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Last-place Islanders struggling to score

The Columbus Blue Jackets have been much better of late since the injured Jeff Carter got back in the lineup and have put together a 4-2-2 stretch. So right now, there is nobody in the NHL worse than the New York Islanders but the Sabres can't take them lightly tonight in First Niagara Center.

Buffalo lost three times to the Isles last season -- and gave up 20 goals in the four meetings. But the Islanders are currently in crisis and owner Charles Wang even gave the vote of confidence to GM Garth Snow and coach Jack Capuano, who has to be a little nervous today given what happened to Bruce Boudreau after his visit here Saturday.

Since starting the season 3-1,  the Islanders are just 3-10-3. Scoring has been their trouble this year as they sit in last place in the Eastern Conference standings.

In going 6-11-4, they're last in the league with only 41 goals, a paltry 1.95 per game. The Isles have been shut out six times and scored just one or two goals in nine other games! John Tavares leads the team with eight goals -- but has none in his last 10 games -- while Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner have seven each. That's 22 of the 41 from just three players.

With no offense, the Islanders can't fall behind. They're 1-10-2 when opponents score first, 1-8-1 when trailing after one period and 0-10 when trailing after two.

They are, however, coming off a win. The Islanders eked out a 3-2 victory Saturday in New Jersey after Zach Parise's apparent tying goal in the final two seconds was disallowed by video replay.

"They'll look at using this last game against New Jersey as a stepping zone in the right direction," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said today. "(Last year) they were scoring goals and obviously now they're having a tough time in that area. They have some tremendous young talent out there. ... I think it's a matter of time before they click."

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

East update: Leafs storm past Canes

The Toronto Maple Leafs got under the Sabres' skin Saturday night in the Air Canada Centre but they did the Blue and Gold a favor Wednesday night in Raleigh's RBC Center with a 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Second-period goals 12 seconds apart by Dion Phaneuf and Tyler Bozak snapped a 1-1 tie and rookie goalie James Reimer, who was bad in Monday's loss against Tampa Bay, was solid in net. 

So here's the battle for eighth place up to the minute:

7. NYR 78 pts, 71 GP
8. BUF 76 pts, 70 GP
9. CAR 74 pts, 71 GP
10. TOR 72 pts, 71 GP
11. NJD 70 pts, 69 GP
12. ATL 70 pts, 70 GP

Also tonight, the Washington Capitals suffered a 3-2 loss in Detroit and were denied their 10th straight win and their bid to move a point ahead of Philadelphia for first place in the East. The Caps were 8-0 this month and 11-1 in their previous 12, a stretch that began with their 2-1 win over the Sabres Feb. 20 in that Sunday afternoon yawner that turned out to be Tom Golisano's last game as owner.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Sabres statement on Pegula

The Buffalo Sabres released the following statement in an e-mail Tuesday afternoon: "Terry Pegula visited the Buffalo Sabres offices today for informal discussions. Neither the Sabres nor Mr. Pegula are available to comment on the visit."

The fact he was in the building, covering the details, is not a surprise. It appears the prospective owner of the team continues to do his due diligence.

Sources maintain the transaction will be completed near the end of the month, shortly after the All-Star Game in Raleigh on Jan. 30.

 

--- Bucky Gleason

 

Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Sharks

Greetings from high atop HSBC Arena as we get set for tonight's Sabres-Sharks game. From this view, this is one the NHL schedule is gift-wrapping for the Sabres and they have to seize these two points. The Sharks are in the final game of a five-game trip and certainly are happy with three wins thus far. It's their third game in four nights and the second of a back-to-back after a shootout win last night in Philly. They've only won once in Buffalo in their previous 19 NHL seasons, a bizarre stat to say the least.

And the Sabres need every point they can get. Props to them for climbing from 15th in the East to ninth in basically a month. But Tuesday's overtime loss in Boston shows how difficult getting into the top eight can be. Buffalo is seven points out with 26 points (Boston, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and the New York Rangers all have 33). The Sabres were seven minutes away from a regulation win in Boston and instead suffered an overtime loss.

They could have been four points out with that regulation win (they would have had 27 points and Boston would have had 31). Instead, Buffalo got one point and Boston got two. That's a three-point swing over nine minutes of play. Huge. Shows the perils of three-point games in your conference.

Onward to tonight. Antti Niemi, Chicago's Stanley Cup hero, will start in goal for the Sharks. He's not having a great year at all (5-6-1, 3.33, .890) but he has played three of the four games on this trip. Niemi has never met Buffalo but got the call over Antero Nittymaki, last night's winner. Easy to see why: Nittymaki is 0-3-2, 4.33, .851 in his career against Buffalo.

Sabres starters: Gerbe-Roy-Vanek-Myers-Sekera. Goal: Miller
Sharks starters: Marleau-Thornton-Heatley-Murray-Boyle. Goal: Niemi

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Third Period

Of note: Gerbe leads Sabres with four shots on goal. Heatley and Thornton have just one shot for San Jose. Big guns in teal and white not the problem tonight. Vlasic's first point  of the season. Clowe and Couture have two points each. 

8:57 p.m.: We're under way.

19:29 left: THAT is how you kill momentum. Gaustad steals puck in the corner on a brutally weak play by Marleau, gets it out front to McCormick who tips it over Niemi's shoulder. Sabres lead, 4-2. And after the change on the first goal, THAT is McCormick's fourth. 

15:30 left: Shots are 31-20. Another game with 30+ shots. This team is having no trouble generating chances. Good to see four go in tonight. 

14:51 left: Miller stones Thornton on breakaway and stops Douglas Murray on a hard wrister from the point. Huge stops to keep the two-goal lead intact.

10:34 left: Jeez. Murray pounds home a sizzler past Miller's glove. A Shark crossed in front of him but you'd still like that save made. Sabres lead, 4-3.

9:25 left: Miller stops Couture from in tight. The rookie has easily been the best Shark tonight. The stars have done almost nothing.

5:44 left: Sabres holding on. Shots are 8-6 for Sharks in the third. Can Buffalo really preserve a one-goal lead for 10 1/2 minutes against this team? 

2:22 left: Sabres just did a great job of getting the puck deep in San Jose end to kill three minutes without a whistle. Hecht, Grier and Gerbe chief among those getting the puck in.

1:38 left: Niemi stops McCormick. Great shift by McCormick, Gaustad and Grier. 

26.6 left: Gaustad gets the empty-netter. Gaustad and McCormick have been the best two Sabres on the ice all night. A fitting finish. Sabres lead, 5-3. Super job over the last five minutes to protect the lead.

8.7 left: Vanek from Roy on a 2-on-1 to make it 6-3. His second of the night.

It's over: A 6-3 win. Final shots 37-29.

Second Period

Of note: John McCarthy (who?) had four shots for the Sharks in the first period. Patrick Marleau had two while Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton had none. Gerbe the only Sabre with two.

7:59 p.m: We're under way. 

18:31 left: Miller robs Ryane Clowe after stud rookie Logan Couture strips Leopold in the corner and feeds it to the slot.

17:35 left: Thornton for holding. Sabres' first power play. They're 5 for 10 the last two home games.

16:29 left: Niemi robs Mancari from the slot on the rebound of a Myers shot.

15:25 left: More great chances stopped, including one by Pominville and another that Pominville couldn't get the one-timer on his stick.

14:55 left: Niemi stops Kaleta on a 2-on-1 with Ennis. Shots suddenly 7-2 for the Sabres. Five on that power play.

13:12 left: You don't give Thomas Vanek two walk-into slapshots from the slot in about five seconds and not pay for it. The Sharks just did and Vanek didn't miss with No. 2, pounding home his 12th of the year to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead.

11:53 left: Another solid glove save by Niemi on Gerbe. Shots are 13-2 in this period. You can really see the Sharks fading fast. One more goal and this baby is over.

11:17 left: The first goal is changed to Gaustad from McCormick. Hit Gaustad's skate. He gets credit for his second of the year -- and second in the last 41 games.

7:47 left: Adam for high sticking. Second straight game he's drawn an unintentional one. Kid has to watch that. 

6:34 left: Pominville steals the puck from Jason Demers and has a breakaway from the Sabres line in. Quick snapshot, 3-0. Good night, I'm thinking. Strange thing about it was he was in the penalty box as officials incorrectly sent him there. James Patrick was the first Sabres coach to wave at officials and Lindy Ruff followed to get the call changed to Adam before the faceoff. It was clearly Adam. Second short-handed goal of the season.

4:46 left: Sabres too many men on the ice.

4:10 left: I know. I know. You're gonna blame me. Couture rips in a wrist shot past Miller for his 14th of the year to make it 3-1. Impressive rookie. 

1:50 left: Pominville off the post and then just misses a one-timer a few seconds later that would have made it 4-1.

45.0 left: Problem with this game is Sabres had exactly my thought. Couture gets it in the slot and Marc-Edouard Vlasic gets his first. Sabres lead cut to 3-2. 

End-2nd: Sabres only lead 3-2 despite 18-8 edge in shots. It's 27-20 for Buffalo through two. Sharks came back from three down last night in Philly. Can they really do it again? Now the Sharks think they're back in it. And they are. Problem.

First Period

7:08 p.m: The puck is dropped.

16:48 left: The Sabres have run out all four lines. Gaustad just had their first chance, a point-blank opportunity after a neat McCormick feed from the corner that was tipped just wide.

14:50 left: The lines are Gerbe-Roy-Vanek, Ennis-Hecht-Kaleta, Mancari-Adam-Pominville and McCormick-Gaustad-Grier. No change on defense: Sekera-Myers, Leopold-Montador-Butler-Weber.

13:30 left: Solid shift by the Roy line. Niemi made a good save on Gerbe and beat Vanek to the right post to stymie a wraparound from behind the goal. Shots are 3-2 for San Jose.

11:28 left: Weber goes for delay of game (puck over the glass). Pominville is arguing otherwise. Not a good thing to happen to Weber in the wake of Tuesday's back-breaking gaffe in Boston. Not good to give this San Jose PP a chance: Sharks are sixth overall (22.4 percent) and fifth on the road (20.8).

10:43 left: Great set play off the faceoff by the Sharks but Pavelski fires wide. Buffalo takes the miss and heads down on a 2-on-1 (Grier-Gaustad). Grier fires way high and wide. Gotta hit the net there.

8:04 left: Sabres have not shown the jump they wanted off the start of this one against what should be a tired San Jose team. And you can already see the Sharks' fatigue issues: Their forwards are not getting back at all and the Sabres have had some good 2-on-1 and 3-on-2 chances. You'd think that would multiply as the night goes on. Of course, Buffalo has to hit the net too. Shots are 6-2 for San Jose.

7:52 left: Niemi's best save, on Adam from in tight.

7:42 left: Sabres take a 1-0 lead on a fluky flutterball over Niemi's glove. McCormick gets it off Boyle's arm after Gaustad draws the faceoff back in the left circle.

5:16 left: McCormick continues to contribute both physically and on the scoresheet. He's got four goals, which is more than Hecht (3), Kaleta (3), Pominville (2), Grier (2) and Gaustad (1). No one figured that during training camp.

3:45 left: Niemi with a nice glove stop on Gerbe, who is still goalless in his 19th game. MSG replay of the goal apparently shows puck hit Gaustad's skate first bfeore hitting Boyle. So expect a change there.

End-1st: In front of a library-quiet crowd (WHAT IS UP, PEOPLE?), the Sabres have a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes as the Sharks have a 12-9 edge in shots. I really have no idea what the deal is here. This has become the quietest rink in the league, which shows the disconnect the fans have with this team just keeps growing. I couldn't hear myself think for just about the entire game Tuesday in Boston, even when the Bruins were trailing. Not the case here. And before any of you get all defensive about it, several visiting writers have brought up this topic to me this season.

Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Pens

Greetings and Happy Thanksgiving (Eve) from high atop HSBC Arena as we get set for tonight's Sabres-Penguins game. If you missed it from earlier today, here's the recap of the Sabres' roster moves:

Out: Connolly (groin), Miller (groin), Stafford (shoulder), Niedermayer (knee), Rivet (healthy), Butler (healthy).

In: Enroth, Stuart, Adam (Portland callups), Weber (from healthy to lineup).

The Sabres will have to be on their toes right away. Check out the starting lineups:

Penguins starters: Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis-Letang-Orpik. Goal: Fleury
Sabres starters: Gerbe-Gaustad-Grier-Sekera-Myers. Goal: Enroth 

Sidney Crosby is on an NHL-high nine-game point streak (9-11-20). Second to him? None other than Thomas Vanek at seven games (4-6-10). With Crosby red-hot, the Penguins are 5-0-1 in their last six games overall and their 15 road points (7-3-1) are tied for tops in the league.

It's going to be very interesting to see the line combinations Lindy Ruff uses tonight. What he had in the morning skate today was dramatically different than yesterday. See above. Nathan Gerbe was on a scoring line yesterday. Not so now. Stay tuned.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Third Period

8:52 p.m.: We're under way.

18:40 left: Talbot for interference. There's the makeup call. Didn't those end in about 1989? 

18:30 left: Gerbe high from the slot on a great setup from Pominville. Gotta hit the net there.

18:02 left: Great stop on Vanek from the doorstep.

16:36 left: Great stop on Ennis. Linesmen blow a close offside call on Leopold at the point to end things. Got one right during the PP on Sekera, who didn't keep it in.

16:25 left: Kunitz to the box for slashing. Sabres back to the PP.  And Roy not on the bench -- or the ice -- again. 

15:32 left: Fleury stops Myers sneaking in from the point.. Nice feed by Vanek. 

14;23 left: Ennis kills another good PP with a high stick on Orpik. Good zone time again for the Sabres. No conversions. Lindy won't be able to have another tirade about it though. They're working hard.

12:17 left: Good job by Sabres, topped by a nice Enroth save on Letang. Shots are 7-4 for Buffalo in the period and 26-26 overall.

9:34 left: Hecht and Pominville just fail to connect. Good work by Hecht to get the puck out of the zone and bring it up ice. Pass to Pominville at the edge of the crease just failed to connect.

9:00 left: Roy back on the ice again.

7:10 left: Tampa Bay sat on its one-goal lead for 29 minutes Saturday night. The Penguins are trying to do it for 44 minutes here. That's on the Buffalo offense. 

6:35 left: Roy-Vanek-Ennis back together.

5:41 left: We've seen four combined goals in the last 115 minutes in this building. Just not enough. Can the Sabres really lose back-to-back home games with two goalies not named Ryan Miller allowed a combined three goals?  Attendance announced as 18,250 (440 shy of a sellout).

3:19 left: Ennis just wide from the slot after great work by Vanek to get him the puck. Few seconds later, Ennis deflected into the net. 

1:30 left: Penguins holding on.

1:01 left: Icing on the Penguins. Enroth to the bench.

That's it: A 1-0 loss. Final shots 30-29 for Buffalo.

Second Period

Of note: Uh-oh. Roy not on the bench to start the period.

 18:52 left: Roy returns to the bench. Sabres get their first PP thanks to a hooking penalty on Malkin. Roy takes his spot on the left point.

16:52 left: Pens kill it off. They're 18 for 18 the last six games.

16:28 left: Fleury's best sequence of the night, stopping Kaleta on a 3-on-2 as well as Ennis on the rebound. Shots are 6-0 for the Sabres.

15:42 left: Stuart pickpockets Deryk Engelland in the Pens' zone and goes in on Fleury but fires high.

13:12 left: Another good chance for Stuart from the slot and another good Fleury save. 

13:05 left: Fleury robs Roy from in front. Shots are 8-1 for Buffalo and 16-16 overall.

12:43 left: Enroth with a good save on Malkin. 

12:25 left: Fleury on McCormick, who's now with Roy and Vanek (Stuart is with Hecht and Pominville).

10:16 left: Fleury with another good save on Montador and Gerbe just wide on the rebound. Shots are 9-2 in this period. Fleury is easily the No. 1 star halfway through this one.

9:36 left: The Penguins burn their timeout after an icing call. Shots are 9-2 for Buffalo. Dan Bylsma needs to give his guys a break. Sabres with a huge edge in this period.

9:02 left: There's your momentum killer. Leopold gone for tripping Crosby.

6:30 left: Good kill fro Sabres. One shot for Pens.

4:53 left: Solid save by Enroth as Letang streaked down the right win. Enroth out to the top of the crease nicely. 

2:58 left: Stuart goes for goalie interference after a good shot. What a weak ticky-tack call that is. 

End-2nd: Pens still lead 1-0. Sabres had an 11-7 edge in shots. It's 22-19 for Pittsburgh through two. Like how the Sabres stood four abreast at the line on the Pens' power play. Don't like the Buffalo offense. One goal in five periods the last two games for the two backup goalies. They've only allowed three. Have to be better.

First Period

18:57 left: A few seconds after opening his Sabres career, Colin Stuart nearly bangs home a Vanek rebound. Stuart is on left wing with Vanek and Roy rather than Ennis. Plumb assignment right off the plane from Portland.

18:10 left: More Portland impact: Diving play by Mike Weber to break up a 2-on-1 and deny Matt Cooke's pass across the slot. No way Rivet makes that play.

17:33 left: So the lines look like this -- Gerbe-Gaustad-Grier, Stuart-Roy-Vanek, Hecht-McCormick-Pominville, Ennis-Adam-Kaleta. Defense pairs are Sekera-Myers, Montador-Leopold and Weber-Morrisonn.

14:29 left: If we're talking in basketball terms, the tempo is in the Penguins' favor. Shots are 6-4 for the Sabres but they need to take the air out of this game a little to stay with Crosby & Co. Great for fans so far, not sure it's great for the bottom line in the standings.

11:47 left: Enroth holds steady after a rough shift that saw Weber get wiped out on a borderline hit from behind from Mark Letestu and Adam make a weak, weak clearing attempt up the wall that the Penguins easily held in. The puck stayed in the for another 30 seconds before a diving Adam tipped the puck to center ice to partially redeem himself. Shots are 9-7 for Pittsburgh (it was 5-1, Buffalo).

8:09 left: It's been an eventful first period at home this season for Weber. He took the toughest Pens' hit earlier and now issued the Sabres' best hit, straightening up Tyler Kennedy. He's been aggressive, exactly what the Sabres need. Why exactly has he been in the press box basically all year? So many questions. Why take Ennis off the Vanek-Roy line for a guy (Stuart) who's never played a game for the team and has eight NHL goals in his career? Don't get it. Shouldn't you give Gerbe a chance on that line and put Stuart with Grier and Gaustad?

7:49 left: Roy off holding left hand and shaking right hand in disgust after getting drilled by a Myers shoot in at the Pittsburgh line. That's not a good thing. (Insert joke about hand already being hurt here).

6:08 left: Roy to the locker room, likely with an X-ray machine in his future. Gaustad and Talbot to the box after a scrap between the benches following a Gaustad push of Malkin. Gaustad and Talbot get double minors for roughing.

4:56 left: The Pens take a 1-0 lead thanks to Adam's second brutal giveaway of the period. Crosby gets it away from Sekera in the right corner and makes a perfect feed -- what else? -- to a wide-open Pascal Dupuis in the slot for a quick one-timer. So Crosby's point streak continues. Ten games.

2:43 left: Good news -- Roy back on the bench and now on the ice. Bad news -- Vanek off for hooking Malkin in the Buffalo zone. 

0:43 left: The Sabres kill it off. 

End-1st: It's 1-0 for Pittsburgh and shots are 15-8 for the Pens. No shots for the final 6:27 for the Sabres.

Pirates land three

Three Buffalo Sabres prospects playing for the Portland Pirates will be playing in the American Hockey League All-Star game Jan. 19 in Portland.

Rookie forward Tyler Ennis, tied for the team lead in points, will play for Team Canada.

Forward Nathan Gerbe, now on injured reserve with the Sabres, and defenseman Mike Weber will play for the PlanetUSA team. Gerbe and Weber will be starters.

The entire roster is here.

Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Devils

Greetings from HSBC Arena, with the Bangles ditty "Manic Monday" drifting through the building as the Sabres get set to meet the New Jersey Devils. (No, I'm not a Bangles fan. I had to even Google it to see who sang the darn song). And will it be manic? Probably not. The Devils, infamous for some sleep-inducing hockey, are back at it again this year under Jacques Lemaire en route to their 10-2-1 road record. The Sabres outbored them to take a 4-1 win Oct. 28 in Newark in their first meeting.

What should be interesting is the goaltending matchup of Ryan Miller vs. Martin Brodeur. You might see that one in Vancouver in a couple months. Miller is 16-5-2, 1.85, .936. Brodeur is 17-7-1, 2.20, .920. So let's see if we get a 2-1 game like the stats insist we will.

Reminder: This is a Versus game so faceoff will probably be more in the 7:10-7:15 range. The only way to hear Rick Jeanneret and Harry Neale is on radio. And if you have DirecTV, you can't see this one because they're still embroiled in the bitter battle over Versus. Find a friend with cable or dish or get to your local establishment. You still have time.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Third Period

16:00 left: Wish I had something to say. Still 3-0. About all that's left is to see if Brodeur gets his shutout. It would be the 103rd of his career and tie Terry Sawchuk's NHL record. So that might be pretty cool for folks here to see.

14:53 left: Mark Fraser goes for high sticking after a flurry in the Devils' end. Brodeur stopped Mair twice on this shift, once on a nifty deflection from in front and got a glove on Montador's shot labeled for the top corner.

10:00 left: Ten minutes away from history for Brodeur.

7:38 left: Brodeur stops Stafford in the slot. His 18th save of the night.

it's over: Brodeur gets the shutout in a 3-0 win.

Second Period

19:46 left: Quality way to bounce back. MacArthur off for holding. Bleh.

19:21 left: The PK string ends at 18 man advantages as Niclas Bergfors whips home a screen wrister to Miller's right to make it 3-0. Nice screen by Parise in front. Miller had robbed Bergfors about 10 seconds earlier. That's three goals in 2:48.

16:39 left: A brutal shift by Connolly line with Sekera-Montador as Devils had about three chances and stole the puck at least twice in the Buffalo zone. The crowd was booing by the end and gave the quintet the Bronx cheer when the puck finally left the Buffalo zone. Brutal performance thus far. Shots are 17-8 for the Devils.

12:00 left: This has easily been the Sabres' most brutal effort of the season. The Devils continue to buzz the zone and MIller has made a couple saves to keep it a three-goal game. Miller even had to endure a wipeout by his own man as Montador went crashing into the goalie.

9:55 left: Lydman fires a nice cross-ice pass to Mair -- who had one foot over the boards on his way to the bench. The puck bounds down for icing. Fitting for this night. Shots are 21-8 for the Devils and that's pretty indiciative of how this one has gone.

8:03 left: Kaleta tries to get some life into things and pounds a Devil from behind. Boarding.

7:41 left: Myers makes a play to create a 2-on-1 and Pominville is pulled down by Rolston for a penalty that makes it 4-on-4.

2:48 left: Mair wiped out Connolly in the Devils' zone. Hit the white jerseys, dude. Shots are 14-5 in this period for the Devils and 26-10 for the game.

End-2nd: Booooooo. A late power play went nowhere until the final 10 seconds. It has 17 seconds to run in the third period. It remains 3-0 for the Devils through two. Shots are 26-12, including 14-7 in the second. A dominant road performance by New Jersey.

First Period

14:18 left: Not much happening but each goalie has a sparkling save. Brodeur stoned Tyler Myers from in tight in the first 70 seconds and Miller robbed Rod Pelley at the 14:42 mark after a Myers giveaway.

13:00 left: With Mike Grier out because his mother is ill, the Sabres have stuck with the lines they put together this morning. The starters were MacArthur-Kennedy-Kaleta, followed by Vanek-Connolly-Stafford (with Stafford again taking faceoffs), Hecht-Roy-Pominville and Mair-Ellis-Paetsch. On defense, it's Lydman-Rivet, Sekera-Montador and Tallinder-Myers.

11:44 left: Shots are 4-3 for the Devils. Brodeur made another nice save in tight on Hecht. Classic New Jersey game. Tight, tight hockey. There are a ton of empty seats in the 100 level, probably late arrivals due to the weather. I've been inside since 4 but I'm told it's a little sticky outside now.

8:08 left: Devils to the power play as Lydman is off for hooking. Boring hockey leads to a dead-dead-dead building. You could hear a pin drop in here.

5:54 left: Parise goes for slashing and the Sabres alertly kill the final 20 seconds of the Lydman penalty on the delay situation so they get the full two minutes on their own 5-on-4. During that time, Myers pushed deep again and fed Sekera for a good chance in the slot that was deflected into the netting. By the way, the Lydman penalty was the 18th straight the Sabres have killed.

3:50 left: The Devils kill the penalty and Myers hobbles off after taking a Rivet shot in the leg. He's still sitting on the bench though. Earlier in the penalty, Sekera and Connolly bobbled the puck at the Devils' line and Dean McAmmond had a golden opportunity at a shorthanded goal before he was cut off by Sekera and Miller.

2:45 left: Resume breathing. Myers back out. And charging toward the net again.

2:09 left: The Devils take a 1-0 lead as Brian Rolston pots his 10th of the year by chipping home a rebound on the backhand in front after Miller made the initial stop on Vladimir Zharkov's rush down the right wing.

1:02 left: Ouch. The Sabres are in a quick 2-0 pickle as Travis Zajac's 40-foot slapper from the right wing bleeds through Miller and rolls into the net. Looked like Sekera might have tipped it just as Zajac released it but that's a save you need to see made.

End-1st: It's 2-0 Devils through one and shots were 12-5. Bad spot for the Sabres to be in against New Jersey and against Brodeur.

Live from Sabres at New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. -- I could start off with a joke -- something like, Newark, we make Detroit look nice -- but that would be too cliche. Since I don't deal with cliches, I'll leave the Newark-bashing to Conan O'Brien in the clip below.

One thing New Jersey does have is goaltender Martin Brodeur, and he will be in net for the Devils for the 10th time in 10 games. Ryan Miller will be across the ice for the eighth time in nine games for Buffalo.

Miller is likely to get more games off starting this week as the Sabres' schedule picks up some. Starting tonight, they have five straight weeks of three games in four nights. All the games are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday straight past Thanksgiving. Not overly taxing for the squad, but a boost from a lazy opening four weeks of the season.

More in about an hour when the puck drops.

6:13 p.m.: OK, so I'm back early. Wanted to remind folks that tonight's road game is on television in HD. The voices will be the usual (Rick Jeanneret and Harry Neale) but the feed will be from the Devils' MSG station. The opening segment will be from the Devils, as will the intermission shows. But I hear they will have a neutral flavor.

Now I'm really leaving for about 45 minutes.

FIRST PERIOD

7:08 p.m.: Game on. Tyler Myers is among the starting five -- and it probably won't be for the last time.

7:10 p.m.: And it's 1-0 Buffalo just 1:21 in, stunning the crowd of about, oh, 3,000 or so. Craig Rivet's point shot is knocked down in front, and Clarke MacArthur steps around Brodeur for his fifth goal.

7:15 p.m.: The line of Thomas Vanek-Derek Roy-Drew Stafford squanders an odd-man rush for more than the first time this season with no real shot taken with 4:30 gone.

7:17 p.m.: Mark it down -- Oct. 28, 2009, the date of Tim Kennedy's first NHL goal. The South Buffalo native gets the puck behind the goal line, gets to the faceoff circle and blindly fires a low shot that gets by Brodeur. It's 2-0 Buffalo with six minutes gone.

7:24 p.m.: The Devils have had a pair of odd-man rushes in the past minute, but Jamie Langenbrunner tips the first wide and Miller gobbles up the second with 9:21 left. It's still 2-0. And there's more than 3,000 people here now, but it's not above 10,000.

Commercial timeout, giving me time to wish a happy 85th birthday to one of my favorite readers, Joan Johnston. Get well, and glad to hear you're doing better!

7:29 p.m.: Big hit by Colin White and Rob Niedermayer on Kennedy after offside whistle, leading to a scrum and roughing penalties on Steve Montador and David Clarkson.

7:36 p.m.: Nice "Grease" routine by the Devils Dancers, who alas do not have a photo page on the Devils' Web site.

7:38 p.m: Sabres have a 14-5 shot advantage with two minutes to go.

7:40 p.m.: The only noise from Devils fans so far has been three or four derisive chants about the rival Rangers. Sabres have taken the few who took the trek to lovely downtown Newark out of the game.

7:42 p.m.: End of first, it's 2-0 Sabres, who finish with 14-7 shot advantage.

SECOND PERIOD

7:59 p.m.: And we're off...

8:03 p.m.: First power play of game goes to Devils with 2:56 gone. Paul Gaustad whistled for hooking.

8:05 p.m.: Devils cut their deficit to 2-1 with power-play goal. Langenbrunner feeds pinching defenseman Andy Greene for a goal with 15:43 to go.

8:09 p.m.: New Jersey had definitely gained momentum, but good shift by Matt Ellis-Paul Gaustad-Patrick Kaleta hems the Devils in their zone and evens the ice level with 11:15 left.

8:14 p.m.: As the fans give their applause to some brave men from the National Guard's 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New Jersey's Ilkka Pikkarainen (wow, that's not easy) heads to the box for hooking with 9:59 to go.

8:28 p.m.: Sabres, still holding a 2-1 lead with 2:23 left, go back on the power play with Johnny Oduya holding call.

8:33 p.m.: Sabres enter intermission with a 2-1 lead and 20-15 shot edge. Best play of the man advantage was a defensive effort by Jason Pominville, whose stick shattered on a point shot. With no time to go to the bench, the right winger sped back and stuck out his right skate to block a pass that would have sent Travis Zajac in alone on Miller.

THIRD PERIOD

8:50 p.m.: Final period under way.

8:54 p.m.: Big hitting shift, with Gaustad and Ellis on the rough side of things.

9 p.m.: Miller keeping the Sabres ahead as the Devils' shot deficit, once 14-5, has closed to 22-20. Boos go out as they show Chase Utley's homer that gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead over the Yankees up the 95 North.

9:04 p.m.: Gaustad gives the Sabres breathing room, scoring with 10:35 to go after the shots had tied at 22-all. Ellis threw the puck to Gaustad in front, and he paused before slipping it past Brodeur.

9:09 p.m.: Pominville to the box for running Brodeur with 8:59 to go. The Devils are 1 for 1 with the man advantage.

9:12 p.m.: Just as Pominville exits, Gaustad enters for high-sticking Zach Parise. Dainius Zubrus nearly cut the Sabres' lead to one by hitting the post.

9:15 p.m.: Too many men call on New Jersey cuts off power play with 5:23 to go. Sabres in position to win third straight, all on the road.

9:21 p.m.: Turn out the lights. Pominville scores on the power play with 2:39 to go. It's 4-1, and the Sabres will improve to 7-1-1 and 4-0 away from HSBC Arena. They return home Friday to host the Maple Leafs.

POSTGAME

Kennedy: "It’s a real special feeling. I’d been working real hard the last eight games trying to get one, and to get the first one on a goalie like that, it’s something that I’ll always remember."

Lindy Ruff on Ellis: "I thought he was the first star of the game. Work ethic and what he did, they couldn’t take the puck away from him. That was a tremendous goal. At that time of the game, that was a big goal for us."

Devils coach Jacques Lemaire: "You could tell why they're on top and have such a great record. They have four good lines, and they all play the same way. They are a puck-control team, and they create plays. There's no doubt we faced a better team."

---John Vogl

Montreal's passion for hockey is unmatched

If Toronto is the Center of the Hockey Universe, Detroit is Hockeytown and Boston is the Hub of Hockey, what does that make Montreal. Hockey's mecca? Nowhere are fans more passionate about hockey than Montreal. In fact, none are even close. Now that the Canadiens are back in contention, it could be more intense than ever.

About 20,000 fans were lined up around the corner near the Bell Centre in sub-zero temperatures. That wasn't for the All-Star Game on Sunday. It was for all-star practice on Saturday morning. Hockey is everywhere you go in Montreal. The cabbies talk about the fourth-linecenter in Phoenix. The waitresses wonder if the Habs' power-play is strong enough to win in the playoffs.

“”I’ve never seen something like that in my career,’’ former Habs great Serge Savard said Sunday. “”I think hockey is more popular now than it was in the ‘70s, when we won four Cups in a row. They had 22,000 people at the workout. You see the people in the streets, people with their cars and their CH flags, the waiting list for season tickets, I’ve never seen that like it is now.’’

It's fun watching them watch hockey. They can't get enough and I couldn't get enough of them over the weekend. It's like Bills fans at the height of the franchise multiplied by 20. You can imagine how loud the Bell Centre was after the Eastern Conference won, 12-11, in a shootout that enabled Habs winger Alexei Kovalev to win the MVP. You would have thought he scored the winner in Game Seven of the finals.

Great town, great team, great time. 

--- Bucky Gleason  


All-Star Game welcomes Habs legends

MONTREAL -- Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Dickie Moore, Serge Savard, Henri Richard and Yvan Cournoyer were among the Canadiens legends who made appearances Sunday at the NHL All-Star Game. They're still hanging around Montreal and being treated like royalty.

Beliveau remains one of the most beloved sports figures in Montreal history and was chosen along with Bob Gainey to drop the ceremonial first puck. Here's a little tidbit about him: He played in his first all-star game hours after signing his first contract. Back then, the defending Stanley Cup champions played against an all-star team from the other five teams.  

Moore told a story about sneaking into the old Forum when he was 12 years old and hiding in the duct work for two hours because he didn't want to pay for tickets. The Forum has since been converted into an entertainment center and movie complex. It's depressing.

Vincent Lecavalier had the loudest ovation during introductions. Not surprising. He's from Montreal, and rumors have been rampant that the Tampa Bay Lightning could trade him here. Fans are convinced he would put them over the top for their 25th Stanley Cup.

---Bucky Gleason 

All-Star Weekend

MONTREAL -- The best players in the land were converging here this evening for the NHL All-Star Game, which will double as the 100th anniversary celebration of Canadiens hockey. The place has been picking up speed since I arrived shortly after 5. It took me more than an hour to reach my hotel from the airport because traffic was so heavy. The cabbie said it was double its usual volume at that time.

It's a good sign.

What comes from this weekend should be interesting. The NHLPA was voting on whether it should exercise a clause that would re-open the collective bargaining agreement. It would be a major mistake considering the financial state of the game. The players are making too much money to risk getting into another Battle Royale with the owners.

Otherwise, we'll see what happens. There's a board of governors meeting here, so that should stir up some trade talk. It would be nice if the Sabres were involved, but history suggests they'll stand pat until the trade deadline approaches. They're desperate for a defenseman. You never know when GMs get together, but Sabres fans shouldn't get their hopes up. 

PatLaFontaine must be in town. There's a news conference for Companions in Courage, so it looks like he'll be opening up another high-tech playroom for kids in one of the hospitals here. He's a class act, LaFontaine, and he continues to give back long after he retired. He wasn't a bad player, either, the last time I checked.

Funny thing happened when I was in line, waiting to check in to the hotel. The lady working the desk was finishing up with a guy with a Wild sweatshirt and said, "merci.'' His reply: My name isn't Percy. It's Dave. Good heavens, dude, you're in Quebec.

I'll bring you updates as things progress this weekend. OK,I'm getting a little thirsty. I wonder if there are any places in town that serve beverages.

--- Bucky Gleason

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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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