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Live from First Niagara Center: Bruins at Sabres

The grooming of Grigorenko uses Bruins' Seguin as a model

Tyler Seguin celebrates his goal last week in Montreal. (Getty Images)

By Mike Harrington

Lindy Ruff has made several references this year to the Sabres' plan of using Mikhail Grigorenko as being similar to what the Bruins did during the 2010-11 season with winger Tyler Seguin.

Two years ago, a season he began at age 18, Seguin was a healthy scratch seven times during the regular season and scored 11 goals. But he really produced in the playoffs with a couple key goals in the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa -- and those came after he was scratched for every game in the first two rounds against Montreal and Philadelphia.

Last year, Seguin burst on the scene with 29 goals, 67 points and a plus-34 rating. So far this year, he hasn't been as good (two goals, six points, plus-8 in 11 games) but he still plays 17:46 a night.

I asked Boston coach Claude Julien today about the process of massaging young players through the early travails of their career and he said the Bruins had a distinct plan in mind.

Continue reading "The grooming of Grigorenko uses Bruins' Seguin as a model" »

Video: Boston Globe's Kevin Paul Dupont compares Regier situation to Sinden

Watch other segments from this week's "Bucky & Sully Show" here.

Games vs. Bruins not the mismatch you would expect

By Mike Harrington

You think of the Boston Bruins and you would instinctly think of sheer dominance against a struggling outfit like the Sabres. But you really have to think again. The numbers don't match up.

The Sabres are 1-1 against the Bruins this year and they continue to stay above water against the B's in the post-Drury/Briere era. They were 2-2-2 against Boston last year, 4-1-1 against the Bruins in 2010-11 (Boston's Stanley Cup season). It was 2-2-2 again in 2009-10, 4-2 in 2008-09 and 4-2-2 in 2007-08. 

Since the 2005 lockout, in fact, the Sabres are 17-3-5 against the Bruins at home. One of the three regulation losses was Sunday's 3-1 loss, a game the Bruins dominated but didn't take a lead for good until there was less than 13 minutes to go.

Continue reading "Games vs. Bruins not the mismatch you would expect" »

Bruins cancel today's game against Lightning; Sabres expect to host Boston on Sunday but still awaiting word

NEW YORK -- If the Bruins can get out of Boston, they will play Sunday night in Buffalo. But that's still an "if." reports that Logan International Airport in Beantown won't open until at least 11 tonight. Parts of Boston received 28 inches of snow.

“It’s very tough going and there’s still challenging conditions,” Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, told the Boston Globe.

The massive snowstorm claimed today's game between the Bruins and visiting Tampa, with the NHL electing to cancel the contest.

As of 4:15 p.m., the Sabres had no official word one way or the other as to whether the game with the Bruins will be played Sunday. A spokesman for the Sabres said they expect to host the game but wouldn't know for sure until later tonight.

---John Vogl

The night the power went out on the Stanley Cup final

By Mike Harrington

At least the folks in New Orleans got the Super Bowl restarted after the lights went out. When things went dark during Game Four of the 1988 Stanley Cup final in old Boston Garden, the game was suspended and the series was sent back to Edmonton for the Oilers to wrap up the Cup.

Check out the video here. There was a lot of fog too, circa the Aud 1975.

Canadiens may get Subban back against Sabres; Boston's Thornton concussed

By John Vogl

MONTREAL -- The Canadiens might get a huge boost on the blue line when they host the Sabres on Saturday.

Continue reading "Canadiens may get Subban back against Sabres; Boston's Thornton concussed" »

Final thoughts and audio from a wild night in Beantown

Vanek goal
Thomas Vanek burns Tuukka Rask for his hat trick goal. (AP)


By Mike Harrington

BOSTON -- So much happened in the Sabres' 7-4 win over the Bruins that it's hard to process in the hour or two immediately after it. My sense, however, is this has the potential to be a huge turnaround game. Quick hits:

---The Sabres need to get some scoring out of more than one line but Thomas Vanek is so hot right now, it doesn't matter. He's got 15 points in just six games this season -- and 54 points (28-26) in just 46 career games against Boston. And his passing has never been better.

"He's been awesome," said coach Lindy Ruff. "That play to Tyler Ennis [to score Buffalo's third goal] was second to none. Outmuscled a guy in front of the net and really a diving type pass that helped us get back in the game."

"The puck is going in," Vanek said. "I've always been a good passer in my mind. People are focusing on it more right now because the puck is going in."

Continue reading "Final thoughts and audio from a wild night in Beantown" »

Live from TD Garden: Sabres at Bruins

Just like at FNC, big development planned in front of Bruins arena

The site of the demolished old Boston Garden will be developed in front of the TD Garden (rear, as shown in this 1998 Boston Globe photo).

By Mike Harrington

BOSTON -- The Sabres are breaking ground in a few weeks on Harbor Center, Terry Pegula's $123 million pet project in front of First Niagara Center that will feature a hotel, restaurant and two hockey rinks. By the drawings I've seen and the conversations I've had with people about it, it should be spectacular and another game-changer downtown.

Just a parking lot and it will now be a destination spot. The Boston Bruins are planning something similar on a lot in front of TD Garden -- on the spot that used to be the home of the old Boston Garden. 

Continue reading "Just like at FNC, big development planned in front of Bruins arena" »

By the numbers: Faceoff follies could spell difference tonight

Mikhail Grigorenko has been a surprise in the faceoff circle. (Getty Images)

By Mike Harrington

BOSTON -- The Sabres have to be quicker on the draw. That's become plainly obvious this season. But it could really be a major issue tonight.

Buffalo enters the game last in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 42 percent -- and the Boston Bruins are No. 1 at 60.7 percent. There's been plenty of chatter on Twitter in recent days over how significant the Sabres' troubles in the circle really are. I say it's one key problem to the season (although I would list lack of secondary scoring and poor play along the blueline as bigger trouble spots).

(*I acknowledge a decent argument can be made that six games is a small sample size, although I remind you it's already 12.5 percent of the season. And it also can be pointed out that the numbers might even out a little bit as well because 42 percent is historically bad; the last-place team in the league has never been under 44 percent since 1998.).

Let's start by comparing the two teams' numbers. The NHL lists faceoffs in wins-losses format so a team or player that's, say, 20-25 has won 20 and lost 25 and is NOT 20 OUT OF 25 (Going 20-25 essentially means 20 of 45).

Continue reading "By the numbers: Faceoff follies could spell difference tonight" »

Ruff wants two points from Bruins, not a pound of flesh


By Mike Harrington

BOSTON -- It's been nearly 15 months but Milan Lucic-Ryan Miller was still on the media's minds today in TD Garden in advance of tonight's Sabres-Bruins game. Boston reporters swarmed new Sabres Steve Ott and John Scott in the locker room after the team's 40-minute pregame skate and peppered Lindy Ruff with questions about the Sabres' new approach.

Was adding Ott and Scott a reaction to Lucic? "It was just overall team toughness, make us a grittier team," said a clearly agitated Ruff. "It had nothing to do with the Bruins."

"You try to win the puck battles and the territorial battles. We have to win a game. Not coming out of here with points is not being successful. In a short season we need points. We've answered the physcial challenge. We've been there for each other from day one in this. We play a gritty style, a hitting style. We have to win games."

Continue reading "Ruff wants two points from Bruins, not a pound of flesh" »

Flying pretzels not slowing Bruins

By Mike Harrington

Come on, admit it. I got you right from the headline of this post.

But I'm not joking either. Did you see what happened at the start of the Bruins-Devils six-round shootout last night in TD Garden?

The video above gives you the answer. Hall of Famer Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe recounts the doughy affair with this uproarious game story.  (*Dupont wrote a photographer at rinkside said the object was a pretzel even if the YouTube author above said hot dog).

Continue reading "Flying pretzels not slowing Bruins" »

With Grigorenko decision looming, fate decided for other junior eligibles

The Canadiens are keeping No. 3 overall pick Alex Galchenyuk. (Getty Images)

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres are still up in the air with Mikhail Grigorenko even though the decision to keep him in the NHL seems like a no-brainer from this view. He's talented, he's creative and he plays center -- an area this team is woefully thin at. You want to see Grigorenko or Matt Ellis? You want them to force Ville Leino back to center, as Lindy Ruff mused about today? Please.

Keep the kid.

Still, it's only been 50-50 among other NHL teams about keeping key junior eligibles or sending them back. Here's a quick rundown:

Continue reading "With Grigorenko decision looming, fate decided for other junior eligibles" »

Bruins' Julien feels for Lindy

The first thing Boston coach Claude Julien was asked after his team's pregame skate today was how strange it would be to not see Lindy Ruff on the Sabres' bench. Tonight's game, after all, will be just the second one since 1997 with Ruff absent.

Julien admitted it would be odd and said he's had several close calls in practice as well with collisions like Ruff and with pucks to the head like the one Edmonton's Tom Renney took Monday in Toronto.

"He may pop in there, you never know," Julien said of Ruff. "But I know he's been through a pretty bad fall. You don't like to see those things. Tom gets the puck in the head and it just goes to show you there's always a risk out there. 

"... It happens. That's why you've got to be ready all the time. Sometimes when you see it, you can brace yourself. When you don't, it can be a tough fall. We don't have much protection underneath that sweatsuit except for the extra weight we carry."

Julien confirmed that Tuukaa Rask, who beat the Sabres in the playoffs as a rookie in 2010, will start tonight against Ryan Miller instead of Tim Thomas. Rask is a backup goalie who hardly has backup numbers -- he's 11-6-2 and third in the NHL in both goals-against average (1.88) and save percentage (.936). But like his team, Rask has struggled of late with an 0-2-1 record, and figures of 3.26 and .884 in the last three games.

Rask is 4-3, 2.28, .931 in his career against Buffalo in the regular season. Thomas, meanwhile, is 10-9-4 against Buffalo and his stats against the Sabres (3.10, .899) are his worst in every category against teams he's played at least 10 games.

---Mike Harrington

Maple Leaf Gardens reborn ... as what?

IMG_0236TORONTO -- More than 12 years after it closed its doors as the city's sports palace, Maple Leaf Gardens was reborn two weeks ago when the first phase of its redevelopment opened. As a Loblaws. Yes, a supermarket. But don't laugh.

I went and checked it out a couple times over the last two days and it's a spectacular example of urban re-use. And it really makes you shake your head even more about what wasn't done down at the Aud, which is still a big, ugly hole in the ground.

And it's only Phase I. The next part is taking the upper floors of the old arena and converting them into a new home for the Ryerson Tech athletic program, specifically the hockey team. So there will be hockey played in the next year or two at the old barn. That part isn't open for viewing yet (but if you click on the link and play the Toronto Star video, you can see what's inside).

I went to maybe a half-dozen Leafs games at the Garden, three of them with our late friend/News Sports Reporter and Leafs fan extraordinaire Tom Borrelli. (I do wonder what he would think about the Gardens as a supermarket!).

The Loblaws is even better than the cavernous Wegmans that we see back in Buffalo. There's an 18-foot wall of cheese, a deli with slabs of meat behind glass, a pizza/pasta/prepared foods station that is just huge. There are pastries, chocolate, seafood, everything you can imagine.

IMG_0240But what I like is they just didn't just bulldoze the place and plop a supermarket in. They understood this was Maple Leaf Gardens. The marquee out front has been reborn for starters (above left). Inside, there's exposed brick. There's a giant Maple Leafs logo statue hanging above an escalator -- made of old blue seats from the building (left).

IMG_0251The tables where you can sit and eat have glass tops that cover old clippings of all kinds of events from building's glory days, from hockey to wrestling to Billy Graham. There's a giant mural near the entrance that replicates one that used to be in the building. and there are several old Gardens seats in front of it for you to rest. There are poles in each shopping aisle showing great moments in the building's history (right).

IMG_0249And there's even this: In aisle 25 -- directly next to the Spam (really!) -- there's a big red dot on the floor (left). There's no sign telling you what it is (there should be; take care of that, Loblaws). What is it? The exact spot where center dot was on the old rink.

Now that is pretty cool.

You can read all about the store and the Loblaws project at this link.  There is also a neat virtual tour that really gives you a good view of the place's features. The video is on this page and you have to click on the virtual tour.

You can read about Ryerson's new athletic complex at this link.

You can also click on all the pictures for a closer look.

---Mike Harrington


Vote for your three stars

Lucic: 'It's fun to be part of rivalries like this'

Milan Lucic spoke to the media for more than eight minutes here Tuesday so when he saw another gaggle of camera, notebooks and tape recorders around his locker this afternoon, did he exit stage left? No way. Went right through the line of people and stood in front of the locker to take everybody's best shot.

It's how he plays every night and nothing is changing tonight even though he's public enemy No. 1 in this town. How does he feel about that?

"It's happened to me before, a couple of years ago back in Montreal," Lucic said. "They still boo me there. It's something that comes with the game and helps build a rivalry. It's fun to be a part of rivalries like this."

Asked how strange it would be to become a bigger villain here than Zdeno Chara, Lucic smiled and said, "We'll have to wait and see what the reception is."

Like Lindy Ruff said earlier today, Lucic and Boston coach Claude Julien said Brendan Shanahan's call to the respective GMs won't really impact the way they approach the game. Lucic did admit he knows what the Sabres are going through; the Big, Bad Bruins got torched in their hometown two years ago for lack of response when Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke KO'd Marc Savard.

"It's not fun when media and people are pointing fingers around because of what happened and they start pointing fingers at guys in the room," Lucic said. "Definitely they're going to be prepared for this game, not just for this game because of the incident but also because they lost, 6-2. They're going to want to come back with a big effort so we know they're going to be fired up and ready to go tonight."

The Bruins have won nine straight and have outscored foes, 43-14, in that stretch. Yikes. Tim Thomas will play goal again tonight after posting shutouts in the last two games to extend his scoreless streak to 133:04. Thomas has three straight shutouts on the road -- a first in the NHL since Toronto's Ed Belfour in 2003-04 -- and a streak of 222:16 away from TD Garden.

Cracked Julien: "It doesn't take a brain surgeon to make that decision for tonight to go with your best goaltender."

Tonight's winner will move into first place in the Northeast with 26 points (tied with Toronto but with fewer games played). Hear Julien and Lucic's sessions with reporters below:

Claude Julien

Milan Lucic

---Mike Harrington

Ruff: 'We have to play a real hard game'

A stone-faced Lindy Ruff kept the media waiting much longer than normal following today's morning skate and then didn't have much to say in advance of tonight's grudge match against the Boston Bruins. Not unusual. Ruff always has quite a gameface on after morning skates, especially in situations like this when the eyes of the hockey world are on his team.

"I'm expecting our team to come out hard in all areas," was Ruff's message he repeated during the three-minute chat. "We have to play a real hard game. That's the message in all areas. Hard on the puck, hard getting it back, hard physically."

NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan has spoken to general managers Darcy Regier and Peter Chiarelli and told them their teams are on high notice to not have any shenanigans tonight in the wake of the Milan Lucic-Ryan Miller incident 11 days ago in Boston.

"I haven't talked to the team about that, no," Ruff said. "It doesn't change anything for me."

But Ruff cut off a question about retaliation a few seconds later by saying, "I don't think Shanahan would like to hear that."

The media throng was large by regular-season standards, with several outlets from Southern Ontario joining Buffalo and Boston reporters. Many of the Sabres were already off the ice and in trainers' areas when reporters were allowed in, and no one spoke to the likes of Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta, the two likely candidates to do something with Lucic.

Pressed again on what the Sabres need to do tonight, Ruff said, "I'll answer the question one more time: We were disappointed in our response and that won't happen again."

The Sabres' response to the incident is one issue.  Trying to beat a Boston team that has won nine straight is something else entirely.

"They got their game in place, getting depth in scoring, great goaltending," Ruff said. "They're back. They're proving they're a championship team. Until somebody knocks them off, they're on a roll where they think they can go out and repeat. It's a great opportunity for us to make a statement."

Ruff confirmed Jochen Hecht would make his season debut tonight but it's unknown who will sit up front. Kaleta, who missed yesterday for maintenance, was on the ice. So was defenseman Mike Weber, who skated with his teammates for the first time since suffering an undisclosed upper-body injury Nov. 16 against New Jersey. 

Weber skated in the same color jersey as the injured Tyler Ennis and won't play tonight either.

Hear Ruff's session with the media below:

Download audio 

--Mike Harrington

Inside the NHL chat with Bucky Gleason at 10 a.m.

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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 |