NEW YORK -- Playing tonight is a matter of pride for Henrik Tallinder. The game means a lot more to the New York Rangers.
Tallinder says he's ready to return to the Buffalo blue line after a four-game injury absence.
"It’s just trying to finish what you started," Tallinder said after the morning skate in Madison Square Garden. "I’m just looking forward to playing again. You never like to be sitting out or being hurt. I’m just happy that my body feels healthy again."
Sabres coach Ted Nolan said he'll dress John Scott for the warm-up in case Tallinder isn't ready. Matt Hackett will start in goal for Buffalo. Zenon Konopka is expected to be a healthy scratch.
The Rangers head into their penultimate game in second place in the Metropolitan Division. With the new playoff format, that means home ice in the first round against the division's third-place team. Philadelphia and Columbus are both two points back of the Rangers.
"I could say if you get home ice it’s real good, and if you don’t it’s not that big of a deal," New York coach Alain Vigneault said with a grin. "Playing in front of your fans is always something special. We’ve got a possibility to get home ice, and we’re going to work real hard to get it.
"Right now we want to keep playing well so we feel good about our game. We want two points tonight."
Martin Biron's career started as a baby-faced 18-year-old with the Sabres on Dec. 26, 1995. It ended today with a simple two-sentence tweet announcing his retirement. Biron had been placed on waivers by the New York Rangers and returned to his Clarence home to ponder his next career move, which almost certainly has to include broadcasting in either French or English (or both).
The guy is as locquacious and funny as they come, and I haven't had anywhere near the dealings with him as some of my colleagues because I didn't come on the Sabres beat until 2007. But ask any of them who their favorite all-time Sabres are and Biron comes near the top of the list all the time.
Wish I could find the clip of him being a chatterbox on the bench during the '06 playoffs. It was classic stuff where he taunted Carolina's Eric Staal for tripping over the blue line.
(UPDATE: Through the magic of Twitter, h/t to @Topshelfcookies for finding the Biron-Staal clip):
Here's a recent MSG session from Rangers practice.
Biron took over the Sabres' net from Dominik Hasek fulltime in the 2001-02 season and held the job until Ryan Miller took over during the memorable 2005-06 campaign. With Miller entrenched, Biron was traded to Philadelphia at the deadline in 2007 and even led the Flyers to an Eastern Conference final. He then spent a year with the Islanders and his final three as Henrik Lundqvist's backup in New York.
Biron struggled mightily this season, allowing three goals on five shots last Saturday in St. Louis in his final appearance after getting nailed for five in a relief role Oct. 8 at San Jose (including Thomas Hertl's between-the-legs special). He had a 7.61 goals-against average and .763 save percentage and new coach Alain Vigneault didn't think he could back up any longer. Biron opted to call it quits rather than go to the AHL. Can't blame him for that.
Biron was a heck of a goalie but we'll certainly remember him here almost as much for the infamous 2007 brawl with Ottawa when he fought Ray Emery. We always love an excuse to play this one.
The word is coming via the Vancouver Province about what John Tortorella said after Canucks practice today and it's spreading all over Twitter. Maybe that was his intent.
The new Vancouver coach isn't banning the social media behemoth from his locker room, which would be rough for folks who love Roberto Luongo's wildly entertaining feed that has nearly 185,000 followers. But he'd like his players to can a lot of it.
"It’s the most narcissistic thing I’ve ever seen,” Tortorella said. “I’m not going to handcuff them and treat them like little kids. There’d better be no information come out of the locker room with that damn Twitter. It’s nothing but trouble to me. ... Our locker room is our locker room, and I believe our guys understand that. I just hope they respect the sanctity of the locker room."
"I think it is tremendous for charity work. It helped me tremendously with our dog walk out in New York and we raised a ton of money," he said. "But not for, 'Here I am, I’m having a roast beef sandwich, I am saying hello to my fans.’ That is just ridiculous.”
The Sabres are on their fourth three-game winning streak of the season -- all of which have come under interim coach Ron Rolston. They've yet to get win No. 4 for any of those streaks, and they need to do it tonight to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
The New York Rangers are in town, with the Sabres desperately needing a regulation win because they're four points behind the Rangers in the race for eighth place in the East and the Blueshirts have a game in hand.
The Sabres' hope will be left dangling by a thread if they get one point; officially in but with basically no hope. They will be officially out of the playoffs for the fourth time in six years if they lose in regulation tonight. They got zero help last night out of town, so their only hope basically comes down to the Sabres running the table in their last four games to finish at 52 points and holding on to the slim hope that will be enough.
"It starts with us winning," said winger Drew Stafford. "If we're not winning games, it doesn't matter what other teams are going to do. They'll help us maybe, but it starts with us getting the two points and making sure we're doing our job."
No white smoke over First Niagara Center this afternoon so the Sabres remain quiet on the trade front while taking today off from practice (seriously now, how could I resist that one?). Here's what's going through my head today in the wake of last night's 3-1 win over the Rangers:
“Do we become a younger team or do we become a team that’s going to build and try to get this core group of guys a chance to move forward?" Miller said. "Or are we not the core anymore? Who knows? They’re not decisions we make. We react off management and circumstance.”
Hmmm. Interesting. I'll be writing more on this topic in tomorrow's sports section.
Patrick Kaleta has two more games left on his NHL suspension so any retribution he might face from the New York Rangers will have to wait until the Blueshirts return here April 19. As for tonight, the Rangers have won five of their last six games and plan on making it six out of seven.
"It's over and done with as far as I'm concerned," said Brad Richards, the victim of the Kaleta cross-check the resulted in a game-changing major penalty. "The league took care of what they thought they could take care of and we're here to win a hockey game."
Richards missed two games after the hit and has scored in each of the two games since his return while playing with Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin.
Still, it was pretty odd how quickly Richards returned; NHL senior vice president for player safety Brendan Shanahan usually takes injuries into account on his supplemental discipline decisions and the fact Richards came right back will help Kaleta some. But only some.
Kaleta had a four-game suspension in 2011 for a head-butt and his reputation around the league is plain terrible. Look what Mark Spector, a senior columnist for Sportsnet.ca, tweeted last night: "Patrick Kaleta is a dangerous, irresponsible player. Has been for years. Game doesn't need him. Be a better place without him."
NEW YORK -- Patrick Kaleta apparently had nothing to say. The New York Rangers said plenty.
Kaleta was ejected in the third period of the Sabres' 3-2 shootout loss in New York on Sunday night for boarding Brad Richards. The Sabres right winger, who is expected to have a disciplinary hearing with the NHL, was not in the dressing room following the game. A team spokesman said he would not comment.
"That's just stupidity," Richards said of the hit. "If we're all going to look at each other's numbers, ram each other from behind headfirst into the boards, it's going to be a tough game to play. It's not hockey.
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.
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.
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.