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The Sabres are off today but Lindy Ruff will have a press conference around 1 p.m. so keep it here for the latest injury updates on Tim Connolly and Jochen Hecht. In the meantime, here's some reading material for you from around the league:

We'll start in Newark, where the Sabres lost their bid to finish second in the East with their 2-1 defeat to the Devils.  Meanwhile, Ryan Miller has been named the Sabres' nominee for the Masterton Trophy.  It's for dedication to hockey and who was more dedicated to the greater good of the sport than Miller was in the wake of the Olympics?

With their No. 6 seed set, the Bruins sat Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi, and Tuukka Rask but still beat the Capitals in a shootout to end their season on a three-game winning streak.

This just in from Tampa Bay: The dysfunctional Lightning have fired coach Rick Tocchet and GM Brian Lawton. Richly deserved axes. They have a much better roster than the record shows. New owner Jeff Vinik starting from scratch.

"It's an empty feeling" for the Rangers, Chris Drury said after Sunday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Flyers that sent the Blueshirts home for the summer. You sure can't blame Henrik Lundqvist for this one. I've got a bit of a scapegoat though: John Tortorella. Yes, the numbers say Marian Gaborik is bad at them but you let your season go down the drain in a shootout without using Gaborik but you put Olli Jokinen out for the last shot?

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

Ennis wins AHL rookie of the year award

Tyler Ennis has been named the winner of the Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding rookie, giving the Sabres back-to-back winners of the award.

Nathan Gerbe won AHL rookie of the year honors last season in voting from coaches, media and players in each of the league's 29 cities.

Ennis was Buffalo's second first-round pick in the 2008 draft, behind Tyler Myers. The second-round pick from '08, Luke Adam, signed his pro contract with the Sabres earlier today and that draft could easily go down as one of the best in franchise history.

Ennis leads all AHL rookies with 23 goals, 42 assists and 65 points in 69 games for Portland this season. He is also second with six game-winning goals and third with nine power-play tallies and was the most valuable player of the AHL All-Star Game played in Portland.

Ennis scored for the Sabres in his NHL debut Nov. 14 at Philadelphia and has three goals and five assists in seven games for the Sabres this season. With the announcement that Jochen Hecht is out for the final three games of the regular season, it looks almost certain that Ennis will make Buffalo's playoff roster.

Past winners of the AHL rookie award include names like Terry Sawchuk (1949), ex-Sabre goalies Roger Crozier (1964) and Gerry Desjardins (1968), Rick Middleton (1974), Ron Hextall  (1986), Brett Hull (1987) and ex-Sabres captain Daniel Briere (1998).

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

How rare was Wednesday's comeback?

Can't remember when the Sabres pulled one out of the hat with two late goals to get even like they did Wednesday against the Canadiens? That's because it's pretty rare. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time in franchise history the Sabres got points in a game that they scored two goals with a goalie pulled for an extra attacker.

AP correspondent and WNY stats maven Mike Haim provides more detail, noting it's just the fourth time in franchise history the team got even with two goals in the final two minutes of regulation. The other three games ended in ties. The list from Haim:

12/22/77 vs. Pittsburgh - trailed 3-1, goals by Ric Seiling at 18.19 and Rene Robert at 18.39
1/8/85 vs. Hartford - trailed 4-2, goals by Dave Andreychuk at 19.32 and Mike Foligno at 19.51
12/4/92 vs. NY Islanders - trailed 5-3, goals by Alexander Mogilny at 18.34 and Pat LaFontaine at 19.33
3/24/10 vs. Montreal - trailed, 2-0, goals by Tim Connolly at 18:01 and Steve Montador at 19:12

Amazingly enough, there's a YouTube clip of the Pittsburgh comeback out there from the Penguins' broadcast. Whoever is on the call is downright terrible and a complete homer (love how he says, "we got 'em whipped" at the 1:15 mark of the clip with the score still 3-1).

Afternoon update: Checked on Dylan's comment below and the announcer is, in fact, legendary Pirates play-by-play man Bob Prince. He did Penguins games for one year (1977-78) after he had been whacked by the Bucs and folks in the Burgh hated him on hockey. I can see why. Oy vey.

By the way, Robert scored the tying goal by zipping by Pens defenseman Colin Campbell, now known as the clueless NHL discipline czar. The clip ends with 36 seconds still to play but the game finished in a 3-3 tie.

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

Habs hit town healthier

The Montreal Canadiens will take the ice Wednesday in HSBC Arena with two key players back in their lineup as Mike Cammalleri and Marc-Andre Bergeron will return from extended absences. Neither has played since suffering knee injuries in early February.

And while the Habs have still played well, their power play has suffered in their absence. Montreal remains second in the NHL with the man-advantage but it just 5 for 37 since the Olympic break and went 0 for 5 in Monday's 2-0 loss to Ottawa.

Meanwhile, Habs winger Travis Moen will be out after suffering a 50-stitch cut to his forehead after taking a skate to the face in a scary scene Monday. He will replaced on the third line by former Sabres farmhand Mathieu Darche.

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

Long arm of NHL 'law' comes down

Alexander Ovechkin gets a two-game suspension. Steve Downie gets nothing. (If you have no idea what we're talking about, go back to today's earlier post)

Mario Lemieux was totally right back in the day: It's still a garage league, folks. Commence the Colin Campbell bashing.

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

Two more nasty plays mar Sunday's games

Calling Colin Campbell! Calling Colin Campbell! Are you going to do anything today? The NHL's discipline czar has a pretty busy Monday at hand after two plays Sunday featuring the game's biggest stars.

First was the cheap shot Alexander Ovechkin leveled on old friend Brian Campbell in the NBC game in Chicago. It was a blatant push from behind into the end boards and Ovie got a game misconduct for it. Since Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke got nothing because there was no penalty on his now-infamous hit against Marc Savard, gotta believe Ovechkin is getting a couple games here. And star or not, Ovechkin is a repeat offender. And there's this: The word coming out of Chicago is that Campbell may have major collarbone and rib damage and could be done for at least the rest of the regular season.


Then we had a disgraceful display later in the day by Tampa Bay's Steve Downie, a noted hack, against Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby. Check out this gruesome one and see how oddly Crosby's knee contorts. Amazing he was able to return to the game. Let's see if Downie gets the book thrown at him for going after a star. Memo to Colin Campbell: The Bruins might have similar plans for Crosby come Thursday night in Beantown because you did nothing on the Savard play and they've been getting killed at home for not coming to Savard's defense.


Pretend you're Campbell and make a decision on these two plays here. Most of you would probably do a better job than he's been doing anyway.

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

Roby on the road back

Roby After hearing, "Why didn't they trade for a defenseman to help the power play?", the No. 1 question I get these days from just about everybody concerns the status of Mike Robitaille. The former Sabre and beloved television analyst -- who I'm happy to report is as great a person off camera as he seems on it -- is in recovery mode after spinal surgery following a February auto accident on his way to a game.

For those of you who come right to the blog without going to The News home page or to the sports home page, be sure to click here to read Alan Pergament's interview with Robitaille about what happened, how he's feeling now and how he'd love to be back at work for the Sabres' regular season home finale so he can be ready for the playoffs.

Get well soon, Roby. The press room isn't the same without you!

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

Photo: Robitaille at home this week/Bill Wippert-Buffalo News

Mac makes quick attack in Atlanta

Clarke MacArthur hopped off the plane in Atlanta and right on to the Thrashers scoresheet with a goal -- assisted by Maxim Afinogenov, no less -- in his first game with his new team to help spark Thursday's 6-3 win over the Islanders. You can read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's game report with comments from MacArthur here.

Following the morning skate, MacArthur said "my time kind of went a little stale in Buffalo" and he was happy with the deal. No disagreement there. That link will take you to the Thrashers' video page, where you'll hear from both Mac and Max.

The Thrashers are 4-0-2 in their last six and 4-1-2 since trading Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils. Hmmm. Interesting.

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

AHL takes it outside today

While the long wait continues for Sunday's USA-Canada clash in Vancouver, the AHL is providing plenty of options today. As John Vogl told you yesterday, the Portland Pirates open a two-game series tonight in Rochester and they're the hottest team in the league. Portland tied its franchise record with its 10th straight victory Friday night, a 3-2 win in Albany, and can break the mark this evening in Blue Cross Arena.

The other big story today takes place further up the Thruway in Syracuse, where the Crunch and Binghamton Senators may break the AHL attendance record when they play an outdoor game at the New York State Fairgrounds. The game starts at 1 and will be televised by the NHL Network. So will a pregame show that starts at 12:30. More than 19,000 tickets have already been sold and the AHL mark of 20,672 is within reach. Sabres broadcaster and former player Rob Ray will be part of an autograph signing during the first intermission in a day full of activities for fans.

Taking it outside is the theme of the day on NHL Network. Today's programming is filled with repeats of the past NHL outdoor games. The 2008 Sabres-Penguins game at the Ralph will air at 6 p.m. tonight and 8 a.m. Sunday. Today's airing comes right after a 3:30 showing of a long-forgotten 1991 preseason game between the Wayne Gretzky-led Kings and Rangers outdoors at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

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

Pirates visiting Rochester

Itching to see live hockey halfway through the Sabres' Olympic break? This weekend provides a prime opportunity.

The Portland Pirates will play back-to-back games down the road in Rochester. The Amerks host the Sabres' minor-leaguers at 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

The Pirates have been rolling. They took nine straight wins into Friday's game in Albany. Rochester, meanwhile, was searching for the 2,000th victory in franchise history Friday against Manitoba. Most of those wins came during the Amerks' 29 years as the Sabres' affiliate.

Rochester will induct three members to its Hall of Fame Sunday -- while opening a permanent hall. Randy Cunneyworth, Jim Wiemer and Kent Weisbeck earn the honor, with festivities beginning at 1 p.m.

---John Vogl

Just because

NHL.com has linked to a video collection of some of the year's best fights, so it seems like a perfect time to segue to this ...

---John Vogl

Drury's role

Chris Drury's time on Broadway has not been a smash hit. The former Sabres center has just 10 goals and 22 points this season, so it was a surprise to some that the Rangers forward was named to the U.S. Olympic team.

But when you think about the clutch performances throughout his life, he's exactly the type of player you want in an important game. USA coach Ron Wilson echoed those thoughts after Tuesday's 3-1 victory over Switzerland.

"Throughout his career and actually his whole life, the bigger the moment, the better Chris Drury plays. Everybody knows that," Wilson said. "At some point in this tournament, I think he's going to be a hero for us in one of these games. I know this is going to be corny, but he reminds me of a Mike Eruzione-type player. I'm not saying if we get to the gold-medal [game] that it's going to be Dru who is going to score, but he's that type of person. The glue in the room."

ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun tells the story of Drury's new role, which has him killing penalties and skating as the 13th forward.

"Dru will do anything to help your team win," Wilson said. "We talked yesterday at practice that I saw his role as a primary penalty killer and then I would fit him in and keep him involved. He's accepting of that. He's the one guy that, almost to a man, you guys [the media] have questioned as to why he's on the team. He's there because of the way he played today. He's going to do the little detailed grunt work.

"We've got plenty guys that can score, and he can still score. But we need people dedicated to being on the right side of the puck 100 percent of the time and to lead by example. We've got so many young guys, having his voice and experience in the room is huge."

---John Vogl

Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Bruins

Greetings from HSBC Arena as the Sabres try to end this ugly four-game losing streak against the Bruins. A note on streaks: Several of you complained we've written this is their first four-game skid of the season even though they've completed their West Coast trip with one. Au contraire, sports fans. The Sabres got a shootout point in Los Angeles so the NHL considers that an 0-3-1 winless streak and not a four-game losing streak. Just like the 10-game slide the Bruins ended Sunday in Montreal was a 10-game winless streak because they were 0-6-4.

As for tonight's game, you would have thought back in the fall that Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas might be battling for No. 1 on the U.S. Olympic team tonight. Not. Thomas isn't even in net, languishing as the clear No. 2 in Boston behind Tuukka Rask. He didn't have much to say about his status here after practice Monday,as this Boston Globe story reports.

Some pregame ceremonies tonight to induct Jim Lorentz and Joe Crozier into the Sabres Hall of Fame and then we'll get to the action. Huge roar when the French Connection came on to the ice to join the ceremony.

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

Shootout:  Sabres are 3-5 in them this year while Boston is 6-9 (15 of them? Wow). Boston has lost four straight. Sabres are 12 for 40 this year (Hecht is 3 for 3) and the goalies have allowed 14 goals on 38 shots (Miller has stopped 16 of 25). Boston shooters are 11 for 48. Rask has stopped 14 of 21.

Bruins win: Boston gets credit for a 3-2 victory. Pominville scored for Buffalo but Hecht, Connolly and Stafford were all stopped. Krejci got the winner for the Bruins. Winless streak hits five, division lead is gone as Ottawa pulls into tie with 3-2 win over Calgary.

OT

4:35 left: Miller keeps the game alive by robbing Matt Hunwick on a 2-on-1.

3:33 left: Bruins to the power play as Michael Ryder cuts in front by Butler and Vanek has to take a hooking penalty.

On to the shootout: The Sabres survive as Miller makes a couple key saves on the power play and Connolly takes one from the point on the foot. Shots were 4-2 for Boston and it finished 45-34 for Buffalo.

Third Period

14:08 left: Not much going on until Miller stoned Marco Strum twice on one shift. Shots are 4-2 for Boston.

12:35 left: Another huge save by Miller on Marc Savard keeps things tied. Sabres starting to give the puck away again in this period, much as they did in the first. Out of town, Ottawa takes 3-2 lead over Calgary after two. An Ottawa win and Buffalo loss in regulation knocks the Sabres out of first place in the Northeast Division.

8:52 left: Wideman goes for cross checking, giving Buffalo a huge chance to take the lead.

6:40 left: Four great saves by Rask -- two on Roy and one each on Myers and Vanek -- deny Buffalo on the power play and keep things even. That's another PP that goes down as another chance without a goal but that's one the Sabres want to duplicate at almost every chance. Sabres have a 40-28 edge in shots, 9-6 in this period.

5:44 left: Huge battle between Mair and Lucic won by Mair early and Lucic at the end. That's two fights tonight (would have been three if Chara answered Gaustad's challenge). About time we saw some spunk from this club. I'd say some of this goes back to Stafford saying enough was enough Saturday in Columbus with R.J. Umberger. Mair went off the ice, probably with a sore hand after cracking Lucic on the helmet.

42.1 left: A big scare as Myers goes down like a shot after deflecting Paille's slapper into his face. He skates off to the dressing room.

21.8 left: Pominville nearly steals a win from Wideman, taking the puck behind the net and getting stopped by Rask on the wraparound.

On to OT: Shots were 12-8 for the Sabres and 43-30 through regulation. That's two shy of Buffalo's season high of 45 set in the loss to Anaheim.

Second Period

Of note: More ex-Sabres indignity as Miro Satan was plus-2 in that period and got one of the assists on Paille's wraparound goal. Satan had no points in his last eight games and Paille had none in his last seven. Yeesh.

18:13 left: Much better start as Hecht and Vanek have in-tight chances in the first 90 seconds that Rask stops. Better than any chance Buffalo had in the first period.

17:06 left: Rivet has apparently had enough, starting a scrap with Shawn Thornton. The captain had good intentions but the decision goes to Thornton. Milan Lucic gets a hooking penalty so Buffalo goes to the power play. Lately, that's been no help.

16:14 left: A two-man edge for 1:08 as Steve Begin goes for holding Myers. He had been driving the rookie crazy in the Buffalo zone but got a little too overzealous. Lindy Ruff calls timeout here, sensing this is a big moment.

15:25 left: Roy finally snaps the ice with a wicked snapshot top shelf over Rask's glove on a Connolly feed. And still 1:12 left in Begin's penalty. Roy's 14th.

15:19 left: MacArthur breaks in alone but Rask makes the save.

13:14 left: Bruins' first two shots are tough saves for Miller, including a rebound stop on Blake Wheeler.

10:08 left: Gaustad challenges Chara and the big guy refuses to drop the gloves. Lucic comes in and tries to take up the case but gets nothing?? Gaustad goes for unsportsmanlike conduct. Ridiculous. Lucic could have gotten a game misconduct for crying out loud.

9:09 left: Chara really-really-really getting the boos from the crowd now.

3:46 left: Good pad save by Miller on David Krejci. Miller has been very sharp in this period. The Sabres have an 11-9 edge in shots and it's 28-20 for the game.

1:25 left: HUGE turn of events there as Miller stones Wheeler and Gaustad just clears the rebound away from the empt cage. He gets it to Myers, who skates away and fires a wicked wrister past Rask to tie it at 2-2 on Buffalo's 30th shot of the night. That was a vintage goal, one you'd see from an all-star in the Larry Robinson vain. Awesome. His eighth of the year and his 32nd point, tied for third among NHL rookies.

End-2nd: Much better. Shots were 14-11 for the Sabres and 31-22 for the game.

First Period

Of note: We face off at 7:21 after the HOF ceremonies and Ronan Tynan doing God Bless America.

18:29 left: Interesting start as Gaustad drills Dennis Wideman behind the net and draws plenty of attention from Zdeno Chara the rest of the shift. Bruins will have No. 28 on their minds. Sabres already guilty of two giveaways in their end. That can't continue.

15:09 left: Old friend Daniel Paille gives the Bruins a 1-0 lead on a wraparound that Miller simply didn't react to. Roy got screened by the referee to Miller's right and Paille came out untouched to the goalie's left as Butler and Rivet were caught napping. Bad start. Seven straight goals against Buffalo.

11:27 left: I thought Lindy Ruff said today he wanted to see his team attack more? Other than the Gaustad hit, pretty lame effort so far.

8:02 left: You gotta be kidding. Paille tips a Chara point shot past Miller for a 2-0 lead. His first two-goal game as a Bruin. Now I gotta look up when he last did that for Buffalo.

7:05 left: Just looked it up -- Paille's fifth career two-goal game and first since Buffalo's 7-3 loss at Pittsburgh on March 12, 2008. Eight straight for the opponents.

6:31 left: Unreal. Miller just stopped Paille cold on a clear break in the Buffalo zone. Paille, by the way, has never had a hat trick. Shots are 10-9 for the Sabres but they've hardly had a huge chance.

3:00 left: More on Paille -- he entered this one with no goals in his last seven games and just three in his last 21. Came real close to having three in an 8 1/2-minute span here.

End-1st: Sabres leave to richly deserved boos in a 2-0 hole. They have a 17-11 edge in shots but there's a classic case of a period where the SOG total explains nothing. Buffalo might have had one or two quality chances while Boston had six or seven.

Robitaille out after accident

The Sabres have announced that studio analyst Mike Robitaille was in a "minor car accident" Wednesday evening and will not return to the team's television broadcasts until after the Olympic break. Rob Ray will move into Robitaille's role during intermissions and after the games.

"Mike is doing well and everybody in the Sabres organization wishes him a quick recovery," the team said in a statement.

---John Vogl

Kotalik sent home prior to being dealt to Flames for Jokinen

Watching the Rangers' game at Colorado and Ales Kotalik is more than just a healthy scratch as he's been for the last couple weeks. He's apparently about to become an ex-Ranger, according to this story tonight from the New York Post.

(11 p.m. update: TSN reports Kotalik is going to Calgary as part of a deal for Olli Jokinen)

Kotalik has been sent home off the trip but there's some hangup in the deal. No one seems to say what that is. Wondered if Kotalik was going back to Edmonton in some deal for Sheldon Souray, but Souray broke his hand in a fight late Saturday night with Calgary's Jarome Iginla as the Oilers finished 0-for-January with a 6-1 loss to a team that had been winless in nine.

Second thought was Toronto, which needs some offense after giving up plenty in today's deals for Dion Phaneuf and J.S. Giguere. The Kotalik deal (three years, $9M) is the kind of silliness that should get Glen Sather fired as Rangers GM. Anyone here could have said Kotalik is a soft 5-on-5 player who fires away on the power play with mediocre results and would drive coach John Tortorella crazy.

Didn't the Rangers have a single scout proffer that opinion? Jeez.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Live from the Island: Sabres vs. Islanders

UNIONDALE -- I'm not going to spend too much time and space here crabbing about the Nassau Coliseum, easily the biggest dump in the National Hockey League. This massive Lighthouse project they keep talking about here to renovate the place better get a move on, or it would make more sense for us to be eating bar-b-q in Kansas City, seafood in Seattle or whatever they specialize in in Winnipeg than to keep this franchise here.

The Islanders are coming off a 6-0 drubbing of Detroit and playing very well (7-2-1 in their last 10), but it's doubtful there will be a full house or close to it here. More people than we saw Thursday in Atlanta but certainly not a jammed crowd either. The poor fans don't have too many nice touches either.

The place has hideously tiny concourses. Walking through the stands at the morning skate, seats are flimsy, steel rows are uneven. Whole sections of seats are different colored. The press box is a tight shack with those old school chairs that swing out bbefore you can sit down. But I will admit it is low and one of the better views for us in the league. Go to a place like the Prudential Center and the game is in Newark but the press box is in Passaic.

OK. Three paragraphs are enough. Let's get to the game. As we learned this morning, Rick DiPietro will be in goal for the Islanders for his first appearance here in nearly 13 months. Ryan Miller for Buffalo. The Sabres can pull into a first-place tie in the East with a win tonight as the Devils have already lost at Colorado, 3-1. yes, the twice-in-a-row-outta-the-playoffs Sabres could end the night atop the East. Crazy. The Sabres can also push their Northeast Division lead to 11 points over Boston, which just dropped a 4-3 shootout decision at Los Angeles.

The game will be shown in HD on MSG but remember that Rick Jeanneret has taken his vacation and Kevin Sylvester will do the play-by-play with Harry Neale. I thought I saw Darryl Strawberry this afternoon in the lobby of the Long Island Marriott across the street. Nah, couldn't be. Turns out it was. He's here for a ceremonial puck drop for autism awareness.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Shootout numbers: The Isles won it, 4-3, on Trent Hunter's goal in the eighth round. Seven tallies tied the NHL record which Buffalo and Colorado equaled with their 11-rounder last Saturday. The Sabres are just 2-4 in shootouts this year and are 9-34 on their attempts. Miller had given up just three goals on 12 previous attempts before yielding four this time.

Third Period

14:36 left: Sabres nearly tied it early in the period on Butler's wrist shot that deflected off the goal post. The teams are now four-on-four after scrum behind the Buffalo net resulted in roughing penalties on Tallinder and Mark Streit, who shut the puck at Miller after a whistle for offside.

13:36 left: Richard Park scores on a wrist shot from the right but it's waved off immediately for goaltender interference because of a skate in the crease by Andy Sutton. No penalty on the play, just a faceoff outside the zone. Looked like the Sabres got a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge break there.

10:25 left: And the disallowed goal rates huuuuuuuuuuuuge for Buffalo as the Sabres tie it up. Stafford gets the goal, as Butler's shot leaks through DiPietro and Stafford has an easy tap for his team-high 12th, neatly kicking the puck to his stick just before he put it in the net.

5:22 left: Still tied. The Isles goal was wiped out on a high stick is the explanation on TV? Then how was there not a penalty. We're going to have to sort this out afterward. No official explanation.

On to OT: Shots are 35-29 for the Isles -- meaning it was 12-4 for Buffalo in the third. Clutch.

Second Period

18:51 left: Ruff's outrage apparently didn't help. Myers gone for cross checking. Ticky-tack stuff.

16:35 left: Josh Bailey cranks a rebound off the post behind Miller, who is struggling to control rebounds in this one.

14:21 left: Miller stops Vogl's Isles buddy Sean Bergenheim from in front after a long, bad shift from the Roy line as well as Butler and Rivet.

11:00 left: DiPietro stops Vanek on a 30-foot slapshot on a 4-on-2. I griped Thursday that Vanek was passing and not shooting. Here was one he might have considered using his mates.

10:30 left: Another penalty. Hecht for slashing. That's four for  Buffalo and none on the Islanders.

8:51 left: Miraculous save by Miller on Frans Nielsen who had a tap-in on Matt Moulson's great pass and shot it into Miller's leg. Josh Bailey already had his arms up to celebrate a goal.

8:30 left: Penalties have worn down Buffalo's offensive chances. Shots are 24-13 for the Islanders -- and that means it's 14-2 in this period.

8:02 left: The count is up to 16-2. And that's 10 shots in the last three minutes. The Sabres have been giving them up in bunches lately. Remember the Leafs' 22-shot third in HSBC Arena last week? Fifteen of those were in the last eight minutes.

7:32 left: Freddy Meyer goes for cross-checking for the Isles' first penalty. And that was a cheapie too, just for the record.

6:25 left: DiPietro's best save of the night? A glove grab off Myers via a great cross-ice pass from Stafford. Watching Connolly on the bench. Looked like he got hit in the face on the PP's first faceoff.

5:05 left: Penalty over. Not much action on the PP for the Sabres other than Myers' chance.

4:27 left: There's that man Bergenheim again. Tips home a great feed from Andrew MacDonald to make it 2-0 on the Isles' 28th shot of the night.

4:06 left: The Sabres get right back in it as Connolly's shot from the left circle is tipped in by Mike Grier, his ninth of the season, to make it 2-1. Connolly extends his point streak to 11 games, the longest-current run in the NHL. Ends nearly eight scoreless periods in this building for Buffalo. The other assist went to Tallinder, and it was his 100th NHL point.

2:08 left: Miller stones Blake Comeau on a 2-on-1 that produces the Isles' 30th shot of the game and 20th of the period. Awful giveaway by Montador set up the chance.

End-2nd: It's 2-1 through two and shots are 31-17 for the Islanders (21-6 in that period. Yikes).  But Buffalo has been coming on. DiPietro made a great save on Pominville in the final minute to keep his team in front.

First Period

15:00 left: The Sabres tested DiPietro early, getting four shots in the first 70 seconds and the first six of the game before Jon Sim got the Islanders' first, a good chance on Miller with 15:45 left. DiPietro is getting a few "Dee-pee, Dee-pee" chants from the crowd, but it's not a huge response to his home return. Really liked the first shift from the Gaustad-Kaleta-Mair line as it created plenty of chances. Hated the first shift from Butler and Rivet, who were running around the whole time in their end.

14:22 left: The Islanders take a 1-0 lead as rookie John Tavares gets his 17th of the year -- and first in 10 games on a rebound of Kyle Okposo's shot on a 2-on-1. Tyler Myers got caught up ice and Tavares potted the rebound ahead of Myers and Pominville.

12:00 left: Sorry for the delayed posts. I must be so flummoxed by this place I forgot to hit "Publish". Cardinal sin of blogging.

10:36 left: Islanders really skating after the goal. Miller had to make a couple great saves on one flurry to keep the hosts from scoring again.

9:16 left: Kennedy goes for hooking to put the Islanders on the power play. No changes on the lines tonight: It was Hecht-Connolly-Pominville, followed by Mair-Gaustad-Kaleta, Vanek-Roy-Stafford and MacArthur-Kennedy-Hecht. Tallinder-Myers, Butler-Rivet and Lydman-Montador on defense. Wonder how close Butler is to being scratched on this trip for Sekera. Butler is a team-worst minus-12 and struggling in his own end. That's a move to watch for the rest of this trip.

5:21 left: Sabres' PK was solid again and Buffalo should be on the PP now. Kaleta drilled Jack Hillen behind the net with a clean hit and Sim then took Kaleta out up ice when he was nowhere near the puck. That was interference for sure and the Buffalo bench was irate. Reputation again hurts Kaleta. Terrible.

4:05 left: MacArthur for tripping behind the Isles net. This team has to stop taking penalties early in games. An epidemic of late.

2:05 left: Isles' PP is worst in the league at home. Maybe Buffalo should keep taking penalties. Only one shot in two chances so far.

End-1st: It remains 1-0 and shots were 11-10 for the Sabres (after they were once 6-0 and 8-1). Lindy Ruff not happy with the officiating. He stormed off the ice barking at Ian Walsh and Chris Lee.  Sabres have given up eight unanswered goals in this building in the last seven periods they've played here.

Kovy is Thrashers' version of Soupy

ATLANTA -- Ilya Kovalchuk is the Atlanta Thrashers' franchise player but he could be the No. 1 prize for other teams at the trade deadline if he can't hammer out a new deal with the team. Kovalchuk told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a story for today's editions that he's not frustrated with the pace of talks -- yet. Still, it seems more and more unlikely that Thrashers can meet his price and other teams have to be looking at the Russian Olympian as a rental for the playoff run and perhaps as a guy they could try to sign longterm.

That said, you wonder how it's impacting the Thrashers. Until Tuesday's 6-1 win over reeling Ottawa, Atlanta had not won in regulation since Nov. 30 -- a span of 21 games! Kovalchuk was scoreless for three straight games before collecting three points Tuesday.  GM Don Waddell insists he's not actively seeking a trade   but the Thrashers can't afford to let Kovalchuk walk for nothing as a UFA after the season either.

For that reason, a Kovalchuk deal might become a necessity. Just like it was for the Sabres two years ago in dealing Brian Campbell to San Jose. Buffalo couldn't afford to get nothing for Campbell and made its deal for Steve Bernier, which eventually turned into Craig Rivet. The Campbell saga became quite a distraction in the Buffalo locker room. This one could turn out the same.

"Quite honestly, it hasn't been a distraction,"Atlanta coach John Anderson told me today. "Ilya has still been scoring. He had a couple games where he didn't but really that was bizarre to us. It has not been an issue. Both parties have been very good in negotiating in the boardroom and not in the paper. They've done a wonderful job of it and hopefully it can get done soon."

Don't hold your breath. By the way, I'm with Bucky, who spent a lot of time on this topic in today's chat: Don't start the Kovalchuk-to-Buffalo talk. Yes, he's a wondrous offensive talent but he plays no defense and the first time he took a shift that went into the 90-second range, Lindy Ruff would blow a gasket. Kovy wouldn't fit this system at all. No way.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Pregame skate report: Kaleta is back

ATLANTA -- Hope the boards in Philips Arena are bolted down good because Patrick Kaleta's six-game wait to get back on the ice is over.

Coach Lindy Ruff said the physical winger will be back in the lineup tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers after being in the press box since suffering a leg injury Dec. 27 against St. Louis. Matt Ellis will join Nathan Paetsch and Andrej Sekera on the scratch list. Kaleta will be in Ellis' spot on the fourth line with Paul Gaustad and Adam Mair.

"We want to get Pat going," Ruff said after the Sabres' pregame skate ended early this afternoon. "He had played really well before he went out. I think we can use his speed, we can use his physicality. We'll have to look at rotating a couple guys (as scratches) because it's a pretty group up front that's worked hard."

Kaleta has played a total of just 16 minutes, 59 seconds in the last 13 games. He was felled by Jarkko Ruutu's hit Dec. 16 in Ottawa and missed the last two periods of that game as well as the next one. He returned to play just 4:57 Dec. 19 against Pittsburgh but his sore neck wasn't healed enough to continue. He sat out three more and played just 6:46 Dec. 27 in St. Louis before injuring his leg in a collision with the net. He hasn't played since and really has been healthy for at least the last three games.

"It's been pretty tough," Kaleta said . "I'm glad the team has been playing the way they have and getting wins but on a personal level I want to be in there and helping out this team. Sitting in the press box, you feel pretty secluded from everyone else. I'm just happy to get back in the lineup. ... Tonight, I'm feeling good and raring to go."

It will be Ryan Miller (25-8-3, 2.04, .935) in goal for Buffalo against Atlanta's Ondrej Pavelec (10-12-3, 3.55, .902). Nik Antropov (hip) has missed four games for Atlanta and is questionable. Ex-Sabre Maxim Afinogenov, who has 16 goals on the season but just five in the last 21 games, is no longer playing with star Ilya Kovalchuk. He's on a line with Marty Reasoner and Colby Armstrong.

Stat to note: The Thrashers are 12-3-3 here all-time against Buffalo and the Sabres haven't won in this building since a 4-3 shootout win on Feb. 6, 2007. Their last regulation win here was Jan. 31, 2006.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)


 

Devil of a game

Please tell me you didn't miss the Devils-Rangers game on Versus (sorry, DirecTV people). Had to be the greatest scoreless tie through OT in history. Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist combined to make 96 saves through regulation and OT (51 by Brodeur), and seven more in the shootout before Patrik Elias beat Lundqvist to give the Devils the win. Ales Kotalik was one of the Rangers foiled by Brodeur in the shootout.

Brodeur's 51 saves are the most in his career among his 107 shutouts. It was just the second scoreless tie he's been involved with; the other was against Dominik Hasek and the Sabres in the Meadowlands in 1996. That game ended 0-0 as there were no shootouts back then.

Check out the highlights here. Plenty of saves to watch.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Big honor for Teppo in Phoenix

Here's some great news out of Phoenix for a great guy, former Sabres defenseman Teppo Numminen: The Coyotes are going to induct him into their Ring of Honor Jan. 30 in a pregame ceremony prior to their game against the New York Rangers. Numminen will become the first Coyotes-era player in the team's Ring, joining former Winnipeg Jets Bobby Hull (No. 9), Dale Hawerchuk (10) and Thomas Steen (25).

Numminen was a second-round choice of Winnipeg in 1986 and played with the team for 15 years (eight in Winnipeg and seven in Phoenix). Numminen appeared in a franchise record 1,098 games with the Jets and Coyotes, and ranks as the Jets/Coyotes’ all-time leader in goals, assists and points among defensemen. He was captain in 2001-02 and 2002-03, making him the last Coyotes player to wear the “C” prior to Shane Doan.

“Teppo Numminen was a true professional and a player I looked up to my entire career,” said Doan.  “He played the game with a quiet confidence and at an elite level consistently during his career while always displaying his incredible shot. This is a tremendous honor for him and I am proud to have been his teammate and his friend."

Numminen announced his retirement Aug. 5 after returning to the Sabres last year following open-heart surgery that limited him to just the final game of the 2007-08 season. His 1,372 games are the most ever by a European-trained NHL player.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)


 

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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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