The word has just come down from the NHL -- a two-game suspension for Nashville's Jordin Tootoo for running over Ryan Miller. Brendan Shanahan's video explanation is below. The NHL discipline czar said he didn't feel there was enough contact from Christian Ehrhoff to justify Tootoo's actions and that the Nashville forward looked up and saw Miller in his path after the puck had been knocked away.
"The onus therefore is on Tootoo to avoid, or at the very least, minimize his contact with the goaltender," Shanahan said. "While we believe that Tootoo's motivation on this play was to attempt to score and not to hit Miller, the fact remains that it is the attacking player's responsibility to make a better effort not to crash directly into the opposing goaltender."
Shanahan added the call of major for charging and game misconduct was correct. The two-game suspension was rooted in the fact Miller was not injured and Tootoo has not been suspended the last four years. Pffft.
We spoke to Lindy Ruff after practice before any ruling was handed down, so there won't be any comment from him until after tomorrow's morning skate.
Join me at 3 for a live chat on Tootoo, realignment and all things Sabres and NHL. Be sure to watch the Shanahan video below before you join!
I stayed up last night to watch the Ducks snap their seven-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over the going-nowhere Canadiens and turned the TV off at the final buzzer since NHL Center Ice doesn't show teams' local postgame shows. Too bad on this night.
Woke up this morning to find out the Ducks had fired coach Randy Carlyle, who led them to the Stanley Cup in 2007, and hired Bruce Boudreau just three days after he was fired in Washington.
You have to wonder how this changes the Ducks' approach going forward. As I wrote this morning, Ryan Miller wants to stay in Buffalo but the Ducks are known to be all over the trade market right now while dangling star winger Bobby Ryan. GM Bob Murray led a trio of Anaheim reps in the First Niagara Center press box Tuesday night.
Carlyle's contract ran through 2014 and the theory was that Murray was going to keep him and try to shake up the team with trades Showing up with two scouts for a late November game in Buffalo was a clear indication of that. But I agree with the likes of Hall of Fame writer Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times who tweeted this early this morning: Ownership must have ordered Murray to change course and fire the coach or he was going to be gone, too.
It will be interesting to see how this effects the Ducks moving forward. Do they hold off on any trades now that they have a new voice in the locker room? Can't imagine Boudreau wants to see them ship off a 30-goal scorer. For a team in California that was 14th in the West, the Ducks were creating chatter around the hockey world. It's possible they silenced all of that early this morning while most of us were sleeping.
As for the next coaching move, you wonder how much longer Jacques Martin lasts in Montreal. The Canadiens look terrible. The Carlyle firing is the 167th change in the NHL since Lindy Ruff took over the Sabres in 1997. In fact, the only three teams that haven't switched coaches since the 2005 lockout are the Sabres, Nashville (Barry Trotz) and Detroit (Mike Babcock). Ruff is a complete anomaly.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have been much better of late since the injured Jeff Carter got back in the lineup and have put together a 4-2-2 stretch. So right now, there is nobody in the NHL worse than the New York Islanders but the Sabres can't take them lightly tonight in First Niagara Center.
Buffalo lost three times to the Isles last season -- and gave up 20 goals in the four meetings. But the Islanders are currently in crisis and owner Charles Wang even gave the vote of confidence to GM Garth Snow and coach Jack Capuano, who has to be a little nervous today given what happened to Bruce Boudreau after his visit here Saturday.
Since starting the season 3-1, the Islanders are just 3-10-3. Scoring has been their trouble this year as they sit in last place in the Eastern Conference standings.
In going 6-11-4, they're last in the league with only 41 goals, a paltry 1.95 per game. The Isles have been shut out six times and scored just one or two goals in nine other games! John Tavares leads the team with eight goals -- but has none in his last 10 games -- while Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner have seven each. That's 22 of the 41 from just three players.
With no offense, the Islanders can't fall behind. They're 1-10-2 when opponents score first, 1-8-1 when trailing after one period and 0-10 when trailing after two.
They are, however, coming off a win. The Islanders eked out a 3-2 victory Saturday in New Jersey after Zach Parise's apparent tying goal in the final two seconds was disallowed by video replay.
"They'll look at using this last game against New Jersey as a stepping zone in the right direction," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said today. "(Last year) they were scoring goals and obviously now they're having a tough time in that area. They have some tremendous young talent out there. ... I think it's a matter of time before they click."
Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau looked beaten here Saturday morning and sounded befuddled Saturday night when he said of his struggling team, "It's got to come from within I've got to believe. Because if I've got to teach them how to be tough, then I don't know quite how to do that."
Hunter, 51, is one of four Caps to have his number retired by the team and appeared in 872 games with them from 1987-1999, including the 1998 Stanley Cup final team that beat the Sabres in the Eastern Conference finals. Hunter, of course, is best remembered in Buffalo as the chief pest of the old Quebec Nordiques during those classic 1980s battles in the regular season and playoffs.
Since starting the season 7-0, the Capitals are just 5-9-1. Alexander Ovechkin is a shell of his former self and has openly battled with Boudreau over ice time. Alexander Semin has been a healthy scratch. The Caps lack any semblance of passion and, of course, have the mental issues involved with two straight early playoff flameouts when a lot of people thought they were the best team in the East.
Hunter takes over tomorrow night against St. Louis, which has been surging the last two weeks since hiring Ken HItchcock. Mark Hunter, Dale's younger brother and a former NHLer himself, will take over in London.
As for Boudreau? He just wore out his welcome in DC but he'll certainly get another job at some point. And if he doesn't, he'll always be famous for that great F-bomb rant in the dressing room last year on HBO's 24/7.
Next coach on the hot seat? It's still pretty warm for Paul Maurice in Carolina but I'm betting Randy Carlyle is in his final days in Anaheim, where the Ducks lost their seventh straight last night and are quickly falling out of the Western Conference race. They are 14th and have won once in their last 14 games. Ouch.
10:15 a.m. update: Two Southeast Division coaches down today as the Hurricanes just fired Maurice and will replace him with former NHL player and assistant coach Kirk Muller, who had been the head man with Milwaukee of the AHL. If I'm Carlyle, I stay away from the phone today.
A stone-faced Lindy Ruff kept the media waiting much longer than normal following today's morning skate and then didn't have much to say in advance of tonight's grudge match against the Boston Bruins. Not unusual. Ruff always has quite a gameface on after morning skates, especially in situations like this when the eyes of the hockey world are on his team.
"I'm expecting our team to come out hard in all areas," was Ruff's message he repeated during the three-minute chat. "We have to play a real hard game. That's the message in all areas. Hard on the puck, hard getting it back, hard physically."
NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan has spoken to general managers Darcy Regier and Peter Chiarelli and told them their teams are on high notice to not have any shenanigans tonight in the wake of the Milan Lucic-Ryan Miller incident 11 days ago in Boston.
"I haven't talked to the team about that, no," Ruff said. "It doesn't change anything for me."
But Ruff cut off a question about retaliation a few seconds later by saying, "I don't think Shanahan would like to hear that."
The media throng was large by regular-season standards, with several outlets from Southern Ontario joining Buffalo and Boston reporters. Many of the Sabres were already off the ice and in trainers' areas when reporters were allowed in, and no one spoke to the likes of Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta, the two likely candidates to do something with Lucic.
Pressed again on what the Sabres need to do tonight, Ruff said, "I'll answer the question one more time: We were disappointed in our response and that won't happen again."
The Sabres' response to the incident is one issue. Trying to beat a Boston team that has won nine straight is something else entirely.
"They got their game in place, getting depth in scoring, great goaltending," Ruff said. "They're back. They're proving they're a championship team. Until somebody knocks them off, they're on a roll where they think they can go out and repeat. It's a great opportunity for us to make a statement."
Ruff confirmed Jochen Hecht would make his season debut tonight but it's unknown who will sit up front. Kaleta, who missed yesterday for maintenance, was on the ice. So was defenseman Mike Weber, who skated with his teammates for the first time since suffering an undisclosed upper-body injury Nov. 16 against New Jersey.
Weber skated in the same color jersey as the injured Tyler Ennis and won't play tonight either.
But in the Shake-Your-Head Division, Team Department, comes the story of the Boston Bruins. The Bs survived Monday night in Montreal, 1-0, to win their ninth straight game as Tim Thomas posted his second straight shutout. That means they hit town for Wednesday's grudge match in First Niagara Center against the Sabres going for 10 in a row, just another juicy subplot in a game full of them.
And then there's this: The Bruins (12-7-0) took over first place in the Northeast from the Sabres (12-8-0) by virtue of higher points percentage. That puts Boston third in the Eastern Conference -- just 16 days after the Bruins were dead last in 15th place at 3-7. Pretty incredible. The Bruins were actually second for a few minutes until the upstart Florida Panthers took over the spot with a 4-3 win over New Jersey in a game they trailed, 3-0.
The Sabres, meanwhile, fall from second in the East to fifth.
The Canes didn't skate today and Maurice met the media this evening in the 5 o'clock hour with the announcement that backup Brian Boucher will play goal against the Sabres and not former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Cam Ward.
Ward is just 6-8-2 with a 3.27 GAA and .904 save percentage. Boucher has yet to start at home and is 0-2-1, 3.86. .864.
Boucher is 3-4, 2.86 in his regular season career against Buffalo, but owns wins in the playoffs in 2000 and 2011. For all that you remember Ward for in 2006, his regular season mark against Buffalo is a pedestrian 7-6-2, 2.89.
The Canes were complete no-shows in Wednesday's 4-0 loss at Montreal but this still seems odd. Your job is at stake and you put it in the hands of the journeyman over the guy with the ring? Whatever.
Join us at 7 for our live blog. The MSG telecast will be run by Kevin Sylvester, Danny Gare and Brian Duff.
MONTREAL -- While there was plenty of talk in the Sabres' dressing room this morning about Ryan Miller and Milan Lucic, a much bigger piece of news was emerging on the ice.
Tyler Myers was still out there skating with the assistant coaches and the injured Tyler Ennis and Jochen Hecht. Thus, Myers -- who is minus-6 over his last four games and was one of the do-nothings on the ice when Lucic bowled over Miller -- is going to be a healthy scratch tonight for the first time in his career.
Outsiders might call it a stunning thing to do to the 21-year-old Myers, a former Calder Trophy winner and a guy who has a seven-year, $38.5 million contract in hand that kicks in next season. But it's no surprise to regular Sabres watchers: Myers was minus-3 on Saturday, with several brutal plays resulting in Boston goals.
"The way I've been playing in the last three of four games, it's not good," Myers said. "It's not good enough for me. I have to be better. I know that the coaches know that. Until I do, stuff like this is going to happen.
"I think there's a lot of good but there's those one or two bad mistakes I have to eliminate from my game. This is just one step -- get pissed off and come out next game and start playing the way I know I can. To do that, playing a lot more physical will help my game."
Myers wasn't physical when Miller was bowled over Saturday and knows that was a mistake.
"Definitely," he said. "We've talked about it as a team. It's definitely got to be a lot more aggressive than what it was. We all know. We've had discussions as a team. That's got to be different."
Lindy Ruff played coy on Myers, refusing to admit he was out but acknowledging Myers' decisions have to be better. Ruff blew off reporters Sunday but met a gaggle of media this morning -- even joking, "it's nice to see you guys again" when it was all over. But he still wasn't happy about Lucic when I asked if he feels the NHL's ruling today has to be a suspension of the Boston forward.
"If he isn't suspended, it just means teams will be able to do exactly what Lucic did," Ruff said. "Their goaltender can play the puck, we can run him over. We can hurt him and all you get is a two-minute minor penalty. That's essentially what that means. You can concuss the other team's goaltender. You can run him going at whatever speed he was going. He made no attempt to get out of the way. It means it's fair game on goaltenders."
Ruff said there's no timetable on Miller and that his goalie "doesn't feel good." He said Miller just feels "OK."
Here's audio from today's morning skate from Ruff, Myers, Jhonas Enroth and captain Jason Pominville:
MONTREAL — Defenseman Tyler Myers will be a healthy scratch for the Sabres tonight against the Canadiens in the Bell Centre.
It will be the first time Myers has been a healthy scratch in his three-year career.
Myers was in the group of players that did not respond when Milan Lucic ran over Ryan Miller on Saturday night, but Myers' recent struggles on the blue line are the bigger reason he is not playing tonight.
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.