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Today's schedule on ice

It might be a holiday in the business world today but there's no holiday on ice. A quick rundown of what's in store:

---The Sabres return to the ice at 11:30 a.m. in First Niagara Center in advance of Tuesday's game here against Edmonton (as usual, the practice is closed to the public).

---The Flyers-Rangers Winter Classic has been pushed back two hours, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., to allow for a tad colder weather and thus better ice at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The NBC coverage, however, will still begin at 1. NHL Network, which has done a great job all weekend, will be on the air all day leading up to the game and will have plenty of postgame coverage.

---With lots of drama surrounding the Sabres and in the hour leading up to the Winter Classic, I will host another On the Beat chat here today at 2 p.m. Be sure to join me. Somehow, I think Lindy Ruff might be the subject of a question or two. Or three.

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

Ice chips: On tendons, temps, and other tidbits

CALGARY -- Taking a quick look around the Internet:

---Want to learn more about Derek Roy's injury?  Here's a good article I found on quad tendon tears. The reference to blunt trauma is clearly exactly what happened to Roy when he was checked Thursday night.

---It appears concern is growing about the weather in Pittsburgh for Saturday's Winter Classic between the Penguins and Capitals. The temperatures could approach 50 and it might even be raining. I'm no mad scientist but that doesn't sound like the kind of weather you need to keep ice going.

This is, of course, the most heavily promoted of the four Classics and the NHL certainly doesn't want a one-day postponement to Sunday where it would be going head-to-head with the NFL. Latest word has the NHL pondering a start time of 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. Saturday to get away from rain and ensure colder temperatures.

---If you want to keep an eye on the rink construction at Heinz Field, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a link to NHL.com's Webcam.

---After missing eight games, South Buffalo's Patrick Kane could be ready to get back in the Blackhawks' lineup Tuesday against the Blues.

---Maybe the Senators were getting a good chuckle over the Sabres' misfortune with Roy. Now they have their own. Jason Spezza is out perhaps as long as six weeks with a shoulder injury after being checked Sunday by Pittsburgh's Kris Letang. I don't think either Ottawa or Buffalo have nearly enough offense without their top center and that, of course, is hardly deep analysis. It's up to either team to prove me wrong.

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

 

Live from the Arena: Sabres vs. Kings

Greetings from HSBC Arena as the Sabres get set to meet the Los Angeles Kings. It's become a sad day for hockey fans as word broke tonight at 6:30 that former NHL coach Pat Burns has died after his long bout with cancer. Memo to the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee: Shame on you. You really blew this one. What purpose did it serve to not induct Burns this year? The top name this year was Dino Ciccarelli for God's sake. Yeeesh. Here's a terrific obit on Burns from Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger, the longtime Devils beat writer who was in Burns' office in 2003 after the coach got his long-awaited Stanley Cup victory.

As for news from the warmup, Patrick Kaleta and Nathan Gerbe are both on the ice, meaning the Sabres still haven't decided if Kaleta is playing tonight. Jonathan Bernier led the Kings out, as expected, and will get the start in goal. Update: Looks like Kaleta and Gerbe will both be in the lineup. Don't see Matt Ellis on the ice.

And it's official: The Sabres' scratches are Ellis, Chris Butler and Mike Weber. 

Keep it here all night for your updates from the arena.

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

Third Period

9:24 p.m.: Lo and behold, the second goal has now been changed to Vanek. His seventh.

9:25 p.m: New addition to the inventory at the Sabres Store just brought for a look by information guru Kevin Snow: The Sabres' slick 40th anniversary yearbook. Super collection of full-page color photos of every player. It's $10. I still gotta get my 40th anniversary coffee table book. That's I think $39.95.

9:28 p.m.: We're under way.

18:48 left: Ryan Smyth for holding in the offensive zone. Sabres back to the power play.

17:50 left: Another PP goal. Pominville's shot leaks through Bernier and Connolly breaks his 0-for-November by tapping it home. Sabres lead, 3-2. That's 2 for 4 on the PP against the NHL's No. 1 PK. Just the second game this year with two power-play goals (the other was the Oct. 26 loss at Philadelphia).

12:47 left: Bernier stops Sekera and Myers just misses the rebound. Sabres doing a great job of puck possession in this period. Shots are 4-0 for Buffalo. And Johnson is going for cross checking Gaustad. Can they really come up with three power play goals in one game?

11:42 left: Great save by Bernier on a Roy tip.

10:44 left: Great save on Vanek in front just as the penalty ends. Shots are 7-0 for Buffalo.

10:30 left: Leopold and McCormick (rebound) are stopped. That's 9-0.

9:50 left: Miller makes a solid save on Williams on the Kings' first shot.

8:54 left: Gaustad goes hard to the net, doesn't get the puck but draws a hooking penalty on Dwight King. Sabres 2 for 5 on the PP and here's another chance.

4:43 left: Hecht nearly pickpockets Bernier behind the net. The goalie holds for a faceoff. Shots are 10-3 for Buffalo. A terrific period so far with a game up for grabs. Outplaying a solid team for the final 40 minutes just like Wednesday in Washington. Gotta start better. Attendance is 18,418, less than 300 from a sellout.

4:39 left: Hecht with a one-time rifle from the slot. His second of the year. Great feed off the boards from Pominville. Like i said, super period. Sabres lead, 4-2.

1:30 left: This would be the Sabres' first regulation win since Oct. 23 at New Jersey. That's 12 games ago.

It's over: A 4-2 win after a solid final 20 minutes. Final shots were 36-26 for LA, but 12-9 for Buffalo in the third.

Second Period

8:32 p.m.: We're under way. 

19:23 left: That's how you start a period. The Gaustad-Kaleta-Gerbe line gets some pressure as Sekera brings it in from the left point and Kaleta tips his shot from the circle past Bernier. Game tied at 1-1 on Kaleta's second,

18:38 left: Connolly goes for hooking. Actually, it's Hecht but Connolly's No. 19 is on the board. In Marv Levy-speak, this game has been pretty overofficious.

16:07 left: Another penalty killed. Good shot block by Sekera, among others. Shots are 5-2 for the Kings and 17-8 overall.

15:14 left: More great work by Gerbe and Kaleta and Bernier has to make a sensational right pad stretch save on Gaustad alone in front to keep the game tied.

15:00 left: McCormick and Matt Greene go for roughing. McCormick was set to go and had shed the stick and gloves but the linesmen stepped in. Crowd boos.

14:08 left: Doughty hobbles off after taking a bomb from Connolly on the ankle. That would be a huge loss for the Kings.

13:40 left: Great save by Miller on a one-timer from Justin Williams.

12:53 left: McCormick gets his man right out of the box this time, pounding down Greene. They're both going to get five and the crowd loved it.

11:35 left: Wayne Simmonds beats Miller from the slot to make it 2-1 as the Sabres overskate the puck leaving the zone, notably Ennis, and Rivet might have screened his goalie on the shot from the slot. That's a big, fat minus-2 for Rivet.

11:17 left: More trouble. A tripping call on Connolly behind the Kings' net.

9:49 left: Sabres holding on with the PK. Close call as Jack Johnson's shot dribbled out of Miller's glove and went just wide. As JVogl wrote the other night in Washington, Miller's glove hand has been noticeably off this year compared to last.

9:25 left: Nothing wrong with Miller's reflexes however. Great save on a neat tip from the slot by Simmonds. Shots are 10-4 in this period and 22-10 for the Kings.

5:55 left: Myers and Sekera play with the puck in front of Miller and the goalie eventually has to make a good save from the point. Connolly, meanwhile, keeps firing pucks into the first man to come at him, in the best spirit of Ales Kotalik. Wonder how long Ruff can keep defending the $4.5 million man who doesn't have a goal this month (and is in the middle of his 10th straight scoreless game). But to paraphrasea what the coach said recently, "he's got more points than a lot of guys." Uh-huh.

5:06 left: Johnson goes for elbowing. Kaleta lucky he didn't get a slashing call in retaliation.

4:38 left: The PP connects against the NHL's No. 1 PK. Vanek tips home Roy's shot from the point after Pominville, who is completely snakebit and stuck on one goal, misses two tips from in front. Vanek's seventh makes it 2-2.

4:22 left: Lineup shift update -- Kaleta with a goal and a penalty drawn that leads to a power-play goal. Rivet? Minus-2. 

4:10 left: What might be the NHL's goofiest stat crew has awarded the goal to Roy. How about watching the players' reactions? Everyone saw Vanek tip it home. (By the way, we all doubt Kaleta touched the first one too but I digress).

1:10 left: Miller with the great save on Kopitar after Brown bowls over Sekera to get the puck in front.

End-2nd: It's 2-2 through 40 minutes. Shots were 15-8 for LA and it's 27-14 through two.

First Period

Sabres starters: McCormick-Niedermayer-Grier-Sekera-Myers. Goal: Miller
Kings starters: Brown-Kopitar-King-Scuderi-Doughty. Goal: Bernier.

Nice touch by the Sabres to hold a moment of silence in memory of Burns and Army Specialist Blake Whipple, the Amherst native who was killed recently in Afghanistan and was buried on Monday.

18:05 left: Maybe the food poisoning is still bothering Rivet. On his first shift, he hooks Brad Richardson at center ice as Richardson was blowing by him and is gone for hooking. Rivet simply has not speed or mobility left. A play like that sends a distinct message he's done.

16:00 left: Sabres kill the penalty with two shots on goal, including a good save by Miller on Jack Johnson.

15:35 left: Shots are 7-1 for LA.

15:03 left: The Kings take a 1-0 lead as Dustin Brown goes wide around Morrisonn and beats Miller with a blistering snap shot to the stick side. That makes shots 8-1. Solid start just like Wednesday in Washington, eh?

14:15 left: Big scrum develops between the benches and Gaustad goes with Kevin Westgarth. Pretty even until the end, when Westgarth got the upper hand. They both get five.

11:41 left: Doughty goes for hooking Vanek in the LA zone. Let's see if the Sabres wake up. We've seen this act before: After the Washington-Vancouver wins, the Sabres clearly felt like they were back. Now it's two straight games they haven't shown up at the start. 

9:23 left: Blistering one-timers wide of the PP by Pominville and Sekera. Gotta hit the net. A few seconds after it ends, Ennis breaks through and is hooked down. Scuderi goes for hooking. Sabres back on the PP. Kings came into the game leading the league in PK at 90.1 percent -- including a perfect 35-for-35 at home.

7:21 left: Penalty over. Sabres 3 for 37 at home this year on the PP. Terrible passing. Not enough battles. And the final 30 seconds of the PP featured Ennis-Gerbe-McCormick with Rivet and Leopold at the point. On a power play? Seriously, Lindy? 

3:53 left: Leopold goes for holding as this is one dead-as-a-doornail period. Shots are 10-6 for LA.

2:38 left: Myers goes on a ticky-tack interference call along the boards on Doughty. It was but that was a 2006 call. They gonna call that every time tonight.

1:08 left: Sabres survive the two-man (they had given up a league-high four goals on two-man disadvantages). Nice block by Morrisonn helped.

:40 left: The penalties are over. Solid job on the PK.

:00 left: The period is over. Not such a solid job. Shots are 12-6 for LA and the Kings hold their 1-0 lead as Vanek just missed a goalmouth pass from Ennis in the final two seconds. It came after Ennis made a great play to backcheck on Anze Kopitar as he was trying to break into the Buffalo zone. Let's see if the Sabres get some momentum in the second period from killing off the two-man penalty.

Looks like Kane is a go

CHICAGO -- Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville just told the media in a pregame briefing he expects South Buffalo native Patrick Kane to play tonight after Kane missed last night's win in Columbus with the flu.

"We're hopeful," Quenneville said. "He skated this morning, kept feeling a little better. Unless something goes the other way here, we're expecting him to come in and be ready."

The Blackhawks certainly have to be wary of the Sabres exacting revenge for the Jason Pominville hit by Niklas Hjalmarsson on Monday night, but Quenneville said that's not his team's focus.

"You have to worry about your own game and play the game in front of you," Quenneville said. "You've got to be smart. Discipline is important going into any game."

Marty Turco will start in goal for Chicago after posting his first win as a Hawk Friday in Columbus. The Sabres are expected to give backup Patrick Lalime his first start of the season. Chicago is 0-2 at home, losing to Detroit and Nashville, but is 2-0-1 on the road.

---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)

Live from the Arena (again): Sabres vs. Avs

Back for more and why not the way the Sabres are playing? After Ryan Miller stoned the Laffs with a career-high 48 saves last night -- and shredded them in hysterical fashion to the media afterward -- it's Patrick Lalime's turn to keep the Sabres' winning ways going against the Colorado Avalanche here in HSBC Arena.

The Sabres have won six straight and the Northeast Division standings are getting to the eye-popping stage. The Bruins lost again today to the Rangers, 3-1, and learned that Marc Savard is out 3-4 weeks with a knee injury. The Sabres have 60 points and make up their game in hand on Boston tonight while the Bruins have just 51. A Buffalo win tonight produces an 11-point lead in the division just past the halfway mark. That's getting into runaway territory, folks.

Want more? If the Sabres win tonight and the Devils lose in Montreal, Buffalo will overtake New Jersey for first place in the East. Crazy.

It will be interesting to see if Lalime keeps up his hot play, now that he's been off since his Dec. 29 relief win of Miller over Pittsburgh. Here's the rundown of Lalime's fabulous numbers since returning from Portland -- 3-0-1, 1.33 GAA and .960 save percentage (121 saves on 126 shots). In his career vs. Colorado, Lalime is 6-3-1, 1.87 and .926.

The Avalanche are making their first appearance in Buffalo since winning here, 3-2, on March 7, 2007. The Sabres lost to them in a shootout, 2-1, last season in Denver and have not beaten the Avs since a 6-4 win in Denver on Dec. 4, 2005. The Sabres, remember, are 7-0-0 against the Western Conference this season.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Shootout result: It was a wild 11-round affair -- the longest in Sabres history -- and Colorado won it, 4-3, on Matt Hendricks' goal, a deke that left Lalime sprawled on his back. Connolly, Vanek, Hecht scored for Buffalo and Lalime couldn't make saves after the last two goals that would have given Buffalo the win. Great point though. 

OT

3:26 left: Sabres kill the Montador penalty and Anderson stops Vanek.

1:50 left: Lalime saves the day on a Hejduk breakaway after a bad Vanek giveaway at center ice eerily reminiscent of his handoff to Ilya Kovalchuk late in OT of a crucial April game last season in Atlanta.

On to the Shootout: Butler saves the day with a great dive on a 2-on-1 to prevent a shot. Sabres had a 2-1 edge in the period and finish at 35-30 for the game.

Third Period

13:25 left: Nothing going on here and I suddenly got startled by a lot of noise just to my right in Section 315. A big play going on the ice? A big fight? A brawl in the stands? Nope. Sabretooth. Trying to start the wave. Dude, very 1980s.

10:41 left: Still time for a frantic finish. Vanek taps home his own rebound for his team-high 12th of the year to make it 3-2.

9:47 left: Shots are 7-2 for Buffalo in this period and 27-25 Colorado for the game.

7:30 left: Lalime keeps the Sabres afloat with a daring, Dom-like dash to knock the puck away from Paul Stastny. He was past the faceoff dot.

6:37 left: Vanek is having a big third. He just got in alone from in tight but Anderson beat him in his bid for the equalizer.

4:12 left: Lo and behold, it's tied up. Hecht does the honors with a 50-footer that sees its way through the crowd and beats Anderson. And we can now officially welcome the crowd back.

3:15 left: Kennedy just misses off the post to Anderson's left. Colorado seems desperate to hold on to its one point as the Sabres are buzzing the zone.

2:16 left: Two more great saves by Anderson, one on Connolly. Shots are 15-4 for the Sabres.

57.8 left: Montador goes for high sticking. Ouch.

On to OT: Another game the Sabres have stolen at least one point  where they don't get one last year. Shots were 15-4 and 33-29. Remember this one: Roy has OT winners twice in the last two weeks.

Second Period

14:34 left: Our promise to you. Updates and quips on whatever's on our mind. Problem is I've got nothing at this point. Like this game. I've blogged three in four nights.

11:42 left: I got something. Ruff has changed the lines. The Connolly line is still intact but Gaustad is back on the fourth line with Ellis and Mair and MacArthur has moved up with Kennedy and Grier. The big news is they're rekindling an oldie but good: Vanek-Roy-Stafford.

8:43 left: Sabres get another PP chance as Hendricks goes for roughing.

7:53 left: Stafford goes for hooking. Totally ticky-tack call. Hate it. This isn't tennis.

7:25 left: Myers goes for interference. Looked worse than it was. Myers hardly touched the charging Avs forward but the call was made because he was caught pinching in the Colorado zone.

4:52 left: Crowd is back into it as Sabres kill the two-man advantage (goalpost makes the save on a Quincey shot) and Buffalo is going to the power play as John Michael-Liles goes for hooking. The penalty came as Myers came charging out of the penalty box to lead a 2-on-1 and got grabbed. Kid was possessed on that rush.

3:26 left: Nothing happening on this PP. The forwards are back in that rut Lindy Ruff complained about a few days ago -- everything is slow, slow, slow. No one moving their feet and the results show.

2:55 left: But there's the breakthrough the Sabres needed with three seconds left on the power play. Gaustad works from behind the net and feeds Stafford for the one-timer. Stafford becomes fifth Sabre with 11 goals and it's 2-1.

1:53 left: All that work gone. Pominville loses the puck at center ice, Lydman is caught in the zone to create a 2-on-1. Montador plays no one and Lalime can't stop Brandon Yip's quick snapper. 3-1. Air out of the building again.

End-2nd: Colorado holds its 3-1 lead through two. Shots were 14-11 for the Avalanche in the period and 25-18 for the game.

First Period

17:16 left: Big scrap between Montador and Cody McLeod after McLeod drilled Lydman. Meanwhile, Clarke MacArthur goes for holding. Nice job by Montador sticking up for his partner. By the way, I give it up to the dude a couple of rows in front of the press box wearing a Joe Sakic Quebec Nordiques jersey. Too bad they're not in the league anymore (moved to Denver in '96, remember) Those were some ridiculously good games back in the 80s. Ask your parents, youngins.

14:50 left: Penalty is killed, with Lalime making a nice stop off Olympian Paul Stastny, who took a rebound off the back boards.

13:47 left: Lalime robs T.J. Galiardi from right in the slot. Lalime's glove seems much more active since his return and there's another example. No change in the lineup (Sekera-Paetsch-Kaleta scratched) or in the lines. It was Hecht-Connolly-Pominville, Roy-Gaustad-Stafford, Vanek-Kennedy-Grier and MacArthur-Ellis-Mair. Defense pairs also status quo: Tallinder-Myers, Rivet-Butler, Montador-Lydman.

12:25 left: Avalanche take 1-0 lead as rookie standout Matt Duchene pick-pockets Tallinder in the Buffalo zone and pots a great give-and-go pass from Matt Hendricks. Lalime had no chance.

11:41 left: Mair off for high-sticking in the offensive zone.

9:30 left: Another good kill, with Lalime stopped Milan Hejduk and Scott Hannan. Buffalo has killed 30 of the last 31 penalties it's taken. Shots are 8-3 for the Avalanche.

6:32 left: The Sabres look like a team playing their third game in four nights and Colorado takes advantage in the Buffalo zone to go up, 2-0. Hejduk beats the defense around the net and nearly beats Lalime on a wraparound but Duchene is right there for his second of the night and 13th of the season. It also gives him 29 points and the NHL rookie scoring lead, one ahead of Islanders phenom John Tavares (Myers entered tonight fifth with 26 and the leader in rookie assists with 20).

4:34 left: Sabres get a break as Avs goalie Craig Anderson takes a delay of game penalty for slapping the puck out of the air into the net.

4:00 left: Just realized Duchene doesn't turn 19 until next Saturday night. Wow. He was the third overall pick in last June's draft.

2:44 left: Kyle Quincey goes for high-sticking Kennedy, giving Buffalo a two-man edge for 10 seconds.

End-1st: The visitors lead, 2-0, and have an 11-7 edge in shots. The building is dead. Lots of the fans have probably been here three times in four days too. Looks like we could use some Laff fans to get some life in this place.

Ice chips: Paetsch on waivers

After their charter plane got stuck in the mud before they got to the Montreal airport, the Sabres returned to their hotel and hunkered down for the night. They didn't get home until around 11 this morning so coach Lindy Ruff canceled practice. Some odds and ends from the notebook:

---Sabres utility man Nathan Paetsch has been put on waivers. Might he get claimed? We'll see. Adam Mair got through waivers earlier in the year. Paetsch has some versatility that you'd think would be attractive to teams. Plus, he only makes a shade over $1 million on a deal that runs out after this season so you can basically get him for $500K. If he clears waivers, the bet is the Sabres would send him to Portland to get some ice time.

---Canada and the U.S. play for the gold medal in the World Junior Championships Tuesday night at 8 in Saskatoon (Sabres prospect Luke Adam plays for Canada). You can watch it live on NHL Network. Worth a look if you haven't checked out any of this tournament yet. And remember, of course, that the next version of it comes to HSBC Arena starting Dec. 26.

---The Bruins and Rangers meet tonight at 7 on Versus. Boston is seven points back in the Northeast Division and will join the Sabres at 41 games played after tonight.

---Look for Team USA Olympic coach Ron Wilson to make Ryan Miller his man in Vancouver. Said Wilson on a conference call today: "I would in my mind tend to .... play one goalie, ride the hot goalie. One of our things here was when we talked with our players is we're not going to Vancouver to prepare anybody for Sochi (the 2014 Games site in Russia). This is about going to Vancouver to win a gold medal. Generally speaking, teams in the past that have won goal medals played one goaltender. It's not unlike what you do in the playoffs."

---What's up with the Penguins? They've lost five straight, including Sunday's 6-2 defeat in Florida. Evgeni Malkin's struggles continued in that one and he took the blame

---Ratings for the Winter Classic in Boston were down but Yahoo's Puck Daddy blog said that shouldn't be cause for concern.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Classic finish leads to Olympic announcement

For 40 minutes, I thought today's Winter Classic in Fenway Park was a pretty nondescript affair. But it heated up in the third period and the Boston Bruins eventually beat the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime, 2-1. Boston won it on Marco Sturm's goal at 1:57 of OT after tying it on Mark Recchi's power-play goal with 2:18 left in regulation.

Just before the game-winning goal, the Flyers had a couple good chances to score but Boston goalie Tim Thomas held off ex-Sabre Daniel Briere.

The ice seemed decent and the weather was cold but snow-free. Great setting overall. Neat to see "Buffalo" atop the Northeast Division standings on the Green Monster, the spot where the AL East standings are put during baseball season.

After the game, Ryan Miller got his expected nod on the U.S. Olympic team and was joined by WNY natives Patrick Kane and Brooks Orpik. Sabres forward Paul Gaustad was not chosen.

In case you haven't already done so, be sure to check out our special decade-in-review package written by John Vogl. And we havea great photo gallery of the decade's top moments on the site as well.

Be sure to join me later this evening for tonight's Sabres-Thrashers live blog. For now, here's your spot to chat up all things Winter Classic and the Olympics. What did you think of the game and the choices for the U.S. team?

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Morning skate report: Roy back, Miller in net against Thrashers

The Sabres will have an unusual fourth line for tonight's game against Atlanta in HSBC Arena, as Derek Roy will skate with Matt Ellis and Adam Mair after missing two games following a shot to the head last Saturday from Ottawa's Jesse Winchester. The No. 1 center and leading score on the fourth line? What gives?

"That should be a heck of a line is the way I look at it. Get back in and work you way back up," Lindy Ruff said this morning "Matty and Adam have been probably our two hardest workers. Adam has really worked hard and skated well. He can't complain about playing those guys. I might be giving him the two guys working the hardest. They may turn out to be our best line tonight."

The other lines will remain the same: Gaustad centering MacArthur and Stafford, Connolly centering Pominville and Hecht and Kennedy centering Vanek and Grier. Paetsch and Sekera will be scratches.

Ryan Miller will be back in net after enduring his first home yanking of the season in Tuesday's 4-3 win over Pittsburgh. The Sabres are 0-1-5 in their last six against Atlanta and haven't beaten the Thrashers since a 10-1 win here on Jan. 18, 2008. Atlanta won the only meeting so far this season by a 4-2 count on Oct. 17.

The Sabres will also be paying close attention to the Team USA Olympic announcement, scheduled for after today's Winter Classic in Boston between the Bruins and Flyers. Miller will have his berth on the team made official while Paul Gaustad remains on the bubble.

In other Olympic news, Jochen Hecht said he talked to Germany coach and ex-Sabre Uwe Krupp on Thursday and Krupp said Hecht is still alive for consideration. According to Hecht, Krupp said the Germans are still working off a 35-man roster and will finalize it on Jan. 20. Hecht was not named Wednesday when Germany issued its first draft of its roster, which Krupp told him was a requirement from Vancouver organizers (and likely, the International Ice Hockey Federation).

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Classic save

In a decade marked by dreary Stanley Cup finals series, boring hockey and a season-wrecking lockout, a snowy day in Orchard Park may have marked a turning point for the NHL. So says this New York Times article, which several of you graciously sent to my attention.

The Sabres-Penguins game of Jan. 1, 2008 certainly seems like it will go down in history as a watershed moment for the league. The Winter Classic has quickly become part of the annual landscape of the league, with this year's game at Fenway Park between the Flyers and Bruins getting huge hype and many teams pining to be a future host of an event that has dwarfed the All-Star Game in media coverage.

Wrote author Jeff Z. Klein, "... if hockey fans 10 years from now are following an N.H.L. that is healthy and prosperous, they can look back at that snowy afternoon outside Buffalo as the day the league saved itself."

Cool stuff. And thanks to Syracuse Post-Standard assistant news editor Larry Dietrich for pointing out that Klein is one of his fellow mates from Sweet Home High, Class of '74. Small world. What am I? Sweet Home, Class of '83.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Vote for the three stars

Check out view of Fenway rink

Here's a site to bookmark: NHL.com has a webcam running from Fenway Park showing the construction of the Winter Classic rink for the Jan. 1 game between the Bruins and Flyers. The work began Thursday and the site will have plenty of updates on the progress.  Here's today's report.

Be sure to come back later this evening for our Sabres-Blackhawks live blog. Faceoff is 7:35.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Winter Classic headed to Fenway?

Looks like Fenway Park will get the nod for the next Winter Classic over the new Yankee Stadium according to this article in the Boston Herald.

Bruins-Caps? Bruins-Flyers? Bruins-Habs? Bruins-Rangers? Can't go wrong with any of those matchups.

---Mike Harrington

It's Winter Classic day

Wings_3We'll have full coverage of tonight's Sabres-Leafs game here but the day has to start with the Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Blackhawks in Wrigley Field.

You can see pregame coverage beginning at 11 a.m. on NHL Network with the game at 1 on both NBC and CBC. NHL Network is planning an hour postgame show as well, beginning at 5.

It was a year ago today, of course, we woke up to that light fluffy snow and made our way to the Ralph for that memorable Sabres-Penguins game. A pretty amazing day to say the least. One of my favorite memories was looking around just before Ales Kotalik opened the shootout -- seeing everyone on all three levels of the stadium standing. The fans in the bottom bowl had been on their feet all day as if they were at a college or high school game and everyone else joined in.

You can relive the Ice Bowl at the Ralph as it happened here on Sabres Edge by going to this link.

(By the time the shootout ended, I was in the press box muttering that it seemed like an NBC fix that Sidney Crosby's turn to shoot decided the game. A year later, maybe that's why the thing turned out to be even more dramatic. But I digress).

I saw on NHL Network, by the way, that Buffalo finally made it to the big leagues of MLB. The famous center field scoreboard at Wrigley has out-of-town scores on it just like it does all summer. And what's on today? Buffalo-Toronto. Cool.

Here's your space to post your memories of last year's Classic in the Ralph, from the tailgating to the shootout. And feel to spend the day chatting up Hawks-Wings as well.

---Mike Harrington

(AP Photo: The Red Wings work out Wednesday at Wrigley)

Chicago's Winter Classic

There doesn't seem to be as much interest around town for this year's Ice Bowl because A) it's in Chicago and not Buffalo, and B) the Sabres are, um, not very good. But here are links for Thursday's game between the Blackhawks and Red Wings in Wrigley Field.

Live Wrigley Field Web cam is here.

The time-lapse video of the rink being made is below.

---John Vogl

Winter Classic on DVD

Sabres fans will get a chance to re-live the Ice Bowl, as an inside look at the New Year's Day classic will be released on DVD later this week. "The Making of a Classic" will be available starting Saturday, when the Sabres take the ice for "Puck Drop 2008" at HSBC Arena. (Still awaiting word on what time that will be.)

Sabres broadcast executive producer Matt Gould has put together the DVD, which features how the rink was made, the pregame warm-ups for the Sabres and Penguins, dressing room access, the opening cermonies and in-game action. The cost is $10, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Sabres Foundation.

For a look at this season, check Tuesday's paper for my story on Kevin Dineen, the new coach for the Sabres' minor-league team in Portland. Caught up with him today at the Amherst Pepsi Center, where the rookies and minor-leaguers gathered for brief (but arduous) on-ice testing. The rookie camp gets under way in earnest Tuesday.

And in case you missed our Sunday story featuring Lindy Ruff's thoughts on camp, here it is.

---John Vogl

Wrigley looks like a go

It appears Wrigley Field is the next site for the NHL Winter Classic, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The history of Wrigley certainly is appealing, but why didn't they pick Soldier Field? The league could have sold more than 71,217 tickets for Ralph Wilson Stadium, and apparently it must not think Chicago will be able to draw that as Wrigley seats only 41,000. The Bears' Soldier Field seats 61,500.

Another benefit for Soldier Field would be the sightlines. The top levels of The Ralph provided the best view. Wrigley, obviously, will have friendlier confines, but I don't know if that will work for hockey.

---John Vogl

Frozen Confines?

In a Chicago press conference Wednesday, Gary Bettman said many cities have expressed interest in hosting an outdoor game next year and the league will almost certainly do one somewhere (can it ever approach what we saw Jan. 1 at the Ralph? I think not).

The Rangers are believed to be an early favorite because they want to stage the last event in old Yankee Stadium. The Blackhawks are also very interested and most people thought they were looking at Soldier Field.

Turns out that they want to hold it at Wrigley Field and that sounded pretty intriguing to Bettman. Check out this story from the Chicago Tribune and this story from the Arlington Daily Herald. Pretty cool.

---Mike Harrington

Trade winds blow through notebook

In the wake of the trading deadline and two days off, I have a lot on my mind to unload this morning as the Sabres prep for tonight's game against the Canadiens.

---Even before we saw Steve Bernier play Wednesday night, you had to like what Darcy Regier got for Brian Campbell. But Regier took the deal from the Sharks at 11:30 a.m. If he had waited closer to the 3 p.m. deadline, could he have squeezed even more from San Jose or someone else? Look at the haul Atlanta got from Pittsburgh in exchange for Marian Hossa just under the wire.

---Speaking of Hossa, how sick do you think the Pens feel that he hurt his knee in his first game Thursday and will be out at least a week? Yikes. How about Brad Richards giving the Stars five assists in his debut Thursday?

---Less than two months later, the Ice Bowl already has a remember-them feel. Both goal scorers in regulation (Campbell and Pittsburgh's Colby Armstrong) were dealt at the deadline.

Campbellsan_jose ---Former Campbell defense partner Jaro Spacek had an interesting thought Wednesday about how Campbell will find it tougher in the Western Conference. Sure enough, in his first game Wednesday in Columbus, Campbell (left) got mugged by BlueJackets center Rick Nash and new defense partner Douglas Murray had to jump in and rescue him.

---The Sabres' three-year offer was a joke and Campbell's tears were genuine but it's hard for me to get all misty-eyed when a guy simply can't take $17.75 million. Especially when he keeps insisting the players' union didn't put any pressure on him. Right. All the tears we saw the last two weeks were the sign of a tormented guy getting squeezed on both sides, from his own emotions and the demands of his union and agent.

---Wow, was that Hockey News cover with Campbell in a Sharks jersey prophetic or what? Couple weeks ago in New York restaurant, Campbell ran into some Sharks players and old buddy Joe Thornton joked with him to come over and meet his new teammates. Wishful thinking at the time.

---The Sabres got manhandled in December in Anaheim and LA and their toughness was certainly in question. No questions anymore, especially with what we saw in the late going of Wednesday's slugfest against Nashville. Adding Bernier certainly helps in that area and so does Nolan Pratt's regular turn on defense. And how would you like to be playing against a fourth line of Adam Mair, Patrick Kaleta and Andrew Peters? Keep your head up!

---We don't see the Predators much at all, in person or on TV. Fine with me. What a bunch of chippy hacks.

---Speaking of the Ice Bowl, it's the last time we saw Maxim Afinogenov on the ice. Isn't it kind of odd to you that he's suddenly healthy two days after the deadline? The way he'd been playing before he got hurt, the Sabres would have almost certainly been looking to unload his bloated contract.

---Mike Harrington

(Photo: Associated Press)

Say what?

You can read the story behind Ryan Miller's AMP Energy commercial in Friday's Sabres notebook. And I've repeated the YouTube clip here in case you missed it on Wednesday's post.

And click here to listen to the clip on the Sabres' Web site of Miller perfectly reciting his Chinese line again for reporters Thursday after practice in the arena. Funny stuff.

---Mike Harrington

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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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