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Four forwards close to return but Nolan says Enroth, Neuvirth both likely done for year

By Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- The Sabres will continue to field a pretty thin lineup for tonight's game against the Flyers in Wells Fargo Center (reminder: 7:30 on NBCSN, not MSG). But Ted Nolan was optimistic after today's morning skate that could change in a big way as soon as Tuesday's visit by Detroit to First Niagara Center.

Marcus Foligno, Chris Stewart and Drew Stafford will all sit out again today but Foligno and Stewart skated fully. And even though Stafford did not take the ice, Nolan said there's a good chance all three could play against the Red Wings.

Seeing Foligno in particular was a shock. Nolan ruled him out for the season after the winger suffered what looked like  a serious knee injury Thursday in St. Louis.

"I was very shocked and quite surprised he was able to walk around yesterday," Nolan said. "So to see him on the ice is very encouraging news."

"It was pretty gross," Foligno said of the replay of him going to the ice. "If you had told me I was gonna be skating while I was falling, I would have told you I had no chance. It's felt pretty good. After coming off it was more of a stinger and bone bruise. No ACL, MCL, meniscus. I was able to keep icing it, days off and today back on the ice."

Nolan said forward Torrey Mitchell could return Tuesday, or Thursday in New York. So if the Sabres get some help up front, it could be a factor in their quest to avoid being the NHL's lowest-scoring team since expansion. And the return of all four players would mean Luke Adam, Johan Larsson and perhaps Nicolas Deslauriers can head to Rochester to help the Amerks' playoff quest, which got a big boost Saturday in Toronto.

So who IS up front tonight? The lines this morning looked like this:

Conacher-Ennis-Leino
Hodgson-Girgensons-D'Agostini
Adam-Larsson-Deslauriers
Scott-Flynn-Ellis.

As for other injured Sabres, Mike Weber is nursing a foot problem and didn't skate but will play tonight. Nolan also expects Tyler Myers to play this week. On the down side, the coach has pretty much ruled out the return of Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth this season.

"I don't see it unless there's another Marcus Foligno miracle happening with those two guys," Nolan said.

Nathan Lieuwen will get the start in goal tonight, while the Flyers will go with Steve Mason. Philly had an optional skate this morning after yesterday's 5-2 loss in Boston that dropped the Flyers to 1-4-2 in their last seven games.

Click below to hear today's sessions with the media by Nolan and Foligno:

Ted Nolan

Marcus Foligno

Emery beatdown keyed Flyers' surge after brutal start

By Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- In our previous post, we showed you some great fistic fun between the Sabres and Flyers from the 90s involving the goalies. But the Philadelphia Story this season is about another goalie brawl and it was basically a disgusting mugging.

Still, the Nov. 1 Ray Emery assault -- and that's what it was -- on Capitals netminder Brayden Holtby seems to have been a turning point in the Flyers' season. They lost that game, 7-0, and owner Ed Snider said their 3-9 record left them at one of the lowest points in their 47 seasons but it has sparked a turnaround.

Since then, the Flyers are 5-1-2. Emery, by the way, gets the start here tonight against the Sabres

The Flyers started 0-3 and fired coach Peter Laviolette. They were 1-7 after eight games and 3-8 in October. But incredibly, a win tonight could pull them within a point of a playoff spot out of the ultra-struggling Metropolitan Division.

And it all started with this:

Go to the video: Nolan's Sabres had some rough-and-tumble moments vs. Flyers in the '90s

By Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- When Ted Nolan was asked Wednesday in Buffalo about playing the Flyers, he smiled and reminsced about his players learning how to stick up for themselves in the rough-and-tumble affairs the teams put together during the 1990s. It seemed like every night they played there was some kind of circus brawl going on involving Flyers goalie Garth Snow -- the man who eventually fired Nolan as coach of the Islanders in 2008 after taking over as GM.

Snow got into it with Andrei Trefilov, Dominik Hasek and Steve Shields in three separate incidents in the span of 14 months. The latter came in Game One of the 1997 Eastern Conference semifinal series won by the Flyers in five games, the last games coached by Nolan in his first Buffalo stint.

Remember these?

Audio extra: Shero 'walks together forever' with greats in Hall of Fame induction

Shero
Fred Shero behind the bench with the Broad Street Bullies at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, circa 1975 (Getty Images).


By Mike Harrington

The Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony is tonight at 7:30 in Toronto (televised on NHL Network) and it marks a career milestone for Brendan Shanahan, Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer and Canadian women's star Geraldine Heaney.

(In a luncheon earlier today, former CBC and Sabres analyst Harry Neale was honored with the Foster Hewitt Award for broadcasting excellent. Amy Moritz spoke with Neale for this story in today's editions.)

Also earning his Hall call tonight posthumously is longtime former NHL coach Fred Shero and he will be represented by his son, Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero.

Here's a great NHL.com story about Shero's legacy in the game.

Nashville Predators announcer Pete Weber, my good friend and the longtime former Bisons and Sabres radio voice, taped an interview about Shero with his Nashville color analyst and former Shero center Terry Crisp. It's a great, breezy listen at the end of this post (Thanks for the assist, Pete).

Crisp first met Shero in Buffalo, playing for the 1969-70 Bisons that won the AHL's Calder Cup in the team's final season before the Sabres came to town. He then played for both of Philadelphia's Stanley Cup champions, including the 1975 team that beat the Sabres in Game Six at Memorial Auditorium to win their second straight Cup.

The interview includes stories about crazy practice drills, the wild 1976 game against the Central Red Army that saw the Russians walk off the ice for a few minutes, and Shero's famous 1974 blackboard quote before the Flyers' first Cup clincher against Boston: "Win today and we'll walk together forever."

It's great stuff.

Terry Crisp/Pete Weber on Shero

Video: Defiant Flyers owner meets the media (seriously) after Laviolette is fired

By Mike Harrington

Click above for a video from CSN Philly that shows a clip of the Flyers' press conference Monday announcing the surprise firing of coach Peter Laviolette after three games. Who is shown answering the question?

A longtime Philadelphia staple. Ed Snider. The owner.

Yes, owners really do attend press conferences. Especially when they fire coaches and need to show some accountability to the fans for their decisions. They even answer questions about the situation.

(Sorry to open an old wound, Sabres fans. The point had to be made in the wake of Monday's events.)

Snider even put out a pretty passionate defense of his franchise. Wouldn't you have liked to have heard that at some point since February? 

Now, admittedly, the question in the video here is a little goofy. Yes, the Flyers haven't won a Stanley Cup since they beat the Sabres in 1975, but I don't know there's a whole lot wrong with a "culture" that includes 16 playoff appearances in the last 18 seasons -- including six conference finals and two trips to the Stanley Cup final. 

Go back even further and the Flyers have made four other trips to the Stanley Cup final (1976, 1980, 1985, 1987). Yes, they lost them all. But again, is there a problem with the "culture" of the franchise? This seems to be a "problem" I know the Eastern Conference's other 0-3 team would love to have.

Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski, however, says a stale culture is absolutely a problem for the Flyers. And the hiring of assistant coach and former Philly enforcer Craig Berube just reinforces it.

Hmmm. OK. If you say so.

Laviolette staying in Philly but Tambellini out as GM in Edmonton

By Mike Harrington

The Flyers looked like Dead Team Skating when they were here Saturday afternoon and I know I wasn't the only one thinking Lindy Ruff might have a chance at a small measure of revenge against Peter Laviolette for 2006 by taking his job behind the Flyers' bench next season.

From the sounds of things coming out of Montreal today, it looks like that's not going to happen.

As reported by Sam Carchidi in the Philadelphia Inquirer, General Manager Paul Holmgren said today that injuries are at the root of the Flyers' evils and "I haven’t even thought along those lines" when asked directly if he was considering a coaching change.

Continue reading "Laviolette staying in Philly but Tambellini out as GM in Edmonton" »

It's (finally) Hockey Day in Buffalo and here's today's game plan

By Mike Harrington

Greetings and welcome to Sabres season! Bet many of you never thought we'd say that this year.

But lo and behold, here we are at First Niagara Center getting ready for today's opener against the Philadelphia Flyers.

I'll be joined here today by John Vogl, Bucky Gleason and photographer Harry Scull. Here's a look at our coverage plans for the Sabres-Flyers game, which will air on Ch. 2 and WGR Radio with a 12:30 faceoff:

---I'll be on the WGR Radio roundtable from 11-11:40, discussing the season with Brian Koziol, Paul Hamilton and Brian Duff. Hamilton is doing the radio play-by-play today for the ill Rick Jeanneret. 

---At noon, I'll host a special opening day chat on the Sabres Edge blog for 30 minutes.

The link to the pregame chat is right here.

---Then stick around for our in-game blog all afternoon and a special 15-minute "Sabres flashchat" we'll have during the second intermission. We'll have intermission flashchats from time to time throughout the season; make your questions good, as only the best will make it in that short timespan!

---After the game, be sure to look for audio from the locker room and our postgame video wrap-up.

Today's Buffalo News includes our annual NHL preview section, featuring everything you need to know about the Sabres and presented through the auspices of award-winning Graphics Editor Vince Chiaramonte, sports page designer Andrea Zagata and cover artist Dan Zakroczemski.

In our cover story, Vogl talks about the Sabres' situation at center, where Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson are vastly inexperienced compared to most teams' No. 1-2 guys down the middle.

Vogl's team preview discusses a Sabres team that might have lost some offense but picked up some sandpaper edge that has been missing.

My main contribution looks at the question of whether a goalie -- Ryan Miller, perhaps? -- can steal a short season for his team. 

Follow this link for Vogl's four reasons for optimism and his four reasons for pessimism.

What do I think the Sabres have to do in a short season? Not stumble out of the gate at home.

Vogl talks to Pat LaFontaine to take a look back at the '94-95 Sabres, who finished 22-19-7 and were a first-round loser to the Flyers. 

Bucky Gleason says it's all on Lindy Ruff now. 

In our Mixed Media column, Greg Connors says NBC is ready to finally get this thing going. The network did a great job yesterday showing the Kings' banner-raising and then switching to Flyers-Penguins.

Outside of the preview section:

In announcing Darcy Regier's contract extension, owner Terry Pegula said Saturday "this looks like a good team." We'll see. 

Ville Leino's status for today's game is uncertain due to a leg injury.

Around the rink: New buyouts, Girgensons, Giroux

By Mike Harrington

Some items from the late afternoon:

---The NHL and NHLPA have made a quick side agreement to allow a team to have a compliance buyout right now, rather than in June. The impetus for the deal was Montreal telling Scott Gomez to stay home and make his $7.3 million rather than risk injury now, which would prevent a buyout come June. Same with Wade Redden, due $6.5 million from the Rangers.

Gomez and Redden of the Rangers will be bought out now, although the teams won't save on their cap until next season.  But it allows them to play this year. A team can use one of its two buyouts between now and Sunday -- although it will still keep the cap hit even if the player signs with another team. 

I wouldn't expect any other buyouts. More of a courtesy to two players really stuck. (So you can stop the Sabres' Ville Leino chatter -- he was on the top power-play unit at today's practice)

---The American Hockey League has announced that Syracuse winger Richard Panik has been given a three-game suspension for his hit Saturday night on Rochester's Zemgus Girgensons, the Sabres' second No. 1 pick last June. 

---The Flyers will name Claude Giroux their captain Thursday at an open practice in Wells Fargo Center. They have been without a captain since Chris Pronger went down in November, 2011. Pronger's career is apparently over due to concussions.

Giroux is expected to come to town here Sunday without Danny Briere, who is doing better from his hairline wrist fracture but is still expected to miss the weekend. The Flyers open Saturday against Pittsburgh before coming to Buffalo.

The time Derek Roy thought reporters got traded

By Tim Graham

When the Buffalo Sabres traded center Derek Roy on Monday, it reminded me of the time goaltender Martin Biron and I convinced Roy that I was on the verge of getting traded to Newsday.

I referenced the story in a tweet that generated a healthy response. People wanted to know the details. So, inspired by similar anecdotes I've been reading the past few days in Frank Deford's excellent autobiography "Over Time," here's just one of a thousand behind-the-scene stories I can tell from two decades hanging out in locker rooms.

A day or two before the NHL trade deadline in February 2007, I leaned against the wall in a nearly empty Sabres dressing room, waiting to interview a particular player. I don't recall who.

Biron and I were about five feet apart on opposite sides of the entryway. He was inspecting his leg pads at his locker stall. Roy sat at his locker way down the row to Biron's left. Jason Pominville was down the row of lockers to my right.

On the large, flat-screen television was a TSN show dissecting trade-deadline rumors.

Ever since Ryan Miller emerged as the franchise goalie, Biron's name frequently got bandied about as trade bait. He was anxious about getting dealt, and this time he would be -- to the Philadelphia Flyers. By this time, Biron and I had known each other for seven years and enjoyed many conversations never meant for the paper.

With my notepad in my back pocket and no recorder I asked Biron -- just two guys talking -- how he was holding up. He said something diplomatic, but he silently telegraphed, with a theatrical roll of the eyes, that he was stressing out. Then, in typical Biron fashion, he quickly tried to turn the situation into a joke.

"How are you hanging in there, Tim?" Biron asked. "Do you think you'll get traded this year?"

Those who know me are aware my sense of humor can be drier than powdered gin. So I deadpanned that my agent was hearing Newsday and the Boston Globe had called The Buffalo News about me and wanted to know what it would take to close a deal.

Biron, equally as sarcastic, started to express sympathy for my predicament. Roy hollered "Bulls---! Reporters don't get traded."

I gently informed Roy newspapers make trades all the time. "Yeah, that's true!" Biron chirped. I explained when NHL teams are about to make the playoffs, their local newspapers sometimes need to bolster coverage for the stretch run. Sometimes they have too many editors and need to acquire reporters. Or vice versa.

The New York Islanders, under Ted Nolan, had been one of hockey's most exciting stories that season and were gunning for a playoff berth. Newsday wanted go all-in. As for the Globe, I wasn't sure what its motive was because the Boston Bruins didn't look like a playoff team. Maybe the Globe needed to unload a contract or wanted me for depth.

Roy, about to turn 24 and in his fourth NHL season (counting the lockout), stared off in the distance and nodded his head, satisfied with this new bit of insight.

Unfortunately, the ruse wouldn't last long -- not nearly as long as the time I used a tape-delayed boxing match to persuade defenseman Alexei Zhitnik into thinking I was a legitimate psychic by predicting the exact round and method that massive underdog Corrie Sanders would whip Zhitnik's countryman and friend Wladimir Klitschko.

I shifted a glance to Pominville. I could tell he wasn't buying it, and he was about to say something.

Biron and I cracked. We told Roy we were just screwing with him.

Roy didn't think it was as funny as we did.

Vote for your three stars

HBO star Brzygalov announces he's not starting in goal for Winter Classic

While I'm working on a story for Monday's paper about the Sabres' Grinch-like December, here's a New Year's chuckle to enjoy:

Coaches are notorious for not letting out the information on their starting goaltenders. We barely ask Lindy Ruff who's starting anymore because it's a waste of time since he'll almost never answer the question. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is the same way. So you better believe he must be furious about what happened today in Philly.

Reporters covering Flyers practice on the eve of the Winter Classic asked Sergei Bobrovsky who was starting and were told, "It's very confidential." Laviolette said there was no decision yet. But Ilya Brzygalov, who has been far and away the No. 1 star of HBO's "24/7" with his hysterically bizarre rants,  quickly gave it away today in another crazy interview.

Watch it below, courtesy of Yahoo's terrific Puck Daddy blog. And bet a lot of this shows up in Episode 4 of 24/7. And bet that he's going to get quite a talking to from Laviolette once the HBO cameras are gone.

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

Vote for your three stars

Boucher, not Ward, in goal for Canes

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes have lost six of their last seven and coach Paul Maurice is dealing with daily rumors about his job status. So what does the coach have in store tonight against the Sabres? A surprise in goal.

The Canes didn't skate today and Maurice met the media this evening in the 5 o'clock hour with the announcement that backup Brian Boucher will play goal against the Sabres and not former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Cam Ward.

Maybe Maurice is playing a hunch off Boucher's work in the playoffs against Buffalo last year, although some of that was certainly spotty. He said it's largely a byproduct of giving Ward a mental break.

Ward is just 6-8-2 with a 3.27 GAA and .904 save percentage. Boucher has yet to start at home and is 0-2-1, 3.86. .864.

Boucher is 3-4, 2.86 in his regular season career against Buffalo, but owns wins in the playoffs in 2000 and 2011. For all that you remember Ward for in 2006, his regular season mark against Buffalo is a pedestrian 7-6-2, 2.89.

The Canes were complete no-shows in Wednesday's 4-0 loss at Montreal but this still seems odd. Your job is at stake and you put it in the hands of the journeyman over the guy with the ring? Whatever.

Join us at 7 for our live blog. The MSG telecast will be run by Kevin Sylvester, Danny Gare and Brian Duff.

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

Briere talks about Leino

I had a chance to chat with Danny Briere about the Sabres signing of Ville Leino, who was Briere's linemate in Philadelphia.

"The fans are going to love him," Briere said by phone. "I know personally I loved playing with him. He's a very creative player, very strong on the puck, exciting to watch. He's a clutch player, as you guys have seen in the playoffs.

"It's disappointing for me to see him leave but I'm happy that he's going to a place I know very well and a place he's going to be appreciated."

-- John Vogl

News from all over on Stamkos, Kariya-Kaleta, Drury, Marchant and more

The news is flying fast and furious in the last hour or so around the NHL:

---The New York Rangers have announced they have bought out the contract of Chris Drury. He's got a degenerative knee condition so I say the Sabres should look elsewhere but it will be interesting to see how tempted they are to put Drury in the Mike Grier-Rob Niedermayer role -- if Drury is even healthy enough to do it. This New York Post story includes a statement from Drury thanking the team and New York fans.

---Concussions have forced Blues center Paul Kariya to retire and he issued some blasts on his way out the door at the NHL's headshot policy. "[Sidney] Crosby is a perfect example," said Kariya. "You have the best player in the game playing on a the same team as a guy (Matt Cooke) who is ending guys’ careers with those kinds of hits."

Kariya's biggest blast was saved for Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta, whose blindside elbow on Dec. 27, 2009 was the final blow to Kariya's career. (Take a look at the clip below)

 “The first concussion I had, on a brutal, blindside hit, the guy got a two-game suspension. That was in 1996," Kariya said. "The last one, from Kaleta, was exactly the same play, and he doesn’t get anything. If you start at 10-game suspensions and go to 20, that sends a message to the players. But if you start fining the owners and suspending the coach, then it’s out of the game."

---Williamsville native Todd Marchant has announced his retirement from the Ducks. Marchant, who won a Stanley Cup in 2007 and brought it home to the then-Amherst Pepsi Center, will stay on as the team's director of player development.

---Also: Semyon Varlamov is choosing to play in the KHL rather than return to the Capitals; The Lightning re-signs Dwayne Roloson for one year, $3 million; the Islanders say they won't reach a deal with Christian Erhoff and the Canadians traded the rights to defenseman James Wisniewski to the Blue Jackets. 

AND HERE'S ANOTHER NECK-BUSTER: I was in Rochester at Pegulapalooza II so I'm just catching up to it. The Philadelphia Daily News is laying out a scenario where the Flyers bust out an offer of 13 or 14 years and $100 million for Tampa Bay restricted free agent Steven Stamkos. Holy cow. So can they keep Danny Briere too or does he have to go to a team that needs a center in, say, the 716 area code?

Wow. And we're still about 44 hours from Friday at noon. Stay tuned.

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

Flyers had little left for round two

I had my suspicions about this one all through the four straight games the Flyers lost to the Bruins, three of which they looked completely outclassed. It seemed like the Flyers had absolutely nothing left for Boston after the seven-game grind against the Sabres, while the Bruins didn't have nearly the same trouble summoning energy after their seven-game first-rounder against Montreal.

Turns out I was on to something.

In this CSNPhilly.com story, several Flyers speaking on locker cleanout day admitted the series against the Sabres took a lot out of them both mentally and physically.

“I think that the Buffalo series may have taken more out of us than a normal seven-game series,” said Flyers defenseman Sean O’Donnell. “They are physically and emotionally exhausting, there was a lot of ups and downs there. We came back a lot, I think looking back on that seven-game series, it seemed more like a nine- or 10-game series.”

There are plenty of other issues percolating around the Flyers in the wake of their quick second-round exit.

---Defenseman Chris Pronger will have back surgery on Thursday while several other players went under the knife on Wednesday. The most noteworthy was captain Mike Richards, who had a torn ligament in his wrist that clearly rendered him ineffective in both rounds. 

---Speaking of Richards, CSNPhilly's Tim Panaccio, the longtime Flyers beat writer, put together this story where coach Peter Laviolette admitted he's still working on his relationship with Richards. The Flyers' captain is a pretty churlish sort most of the time with the media and, based on his Twitter account, he wasn't happy with the story. Panaccio had this response.

---Flyers owner Ed Snider agrees with everyone who watched the team in the playoffs: They need to find a No. 1 goalie, whether it's Sergei Bobrovsky or an outsider, and stick with him. 

Said Snider: "... Either one of the goalies we have has to step up in training camp, or we have to make improvements to make sure it happens. But we are NEVER going to go through the goalie issues we’ve gone through in the last couple of years again."

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

Live from Philly: This is it -- It's Game Seven

PHILADELPHIA -- Greetings again from high atop the Wells Fargo Center as we get set for Game Seven of what's been a classic first-round playoff series (It's also the fifth game I've covered here since March 6 so I would be more than happy to get to the Verizon Center if the Sabres oblige this evening). 

The Sabres and Flyers have played six games, plus a combined roughy 10 minutes of overtime, and Philly's 17-16 advantage in goals is simply courtesy of Kimmo Timonen's empty-netter in Game Three. Pretty amazing. 

At this point, the Sabres are playing with the house's money here. Sure, they blew a golden opportunity to close out the series Sunday and frittering away a pair of two-goal leads might haunt them all summer if they don't win tonight. But they're the seventh seed and the Flyers are the No. 2. And even without Chris Pronger and Jeff Carter, close Flyer watchers say they've played some of their best hockey since the new year in this series. Their problem has just been some horrific goaltending.

The Flyers are going with Brian Boucher tonight and he cannot have the start he did in Game Five, when he handed Buffalo two cheapies to Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek. The odd thing to note is that Boucher actually has better numbers (2.13 GAA, .935 save percentage) than Ryan Miller (2.61/.925). Miller has two shutouts and two five-goal games in the series. The Sabres are so short-handed, you figure he's going to have to nearly pitch another shutout.

We have had all kinds of information all day on the Sabres Edge blog, including notes, quotes and plenty of audio. Be sure to go back and check it all out if you've missed it. And be sure to check out the archive of our pregame live chat.

There's been a lot of jaw-flapping in this series since the end of Game Four and it's finally time for all the words to stop. It's time to play. Sixty minutes -- and maybe more -- to decide a winner. Keep it here for all your updates.

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

LINEUP: Montador is a scratch for Buffalo. So are Ellis-Kaleta-Connolly-Pominville. Roy-Hecht-Grier-Mancari are all in.

SABRES STARTERS: Vanek-Roy-Hecht-Sekera-Myers-Miller (guess they'll find out right away if these guys can play)
FLYERS STARTERS: Carcillo-Richards-Versteeg-Coburn-Timonen-Boucher. 

7:37 p.m.: The Flyers take the ice to roars from the crowd. They pass out orange T-shirts here and EVERYONE is wearing it tonight. Quite a look.

7:38 p.m.: The Sabres hit the ice. Boos.

7:40 p.m.: Another Lauren Hart-Kate Smith duet. Hard to beat that. Pretty deafening in here right now.

THIRD PERIOD

Of note: Stafford has four shots and Gerbe three to lead Buffalo. Briere has six to lead the Flyers. ... The Sabres have the lead in faceoffs, 23-20, but Gaustad's two clean losses were crushers. The Flyers have blocked 23 shots -- 17 in the second period -- while the Sabres blocked just 11. ... Briere, Richards and Giroux all have two-point games. ... Roy has played a mostly ineffective 13:08. The Flyers have gotten 12:17 out of Pronger. Ice time leaders are Coburn (16:24) and Leopold (16:26).

9:35 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

18:01 left: Good night, nurse. Leino goes down the left wing and pounds a slapshot from inside the circle over Miller's left shoulder. Flyers lead, 4-0. And here comes Enroth. Miller taps him on the pads, Lindy says something to Miller and No. 30 disappears down the tunnel into the offseason.

16:09 left: Boucher stops Sekera from the point and the "Booosh" chants come out again. Fans having a great time here and why not? Team has played great. Flyers could easily go to the finals again if Boucher can give them consistent goaltending and Pronger keeps getting healthier.

14:00 left: The Flyers won't know their second-round opponent tonight because the Habs have beaten Boston, 2-1, and they'll play Game Seven tomorrow in Beantown. East second round if Boston wins will be WAS/PIT-TB winner and PHI/BOS rematch. If Montreal wins: WAS-MON rematch and BOS/PIT-TB winner.

13:27 left: And the Flyers still don't have a shutout this year. Myers takes a Stafford pass and beats Boucher cleanly from the slot. Flyers lead, 4-1.

12:17 left: Timeout, Philly. Sabres playing better and Laviolette doesn't want anything goofy to happen given how leads seem to disappear in this series. Shots are 7-3 for Buffalo in the period.

9:57 left: Carcillo is one of those punk players you love on your team and hate if ye's on the other team. Well, tonight he's been doing a great job around the net causing havoc and he just got rewarded as he backhanded one past Enroth while falling down. What a pest. "Icing on the Cake" reads the sign-man's sign. Flyers lead, 5-1.

8:54 left: They just announced a scoring change on the third Philly goal. It's now going to Van Riemsdyk, his fourth of the series, instead of Giroux. They ruled Van Riemsdyk tipped it in. 

8:15 left: Flyers fans singing good-bye to the Sabres as Gerbe and Carcillo are shown the gate for the night. Gerbe gets 10, while Carcillo gets 10 plus a game. Hmmm. The last few minutes as Sabres for some guys in uniform. Maybe names like Mancari, Grier and Niedermayer? What do they do about Boyes? And this is probably the end too for Connolly, Montador and Lalime?

6:29 left: Boucher hasn't been tested but you can see his confidence too. Nice stop on Sekera. Out on top of his crease. Confident in what he's doing.

5:41 left: Timonen for holding.

4:39 left: Sabres convert as Boyes tips home a Roy feed. So he won't have a donut for the series but it hardly means anything. Flyers lead, 5-2. Boyes had gone 18 games without a goal.

3:02 left: Enroth with a great save on Powe's backhand tip of a Briere feed. How has Briere been so alone in this series?

2:00 left: Enroth to the bench.

58.5 left; Sabres have zone time, lose the puck and Ennis gets a slashing penalty.

Mercifully, it's over: A 5-2 loss ends the Buffalo season. The better team won here tonight. Final shots were 36-27. The Sabres had their chance in Game Six and they'll rue that one all summer. See you in training camp.

SECOND PERIOD

Of note: AP guru Mike Haim points out the only other time the Sabres had just two shots in a first period of the playoff game was on April 29, 1997 against Ottawa. That was a Game Seven overtime win too. Hmmm.). ... In Montreal, Boston's Milan Lucic got a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a hit from behind on old friend Jaroslav Spacek. Sabres can't even get five minutes called, let alone the gate. Of course, it gets called in Montreal where if you breathe on a Canadien, the crowd goes beserk and every referee in the league gets spooked. Biggest bunch of whiny fans in the league. ... OK, I'm told Grier's glove deflected the goal. Fine. Still hate it.

Stats: Coburn and Van Riemsdyk had three shots on goal. Grier and Gerbe have the only shots for Sabres. Um, top forwards? You gonna show up? Flyers had a 12-8 edge in faceoffs. Sabres have a 15-11 edge in hits. Both teams have blocked six shots. Even with just a 1-0 score, that might have been the Sabres' worst period since the new year.

8:38 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

18:56 left: Giroux for interference. Miller made a big stop on Versteeg after just 14 seconds. Let's see if Sabres can capitalize.

17:29 left: Ennis a near miss. Couldn't tee the puck from backhand to forehand with a lot of net available and Boucher smothered. Great work at the points by Myers and Gragnani.

16:39 left: Boucher stops a Stafford wrister. Sabres have four shots in this period already.

15:20 left: Gaustad and Boyes have two routine easy clears out of the zone and fail both times. Zherdev fires wide on the first and Van Riemsdyk nearly puts it home on the second (hit Zherdev) before Myers takes an interference penalty.

15:15 left: Gaustad is killing the Sabres. Lost the faceoff and bad clear for another goal. An easy PP goal. Lost another faceoff. Shot from point hits Leopold, drops at Briere's feet and he has a tap-in. Flyers lead, 2-0. Shots are 18-6. Briere has six goals in the series.

12:20 left: Roy to the dressing room after a hard hit. Was it the leg? Pretty slow on the way off.

10:51 left: Butler for hooking on Briere. Another goal here and they blow the roof off this place.

9:41 left: There goes the roof. Pronger can't shoot but he can pass. Feeds Giroux for a bullet from the left circle. Miller might have been screened by Leopold and/or Van Riemsdyk. Flyers have 2 PP goals and lead, 3-0. The "Mil-ler, Mil-ler" chants are out and this baby is just about over. Shots are 22-8.

7:01 left: Shots are 23-9. Sabres mounting little offense. At a time like this, you think back to 2001. Can't help it. Sabres were 78 seconds away from a series-closing win before Mario Lemieux's fluke goal tied Game Six and forced overtime. Buffalo lost that one and Game Seven on the Darius Kasparaitis goal. Sabres were 10 minutes away in regulation of Game Six and couldn't get the overtime goal they needed either. With just 27 minutes left here, they don't have a sniff of this Game Seven.

6:30 left: Another Mike Haim special: Briere's six goals most in a series against Sabres since Quebec's Michel Goulet had six in 1985 -- in a five-gamer! 

4:00 left: Wild sequence sees Miller with a left glove to the face of Carcillo, which had to be a roughing penalty but wasn't called, followed by few seconds later by Carcillo doing a fake rush on Miller. Van Riemsdyk then barely misses the far post on a great solo dash.

3:32 left: Shots are 25-11. This place is insane right now. There is almost no way for you to talk to the person next to you in the press box. Like being at a heavy metal concert I would guess (no, I've never been to one).

1:12 left: Boucher with a couple good saves in tight on Stafford. Solid text reminder from Sully: Flyers did not have a shutout all season. Imagine getting one in Game Seven after all this talk about their goaltending? Carle gone for roughing.

57.8 left: Coburn and Myers go for cross-checking and slashing. Stays 5-on-4.

END-2ND: It's 3-0 for the Flyers. Shots are 27-14 (it was 12-11 for Buffalo in that period)

FIRST PERIOD

7:42 p.m.: The puck is dropped.

18:26 left: Pronger is taking a regular shift for the Flyers it would appear. Just made a steal in the neutral zone and Miller made a save on his wrist shot.

17:03: Gragnani and Briere go for holding and roughing, respectively. The lines have looked like this so far: Vanek-Roy-Hecht, Ennis-Niedermayer-Stafford, Gerbe-Gaustad-Mancari, McCormick, Boyes-Grier.

13:17 left: No whistles for quite a while. The Sabres have been pretty brutal with the puck so far. Giroux was alone in front and had most of the net but hit the post. Shots are 5-1 for Philly and the puck has hardly been out of the Sabres' zone. The defense pairs, by the way, are Sekera-Myers, Leopold-Gragnani and Butler-Weber. So Butler and Myers have been broken up.

11:53 left: Gragnani pounds Briere with a crosscheck into the goalpost. Knocks the net off and forces a whistle. No one noticed? Lucky there. Shots are 7-1.

10:52 left: Sabres' best chance is a 45-foot slapper from the boards by Grier that Boucher gloved. Buffalo has gotten nowhere near the Flyers' net so far. Shots are 7-2.

9:00 left: Sabres have held on for 11 minutes as the crowd was roaring. Let's see if they can settle this game down some. Flyers threw a pretty big roundhouse at them from the start.

8:36 left: Boyes fires wide on a 2-on-1 with Roy. Good to see him shoot but how big a pressure release would that have been for him to put that one home?

6:16 left: Shots are 11-2. That's a pretty good reflection of how the play has gone. And remember, the first period has been owned by Buffalo in this series, 11-5. The Flyers have finally found a way to get off to a good start. Don't have to worry about your goalie giving up a softie if he faces no shots.

5:45 left: Just as I said that, Boucher nearly gift-wrapped one to Hecht by losing the puck behind the net. Boucher recovers with help from Pronger & Co. Pronger has played eight shifts and 4:38 so far. Basically a regular turn. Maybe he's feeling better. Sure. But he knows this is Game Seven too. They lose, his hand will feel fine by October. A gamer for sure. 

4:37 left: Briere for boarding on Niedermayer. Another dangerous play in the corner. Niedermayer stunned for a bit. Now on the bench. And the crowd actually booed the penalty call. FlyerFan, that could have easily been five minutes.

2:33 left: Flyers kill it easily. Richards actually had the best chance with a tip of a Giroux pass that went wide. Standing ovation at the whistle.

29.3 left: Miller with an absolute stoning of Richards from the slot after a terrible giveaway pass from Leopold. Passed it right to him. Sabres desperate to get out of this period zip-zip.

18.2 left: Devastating. Sabres simply couldn't clear the zone. Too many faceoffs. They lose another one (Briere beat Gaustad) and Coburn flips one from the point that somehow gets through Miller's legs. It dropped. Gotta stop it. Miller had been the best player on the ice by far. Almost got Buffalo outta here with no damage. Flyers lead, 1-0.

END-1ST: Shots are 16-2. Are the Sabres simply out of gas in this series? Looks like it. And that might have been the worst goal Miller has given up the whole series at the worst time. 1-0 is a huge difference right now from 0-0 given the way the Flyers are playing.

Hecht, Roy, Mancari in lineup for Sabres

Here at the Sabres' lines for tonight's Game Seven:

Jochen Hecht-Derek Roy-Thomas Vanek

Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Mark Mancari

Tyler Ennis-Rob Niedermayer-Drew Stafford

Cody McCormick-Brad Boyes-Mike Grier

UPDATE: Steve Montador is the defenseman that was scratched. Andrej Sekera is dressed in his place.

--John Vogl

Live pregame chat with News hockey reporters at 7 p.m.

Game Seven history

Good omen for the Sabres: Home teams are just 2-8 in Game Seven the last two seasons -- and they went 0-4 last season as Washington fell to Montreal, Phoenix fell to Detroit, Pittsburgh fell to Montreal and Boston fell to Philadelphia.

Bad omen for the Sabres: They have a much poorer Game Seven record in their history than the Flyers. Check out the Game Seven results:

Sabres in Game Seven (1-5 overall/1-1 home, 0-4 road)

1983: L at Boston, 3-2 OT
1992: L at Boston, 3-2
1994: L at New Jersey, 2-1
1997: d. Ottawa, 3-2 (OT)
2001: L to Pittsburgh, 3-2 (OT)
2006: L. at Carolina, 4-2 

Here's a YouTube I found of the Derek Plante overtime goal that beat Ottawa

Flyers in Game Seven (8-6 overall, 5-3 home, 3-3 road)
1968: Lost to St. Louis, 3-1
1974: d. NY Rangers, 4-3
1975: d. NY Islanders, 4-1
1976: d. Toronto, 7-3
1981: Lost to Calgary, 4-1
1987: d. NY Islanders, 5-1
1987: Lost at Edmonton, 3-1
1988: Lost at Washington, 5-4 (OT)
1989: d. at Pittsburgh, 4-1
2000: Lost to New Jersey, 2-1
2003: d. Toronto, 6-1
2004: Lost at Tampa Bay, 2-1
2008: d. at Washington, 3-2 (OT)
2010 d. at Boston, 4-3

---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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