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LaFontaine on Grigorenko: NHL Olympic break factored into decision to return him to junior

By Mike Harrington

Following today's USA Hockey announcement regarding the return of the Prospects Game to First Niagara Center, Pat LaFontaine spoke to the media for the first time about the Mikhail Grigorenko situation. The Sabres' president of hockey operations made it clear the team believes the decision to return the 19-year-old to junior hockey is by far best for his development and also made a point no one had really thought of.

The kid needs to play. And we're coming up on a month where he wouldn't see much ice if he was still in the NHL.

"One of the big parts of the decision is that once the Olympics come around if he's not playing in Rochester, he's sitting around for 20 days," LaFontaine said. "A player at 19 years of age needs to develop. He needs to be playing. You also want to put a player in a position to succeed. Maybe he's played a few years already there and done very well, but he hasn't won a Memorial Cup yet."

LaFontaine said the message to Grigorenko was clear -- go to Quebec, play 20-25 minutes a game including power play time, improve his all-around skills to become a 200-foot player and try to become a leader on a championship team.

"We're doing what we think is best to help develop our players and care for them and what they need," LaFontaine said. "I really think under the circumstances we're doing the best thing. 

"The old-school part of it is you really have to earn it. There has to be a standard. And when you get to the NHL, you have to be a consistent pro. Becoming a consistent NHL level player every night, that's hard."

And LaFontaine made it clear he feels the team's previous regime (see Regier, Darcy; and Ruff, Lindy) pretty much messed this whole thing up. No disagreement here. Olympics or no Olympics, Grigorenko simply isn't an NHL-level player yet.

"It's unfortunate that it hasn't been the right program or protocol that should have occurred," LaFontaine said. "I don't think it was. It happened. But that's behind us now. What we need to do is what's best for Mikhail going forward."

Around the Worlds: Sabres updates from the IIHF Championships

By Mike Harrington

Updates from the IIHF World Championships in Sweden and Finland: 

Thomas Vanek has team-highs of three goals and 20 shots on goal for Austria. The Aussies beat Slovakia in a shootout, with Vanek scoring the decisive goal. Christian Ehrhoff has been the workhorse for Germany, averaging 29:31 per game, while Andrej Sekera has done likewise for Slovakia at 24:55. Jhonas Enroth has a 1.76 goals-against average in the nets for Sweden.

In the standings -- go to the bottom of the page at this link -- Lindy Ruff-coached Team Canada has the tourney's best record at 4-0-1 for 13 points (losing only to Switzerland in a shootout). Finland leads the other group with 11 points. Team USA has nine points, tied with Russia and two behind the Finns.

Meanwhile, Rochester Amerks center Zemgus Girgensons, the Sabres' second first-round pick last June, has been suspended for one game for a butt-ending violation and will miss Latvia's game Saturday against Germany. The incident occurred during Thursday's 5-3 win over Slovakia.

Myers, Pysyk beneficiaries of Leopold trade

By Jay Skurski

With Jordan Leopold sent to St. Louis on Saturday, the Buffalo Sabres have to replace more than 21 minutes of ice time.

In their first game without the veteran defenseman, the beneficiaries were Tyler Myers and rookie Mark Pysyk.

Myers skated a game-high 28 minutes, 13 seconds in the shootout loss, while Pysyk was on the ice for 13:52 – a game after being a healthy scratch in Florida.

"It felt good," Myers said of the extended work. "It's whatever the coaches are going to decide how to play us. I think all the 'D' has been doing a really good job of adjusting to what has been given to them."

Myers didn't learn of Leopold's trade until arriving at First Niagara Center for the game.

Continue reading "Myers, Pysyk beneficiaries of Leopold trade" »

Miller out with sinus infection; Enroth to start against Rangers

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres had plenty of roster moves to make in advance of tonight's game against the New York Rangers but interim coach Ron Rolston surprised the media during his morning briefing with another one: Jhonas Enroth will start in goal for the Sabres tonight because Ryan Miller has a sinus infection.

Miller will serve as backup and he's expected to be fine for the weekend; the Sabres are off until Ottawa is here Saturday. Enroth, of course, came within 6 1/2 minutes of a shutout Thursday in New Jersey before leaving with coffee-induced cramps.

"We sealed the coffee lids," Rolston joked.

What's no joke is the coach wants to see the backup -- who remains winless since Nov. 26, 2011 -- try to put together a second straight solid game.

Continue reading "Miller out with sinus infection; Enroth to start against Rangers" »

Rolston Report (w/audio): Sekera, Leino likely out Sunday

By Mike Harrington

With Rihanna in First Niagara Center and a massive youth tournament in the Northtown Center, the Sabres had to practice at Cazenovia Rink in South Buffalo this afternoon. (My first time ever in the place in six years on this beat. Not bad. Nice little heaters above the viewing section).  It was a short, quick workout with interim coach Ron Rolston keeping a sharp tempo in the wake of last night's flameout in New Jersey.

And Rolston put on a happy face with reporters after the workout too. He's 3-3-2 since taking over for Lindy Ruff -- and 3-1-2 since dropping his first two games against Toronto and the New York Islanders when he was largely in watch-only mode.

"The last six games we have eight points and we potentially should have had 10 points out of 12," Rolston said, referring to the blown points Sunday in New York and last night in Jersey. "There's certainly things that we want to have back like last night's game but there's also a lot of things that going positive. We're building some good roots in the ground right now for our team to grow and we just have to stay with it."

The suspended Patrick Kaleta and long-term injured Alex Sulzer were not on the ice today as expected. The only missing player was defenseman Andrej Sekera, who Rolston has pretty much ruled out for Sunday's game in Philadelphia after getting hurt in the third period Thursday. Rolston also said no to Ville Leino, who was hoping to make his season debut against his former team.

"We're just trying to get him back into practice and get him quality practice time," Rolston said. "Really grinding, get him in more competitive situations. It will be close. I don't know when. I would doubt Sunday but certainly next week a strong possibility."

Leino didn't know he had been ruled out until John Wawrow of the AP and I talked to him. He said "it really doesn't matter" who he heard it from but, from experience, I can tell you it matters.

"I think I'm at a point in the practice where I can't really push much harder," Leino said. "The next step will be the games. It's been a while. It would be nice to get back in there. [Philly] is always a special spot for me to play against. It would have been fun."

Rolston also responded to Jhonas Enroth's contention that he drank too much coffee during the day and that's why he cramped late in Thursday's game -- and why he may have been unable to get across the crease to stop Patrik Elias' tying goal with 66 seconds left.

"It's part of his growth," Rolston said. "I don't know what the final outcome was on it. Part of his growth as an athlete is making sure he's taking care of himself in that one. I know our staff has been over it and it's just something he has to take care of in the future."

Click below to hear Rolston's session with reporters today.

Ron Rolston

Rolston wants Sabres to pick up the pace and stop blinking first

By John Vogl

Ron Rolston has been watching video of NHL games all season despite coaching down in Rochester, so the Sabres' interim bench boss already had a good feel for what Buffalo needs to improve.

The 3-1 loss to Toronto gave him more evidence.

Continue reading "Rolston wants Sabres to pick up the pace and stop blinking first" »

Decision on D: Who sits Saturday?

By Mike Harrington

Andrej Sekera practiced with the Sabres Friday in the Nassau Coliseum and is expected to play Saturday against the New York Islanders. Adam Pardy has been loaned back to Rochester.

So the Sabres' options could include dressing all seven defensemen (using T.J. Brennan as a power-play specialist) or scratching one. For purposes of this poll, assume Christian Ehrhoff plays and everyone else could be in peril.

Do they simply scratch Brennan? Or does Lindy Ruff make a bolder move and finally tell Jordan Leopold or Tyler Myers -- who is last in the NHL in plus-minus at -9 -- to take a seat in the press box?

Cast your vote below:

Injured Sekera out; Ruff calls Montreal loss 'something you want to dump in the trash can'

By Mike Harrington

This year's shortened NHL schedule doesn't allow any game -- win or loss -- to linger, so it's probably a good thing the Buffalo Sabres had less than 24 hours to stew over yesterday's debacle in Montreal before meeting the Florida Panthers today at 3 in First Niagara Center.

The clarion calls to bench either or both of Tyler Myers/Jordan Leopold can't be heard today. Andrej Sekera's sore left ankle, struck by a shot yesterday, will keep him out of the lineup. T.J. Brennan comes in and the Sabres are down to six healthy defensemen. Ruff said the team is hopeful Sekera's injury is only a short-term item and Sekera was seen walking the dressing room hallway with no limp.

"We've really had some defensemen that have struggled," Ruff said during his pregame media briefing in the 1 o'clock hour. "That has been evident. You have to put those mistakes behind you in a real tight schedule like this. You can't dwell on those mistakes. ... We'll try to clean them up for today."

Continue reading "Injured Sekera out; Ruff calls Montreal loss 'something you want to dump in the trash can'" »

Sabres' Sekera shouldn't be out too long, Ruff says

By John Vogl

Andrej Sekera crawled to the bench in the opening minute of the Sabres' 6-1 loss after absorbing a slap shot by Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin. During a stoppage in play, Sekera was helped to the dressing room but returned a short time later.

He played four more shifts in the first period but didn’t return after intermission. He was scheduled to have further tests Saturday.

“It looks like just a bruise,” Ruff said. “It doesn’t look like it should be too long. He tried to gut it out. There was just a lot of discomfort, which didn’t allow him to keep playing.”

If Sekera is unable to play Sunday at home against Florida, the Sabres would replace him with T.J. Brennan.

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 |