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Big night for Pominville, bigger night for Wild

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This is the image fans see when they go to MinnesotaWild.com today

By Mike Harrington

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jason Pominville is having a big offensive year for the Minnesota Wild with a team-high 17 goals in 42 games. But he was bypassed for a spot on Team USA, something the ex-Sabres captain told me today he expected since he was not invited to the August orientation camp and doesn't have a lot of international experience in the program.

What he hasn't expected is the struggles of the Minnesota Wild.

The Wild have lost six straight in regulation for the first time in franchise history, scoring just 13 goals, and are buried in 10th place in the Western Conference. Owner Craig Leipold attended practice yesterday and there's plenty of chatter that coach Mike Yeo will be fired if the Sabres win tonight.

Pominville went through that, of course, in February when the Sabres fired Lindy Ruff. He said today the Wild simply has to stay with its defensive-oriented approach if its want to snap its slump and cool all the talk.

"We have to win our games 2-1, 3-1. When we cheat towards the offense, it doesn't fall into the style we want to play," Pominville said. "The St. Louis game (a 2-1 loss Tuesday) was the style. We were better defensively, better with the puck. If we bring that type of effort on a nightly basis we'll win more games."

Continue reading "Big night for Pominville, bigger night for Wild" »

Sights and sounds: Pominville caps big night with game-winner

By Mike Harrington

It was a big night for former Sabres captain Jason Pominville in the Minnesota Wild's 2-1 win here Monday night. A long press conference following the morning skate, the game-winning goal late in the second period on a power play and another meeting with the media in the postgame locker room.

Here's video of the goal. Great passing by the Wild.

And here's his interview on the NHL Network.

And click here to listen to Pominville's postgame session with reporters.

Jason Pominville

Wild's Pominville: 'It's good to be back, a lot of great memories' (w/audio)

PommerBy Mike Harrington

Jason Pominville is back in First Niagara Center wearing his familiar No. 29 but it's going to be weird seeing him with that funky Minnesota Wild logo on his chest. The former Buffalo captain was the mayor today, shaking hands all around the building in his return and then holding his own press conference (right) in the Sabres' media room after his team's pregame skate.

"It was weird coming in through the same door you usually go in, and having to go left instead of go right to go to the locker room was a little different," Pominville said. "It's good to be back, a lot of great memories, a lot of good times. Just excited to get the game going.

"I don't hold anything against the organization or anything like that. I'm just happy to be where I'm at now and looking forward to get this game played."

Wild coach Mike Yeo said it's a good bet Pominville is in the starting lineup tonight. Pominville didn't know that but there's no question he's anxious to get this reunion game going. He said it's one of the first ones he circled on his calendar. The reception should be a good one, unlike what greeted former Sabres like Daniel Briere or Brian Campbell and what Wild defenseman Ryan Suter got last week in Nashville. He was roundly booed for bolting to Minnesota on an infamous $98 million deal.

"I don't know how that will be. Hopefully it will be better than what Suter got in Nashville," Pominville said. "I've seen both sides of it. Hopefully I'll be on the good side. I didn't do anything wrong really. I think it should be good. Happy to be back and have a chance to really see the guys."

Continue reading "Wild's Pominville: 'It's good to be back, a lot of great memories' (w/audio)" »

Tallinder back for Sabres, Ristolainen out; Vanek facing his future team?

By John Vogl

Henrik Tallinder is ready to return from a shoulder injury, so the Sabres will make a roster move in order for him to play against Minnesota tonight. It appears Alexander Sulzer or Rasmus Ristolainen will report to Rochester to make room for the defenseman.

Sulzer and the rookie will be scratched tonight for the Sabres, and coach Ron Rolston said one will depart. Jhonas Enroth will start in goal for Buffalo, which leaves Ryan Miller ready to go Tuesday at the Islanders.

Sulzer recently went unclaimed on waivers, so he doesn't have to go through the wire again in order to be sent down. Ristolainen, drafted eighth overall in June, has no points and is minus-3 while averaging 16:47 of ice time in his six games.

"He’s had his ups and downs a little bit, but that’s with a young player," Rolston said in First Niagara Center. "He’s done a good job for us so far, and he’s still learning.

"He plays with a lot of poise. He’s good positionally, moves the puck well, heavy shot. But he’s learning the game and the speed and the tempo playing against some of these top forwards in the league, so it’s a big learning curve."

The visit by the Wild includes the return of former Sabres captain Jason Pominville.

"Who?" Sabres forward Thomas Vanek said with a grin.

Vanek says it will be more awkward for Pominville than the Sabres.

"I think we’re used to it here," Vanek said. "I’ve been here for a while, and I’ve seen a lot of teammates leave."

Vanek might be next. The free agent-to-be is a Minnesota resident, and it seems a foregone conclusion he'll sign with the Wild next summer.

"The media and the outside people always have an opinion, just like I have my own opinion," said Vanek, who reiterated he's not interested in re-signing with Buffalo at the moment. "Right now I’m not ready, but I like where we’re heading. Even though we haven’t won a game, I think there’s a lot of talent in this group. Only time and games will tell how good we can really be."

Thomas Vanek

Ron Rolston

Pominville on Sabres' dual captaincy: 'I think it's weird'

Pommer
Jason Pominville comes back to Buffalo with the Wild on Oct. 14 (Getty Images).

 

By Mike Harrington

Former Sabres captain Jason Pominville had his role filled today by Steve Ott and Thomas Vanek, who will share the 'C' in Buffalo much like Daniel Briere and Chris Drury did from 2005-07. Pominville, of course, was on those teams and things seemed to work pretty well.

But he doesn't seem sold on the Sabres' lastest foray into a shared captaincy.

"I think it’s weird," Pominville told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune today. "They’ve done [the rotating thing] in the past. I don’t know if it’s their way of doing it. It just feels a little weird to have a couple guys. Usually you want that one guy.”

Pominville will come back to Buffalo with the Wild on Oct. 14. He continues to talk to Minnesota about a contract extension and is reportedly seeking a deal of more than $5 million per season. The Wild are being cautious. They have big contracts to pay and are expected to be major players in the Vanek sweepstakes next summer, given the fact he lives in suburban Minneapolis and was a former star at the University of Minnesota. Pominville said he'd rather not talk during the season.

"I don’t really want to have that distraction, so hopefully it can get done," he said. "If not, there's still a lot of time.

The Wild's Web site also has a story on Pominville, who delves into details of trade deadline day and says of Minnesota: 'It's starting to feel like home.'

Kings' Brown gets two games for elbow on Pominville

By Mike Harrington

Kings captain Dustin Brown is gone for the final two games of the regular season for his vicious elbow on Jason Pominville. Click the video above for the explanation from NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan.

Pominville KO'd by elbow in Wild win; Kings captain Brown could face Shanaban


The Dustin Brown elbow on Jason Pominville.

By Mike Harrington

The Wild pulled out a huge 2-1 win over the Kings Tuesday night that should go a long way to allowing Minnesota to make the playoffs (and prevent the Sabres from getting a second lottery chance, since they own the Wild's No. 1 pick for Jason Pominville).

Pominville has four goals, five assists and nine points in nine games for the Wild but you wonder if he's going to be out for a little bit after taking a blatant elbow to the head in the second period from Kings captain Dustin Brown. Pominville left the ice woozy from the shot and didn't return. Remember, he suffered a concussion once before in his career after taking that terrible shot from behind from Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson in October, 2010 and missing nine games.

(10:30 a.m. update: Wild coach Mike Yeo had no update on Pominville last night and the team is not practicing today so there's no word yet on the injury. But Minneapolis Star-Tribune writer Mike Russo makes the obvious concussion speculation and says the Wild may need a callup).

Brown, meanwhile, is likely to hear from NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan. (And here's the official word from the league: Brown has a hearing today. 

Watch the video above and make your call in our poll below.

Pominville: Had a feeling trade could be coming, but still shocked

By John Vogl

Jason Pominville joined the Minnesota Wild today in Los Angeles and will make his debut tonight when they visit the Kings.

"With the steps that they took this summer to add some big players to their roster, I think they’re willing to do whatever it takes to win," Pominville told reporters. "I think that excites you as a player."

Though he knew a trade was possible after Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier asked him to supply a list of eight teams to which he would not accept a trade, Wednesday's deal caught him off-guard.

Continue reading "Pominville: Had a feeling trade could be coming, but still shocked" »

Miller says Sabres misused Pominville on power play, backing former captain's earlier statements

Jason Pominville's numbers dipped this season before the Sabres traded him Wednesday. During a recent conversation with The News, the former captain said playing on the blue line on the power play was a big reason why.

Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller agrees.

"In my mind, he’s playing power play on the point, where he’s not even the most effective with his shot," Miller said today while discussing the trade of his longtime friend and teammate. "They have him there because he’s responsible, and he’s a guy who can make passes, make plays. He’s not always going to be the guy getting the goal, not always going to be the guy getting the trigger. He was on the power play to make sure everything’s going to be smooth in that area of the ice.

Continue reading "Miller says Sabres misused Pominville on power play, backing former captain's earlier statements" »

Listening in to newest Sabre Johan Larsson

By Mike Harrington

Quick video looks at new Sabres forward Johan Larsson, speaking to the Houston Aeros' web site in January and speaking after last year's gold-medal clinching game of the World Junior Championships. He was the captain for Team Sweden as it won the title last year in Calgary.

Sabres trade Jason Pominville to Minnesota for prospects Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett, two picks

By John Vogl

It's official: The Sabres have made a significant alteration to their franchise, shipping captain Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild.

The Sabres will receive Johan Larsson, a 20-year-old center/winger who has played one NHL game. Larsson was captain of Sweden's world junior team. He was a second-round pick in the 2010 draft. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder had 15 goals, 22 assists and 37 points in 62 minor-league games this season.

He's been categorized as a responsibly defensive forward who can also chip in offensively.

The Sabres also will receive goaltender Matt Hackett, a 23-year-old who was picked in the third round in 2009. He has played 13 NHL games, including one this season. In his career, he is 3-7 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

Hackett was 19-20-3 with a 2.66 and .907 save percentage with the Wild's minor-league club in Houston. He's 6-2, 173 pounds.

TSN reports the Sabres have also received Minnesota's first-round pick this year and a second-round selection in 2014. The Wild gets Buffalo's fourth-round selection in 2014.

Pominville had spent his entire 11-year pro career in the Sabres' organization, including the past two seasons as team captain. The right winger has 10 goals and 25 points in 35 games this season. The 30-year-old has 185 goals and 456 points in 578 games with the Sabres.

He has one year remaining on a contract that pays $5.3 million annually.

Sabres' Pominville has submitted list of teams for trade possibilities to help Regier do his job, captain says

Deadline_Pominville
Sabres' captain Jason Pominville, without giving a direct yes, confirmed today he has indeed supplied the list. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News file photo)


By John Vogl

PITTSBURGH -- Jason Pominville knows Darcy Regier is trying to rebuild the Sabres. In order to do that, the general manager might have to trade Pominville. The captain has helped Regier out.

Pominville has a modified no-trade clause in which he can submit a list of eight teams to which he cannot be traded. Without giving a direct yes, Pominville confirmed today he has indeed supplied the list.

Continue reading "Sabres' Pominville has submitted list of teams for trade possibilities to help Regier do his job, captain says" »

Sabres' Regier gives clearest indication yet that he's leaning toward core overhaul

By John Vogl

Ryan Miller wondered aloud this month whether veterans such as himself, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek were still the Buffalo Sabres’ core. Given the team’s struggles, the goaltender didn’t know whether management viewed a rebuild as its ideal course of action.

General Manager Darcy Regier gave his clearest indication to date he is contemplating franchise overhaul.

“Where our hockey club is right now we have to be open to listening to just about anything and everything, and I am listening,” Regier said tonight after trading Jordan Leopold to St. Louis. “We have to be open to everything, and I think the players recognize that as well.

Continue reading "Sabres' Regier gives clearest indication yet that he's leaning toward core overhaul" »

Sabres GM Regier heads toward trade deadline focusing on next year, 'maybe even beyond that'

By John Vogl

Oft-used terms around the NHL trade deadline include "sellers" and "rebuild." They normally are used for struggling teams.

They can apply to the Buffalo Sabres based on General Manager Darcy Regier's mind-set heading toward Wednesday's deadline.

Continue reading "Sabres GM Regier heads toward trade deadline focusing on next year, 'maybe even beyond that'" »

With losses continuing and trade deadline looming, Sabres become agitated group

It was as if the Sabres had just spent a week in Siberia rather than Florida with how cold the atmosphere was today following practice.

Jason Pominville said talk about Wednesday's trade deadline doesn't bother him, then the captain clearly became agitated while discussing rumors. Ryan Miller said he's frustrated by Buffalo's repeated mistakes that have contributed to the team's 12th-place standing. Robyn Regehr questioned the way some players prepare for games.

All in all, it's not a happy time in Sabreland.

"I think we’re frustrated," Miller said in Northtown Center in Amherst. "I’m frustrated, as you can see. I would hope they all feel the same way I do. I don’t know, you’re going to have to ask them."

So what's eating Miller?

"Just we aren’t consistently playing to where we need to be, myself included," the goaltender said. "Every night there’s something else going on where you just look back and there’s mistakes; in my end, reads that need to be better. It’s just night after night. We’ve got to clean it up and be consistent."

The Sabres have back-to-back chances to clean it up or fall further behind. They host 11th-place Washington on Saturday in First Niagara Center and welcome fourth-place Boston on Sunday.

With the trade deadline looming, it could be the last games in Buffalo for several players.

"You hear your name, and I think you hear your name from people that want more followers on Twitter, will come out and say different things," Pominville said. "You hear your name here and there, but where are those things really coming from?

"I think we’ve just got to worry about playing. There’s going to be rumors every year. It’s the way it is. It’s the nature of the sport. It is what it is. We’ve just got to worry about what we have to do."

Pominville, who has a year left on his contract, has been mentioned in potential deals for the first time in his career. He's obviously not happy about it despite holding a modified no-trade clause in which he could name eight teams he won't accept a trade to.

"It doesn’t affect me at all," he said while clearly affected. "I just answered the question. It makes no sense to me right now. Again, I have a contract that has a clause in it, and I haven’t been asked anything. I’m not worried about it. I’ve just got to go out there and play. If something happens, then I’ll worry about it. Right now it’s just trying to win games."

The Sabres will have to beat Washington without Thomas Vanek. The left winger, who has an upper-body injury, missed practiced and is doubtful for Saturday.

To hear Pominville discuss rumors, click the audio file below.

Locker room audio: Emotions still raw among players, staff with Lindy-less Sabres

By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- Today is the first day since July 20, 1997 that Lindy Ruff is not the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres. Jeez. Think of everything that has gone on in the hockey world since then, or just simply in life. 

For 12 players and three of the four assistant coaches on the roster, Ruff is the only head coach they've ever played for or worked under in the NHL. So it's pretty surreal that they're getting ready for tonight's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs without him.

The players and coaches were on the bus in Amherst yesterday to come to Toronto and some said it was odd Ruff wasn't there yet. When he showed up, he hopped on board and said he had some news. Several thought he was announcing a trade. Instead, he said he was fired and thanked them. And then he hopped off.

"That's when we totally realized changes were on the way," captain Jason Pominville said here today. "We all said, "We gotta go out there and see him.' It was pretty emotional for everyone."

Continue reading "Locker room audio: Emotions still raw among players, staff with Lindy-less Sabres" »

Video: Postgame reaction to Sabres loss to Penguins

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

By John Vogl

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

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

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

Sabres' Pominville on Canadiens: 'There'd be no better team to beat'

By John Vogl

The Sabres got destroyed in Montreal last weekend. It was a 6-1 blowout that would have been even worse if Ryan Miller had joined the rest of his teammates in taking the first period off.

The Sabres don't have to wait long for a chance at redemption. The Canadiens visit First Niagara Center tonight for the teams' second meeting of the season.

Sabres captain Jason Pominville knows it needs to be better than the first.

"They outplayed us, they outskated us, they outbattled us," Pominville said this morning. "They just played better than we were. It was an off night for us, a good night for them.

"We have a chance to bounce back in our building. I think there’d be no better team to beat than them the way we lost in their house."

Continue reading "Sabres' Pominville on Canadiens: 'There'd be no better team to beat'" »

Ruff: 'We need to win now' (with post-practice audio)

Ruff
Lindy Ruff directs practice Wednesday. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)


By Mike Harrington

 

The Sabres practiced for nearly an hour this afternoon in First Niagara Center on what was supposed to be a day off. Coach Lindy Ruff approached team leadership and they agreed (at 3-6-1, what could they really say?).

"For us, it's education," said goalie Ryan Miller. "I don't think it's a punishment day. It's not a you-guys-need-to-wake-up day. We need to learn, spend some time in the classroom so to speak."

(6:30 p.m. update -- As I mentioned earlier today, the new CBA seems to say teams can't do this sort of thing. A PA spokesman just e-mailed me to say the association is reviewing the matter).

The Montreal Canadiens are here Thursday, the Sabres travel to Long Island Saturday and host Boston Sunday. They're 14th in the East and could be last overall in the NHL based on other results as soon as tomorrow night.

Ruff said he chatted with owner Terry Pegula Wednesday morning -- saying only "we talked hockey" -- and admitted he knows what the fanbase is saying. And what might be said if these next three games go poorly for his team?

Continue reading "Ruff: 'We need to win now' (with post-practice audio)" »

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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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