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Hackett starts as the injuries continue to pile up

by Amy Moritz

DETROIT -- Ted Nolan confirmed that Matt Hackett will get the start in goal tonight when the Sabres play the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

He hopes that Hackett will be a bit fresher after the team had a trying travel day to Detroit.

It goes back to Thursday morning in St. Louis where the team was aroused at 5:45 a.m. by hotel staff and ushered to the basement as the area endured extreme weather and tornado warnings. They gave a solid effort in a 2-1 loss to the league-leading Blues before attempting to hop a plan to Detroit. Only the airport was without power and the team sat on the plane for two hours before finally arriving at its hotel in Detroit at 4 a.m.

Coach Ted Nolan isn't terribly concerned about fatigue, though. 

"We get in her at 4 o’clock in the morning and having a real tough game against St. Louis last night and then compounded with all the injuries it’s been tough," Nolan said. "But give the team a lot of credit. They battled hard last night and gave everything they had to give and that’s all we’ve been asking since I arrived. It’s starting to get a little bit hopefully we’ll continue to do that today.

"One thing about our line of work we’re almost night workers. They had a good chance to sleep in today. We didn’t come to the rink so they could sleep to 12 or 1 o’clock whatever they needed. Get up get some nutrition put in their bodies and what have you. Hopefully they had enough rest so they’re all fairly young and they’re playing a game so hopefully they’ll be energized."

Among the 10 players out of the lineup tonight will be Henrik Tallinder, Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno.

"Foligno surprisingly is not as bad as we originally thought," said Nolan after Foligno was injured on his first shift Thursday in St. Louis. "He was walking around pretty good today which is a good sign but we’ll keep our fingers crossed with that. Drew, he was walking worse today than he was yesterday. So we’ll see with him also.

"Tallinder is still out. He’s a little bit sore walking around, too. They’re giving what they have to give and unfortunately guys just have that injury bug going right now."


With Stafford banged up, Adam gets another call from Rochester

By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- In the wake of injuries to Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno, Ted Nolan hinted last night the Sabres would likely need a forward for tonight's game in Detroit and the call has been put out to Rochester for Luke Adam to join the club on an emergency recall.

(An aside: I'm in Toronto to cover tonight's Blue Jays-Yankees game. Amy Moritz is en route to Detroit for the Sabres game. The team's flight was delayed out of St. Louis last night due to the stormy weather and didn't get in until about 3 a.m. ET, so there was no morning skate today.  Nolan will update reporters during his pregame briefing in the 5 p.m. hour).

This is Adam's third recall of the season, with the most recent one being a one-game emergency stint March 7 in Florida. He is the Amerks’ top goal scorer with 27, and has 47 points in 53 AHL games. Adam has one goal in 10 games for Buffalo this year.

Foligno is expected to miss the final six games  of the season with the knee injury he suffered early in last night's game. Nolan said Stafford was "banged up" during Tuesday's shootout win over New Jersey so we'll see if Sunday's game in Philadelphia is realistic for his return.

Henrik Tallinder took the morning skate in St. Louis but left the ice after a few minutes with some sort of leg/groin problem. Chris Stewart was a surprise participant yesterday and you wonder how close he may be getting from his ankle problem.

While the Sabres keep struggling with injuries, the Red Wings are getting healthy. Ace playmaker Pavel Datsyuk returns tonight after missing 16 games with a knee injury. Based on their skate this morning, it looks like Daniel Alfredsson will be in the Detroit lineup as well tonight.

Jimmy Howard will be in goal against the Sabres' Matt Hackett.

So to help me get in baseball mode: "For those scoring at home", I present to you the Sabres' current injury list. 

F-Marcus Foligno (lower body)
F-Drew Stafford (undisclosed)
F-Chris Stewart (ankle)
F-Torrey Mitchell (undisclosed)
F-Zenon Konopka (back)
D-Henrik Tallinder (lower body)
D-Alexander Sulzer (upper body)
D-Tyler Myers (ribs/hip)
G-Michal Neuvirth (lower body)
G-Jhonas Enroth (lower body)

That's pretty incredible right there.

Sabres Live: Pregame chat at 7:15 p.m., Sabres-Red Wings updates at 7:30

Sabres Live: Pregame chat at 7:45 p.m., Sabres-Blues updates at 8

On surprising road back, Stewart should play this season

By Mike Harrington

ST. LOUIS -- Suddenly, without warning, Chris Stewart showed up on the ice today at the Sabres' pregame skate. I had several people on Twitter tell me they forgot he was even on the team!

Stewart played two games for the Sabres after being acquired in the Ryan Miller trade and was knocked out in the second one, March 6 at Tampa Bay, by a serious right ankle injury.

The Sabres said Stewart was done for the year. Not so fast. He's been quite the rehab freak. He looked good and skated on a line today. Now it appears he'll play at some point in these final seven games.

"The training staff has been working wonders so far. But I'm ahead of schedule and it's good," Stewart said. "You get traded, you get hurt and they're on a two-week road trip and you're alone in Buffalo. You're kind of down. This is the stuff you miss. Locker room camaraderie, joking around with the boys. LIttle things you miss."

"He's way ahead," said coach Ted Nolan. "We thought for sure he wouldn't be touching the ice until mid-summer. That shows you kind of the rehab he's been getting by our medical team."

Stewart was KO'd by Tampa goalie Anders Lindback, who cut his ankle as they were chasing a loose puck that would have been a breakaway. Think of it as the reverse Milan Lucic. Nolan wasn't happy bout the play at the time and Stewart wasn't today either.

"It sucks. They try to protect the goalies at all costs. Next time, I'm going to probably keep my head down and go through him," Stewart said. "I came out on the short end of the stick. Next time I'm not going to err on the side of caution."

Stewart has said he's happy to be with the Sabres because his family is from suburban Toronto but he was certainly happy to come to St. Louis to see his old teammates. He had dinner last night at defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk's house and still admitted today he was upset the Blues opted to cast him aside.

"They wanted a big goalie and I got voted off the island," he said. "I was a casualty. It sucks but that's the business."

Click below to hear Stewart's entire interview.

Chris Stewart

Amerks get boost from Makarov; coach fondly recalls McCabe's time with USA Hockey

By John Vogl

ROCHESTER -- There has been a lot of shoulder slumping lately on Buffalo's minor-league team. A long-awaited victory -- and big saves from Andrey Makarov -- has guys feeling better.

The Amerks ended a nine-game winless streak Wednesday with a 5-2 win over Syracuse. While the offensive breakout certainly helped, coach Chadd Cassidy says the goaltending of Makarov had a big effect.

"More than he’s played well, he’s been the guy that’s given our team a shot in the arm here when things weren’t going well," Cassidy said today after practice in Blue Cross Arena. "Our team played well in front of him, and our team felt he gave us a really good chance of winning hockey games. He was making a lot of big saves.

"All of a sudden a guy gives you a couple big saves and it’s, ‘All right, we’re in this thing.’ You only need that one break to get you going, and I think he did a good job of providing that."

Makarov is getting the chance with Connor Knapp out and Nathan Lieuwen and Matt Hackett playing for Buffalo.

"It’s all about opportunity," Cassidy said. "He’s really taken advantage of that."

Cassidy, who was a longtime coach in the U.S. National Team Development Program, will keep an eye on the NHL debut of Jake McCabe tonight when the Sabres visit St. Louis. Cassidy coached McCabe for two seasons with USA Hockey.

"I really like Jacob a lot," Cassidy said. "I thought he was a great pick. He’s a guy that’s got a little bit of offense. He’s very similar to Brayden McNabb. He’s got some offense there, but he also likes the physical game. He likes to get involved and plays the body really well. He’s not quite as big as Brayden, but he plays that similar type of game.

"He’ll be nervous. That’s a tough jump," said Cassidy, while noting Chad Ruhwedel jumped from college to the NHL at the end of last season. "Rudy did a really good job with it last year when he came from Lowell, but it’ll be interesting, especially in St. Louis on the road against one of the best teams in the league. Tough test."

McCabe on NHL debut: 'This is the place I wanted to go'

By Mike Harrington

ST. LOUIS -- Jake McCabe put pen to paper, flew Tuesday night from Madison, Wis., to Buffalo through Chicago, took some physical testing Wednesday morning and flew with the Sabres here Wednesday afternoon.

And the 20-year-old defenseman is right in the Buffalo Sabres' lineup tonight against the St. Louis Blues.

"It's starting to set in now, being out there with the guys and putting on Buffalo gear so it's exciting," McCabe said after today's pregame skate in Scottrade Center. "This is a whole new level of anything I've ever been to. It's exciting. The guys have been great so far."

The 6-foot, 195-pounder could be part of a makeshift Buffalo defense corps tonight. Henrik Tallinder is out with a lower-body injury and Mike Weber did not skate today, with coach Ted Nolan calling him a game-time decision. John Scott and/or Nicolas Deslauriers could spend some time on defense tonight.

"We expect a first-year kid coming in for his first game. He's going to be full of energy and enthusiasm," said Nolan, who cautioned McCabe has a huge challenge against the Blues, the Western Conference leaders. "They're the cream of the crop in the NHL right now. He can't be admiring his passes and go back with normal college speed. He has to jump right in with the best in the league."

McCabe, Buffalo's No. 2 pick in 2012, said he had long talks with Wisconsin coach and ex-NHLer Mike Eaves about staying in school or forgoing his senior year and Eaves supported the decision to go pro. The Sabres' willingness to give him a three-year entry-level contract at $925,000 per year sure helped too.

"Giving away that senior year was a big, big decision," he said. "It was an all-around awesome experience and I would suggest to anyone to go the college route. We had a long talk, a good talk. And he said, if you want to leave I'll support you all the way.

"This is a great organiztion. We've been in talks the last couple years. We've been in contact. The development camps have been great. This is the place I wanted to go. It's exciting to finally be here."

In other news from the pregame skate, Nathan Lieuwen will start in goal tonight and Nolan said he will most likely go with Matt Hackett tomorrow in Detroit. Chris Stewart, who suffered a severe ankle injury March 6 in Tampa, skated with the team for the first time and could play before the season is over. The Sabres had previously ruled him out. 

Click below to hear audio from McCabe and Nolan

Jake McCabe

Ted Nolan


Sabres' McCabe gets rookie maximum for three-year deal

By John Vogl

The Sabres brought prospect Jake McCabe into the organization today, and they'll welcome him to the NHL on Thursday.

Not surprisingly, he'll play for the rookie maximum of $925,000 per season.

McCabe, who burst up the organizational depth chart in 2013 when he captained the United States to  world junior gold, can earn a total base salary of $2.775 million over his three-year, entry-level deal. The first season kicks in when he takes the ice Thursday in St. Louis.

Unlike teenage junior players, the 20-year-old McCabe doesn't get the nine-game tryout before his contract kicks in. So while he'll play a maximum of seven games for Buffalo this season, they'll count as an entire season.

It's a solid tradeoff for the Sabres, who lured McCabe away from Wisconsin following his junior year. The alternate captain led the Badgers' defense with eight goals and 25 points in 36 games this season.

Video: Miller and Elliott-Roy-Hitchcock talk on tomorrow's matchup with Sabres

By Mike Harrington

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The St. Louis Blues have posted video of the session Ryan Miller had with the media today as well as snippets from Brian Elliott, Derek Roy and coach Ken Hitchcock.

Hitchcock may be a reviled figure in Buffalo thanks to 1999 but he's a beat writer's dream. He spoke for nearly 12 minutes today and I've included the entire audio package below, with talk about the Sabres and Blues, his thoughts on the New Jersey Devils' 0-11 run in shootouts that the Sabres' extended last night and even a quick snippet on Ted Nolan.

Ken Hitchcock audio

Click below to see the videos. Miller gets a little choked up for a moment at the 2:40 mark when talking about seeing his former teammates. The Hitchcock portion of the second video is only a small dose. 

With West showdowns looming, Blues will sit Miller against Sabres

By Mike Harrington

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- St. Louis Blues goaltender Ryan Miller (yes, that looks weird) is looking forward to seeing his old teammates perhaps tonight for dinner and tomorrow during the morning skate at Scottrade Center. But he won't see them on the ice during the Sabres-Blues game tomorrow night.

Brian Elliott will be getting the start for the Blues and Miller will be the backup. The Blues have afternoon showdowns Saturday and Sunday with Colorado and Chicago, so it makes sense for Miller to stay fresh for those and take a seat against the NHL's 30th-place team. Even if it is his old mates.

"It's fine," Miller said today after his team's optional practice at the suburban St. Louis Mills Ice Zone. "There will be a lot of time to worry about that later. This year, I'm pretty fresh leaving that situation so maybe it's just a nice little break. Get 'Ells' in there. He's going to kick some pucks out. Hopefully I'll see some of the boys for dinner or around the rink or something. Catch up and see how they're doing."

Miller got a tad emotional, as you would expect, when I asked him what it will be like to seeing his the Sabres on the other side.

"It's going to be a little strange.  Definitely with a group of guys you'd played with for a number of years, it's going to be a little bit different," he said. "All great guys, all guys I count as friends. I'm looking forward to seeing them. That's the human side of it. I'm actually excited. The guys are going to be in town. A chance to see some friends."

Coach Ken Hitchcock, who's ruined a few narratives in Buffalo in his time, said the decision was all about the weekend schedule. There's a good chance Miller could go back-to-back against the Avs and Hawks.

"We talked to him and said, 'Listen, do you have to play aginst Buffalo? Does it matter?''' Hitchcock said. "He didn't care one way or the other. So it set up our schedule nicely for what we wanted to do right to the end of the season."

Ryan Miller will not start for Blues against Sabres on Thursday

The News' Mike Harrington has tweeted the following this afternoon from St. Louis, where the Sabres will face the Blues on Thursday night. Ryan Miller will not be starting for the Blues, who have key matchups against conference rivals this weekend:


  • The scuttle here is what I figured: Miller likely NOT playing tomorrow cuz #Stlblues play COL on Sat and CHI on Sunday. Both day games too.
  • Ryan Miller confirms he's NOT playing tomorrow night. #Sabres #Stlblues
  • Hitchcock asked Miller if he wanted to play but Miller is focused on big ones this weekend. Miller said much bigger deal if game was in BUF.
  • Miller: "I'm pretty fresh leaving that situation so maybe it's just a nice little break. ... It's going to be a little strange."
  • Miller did say he's hoping to catch dinner with some of his ex-teammates tonight. #Stlblues #Sabres

Leino's shootout moment was a reminder of the good times that can be had

By John Vogl

Anyone who says it’s been fun heading to the Sabres’ arena day in, day out since September is either lying or unaware of what fun really is. Players, team employees and season-ticket holders have all bemoaned the drudgery.

It’s why Tuesday night was so ridiculously awesome.

For the first time all season, I drove away from First Niagara Center fully believing I saw the coolest thing in Buffalo that night. There is no place I’d rather have been around 10 p.m. when Ville Leino hopped over the boards for a shootout.

The crowd’s reaction to the most-maligned player on the last-place team was simply amazing. The fans already on their feet cheered louder than they had during the first eight rounds. The rest of the crowd stood to join them, with folks lifting their arms and exhorting their neighbors to get crazy.

When Leino scored – the first time any of his shots had hit the back of the net all season – it was bedlam. Players and coaches laughed, fans exchanged high-fives and memories were made.

It’s what sports is supposed to be about.

“That,” Drew Stafford said in the dressing room, “was the highlight of the season.”

Buffalo chapter of PHWA names Drew Stafford as Sabres' Masterton Trophy nominee

By John Vogl

Drew Stafford lost his scoring touch, sweater letter and confidence. During the 46 games under Ted Nolan, he got them all back.

Stafford, an alternate captain once again, has risen to become a veteran presence on a team that needs one. It's why the Buffalo chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association has named Stafford as its nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The trophy is awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Writers in each city nominate one player, and a winner is chosen from the 30 candidates via a PHWA vote.

Stafford lost his "A" and was benched by former coach Ron Rolston after struggling last year and at the start of this season. He enters tonight's game against New Jersey with 11 goals and 18 points in the last 25 games.

"With everything that’s gone on, I think I’ve just trying to be part of the solution as much as possible and do my best each and every day, on and off the ice to try and contribute in a positive way," Stafford told the PHWA today. "It’s extremely hard. At the same time, every now and then you can take a step back and realize what I’m doing for a living and where we are, it’s really not that bad. When that usually happens, you get a new perspective and a little boost of energy.

"Most of the time when you focus on other things in life, like your family and your friends and the support you have, everything usually kind of takes take of itself. The trying times you go through, all the adversity, it reveals the true character of some guys. I definitely was able to stick with it and pretty much drag my career out of the abyss. That being said, I feel like I have a lot more to go, and the glass is definitely half full."

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

Sabres Live: Pregame chat at 6:30 p.m., Sabres-Devils updates at 7

Devils come to Buffalo after using both goalies in victory

By John Vogl

The Devils' plan was to rest goalie Cory Schneider on Monday and use him against the Sabres tonight in Buffalo. Martin Brodeur's ineffectiveness put an end to that.

New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer pulled Brodeur in the second period against Florida after the goalie allowed three goals on nine shots. Brodeur still earned the victory after Schneider stopped all 13 shots in a 6-3 win.

"We needed to have this game," Schneider said. "We couldn't afford to lose it. It was sort of heading south there in the second, but we found a way and didn't let it get to us. We got challenged between the second and third and responded in the third. Now it's on to the next one."

The Devils are three points out of the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot, but the Blue Jackets have a game in hand.

Travis Zajac had a hat trick against the Panthers, while ageless Jaromir Jagr had a goal and three assists. Ryane Clowe had a goal and two assists before leaving with an apparent head injury.

Grigorenko hopes to excel with Amerks, show Sabres he'll be ready for NHL

By John Vogl

Sabres prospect Mikhail Grigorenko joined the Amerks for practice today and will play Wednesday when Rochester hosts Syracuse. He played two playoff games for the Amerks last season.

“This year is going to be better for me than last year because I have two, three weeks to be more part of the team,” he said in Rochester. “I really have a chance to help the guys.”

The Amerks could use the assistance. They are 0-7-2 in their last nine and have fallen out of a playoff spot. They have nine games left.

“Hopefully, it’ll be a good jumpstart for us,” Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy said. “Obviously, he brings in a lot of offensive ability. We’ve had a hard time scoring goals, and every little bit helps.”

Grigorenko started this season with the Sabres but was sent to his junior team in Quebec shortly after Ted Nolan and Pat LaFontaine took over in November. The 19-year-old views this as an audition for the coach and General Manager Tim Murray.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for me,” Grigorenko said. “I’ll do my best and show the new general manager and Ted Nolan that I can step to the NHL next year.”

Murray, Nolan share common vision to improve Sabres now that coaching job is stable

By John Vogl

The finalization of Ted Nolan's contract today is more of a start than a finish. It allows the Sabres and their fans to know that an important position -- head coach -- is stable after a wild year of uncertainty and down times in Sabreland.

“I’m really excited about going with the next step,” Nolan said this afternoon during a joint news conference with General Manager Tim Murray. “Hopefully, one day we’ll battle for a championship.”

Nolan will be on board for the next three seasons after signing a long-awaited contract extension, which removed his interim status. Murray didn’t have a “Eureka!” moment when came to deciding Nolan should stick around. Rather, the GM saw a talent-lacking squad respond to its coach on a daily basis.

“Every day has been a trying situation,” Murray said in First Niagara Center. “There’s been very few games we haven’t been competitive.

“From the players, all I’ve heard is positives.”

Dealing with the players is the next step. Murray and Nolan, a pair of midseason replacements, are aware the roster will need an overhaul for Nolan to do the best job possible.

“We have to get him better players,” Murray said.

The full news conference is available below.

Sabres, Nolan agree to contract extension

By John Vogl

Pen has finally met paper as Ted Nolan signed a contract extension today to stay on as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres.

“We are very happy to get this deal done and have Ted Nolan as our permanent head coach going forward,” General Manager Tim Murray said in a statement. “Teddy has proven time and again that he is an exceptional leader, motivator and teacher. He is exactly what we need in a head coach for our hockey team, and we’re confident in his ability to guide our players and turn this team around.”

Nolan, who was named interim coach in November, was set to sign the extension last month before the chaos erupted involving the departure of Pat LaFontaine, his friend and president of hockey operations. Nolan took a break to reassess the matter, and the contract has been in the hands of his agent for weeks.

“I said back in November that it was a dream to be able to come back and coach the Sabres, and that’s still true today,” Nolan said. “Hockey is my life, and Buffalo is a special place for hockey. I’m excited by the challenge facing our team and our organization, and I’m truly thankful to have this opportunity.”

The contract is believed to be a three-year deal. Nolan finally has the long-term contract with the Sabres he had desired since 1997, when he was named NHL Coach of the Year but left the team after a mere one-year offer by incoming GM Darcy Regier.

The Sabres were 4-15-1 when Nolan took over Nov. 13. They have gone 16-30-8 with him on the bench.

The Sabres' next game is Tuesday, when they host the New Jersey Devils.

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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 |

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 |