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Lieuwen, Neuvirth making Sabres' road trip while Enroth, Myers among those staying home

By John Vogl

The Sabres are clearing out of First Niagara Center today to make room for the NCAA Tournament, and they have two piles of equipment bags. One is for the guys going on the 11-day trip. The other is for those who aren't -- and that's a pretty big pile.

Jhonas Enroth, Tyler Myers, Zemgus Girgensons, Alexander Sulzer and Chris Stewart headline the injured players who will stay in Buffalo. Torrey Mitchell expects to play Tuesday in Calgary.

Goaltenders Nathan Lieuwen, who made his NHL debut Sunday against Montreal, and Michal Neuvirth (lower body) are set to fly west. Neuvirth is still day-to-day, so coach Ted Nolan didn't rule out a third netminder joining the team.

"He could wake up tomorrow morning as fresh as a daisy, but we’ll wait till then," Nolan said of Neuvirth.

The recently acquired netminder said he woke up sore Friday after a 51-save performance Thursday in Carolina, but he practiced Saturday morning, took the pregame warmup and backed up Enroth for the Sabres' loss to the New York Islanders.

Neuvirth didn't dress Sunday and skated lightly today.

"It depends how I’m going to feel tomorrow, but I’m feeling better every day," he said in the arena. "I’m hoping it’s going to be good tomorrow."

Enroth is still undergoing testing for the leg injury he suffered during the second period Sunday night.

"It looks a little bit better," Nolan said. "He’s going to get further evaluations. He’s going to stay behind, but it looks a little bit better today than yesterday. Definitely out this trip."

Nolan said Myers could join the Sabres before the end of the journey, which includes stops in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal and Nashville.

Ted Nolan

Nathan Lieuwen

Michal Neuvirth

Lindy Ruff credits his players after becoming 12th coach to 600 wins

By John Vogl

DALLAS -- So, Lindy Ruff, what does it mean to become the 12th coach to win 600 games?

"It means I’m on my way to 700 hopefully," the Stars' coach said with a smile after beating the Sabres, 3-2, Monday to reach the milestone.

In typical Ruff fashion, he followed his joke with a serious response after improving to 600-454-172.

"It means that I’ve had a lot of good players," Ruff said in American Airlines Center. "I’ve coached a lot of good players. I had some real good teams, a Presidents’ Trophy team.

"Those wins for the most part belong to all those guys on the ice who go out and get them for you. The guys went out and got me one."

He did it at the expense of Jhonas Enroth, who was named First Star after making 36 saves for the Sabres.

To hear from Ruff, Enroth and Sabres coach Ted Nolan, click the audio files below.

Lindy Ruff

Jhonas Enroth

Ted Nolan

Video/audio: Sabres stun Bruins with tying goal, overtime winner

By John Vogl

The few thousand folks who stuck around until the end were rewarded tonight. They paid the Sabres back in applause.

Buffalo's Matt Moulson scored with 52.3 seconds left to tie the game, and Matt D'Agostini scored the winner on a breakaway 22 seconds into overtime as the Sabres stunned Boston, 5-4.

Continue reading "Video/audio: Sabres stun Bruins with tying goal, overtime winner" »

After mining silver, Tallinder and Enroth get extra night of rest

Hank
Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder (right) watches the Sochi medal ceremony continue with fellow Team Sweden blueliners Niklas Hjalmarsson (3) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Getty Images).



By Mike Harrington

Defenseman Henrik Tallinder and goaltender Jhonas Enroth both practiced fully with the Sabres this morning but will sit out tonight's game against Carolina after returning from the Olympics. Tallinder, in fact, overnighted in Newark, N.J., and didn't return until today.

Tallinder and Enroth both had prime seats for Sunday's gold medal game, the 3-0 loss to Canada. Tallinder got one shift in the game after hastily being inserted in the lineup when center Nicklas Backstrom failed a doping test. Enroth served as Henrik Lundqvist's backup goalie, as he did for five of the six games in the tournament.

Both players were thoroughly impressed with the way Canada played in the tourney's ultimate game.

"It was a different level compared to us,' Tallinder said. "We were a couple of guys short but even if they would have been into the game, we would have had to play a really, really, really, really, really good game to be able to beat them."

Although neither saw much ice time, both reveled in the Olympic experience. Tallinder also played for Sweden in Vancouver in 2010. Enroth enjoyed watching some cross country skiing and particularly enjoyed his interaction with Lundqvist, one of his idols from his homeland.

"It was a great experience, especially practicing and playing with Lundqvist," Enroth said. "I picked up a couple things he's done. I wish I got in one game but it is what it is and it was still a great experience."

"You're around athletes the whole time, not just hockey players," Tallinder said. "Athletes in general like figure skaters, curlers, speed skaters, skiers. It's fun to see how they prepare for a contest like they're in. It's completely different from hockey."

Miller will be first goalie back to Buffalo, so he'll start for Sabres on Tuesday

By John Vogl

The United States' Olympic tournament ended with a thud today as Finland routed the Americans, 5-0, in the bronze-medal game. The U.S. team will be on its way back to North America soon, which means Ryan Miller gets Buffalo's first game after the Sochi break.

The Sabres start a run of three games in four nights Tuesday, and Miller will get the nod against Carolina. Backup Jhonas Enroth will represent Sweden in the gold-medal game Sunday, so Miller will have more time to get adjusted for the NHL.

"Yeah, now that he’s going to be the first one home," coach Ted Nolan said after practice today. "That time zone is tough. He’ll have a little bit more time to adjust than Jhonas."

The Sabres skated for about an hour in First Niagara Center, their second session following a two-week break.

"We worked the guys pretty good here today, and they feel better today," Nolan said. "We’ve got a couple more days to go."

The quest for goals continues: Enroth in net vs. Flyers

By Mike Harrington

I'm sure the folks at NBC Sports Network, which will be sending tonight's Sabres-Flyers game nationwide, aren't happy to hear this. Probably some Sabres season ticket-holders aren't happy either but the schedule is the schedule. With the team in the midst of three games in four nights, Ryan Miller will not be in goal tonight.

Jhonas Enroth gets the start against Philadelphia and will be opposed by Steve Mason. Miller, of course, owns the Toronto Maple Leafs (with a career-best 31-15-3 record and four shutouts against them), so he will play tomorrow night in Air Canada Centre. 

The narrative thus switches away from Miller's continued white-hot play to whether or not the Sabres will ever score any goals for Enroth. Be sure to double back to my post from Friday for more on the topic, but the upshot is this: Enroth is 0-2-2 in his last four starts despite a glossy 1.97 GAA and .935 save percentage in that span because the team has scored just three goals in those games.

Even worse, Enroth is 1-8-4 on the season largely because the team has scored just 17 goals in his 13 starts.

"He's been unlucky, been playing great all year," Ville Leino said today. "Certainly guys are on his side here and want to give him a win. We want to try to be extra sure we work hard today, defend well in front of him. But saying that, the best defense can be a good offense and scoring goals by creating offensive zone time."

Continue reading "The quest for goals continues: Enroth in net vs. Flyers" »

In praise of Enroth: He's got every right to feel frustrated

Enroth
Jhonas Enroth stymies Florida's Sean Bergenheim in the first period Thursday. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)



By Mike Harrington

I'm going to give it up to Jhonas Enroth here. While watching last night's 2-1 shootout loss to Florida, you felt pangs of empathy for the guy. I still have no real idea if he can be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL -- specifically if he can be the guy if the Sabres trade Ryan Miller. His play in leading Sweden to a gold medal in last year's World Championships gives you pause to think he can but that's a short tournament, not a grueling NHL season.

Enroth has exactly one win this season in 13 starts. One. It was a 3-1 victory Oct. 25 at Florida, when he sparkled in making 44 of 45 saves.

Every other goalie in the NHL who has started at least 13 games this year has at least five wins.

Enroth has played 14 games, posting a 1-8-4 record with a 2.46 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. Frankly, with that kind of record for this kind of team, that GAA and save percentage seems pretty darn good. And the numbers are bloated by his 6-3 loss here Nov. 2 to Anaheim, where the Ducks got all of their goals in the final 31 minutes. 

Let's play the numbers game a minute and take that one away (yes, I know you can't). Now Enroth would be 1-7-4, 2.18 and .925. Quite an improvement. 

The biggest issue, of course, is the Sabres don't score for him at all. Like he said last night in a quote that's getting a lot of run today: "I'm running out of answers. It's tough to win with this team."

Sure is. The Sabres have three goals in Enroth's last four starts, when he is 0-2-2, 1.97 and .935.

Last night was the eighth time this season the Sabres have been shut out or scored just once with Enroth in goal. They've scored just 17 goals in his 13 starts, a measly 1.31 per game. But it's not like they score a lot more for Miller either, with 53 goals in 30 starts or an average of 1.77 (not counting the five shootout winners on his behalf).

Enroth is the classic starting pitcher who never gets any run support and it's got to be driving him crazy.  His quote shows that it is. But I give the guy credit. His frustration isn't affecting his play. He's active in the crease and all those goalposts the Panthers hit weren't luck. A lot of them were a product of Enroth's angles.

Enroth can't score. All he can do is stop the puck. He's doing a pretty good job of that.

Olympic berths O-plenty for current and former Sabres

By Mike Harrington

There's been a slew of Olympic team announcements this morning, and the major one that has social media abuzz and our friends north of the border in a complete tizzy is the big reveal of Team Canada that comes at 11 a.m.

No Sabres are in line for a berth with Team Canada but several current and former Buffalo players have taken their spots for Sochi today.

The most recent announcement just in from Sweden is that Jhonas Enroth and Henrik Tallinder have been named to their country's team. Tallinder also played for Sweden in 2010. Enroth joins Detroit's Jonas Gustavsson in backing up Henrik Lundqvist, while Ottawa's Robin Lehner was a surprise omission. Enroth's gold-medal performance in last year's World Championships clearly helped his case.

(Enroth told me yesterday he was quite nervous about getting the call, so it has to be a big relief)

Elsewhere, three as-expected spots were made official today: Sabres rookie Zemgus Girgensons has been named to Ted Nolan's Latvian team while Thomas Vanek (Austria) and Andrej Sekera (Slovakia) were named to their clubs, where they're both expected to be key players.

Girgensons, who turned 20 yesterday, is the only current NHL player on Team Latvia. Its roster also includes 41-year-old defenseman Sandis Ozolish, a Stanley Cup winner with Colorado who has not played in the NHL since 2008.

Vanek has been red-hot of late for the Islanders, with five goals and nine assists in his last nine games. He did this conversation with NHL.com that was released today. In 28 games with the Islanders since the October trade from Buffalo, Vanek has 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists).

Sekera, a stalwart on the Carolina defense with Team USA selection Justin Faulk, enters tonight's scheduled game against the Sabres second on the Hurricanes in assists (17) and third in points (24).  He already has seven goals after never scoring more than four in a season for the Sabres and his 24 points are just five off his career high.

Former Sabre forward Jiri Novotny, the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2001, was named to the Czech team Monday.  Milan Bartovic, a second-rounder in 1999, will play for Slovakia. Both are currently playing in the KHL.

(And of course, there's Ryan Miller with Team USA that was announced last week).

Warmups will decide Hodgson or Ellis in lineup; Enroth gets call

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres are waiting until after warmups for today's 2 p.m. game against the Calgary Flames in First Niagara Center to make a key decision on their lineup. Center Cody Hodgson, who missed Thursday's game in Ottawa with an undisclosed injury, skated on his own this morning and interim coach Ted Nolan said he is feeling better. Hodgson will take the warmup but Matt Ellis has been recalled from Rochester and will skate in his place if Hodgson can't go.

Nolan attended last night's "Frozen Frontier" outdoor game in Rochester between the Amerks and Lake Erie and was duly impressed with Rochester's entertaining shootout victory.

"It was just a great atmosphere to watch. ... You could tell the players enjoyed themselves and the fans enjoyed themselves," Nolan said. "It was a great event. It just doesn't start here. It starts everywhere within the organization with what Rochester is doing now. They're doing a great job."

Ellis revealed that Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy gave him the news of the callup on the ice in the immediate aftermath of his shootout-winning goal -- his first shootout attempt since he was in the East Coast Hockey League in 2002. Ellis said teammate Colton Gillies suggested to Cassidy that Ellis get a crack in the sixth round with the shootout tied at 2-2.

"Sure enough, Chadd said, 'Ellie you're up,' Ellis said here today. "I was excited, a little nervous. It was a strange situation for me but I was pretty pumped to helped bring the two points home."

Ellis has been in Rochester all year but said it's been tough to see all the struggles going on in Buffalo, even from afar.

"I have a personal connection to most of the guys in this locker room, to the staff and to this community," he said. "This is the community I still call home and I'm definitely connected. It's been a unique year to say the least. You talk to guys, hear the ins and outs and it has been hard to watch and know what some of my close friends have had to go through this season."

After the long, cold night outside, is Ellis worried about fatigue if he gets the call? No way.

"I got plenty of energy if need be," he said with a smile. "I would have played at 10 o'clock this morning if I had the chance to."

In goal, it will be Jhonas Enroth for the Sabres against Calgary's Karri Ramo. Enroth (1-6-2, 2.67, .906) posted a 2-1 win over Calgary in his only start against the Flames, which came here in 2011. Nolan also said Brayden McNabb will get back into the lineup, with Mark Pysyk likely to be the scratch on defense (analytics freaks, you may now freak out).

The Flames' lineup will feature ex-Sabres Chris Butler and Paul Byron and West Seneca native Lee Stempniak but the big news is the return of stud rookie Sean Monahan, who has missed seven games with a broken bone in his foot. Monahan, the No. 6 pick in the June draft, has nine goals and six assists in 24 games.

Click below to hear our noon-hour conversations with Nolan and Ellis.

Ted Nolan

Matt Ellis

Sabres going with Enroth, who's unbeaten so far against Canadiens

By John Vogl

MONTREAL -- Jhonas Enroth's favorite road building to play in is Montreal's Bell Centre. He'll get another look at it tonight.

The Sabres will start Enroth in goal against the Canadiens. The netminder is 3-0 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in five appearances against Montreal.

Enroth is 1-5-2 overall this season with a 2.63 GAA and .911 save percentage. He's coming off a 1-0 overtime loss to New Jersey last Saturday.

"The way Jhonas played last game, I have no hesitation about putting him back in tonight," coach Ted Nolan said.

Right wing Drew Stafford and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff were the only players to not participate in the morning skate, but Nolan said both will be in the lineup tonight. Brayden McNabb will be scratched on defense. It's not clear which forward will sit.

The Canadiens have won four straight as part of a 8-0-1 run.

"They’re on a roll," Nolan said of the Atlantic Division leaders. "They’ve got tremendous speed. We can’t do the things we’ve been doing and some of the things we’re not successful in. We can’t have any turnovers, and we have to play an honest 200-foot game."

To hear all of Nolan's chat, click the audio file below.

Plain white mask turns Jhonas into a joker

By John Vogl

Jhonas Enroth is patrolling the Sabres' crease in a plain white goalie mask rather than his usual decorative lid. Why?

"I asked for a trade," he said.

Actually, despite being a clear backup under new coach Ted Nolan, he didn't. Enroth has an equipment deal with Reebok, and the company has asked him to try a new CCM helmet in place of the rival Bauer mask he has been using.

Enroth giving Sabres good dilemma in goal

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres are off today and will return to practice Tuesday morning before heading to Boston for Wednesday night's game against the Bruins. 

Interim coach Ron Rolston has a very interesting decision on his hands when it comes to his goaltending. Jhonas Enroth pitched a shutout Saturday against the Flyers and came back Sunday to backstop the 3-1 win over Tampa Bay.

Enroth is red-hot right now -- 4-0-1 in his last five starts with a 1.37 goals-against average and .958 save percentage. The Sabres basically have to win their last five games to have any shot of the playoffs, so how do you take him out now?

Continue reading "Enroth giving Sabres good dilemma in goal" »

Sabres stick with Miller in net despite his struggles, Enroth's surge

By John Vogl

MONTREAL -- Ryan Miller is the Sabres' No. 1 goaltender. There's no question about that.

There was a question of whether he'd start tonight against Montreal, though. Miller has been struggling, while backup Jhonas Enroth was stellar in a 3-2 overtime win Tuesday against the Canadiens. Folks were eager to see which netminder would leave the morning skate in Bell Centre first, which is typically the signal for that night's starter.

Miller left first and will play for the second straight game. Interim coach Ron Rolston said he gave no thought to going back to Enroth.

Continue reading "Sabres stick with Miller in net despite his struggles, Enroth's surge" »

Rolston breaks up top line, Enroth to start tonight vs. Montreal

By Mike Harrington

MONTREAL -- Quick notes from the end of the Sabres' morning skate:

---Interim coach Ron Rolston said after Sunday's game he might break up the top line and he made good on the thought today. Thomas Vanek has been dropped to the second trio and replaced by Steve Ott. Patrick Kaleta is also back in after missing six games, five on his suspension and Sunday's as a healthy scratch.

The lines were Ott-Hodgson-Pominville, Vanek-Ennis-Leino, Foligno-Porter-Flynn, Hecht-Stafford-Kaleta. The scratches are Gerbe and Scott.

---Jhonas Enroth will be in goal in place of Ryan Miller. He's 2-0 in three games against the Habs in his career with a 2.42 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.

More to come, with audio.

Miller out with sinus infection; Enroth to start against Rangers

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres had plenty of roster moves to make in advance of tonight's game against the New York Rangers but interim coach Ron Rolston surprised the media during his morning briefing with another one: Jhonas Enroth will start in goal for the Sabres tonight because Ryan Miller has a sinus infection.

Miller will serve as backup and he's expected to be fine for the weekend; the Sabres are off until Ottawa is here Saturday. Enroth, of course, came within 6 1/2 minutes of a shutout Thursday in New Jersey before leaving with coffee-induced cramps.

"We sealed the coffee lids," Rolston joked.

What's no joke is the coach wants to see the backup -- who remains winless since Nov. 26, 2011 -- try to put together a second straight solid game.

Continue reading "Miller out with sinus infection; Enroth to start against Rangers" »

Leino close in return from injury, Enroth close in return from oblivion to crease

By Mike Harrington

It was past 3 a.m. when most of the Sabres hit their beds after the flight home from Florida, so they delayed practice today into the afternoon and it was a short, 25-minute affair at the Northtown Center at Amherst.  A few players stayed on an extra half-hour or so working, largely because there's no morning skate before tomorrow's 3 p.m. game against New Jersey in First Niagara Center.

Thomas Vanek was the only missing healthy player, with interim coach Ron Rolston said it was simply another maintenance day. Jordan Leopold was back at practice, skating on the extra defense pair with T.J.  Brennan. Winger Ville Leino, who has not played this year due to his bad hip, skated hard on his own for nearly 40 minutes prior to practice and then skated in a limited role with his teammates for the first time in a full practice session since Jan. 18.

"Rehab has been good lately, I've been skating the last five days pretty hard and I was going pretty hard today," Leino said. "I felt pretty good. If it's not too sore the next two days, I'll be pretty close to being able to play."

Leino needs to practice fully to get back in the lineup but he said it's possible he could be playing by late next week, perhaps next Thursday in New Jersey or by the March 10 game at his old stomping ground in Philadelphia.

Continue reading "Leino close in return from injury, Enroth close in return from oblivion to crease" »

Enroth to start in goal for Sabres against Senators; Ehrhoff out with injury

By John Vogl

OTTAWA – Jhonas Enroth is getting another chance to do something he hasn’t done in 15 months: win.

The Sabres’ backup goaltender will get the start tonight in Ottawa against the Senators. Enroth is 0-1 this season and hasn’t won since Nov. 26, 2011. He finished last year on an 0-9-2 skid and suffered a 6-3 loss in Carolina in his only start this year.

Continue reading "Enroth to start in goal for Sabres against Senators; Ehrhoff out with injury" »

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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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