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Early notes from Calgary and awards for Sabres' second-rounders

By Mike Harrington

CALGARY, Alberta -- Good morning from the Candian Rockies, where the Sabres and Flames will meet tonight in the Saddledome for the first time since Dec. 27, 2010. The game is a 9 p.m. start Eastern time, so that means your "morning skate" reports will be later than normal.

The Flames take the ice at 10:30 local time (12:30 in Buffalo), while the Sabres go at 11:30 a.m. here and 1:30 p.m. back home. So keep it here and on Twitter (@BNHarrington) for the latest but don't forget you'll have to wait a little while longer to find out if tonight will be Nathan Lieuwen's first NHL start in goal.

This is Buffalo's first visit here since the devastating floods last June that ruined the Saddledome's service level and put water in the first 10 rows of the seating bowl. The building's core had to be gutted and replaced entirely but it was miraculously ready to go for the preseason. I had a good chat about it with Nashville broadcaster Terry Crisp, the coach of the '89 Stanley Cup champion Flames, when he was in Buffalo last week and it will be interesting to check out the building.

As for the game, the Sabres have lost six straight overall, scoring just five goals in the process nd ll of them by either Drew Stafford or Tyler Ennis. The last time they lost seven straight in regulation was in 2003 and keep this in mind: The Sabres have NEVER lost eight straight in regulation.

The Sabres are 7-21-3 on the road as they start a five-game, 10-day trip. Their seven wins are five fewer than any NHL team and their 17 road points are 10 fewer than anyone else (Florida is 12-20-3 for 27).

The Flames are tied for 26th overall with the New York Islanders with 61 points and it will be interesting to see how that battle impacts the Sabres' draft, with Buffalo potentially getting the Islanders' No. 1 pick this year. Calgary forward Matt Stajan, who scored the overtime winner in December when the Flames won in First Niagara Center, is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing the last two weeks following the death of his newborn son.

Continue reading "Early notes from Calgary and awards for Sabres' second-rounders" »

Sabres' Grigorenko leads Russia to bronze medal at world juniors

By John Vogl

The Sabres hoped Mikhail Grigorenko would go to the world juniors and excel. They hoped playing with and against guys in his age group would allow him to feel good about himself and his game.

It appears the plan worked.

Grigorenko led Russia to the bronze medal this morning in Sweden. The center scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win over Canada, a victory that deprived the Canadians of a medal for the second straight year. It's first time that's happened to The True North in more than 30 years.

Grigorenko led Russia with five goals, eight points and a plus-6 rating in seven games. The next step for Buffalo is to determine whether the 19-year-old is ready to rejoin the Sabres and get ice time.

Sabres prospect Nikita Zadorov had four goals and five points for the Russians. He'll return to London of the Ontario Hockey League.

Zadorov, Grigorenko combine to knock USA out of World Juniors medal race

Nikita Zadorov (left) and Anton Slepyshev celebrate one of Zadorov's goals today against Team USA (Getty Images).

By Mike Harrington

MINNEAPOLIS -- There will be no gold-medal repeat for Team USA at the World Junior Championships. And they can thank two Sabres prospects for causing their ultimate set of problems.

Defenseman Nikita Zadorov had two power-play goals and Mikhail Grigorenko also scored as Russia posted a 5-3 quarterfinal win today in Malmo, Sweden. Zadorov scored both of his goals from the point on a 5-on-3 situation in the second period to put Russia into the semifinals against the Sweden-Slovakia winner. 

We know Zadorov is going to back to London of the OHL after this tournament, especially with the Knights hosting the Memorial Cup this year. But what in the world do the Sabres do with Grigorenko now? If they keep having injuries, they're going to simply put him back in the lineup and see what he does.

There's a full report on the game with comments from both Sabres prospects at this link on the tournament's official site.

Sabres' Nolan: 'You don't force-feed somebody and say we're rebuild'

By John Vogl

One of the things Pat LaFontaine and Ted Nolan have been discussing since taking over the Sabres is the roster. You can expect it to change -- very soon.

The days of teenagers getting the keys to the car are coming to an end. Nikita Zadorov is likely heading back to junior hockey, and Mikhail Grigorenko might be alongside him. Other youngsters, such as Johan Larsson and Rasmus Ristolainen, might be on their way to Rochester.

"We have so many young guys here, and it’s almost like going back to junior hockey in some sense," Nolan said today after practice. "Patty and I have been talking for the last three, four days about that. I didn’t realize how young they really were and the positions that they’re in and the capabilities of what they can do besides playing here.

"There’s some maneuvering room we can do here. We checked the farm team, see who’s going well down there. There’s a couple players playing exceptionally well down there that deserve an opportunity. We’ve been tweaking. We’re going to meet right after this and see what we can do."

The Sabres' plan under Darcy Regier was to use young players, lose and get a high draft pick.

"We’re going to try to get this thing on proper footing going forward and putting people in position of success versus force-feeding them," Nolan said. "You see some good organizations and how they go about it. You don’t force-feed somebody and say we’re rebuild. Rebuild is important, but how you rebuild is really important.

"Like I said, Patty and I have been talking about it since we got involved. I think you can have some young kids, a few of them, but not as many as we have."

Ted Nolan

Maple Leafs make a trade, Sabres expected to keep lineup intact

By John Vogl

Toronto is making a change for tonight's rematch with the Sabres. It doesn't look like Buffalo will.

The Maple Leafs, who are without their top three centers because of injuries and suspensions, swung a deal with Anaheim to acquire center Peter Holland. The Ducks' first-round pick in 2009 is going to make his Toronto debut tonight when the Sabres visit Air Canada Centre.

Holland had five goals and nine points in 10 games with the Ducks' minor-league club, and he scored once in four games with Anaheim. James Reimer will start in goal.

The Sabres held an optional morning skate, and based on the attendance it appears the lineup will stay the same as it did during Friday's 3-1 victory over the Leafs. Mikhail Grigorenko, Johan Larsson and Nikita Zadorov skated, as did injured defenseman Mike Weber and backup goalie Jhonas Enroth.

Zadorov is likely going back to London after Sabres newcomers Ted Nolan and Pat LaFontaine get through these two games and take a breath to look at the roster.

"The big picture is how are we going to develop this kid,” Nolan said. “We put 18 year-olds against 26-year-olds. It’s kind of unfair unless you’re Sidney Crosby or something like that. We’ll monitor. We’ll talk about it and hopefully make the best decision for what’s best for him.”

Benched Zadorov 'needs to get some perspective,' Sabres' Rolston says

By John Vogl

NEW YORK -- Sabres coach Ron Rolston doesn't want his players getting too comfortable, he said today, and as a result Nikita Zadorov will watch the game against the Rangers from the press box.

Zadorov will be the healthy scratch on defense tonight when the Sabres play in refurbished Madison Square Garden. The rookie is on a nine-game tryout, but Game Six will have to wait until at least Saturday.

"He needs to be better," Rolston said after the morning skate. "A lot of aspects, just a lot of his details right now, practice and game situations. He needs to get some perspective, you know? With all our players, especially our young guys, we don’t want guys getting comfortable."

With the exception of Mark Pysyk, Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers, every defenseman has been scratched at least once. Fellow first-round pick Rasmus Ristolainen has taken a seat three times in the Sabres' 14 games.

"When Rasmus was out of the lineup, he came back in and played well," Rolston said. "He was refocused on what he needed to do and wasn’t taking things for granted. I think it’ll be the same with Nikita."

Ryan Miller will be in lineup as the starting goaltender.

Starting Saturday when the Sabres host Anaheim, it'll be time for forwards to worry. Corey Tropp will be ready to return from a broken jaw, and the 10-game suspension will be up for the Sabres' Patrick Kaleta.

"It should be push everybody because we’ve got some decisions to make coming up," Rolston said. "We’ve got players like Corey coming back and Patty Kaleta’s suspension is up on Saturday. Everybody should feel that."

Ron Rolston

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Sabres, Zadorov set to face another challenge with Bruins in town

By John Vogl

The records clearly tell which team is favored to win tonight -- Buffalo is 1-8-1 while visiting Boston is 5-2, including 3-0 on the road -- but Ron Rolston's words illustrated the teams' differences even more.

"They’re one of the best teams in the league," the Sabres' coach said today after the morning skate. "They’re physical. They’re detailed. They don’t beat themselves. They play the same way from the first minute to the last minute and just try to wear you down. They have a lot of good hockey players. They’re very deep, good on defense, big on defense, end plays, good in transition, very good in the offensive zone.

"I can keep going. I'm out of time here. It's a good start."

The Sabres, of course, are focusing on getting a good start after being blown off the ice during first periods so far.

"We definitely need some things to get us some confidence," co-captain Steve Ott said in First Niagara Center.

Defenseman Nikita Zadorov, the second of the Sabres' two first-round picks this year, will play his second NHL game. The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder had three hits in 11:01 during his debut.

"It’s his second game in the league at 18 years old," Rolston said. "Matchup-wise, he’s got size, he’s physical. He’s a guy that can clear people out in front. It’ll be another real good challenge for him to see where he’s at.

"He can be physical, but he has to make sure he’s putting himself in good position all the time and not giving up a lot."

Ryan Miller will start in goal against a club that has reached the Stanley Cup finals during two of the last three seasons.

"You want to be part of those teams," said Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who noted he went to back-to-back conference finals with Buffalo. "You come into the locker room and know everything is going to be all right."

Ron Rolston

More lineup news: Zadorov in, Ristolainen to Rochester

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres made it official in the 5 o'clock hour this afternoon, adding defenseman Nikita Zadorov to the active roster and sending fellow 18-year-old and first-round draft pick Rasmus Ristolainen to Rochester.

Zadorov can play up to nine NHL games without activating the first year of his entry-level contract, at which time he would need to return to London of the OHL or officially stay in the NHL. The Sabres could go to seven defensemen tonight against Colorado and scratch center Kevin Porter, who took extra work after today's morning skate.

Ristolainen had no points and a minus-4 rating in eight games. He played 19:17 in Thursday's loss to Vancouver, just three seconds shy of his season high. The 6-foot-5 Zadorov had a strong training camp and a good preseason, but suffered a severe cut to his pinky in the final preseason game at Carolina and has been on the non-roster injured list for players hurt in exhibition play.

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 |