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From flood ruins, Flames' rink rises again

Flood 2
The flood water filled the Saddledome on June 22 (Calgary Flames photo)

By Mike Harrington

CALGARY, Alberta -- I watched the morning skates today like any other game day. I was in row 11 of the Saddledome. And then I realized where the water was.

A vicious flood struck Calgary and environs in June, displacing 75,000 people from their homes and becoming the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history. And the water poured into the Saddledome -- all the way up to rows 9 and 10. Everything on the service level was destroyed. Locker rooms, jumbotron control room, kitchen, 1989 Stanley Cup champion memorabilia. Everything. The water was 9-12 feet high on the service level.

Cgy 002 Cgy 002You could see today all the new walls, piping, ceiling tiles on that level. The dressing rooms have new wood lockers. But the famous mural of the 1989 Cup champions outside the Flames room -- signed by every player -- was among the irreplaceables lost. They have replaced the championship wall (right) but the old picture was the entire wall and autographed. Can't replace that. (Click on the pictures for a closer look).

Still, it was amazing to see the work and realize it was done in three months and the Flames didn't have to play in Saskatoon for a stretch like was rumored. Insurance covered much of the cost.

"It took me a little while to grasp it," Flames defenseman and ex-Sabre Chris Butler told me today. "I was in St. Louis and I have some friends up here texting me, 'Calgary is flooded.' You're thinking a foot of water on the street and everything is fine. Then you see pictures from up on the hills looking at the Saddledome and Stampede Park and you couldn't believe it.

"It was so sad because there was so much memorabilia on this level from that '89 team. You feel for those guys. Their stamp is on this city and to see a lot of that stuff get lost is heartbreaking. I never thought we'd be ready but it was unbelieveable the work those people put in to get back. The city took a lot of pride in it."

The Flames Web site put up an incredible gallery of photos from the damage. I used a couple in this post. You can see the rest here.

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Early notes from Calgary and awards for Sabres' second-rounders

By Mike Harrington

CALGARY, Alberta -- Good morning from the Candian Rockies, where the Sabres and Flames will meet tonight in the Saddledome for the first time since Dec. 27, 2010. The game is a 9 p.m. start Eastern time, so that means your "morning skate" reports will be later than normal.

The Flames take the ice at 10:30 local time (12:30 in Buffalo), while the Sabres go at 11:30 a.m. here and 1:30 p.m. back home. So keep it here and on Twitter (@BNHarrington) for the latest but don't forget you'll have to wait a little while longer to find out if tonight will be Nathan Lieuwen's first NHL start in goal.

This is Buffalo's first visit here since the devastating floods last June that ruined the Saddledome's service level and put water in the first 10 rows of the seating bowl. The building's core had to be gutted and replaced entirely but it was miraculously ready to go for the preseason. I had a good chat about it with Nashville broadcaster Terry Crisp, the coach of the '89 Stanley Cup champion Flames, when he was in Buffalo last week and it will be interesting to check out the building.

As for the game, the Sabres have lost six straight overall, scoring just five goals in the process nd ll of them by either Drew Stafford or Tyler Ennis. The last time they lost seven straight in regulation was in 2003 and keep this in mind: The Sabres have NEVER lost eight straight in regulation.

The Sabres are 7-21-3 on the road as they start a five-game, 10-day trip. Their seven wins are five fewer than any NHL team and their 17 road points are 10 fewer than anyone else (Florida is 12-20-3 for 27).

The Flames are tied for 26th overall with the New York Islanders with 61 points and it will be interesting to see how that battle impacts the Sabres' draft, with Buffalo potentially getting the Islanders' No. 1 pick this year. Calgary forward Matt Stajan, who scored the overtime winner in December when the Flames won in First Niagara Center, is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing the last two weeks following the death of his newborn son.

Continue reading "Early notes from Calgary and awards for Sabres' second-rounders" »

A Saturday gone haywire: MeshGoal in Detroit, line brawl and near hall-brawl in Vancouver

By Mike Harrington

Most of your attention last night was probably focused on Tylers Two getting the Sabres a last-minute point in their shootout loss to Columbus. But the rest of the NHL is buzzing over what took place in the final seconds in Detroit and the first two seconds in Vancouver.

The Red Wings earned a 3-2 shootout win over Los Angeles -- only because their tying goal with 26.1 seconds left clearly soared high into the mesh before plopping into the net off the back of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. Incredibly, that's not a reviewable situation! So the goal counts, and we have a likely rule change for when the league's GMs have their next meeting in March.

Seriously, every goal is reviewable and a puck out of play leading to a goal should be also. That said, how did FOUR officials on the ice miss such an obvious thing? That's even more hard to believe. Even the Red Wings admitted it shouldn't have counted.

Best line came from Kings coach Darryl Sutter, referring to the Jan. 25 Kings-Ducks game at Dodger Stadium: "What are they going to do at the outdoor game? What happens if it goes through a cumulus cloud?"

Just as that one finished, choas broke out in Vancouver with a full line brawl after just two seconds of the game against the Flames that the Canucks eventually won in a shootout. Calgary coach Bob Hartley started a tough guy lineup up front with Kevin Westgarth at center and Vancouver's John Tortorella countered. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa took the opening faceoff vs. Westgarth and it was on.

After the first period, things got even more dicey as Tortorella tried to confront Hartley in the hallway leading to the Calgary dressing room, with Flames goalie coach and ex-Sabre netminder Clint Malarchuk having to be restrained too. Not a good scene.

I would think Hartley might be looking at one of those handy-dandy "player selection" fines the league suddenly created for Ron Rolston in the wake of the John Scott-Phil Kessel preseason dustup. (Or was that only a made-for-Toronto rule?). Hartley's postgame assertion that Tortorella had the last lineup decision was silly. Torts sees who the Flames are starting and he's going to throw, say, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler on the ice? Please. 

That said, Tortorella can't go rogue and try to instigate in the dressing room hallway either. That's just not a good look for anybody, unless you're culling videos for places like Deadspin. Tortorella is reportedly going to have a hearing with the league and don't expect Colin Campbell & Co. to look too kindly upon his antics. This could be a multi-game suspension.

Click below to see videos of all the shenanigans, including Torts' pointed postgame comments:

Continue reading "A Saturday gone haywire: MeshGoal in Detroit, line brawl and near hall-brawl in Vancouver" »

Warmups will decide Hodgson or Ellis in lineup; Enroth gets call

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres are waiting until after warmups for today's 2 p.m. game against the Calgary Flames in First Niagara Center to make a key decision on their lineup. Center Cody Hodgson, who missed Thursday's game in Ottawa with an undisclosed injury, skated on his own this morning and interim coach Ted Nolan said he is feeling better. Hodgson will take the warmup but Matt Ellis has been recalled from Rochester and will skate in his place if Hodgson can't go.

Nolan attended last night's "Frozen Frontier" outdoor game in Rochester between the Amerks and Lake Erie and was duly impressed with Rochester's entertaining shootout victory.

"It was just a great atmosphere to watch. ... You could tell the players enjoyed themselves and the fans enjoyed themselves," Nolan said. "It was a great event. It just doesn't start here. It starts everywhere within the organization with what Rochester is doing now. They're doing a great job."

Ellis revealed that Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy gave him the news of the callup on the ice in the immediate aftermath of his shootout-winning goal -- his first shootout attempt since he was in the East Coast Hockey League in 2002. Ellis said teammate Colton Gillies suggested to Cassidy that Ellis get a crack in the sixth round with the shootout tied at 2-2.

"Sure enough, Chadd said, 'Ellie you're up,' Ellis said here today. "I was excited, a little nervous. It was a strange situation for me but I was pretty pumped to helped bring the two points home."

Ellis has been in Rochester all year but said it's been tough to see all the struggles going on in Buffalo, even from afar.

"I have a personal connection to most of the guys in this locker room, to the staff and to this community," he said. "This is the community I still call home and I'm definitely connected. It's been a unique year to say the least. You talk to guys, hear the ins and outs and it has been hard to watch and know what some of my close friends have had to go through this season."

After the long, cold night outside, is Ellis worried about fatigue if he gets the call? No way.

"I got plenty of energy if need be," he said with a smile. "I would have played at 10 o'clock this morning if I had the chance to."

In goal, it will be Jhonas Enroth for the Sabres against Calgary's Karri Ramo. Enroth (1-6-2, 2.67, .906) posted a 2-1 win over Calgary in his only start against the Flames, which came here in 2011. Nolan also said Brayden McNabb will get back into the lineup, with Mark Pysyk likely to be the scratch on defense (analytics freaks, you may now freak out).

The Flames' lineup will feature ex-Sabres Chris Butler and Paul Byron and West Seneca native Lee Stempniak but the big news is the return of stud rookie Sean Monahan, who has missed seven games with a broken bone in his foot. Monahan, the No. 6 pick in the June draft, has nine goals and six assists in 24 games.

Click below to hear our noon-hour conversations with Nolan and Ellis.

Ted Nolan

Matt Ellis

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 |