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Patrick to take over behind the bench tonight

Lindy Ruff will not be behind the First Niagara Center bench tonight for the Buffalo Sabres for the first time since March 20, 2006, and James Patrick will be in charge as the Sabres meet the Boston Bruins.

Patrick will move from changing the defense pairs to changing the forward lines and Kevyn Adams, who has been on the bench all season, will change the defense. First-year assistant Teppo Numminen will move down from the press box to the bench for the first time since his playing career ended here in 2009. 

Patrick said Ruff is "hoping to be here" but it's certainly up in the air if the head coach if will be in the building tonight. Patrick said he could be in the press box or could simply stay in the coaches' suite in the locker room area and watch the game on the big-screen TV.

Patrick said it a little unusual to be calling forward lines but will try to keep things business as usual.

"The helpful thing is there's a lot of veteran guys with Pommer [Jason Pominville] and Gaus [Paul Gaustad] and Derek Roy," Patrick said. "It's a pretty veteran lineup. And they communicate on the bench and I don't expect any problems.

"It is a new voice but at the same time, the game plan will be the same," Pominville said. "The systems will be the same. Not much is going to change besides the person speaking and talking to us in intermission. Our focus has to remain the same. No matter who's there, we have the trust and confidence in what they're capable of doing."

"It's the ebb and flows of hockey. You can't predict how you're going to play the game either," said defenseman Jordan Leopold, whose collision with Ruff Monday caused the coach's three broken ribs. "It's one of those things. We're plenty prepared either way. If Lindy were back there, great. If not, we'll make do and stick with our system. He's made sure everything is implemented. It's just a matter of us going out there and doing it."

Patrick had a brief on-ice meeting with the team at end of the morning skate and said his message was to continue to be hard on the puck as the club has been during its 3-0-1 run. He said his first foray as a head coach should be interesting, especially if he needs to make his case known to the referees.

"Usually Lindy has to tell me to stop yelling at the referees so I've had a lot of practice at that," Patrick said. "You get answers or get a little more respect whhen you're the head coach. Hopefully that's not an issue."

Thomas Vanek skated with the team today and Patrick said he's improving. Vanek confirmed he's hoping to play this weekend, either Friday against Dallas or Saturday against Tampa Bay.

Hear Patrick's session with reporters below:


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--Mike Harrington
(twitter.com/bnharrington)

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Ennis set to return tonight, will play center

MONTREAL -- Tyler Ennis, who has been out since spraining his ankle a second time this season Dec. 17, will return to the Sabres tonight against Montreal.

Not only is he excited to be back, he's thrilled to be making a return to center. He played in the middle in juniors and the minors. With Jochen Hecht sidelined by a concussion, the Sabres needed someone to play center and are ready to try Ennis.

Paul Gaustad may also return from injury. He will skate in the warm-up and coach Lindy Ruff will make a game-time decision on the center's status.

Marc-Andre Gragnani will be the healthy scratch on defense.

To hear the interviews with Ruff and Ennis, click the audio files below.

--John Vogl

Lindy Ruff:

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Tyler Ennis:

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Ice Chips: On Sabreland, Thomas and the all-stars

The Sabres are taking off from practice today, the last day they're allowed to work out prior to the NHL all-star break. They return to the ice Monday at First Niagara Center and have their next game Tuesday in Montreal, where they might be able to add Tyler Ennis and Paul Gaustad back to their lineup.

---Maybe pigs do fly because the Sabres won a road game with Tuesday's shootout win at New Jersey. Guess that means no trades and no firings? Oy. Still no back-to-back wins though with the next chance coming in Montreal. The Sabres are 10-19-5 since their last winning streak and the 34 games currently stands as the third-longest drought in franchise history -- behind only 40+-game lulls in their first two seasons. Ugh.

---Forget about trading Jochen Hecht for a pick at the deadline. Forget hockey altogether. It's time to worry about the veteran's health in general after he apparently got another concussion Saturday in St. Louis. For Lindy Ruff to say, "Emotionally, he was really unstable" after last night's game is nothing short of alarming. 

---Bucky Gleason's column today talks back to the fans and answers some of their fury.

---There's only one game today and it's Detroit at Montreal at 7:30 on NBC Sports Network. The Habs, Islanders and Sabres are all tied at 45 points. If Montreal loses tonight in regulation, it would drop to 14th place while the Islanders would improve to 12th and Buffalo to 13th. The Sabres would stay in 14th if Montreal gets a point.

---This week's edition of "NHL 36" is tonight at 6:30 and it features 36 hours in the life of Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. His first day was last Monday, when the Sabres were in Detroit, and the cameras rolled pregame and during the contest. Might be an interesting watch.

---NHL.com has Jason Pominville pegged as Mr. Irrelevant in the all-star fantasy draft, as in the last guy chosen. At least he would get a car for his troubles. I loved the draft last year. It was better than the game.

---Jerry Sullivan offers this take on Tim Thomas' snub of the Bruins' White House visit. Good post, good reasoning but I don't agree. My feeling is Thomas should have been a teammate and gone. A fun argument for sure on both sides.

---Speaking of the All-Star Game, James Neal will replace Alex Ovechkin in Ottawa. Caps owner Ted Leonsis obviously did not agree with the Great Eight's suspension, as he wrote the other day on his blog. Boo to that, Ted. He jumped and contacted the head. Almost automatic these days. To me, it was a test case to see if Brendan Shanahan would give a Shanaban to a name player. He passed.

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

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Jets coach remembers time in Tonawanda

First-year Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel played just seven NHL games with the 1979-80 Washington Capitals but had a long minor-league career before moving into coaching. His first professional stop: The 1975-76 Buffalo Norsemen (remember them?) of the old North American Hockey League.

The Norsemen played just one year and had a roster that featured former NHLers Guy Trottier and Steve Atkinson (who had played for the Sabres in the early years). They played at the Tonawanda Sports Center, which was then turned into a tennis facility. Noel, then a 20-year-old, was making $225 a week and loving life.

Aficionados of Buffalo sports history remember that the Norsemen's season ended when they forfeited Game Five of a playoff series in Johnstown, Pa., after the host Jets initiated a pregame brawl. It's a scene that was the basis for one of the memorable moments in the hockey classic "Slap Shot"

"I remember the ride back on the bus when I thought , 'This is gonna be a heck of a career if we've got to play in this league for five or six years,' " Noel said today. "I think it scared me to death enough to work out in the summer and hope I get an opportunity. I signed with the Buffalo Sabres (and played in the organization with the Hershey Bears) ... it scared the bejeezus out of me."

Click below to hear more of Noel's memories of his year in Tonawanda, including playing against the Hanson Brothers of Slap Shot fame, and the brawlers in Quebec known as the Beauce Jaros who led the NAHL that season.


Claude Noel

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

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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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