing Maple Leafs, I had a good chance for an in-depth interview with Ryan Miller tonight after he helped the St. Louis Blues to a 5-3 victory that allowed them to move back into first overall in the NHL standings.

Miller is just trying to fit in, he told me repeatedly during the chat. It was funny to hear, given how he was the face of the franchise in Buffalo. He doesn't have to be that here, given the array of Olympians on the Blues. 

Miller is always glib and his spirits were understandably much brighter than the last couple years in Buffalo as the losses mounted. Click below to hear the entire conversation, with Miller's thoughts on the Blues' hard style, his adjustment under coach Ken Hitchcock and his thoughts on Pat LaFontaine's departure and Ted Nolan's contract extension.

Ryan Miller

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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 |

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 |

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 |