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Nolan hopes to see an aggressive Lieuwen as goalie returns to Sabres' net

By John Vogl

Since a perfect NHL debut, Nathan Lieuwen has struggled. He's stopped 72 of 81 shots in his last three appearances, and the .889 save percentage screams "rookie."

Ted Nolan talked with the young goaltender this morning, and the coach hopes he sees more from Lieuwen tonight. Lieuwen will make his third big-league start when the New Jersey Devils visit First Niagara Center.

"He needs to be a little bit more aggressive," Nolan said after the morning skate. "He’s got the technical aspect down. The one thing with forwards is we want to see how competitive you are, and the same thing with goaltenders. You have to come out. You have to challenge. You have to get out like you want to stop the puck no matter where it’s at. We want to see a little bit more of that."

Lieuwen stopped 10 of 10 shots when thrust into an emergency relief role March 16 when Jhonas Enroth got hurt against Montreal. Lieuwen allowed three goals on 26 shots during a loss in Calgary, got beat four times on 36 shots in a loss at Vancouver and gave up two goals on 19 shots in a relief appearance Thursday in Nashville.

Lieuwen is getting the start over Matt Hackett with Enroth (leg) and Michal Neuvirth (lower body) "still a ways away," Nolan said. Tyler Myers (midsection) also is not close to returning.

Nicolas Deslauriers, who welcomed a baby girl with his wife, will not play tonight despite returning to the team.

"He didn’t have too much sleep the last day or so," Nolan said. "He’ll spend some time with his newborn and his wife, and he’ll be back ready to go tomorrow."

Ted Nolan

From ECHL to NHL: Lieuwen's last year a wild ride

By Mike Harrington

CALGARY, Alberta -- Nathan Lieuwen didn't speak to the media today at the Saddledome in advance of his first NHL start. The Sabres, like most NHL teams, make goalies off-limits on game days much like baseball teams do with starting pitchers.

But Lieuwen did speak at length about his career journey Monday in First Niagara Center and there are some interesting nuggets to share from that interview. 

Lieuwen's career was nearly derailed as a 16-year-old by concussions suffered in a rollover car accident in 2008. It was in doubt for a couple of years if he should keep playing.

"That definitely took my career sideways for a while and then started to get back on track when I was 19," Lieuwen said Monday. "That’s when I got drafted here to the Sabres (in the sixth round in 2011), and things have been up ever since. I’ve been lucky. A couple close calls, but I’ve been pretty healthy, which is good.

"It was tough. There was a couple times they questioned whether I should come back and play. I wouldn’t have it, and I’m glad that I said that."

(You can read more about Lieuwen's struggles and his faith in this Yahoo story advancing his start in the Memorial Cup for Kootenay in 2011.)

Continue reading "From ECHL to NHL: Lieuwen's last year a wild ride" »

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

Sabres goalie prospect Lieuwen gets first NHL call; Neuvirth injured

By John Vogl

Michal Neuvirth's misfortune means Nathan Lieuwen will have a memorable day.

The Sabres have called up the netminding prospect from Rochester on an emergency basis. It's the first time the 22-year-old has been summoned to the NHL.

Neuvirth, who made 51 saves in his last start Thursday night, will miss tonight's game with a lower-body injury. Jhonas Enroth started for the Sabres on Saturday. While he certainly can go to the crease on back-to-back days, there's a chance Lieuwen will play rather than be the backup. Lieuwen, though, started for the Amerks on Friday and Saturday.

Lieuwen has excelled with the Amerks this season. The organization originally expected him to merely compete with Connor Knapp for the backup job, but he's wrestled the starting role away from Matt Hackett. Lieuwen, drafted in the sixth round in 2011, has appeared in 32 games with a 17-11-2 record, .922 save percentage and 2.34 goals-against average.

"“Nathan Lieuwen has been a really outstanding surprise,” Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy recently told The News. “He really is developing nicely and has taken the ball and run with it in terms of the opportunity that we’ve given him.

“He’s got a tremendous work ethic, and probably his best attribute is he’s got a pretty short-term memory and a good outlook on life. Those are things you’ve got to have at the goaltending position. He doesn’t let things bother him.”

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 |

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 |

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 |