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Ted Nolan on Mikhail Grigorenko: 'We just need a little bit more'

By Jay Skurski

Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan reiterated today why the organization feels it's best for 19-year-old Mikhail Grigorenko to develop in juniors.

That's a decision Grigorenko at first balked at, writing over the weekend in a since-deleted Facebook post: "I would just ask all of you guys to respect me and the time I'm taking to think about my career. It might be hard to understand, but it is even harder for a teenager."

"We can't control what people do and what they say, but we certainly can control how we're going to try to run this organization and what we feel is necessary for the development of young players," Nolan said early this afternoon following practice inside the First Niagara Center. "The tail can’t wag the dog. The dog wags the tail.

"We feel as an organization it's best for him to develop in junior hockey. That's not taking anything away from him. He's got some skills and he's got some ability, but in order for him to play at this level, we just need a little bit more."

Grigorenko and his agent, Jay Grossman, agreed to the assignment late Sunday night after talking with members of the Sabres' front office.

"You got to make the best of whatever situation you're in," Nolan said. "If he learns at a young age, it's even better. But you will learn how to adapt and to adjust, and if you don't, someone else is always going to take your job."

"We all wish Mikhail the best. We want to see him do really well and get back here," center Cody Hodgson added. 

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

Sabres' Hodgson out with injury, Leino back in to face Senators

By John Vogl

OTTAWA -- The Sabres will be without their top-scoring center tonight.

Cody Hodgson will sit out the rematch against Ottawa in Canadian Tire Centre after getting hurt during Buffalo's 2-1 shootout victory Tuesday. Hodgson finished the game and had 19:46 of ice time, including the final shift of overtime.

Hodgson has eight goals and 10 assists in 31 games.

"Cody Hodgson took a little bit of a banging last game, so he’s probably out," said coach Ted Nolan, who added it will likely be only a one-game absence.

Ville Leino, scratched last game, will take Hodgson's spot in the lineup.

"Certain players with a certain skill set, they have to play to that level," Nolan said. "You can’t ask somebody at an A level to play at a B level. He has to use the skill set that he has. The last few games he’s played OK but not quite good enough."

Mike Weber will replace Brayden McNabb on defense, while Alexander Sulzer will miss his fourth straight game with an injury.

The goaltending matchup will be Buffalo's Ryan Miller (6-16 record, 2.95 goals-against average, .920 save percentage) against Ottawa's Craig Anderson (8-8-3, 3.40, .895.)

Ted Nolan

Vote for the three stars

Sabres' centers get attention with Canucks in Buffalo

By John Vogl

Cody Hodgson is not completely healthy. He's missed several practices, and the Sabres center skipped today's morning skate.

Still, he'll be in the lineup tonight when Buffalo hosts his former team, the Vancouver Canucks.

"He’s fine. He’ll be playing," said Sabres coach Ron Rolston, who conceded his top center is not 100 percent. "He is actually real close. I think we’re probably in the last week of it right now. He’s playing through some things, but he’ll be in the lineup."

A bigger eye should be kept on the Sabres' newest center, Marcus Foligno. He moved last game from left wing to the middle, and tonight he could be lined up against Canucks superstar center Henrik Sedin.

"We have faith that Marcus can handle those situations, and again it offers us a big centerman that can handle some of the bigger guys in the league, whether it’s the Sedins or [John] Tavares the other night, or you’ve got big guys like [Eric] Staal where you need that big body in there, big centerman. But we have confidence in him."

The Sabres' lineup will be:

Thomas Vanek-Hodgson-Steve Ott

Tyler Ennis-Foligno-Drew Stafford

Kevin Porter-Johan Larsson-Brian Flynn

John Scott-Mikhail Grigorenko-Cody McCormick

Henrik Tallinder-Tyler Myers

Christian Ehrhoff-Mark Pysyk

Mike Weber-Rasmus Ristolainen

Ryan Miller will start in goal. Jamie McBain will be scratched on defense, while Zemgus Girgensons will sit after taking a slap shot above his left eye last game.

"It’s actually gotten better," said Rolston, who added the forward could play Saturday against Colorado. "He’s got a little slit there that he can see out of, but he won’t be in there tonight. It’s come a long way over a short period of time."

Ron Rolston

Miller feeling better, wants to be cautious early in season; Hodgson misses practice, too

By John Vogl

The Sabres had officially concluded practice when Ryan Miller skated onto the ice. After stretching and testing his sore groin, the goaltender took shots from the stragglers who remained in First Niagara Center.

The session went better than Miller anticipated, but he's still not sure if he'll be ready to start Tuesday when the Sabres host Tampa Bay. Miller, who didn't dress for Saturday's loss in Pittsburgh, will talk today with athletic trainer Tim Macre before making a decision.

"I was a little tight after the last game, and I just wanted to be cautious early in the season," Miller told The News. "So far, so good. I felt better than I kind of anticipated, so I’ll see if I can make myself available. But no practice today, and after a couple days off I’m not sure what the right course of action will be.

"I just want to make sure it’s not going to be something that’s going to turn into weeks. I thought it’d be a day or two, and it took about a day longer. It’s just not something you want to creep into your body, your game, your mind-set. Get it out, get it done. You don’t want groin stuff to pop up."

Cody Hodgson also sat out today. Coach Ron Rolston said the center is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, but Rolston expects Hodgson to be in the lineup Tuesday.

Marcus Foligno will return after missing the opening three games with a shoulder injury. To hear from Foligno and Rolston, click the audio files below.

Ron Rolston

Marcus Foligno

The Hodgson deal: Potential over production but cap games too


Cody Hodgson with perhaps the best goal of the Sabres' 2013 season, March 5 at Carolina.


By Mike Harrington

It was just two weeks ago I wrote a column that said Cody Hodgson did not deserve a long-term contract. The Sabres gave him exactly that Wednesday, awarding a six-year, $25.5M whopper to a 23-year-old who has played just 68 career games in the Blue & Gold.

I still don't like it. But at least I get it too. 

GM Darcy Regier told us several weeks ago he's not a fan of young players getting long-term deals and reiterated that stance today, a view certainly advanced by Tyler Myers' struggles after he signed his seven-year, $38 million extension. Hodgson is the Sabres' No. 1 center for now but at worst he's going to be No. 2 someday if Mikhail Grigorenko becames the top dog down the middle. (That's certainly not happening this year at least and probably not next year either).

Hodgson had 15 goals last season, so he projects out to a 26-goal scorer in a full, 82-game season.  But he's a defensive liability, at times a passenger in the neutral zone or a turnstile in the defensive zone. He handled questions about those areas head-on today.

He's again worked hard over the summer, training with former NHLer Gary Roberts. The Sabres like his off-ice work ethic and feel that's a sign of maturity. Hodgson said he feels he'll have more power and explosiveness to work off opponents in the defensive end.

"He's very professional, very dedicated and committed to getting better," Regier said today. "He's a very good professional at a young age. In his case, he's a year older or two years older than some guys who did get the long-term deal. He wants to be counted on and he wants to be recognized in a leadership position. He wants the opportunity to be in positions where he wants to make a difference."

Continue reading "The Hodgson deal: Potential over production but cap games too" »

Hodgson eager to reward long-term faith shown by Sabres

By John Vogl

Cody Hodgson has been in Buffalo for a while working out, so he was confident a contract was coming. As the hours ticked closer to training camp, however, he felt a few nerves.

Not anymore. Armed with a six-year deal worth a reported $25.5 million, Hodgson opened camp today as the team’s confident No. 1 center.

“When they have that much faith in you, you want to try that much harder and make sure you reward them for that opportunity,” Hodgson said in First Niagara Center. “It was a great summer of training. Obviously, I had a lot of time to make sure I got a lot more explosive, a lot more power.”

Hodgson finished last season as the Sabres’ second-leading scorer. He’s back with the top guy, skating alongside right wing Thomas Vanek. Marcus Foligno, who ended last year as center, is getting an early look as the top-line left winger.

Hodgson has always wanted a top-line role. He entered camp last year competing with Tyler Ennis for the job. The contract and depth chart make Hodgson the clear go-to guy this season for coach Ron Rolston.

“You just want to do what you can and complement the players you’re playing with,” said Hodgson, who has struggled defensively but hopes to make major strides. “This year, we’re going to get a chance to know the systems a little better. Having Ron know right from the start of training camp what we’re doing system-wise, I think we’ll all get on the same page.

“I was working on power, strength, making sure I can muscle guys off pucks. Hopefully, that will translate into good team defense.”

He’ll have plenty of time to get to know the team with his contract covering the next half-dozen years.

“I’m really happy to have some concrete knowledge of where I’m going to be for a few years,” Hodgson said. “Playing in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Rochester and Buffalo the last couple years, you’re never really sure where you’re going to be. I’m really happy I’ll be able to buy a house or something. To have some security, it’s nice.”

Sabres, Hodgson agree to six-year contract extension

766284 JETS AT SABRES MU#12
Restricted free agent Cody Hodgson has agreed to a six-deal deal.

By John Vogl

The Sabres have their top center under contract for the next six years.

Restricted free agent Cody Hodgson has agreed to a long-term deal, ensuring Buffalo will have its full roster Thursday when it takes the training camp ice for the first time.

"Hey Sabres fans, I'm excited to let you know I'm going to be a Buffalo Sabre for the next six years," Hodgson said this evening on a Vine video released by the team.

The value of the contract was not immediately available. A Sportsnet.ca report says he'll earn a total of $25.5 million for an average of $4.25 million per year.

“We are extremely excited to have signed Cody to a long-term deal,” General Manager Darcy Regier said. “We feel he is going to be an important piece of our organization’s success in the future and look forward to watching him develop as a player.”

Regier said this morning he and Hodgson's agent, Ritch Winter, were moving toward closing a deal. They had discussed both long- and short-term contracts. They obviously chose the former.

The 23-year-old Hodgson was the Sabres' second-leading scorer last season. He recorded 15 goals and 34 points in 48 games. He needs to work on his defensive awareness, but he is Buffalo's clear No. 1 center heading into the season.

Regier hopes to re-sign Hodgson soon, says trade window closed at moment with Miller, Vanek

By John Vogl

It sounds like Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek could remain with the Sabres for a while. General Manager Darcy Regier hopes Cody Hodgson sticks around, too.

Buffalo's veterans gathered for physicals today and will begin skating Thursday, and Regier hopes Hodgson will be on the ice in First Niagara Center. The team has yet to work out a contract with the restricted free agent, who was second on the team in scoring last season.

"We continue to work on his contract," Regier said today. "I’ve had conversations with his agent on a couple of occasions this morning. I spoke briefly with Cody. Both sides are working hard on this.

Continue reading "Regier hopes to re-sign Hodgson soon, says trade window closed at moment with Miller, Vanek" »

Hodgson on lack of contract with Sabres: 'We'll get something done'

By John Vogl

Cody Hodgson, clad in a Sabres practice sweater, skated with a bunch of his Buffalo teammates today. He hopes he’s still on the ice with them next week when training camp starts.

The Sabres’ second-leading scorer is without a contract just days away from the opening of the 2013-14 season. The restricted free agent is coming off his entry-level deal that paid $1.66 million annually, with $787,500 in base salary and $850,000 in bonuses, according to CapGeek.com. The center turned down Buffalo’s qualifying offer of $826,875.

“I like it here, and we’ll get something done,” Hodgson told The News in First Niagara Center.

Continue reading "Hodgson on lack of contract with Sabres: 'We'll get something done'" »

Audio: Hodgson, Rolston discuss center's demotion to Sabres' fourth line

By John Vogl

Cody Hodgson has been at the front of the Sabres' centers all season -- until tonight's 2-0 loss to Boston. Coach Ron Rolston sent him to the fourth line between wingers Patrick Kaleta and John Scott.

Hear both discuss the move by clicking the audio files below.

Cody Hodgson

Ron Rolston

Vanek and Ott switched as lines seek chemistry

By Mike Harrington

MONTREAL -- Thomas Vanek has two goals in the last 11 games, while Jason Pominville has two in his last 12 (and none in the last seven), so interim coach Ron Rolston is breaking up his top line for tonight's game in the Bell Centre.

Vanek will skate with Tyler Ennis and Ville Leino, while Steve Ott moves to the No. 1 unit with Pominville and Cody Hodgson. The line of Marcus Foligno-Kevin Porter-Brian Flynn stays intact while the fourth line will be Drew Stafford-Patrick Kaleta-Jochen Hecht.

"We're not winning as much as we want so obviously we're going to change things up but it doesn't matter," Vanek said. "Whoever you play with you try to make the best out of it. I've always said it doesn't matter who you play with, how much. You're a professional and you move on and deal with it.

Continue reading "Vanek and Ott switched as lines seek chemistry" »

Sounds from the Sabres' dressing room following 4-3 loss to Penguins

By John Vogl

While disappointment over the Sabres' 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh today was evident throughout the dressing room, there were wildly different views of the game.

Steve Ott, for example, was impressed with how the Sabres rallied from a 2-0 deficit and had a lead in the third period. Ryan Miller, in a profanity-filled chat, was furious the team blew that lead and got no points.

Continue reading "Sounds from the Sabres' dressing room following 4-3 loss to Penguins" »

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" »

By the numbers: Faceoff follies could spell difference tonight

Faceoff
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" »

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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 | [email protected]

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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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