A mostly quiet morning in First Niagara Center in advance of tonight's Sabres-Devils game (Reminder: It's been moved to 7:30 and will be televised on NBC Sports Network). The Sabres skated for about 30 minutes while only a few Devils stopped by since they played last night against Toronto in the Prudential Center.
Ryan Miller will be in goal tonight against Martin Brodeur. Thomas Vanek is out again and did not take the morning skate but interim coach Ron Rolston said that was a scheduled day off and Vanek will return to practice Monday.
This will be the sixth straight game Vanek has missed with what the team is calling an upper-body muscle strain. Rolston said he continues to target Tuesday's game in Winnipeg as Vanek's return date. We'll see.
Ron Rolston can’t wait for players to get moving. Marcus Foligno learned that Friday.
Rolston sat the Sabres' winger for most of the third period against Ottawa. During practice today, the coach took Foligno off the second power-play unit and replaced him with Brian Flynn.
“He just wasn’t moving his feet as much as he should be,” Rolston said. “Right now we have 12 forwards and six defensemen that are healthy, so we can’t afford guys that aren’t playing the way we have to play.
“He’ll bounce back and he’ll have a good game tomorrow, but everyone has to be playing their best hockey right now.”
The Sabres are aware most people are counting them out. They still have faith in each other.
Buffalo has won two straight heading into Sunday's home game against New Jersey, and the players are eager to finish this season strong.
"It’s a big game for this group just to keep the momentum going," forward Nathan Gerbe said today after practice in First Niagara Center. "In the past in the season, we would lose this game. Now we’ve got to win it.
The Sabres could have built a bakery with all the turnovers they put together in the second period Friday. They cut them down in the third period and scored three goals to wipe out a 2-1 deficit and pull out a 4-2 win over Ottawa.
Buffalo is four points behind the Rangers for eighth place in the East and playoffs are a long, long, long shot. But as Steve Ott admitted, guys are playing for contracts, for jobs for next year. And you never know about what can happen.
Still, it was an odd night as the Sabres played without Thomas Vanek OR Jason Pominville for the first time since April 7, 2006.
But there were lots of contributions Friday from the likes of Luke Adam, Mark Pysyk, Brian Flynn and Adam Pardy -- who has second two-point game in the NHL and his first one since October 6, 2009.
"The beginning of the year, Van and Pommer carried us for the first 15-20 games," said Jochen Hecht, who had his first two-point game since Dec. 28, 2010 at Edmonton by assisting on Flynn's goal and scoring one 12 seconds later late in the third period. "It's time for everybody else to step up and do their job.
Click the files below for a busy tour around the locker room
The two prospects acquired from Minnesota in the Jason Pominville trade will make their organizational debuts tonight in Rochester.
Center Johan Larsson will skate between wingers Zemgus Girgensons and Jacob Lagace, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported from the Amerks' morning skate. Goaltender Matt Hackett will back up David Leggio.
Ron Rolston faced Hackett when the Sabres' interim coach was on the bench in Rochester.
There were big plans for Cory Conacher's return to Buffalo April 14 with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The former Canisius College star's parents had a suite and coach Dave Smith and the Griffs' first NCAA Tournament team were going to be honored by the Sabres.
Scratch all that. Conacher is in town tonight -- with the Ottawa Senators -- and a lot of the pomp and circumstance and buildup to his big return to his college home will be gone. That said, it's still a huge night for Conacher because it's his debut for his new team after getting traded to Ottawa on Deadline Day for goaltender Ben Bishop.
"It's always tough to leave the place you started and Tampa did a lot of good things for me. I have to give them a lot of credit for the scucess I've had so far this year," Conacher said. "At the same time Ottawa is a team on the rise and they've been finding ways to win with all the injuries they've had this year.
"They have a lot of young guys and it will be a fun experience for me to play on a Canadian team. To be close to home [Burlington, Ont.] is nice as well. Tonight is going to mean a lot to me and my family and hopefully we get the win."
When he spoke to Brian Engblom on NBC after Tuesday's 4-1 win in Pittsburgh, Steve Ott said he wanted Darcy Regier to be a buyer at the trade deadline. That didn't happen, of course, as Regier dealt captain Jason Pominville to Minnesota in a purge that's also included the departures of Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold.
Ott said today he's disappointed in the moves but said the Sabres still have the resolve to push forward and capitalize on Tuesday's game, which snapped the Penguins' 15-game winning streak and was easily Buffalo's most complete outing of the season.
"It was tough. Let's be honest," Ott said after the morning skate for tonight's game against Ottawa. "What Jason has done for the Buffalo Sabres over the last 10 years or so is unbelievable. He's a heckuva player. It's not easy to replace a guy like that. It takes years to build a prospect into a Jason
Pominville. It's disheartening in the fact that our team obviously wasn't playing up to where it needs to be."
Jason Pominville joined the Minnesota Wild today in Los Angeles and will make his debut tonight when they visit the Kings.
"With the steps that they took this summer to add some big players to their roster, I think they’re willing to do whatever it takes to win," Pominville told reporters. "I think that excites you as a player."
Though he knew a trade was possible after Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier asked him to supply a list of eight teams to which he would not accept a trade, Wednesday's deal caught him off-guard.
Jason Pominville's numbers dipped this season before the Sabres traded him Wednesday. During a recent conversation with The News, the former captain said playing on the blue line on the power play was a big reason why.
Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller agrees.
"In my mind, he’s playing power play on the point, where he’s not even the most effective with his shot," Miller said today while discussing the trade of his longtime friend and teammate. "They have him there because he’s responsible, and he’s a guy who can make passes, make plays. He’s not always going to be the guy getting the goal, not always going to be the guy getting the trigger. He was on the power play to make sure everything’s going to be smooth in that area of the ice.
Thomas Vanek knew big changes were coming once Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said he was listening to offers on all his players.
"It hasn’t happened in the past. I'm sure there were talks but never publicly," Buffalo's leading scorer said today after taking Jason Pominville to the airport to join his new team, Minnesota. "Now with Jason gone, that obviously sends a message that change is happening."
Regier said the rebuilding process could take years. Vanek and Ryan Miller have one year left on their contracts, so they're eager to sit down with the GM and hear his plan.
Cory Conacher is losing out on the Florida sun but he got a big jump in the standings and a much shorter trip to games for his family.
The former Canisius College star was traded Wednesday by the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Ottawa Senators for goalie Ben Bishop in one of the more interesting trades on deadline day.
Oddly enough, Conacher's debut with the Senators will come here Friday night against the Sabres. He had been scheduled to play the Buffalo homecoming game with Tampa on April 14. Conacher left Tampa Wednesday on a flight to Boston to join the Senators.
"I was counting down the days when I was with Tampa and the Tampa team play Buffalo in about a week. And now I get to play them sooner," Conacher said on Team 1200 Radio in Ottawa before boarding the flight.
"So it's going to be a lot of fun to go to Buffalo to see some old friends from school, my old coach as well. It's going to be a fun little trip there, a fun start to my Ottawa career and hopefully we get a win there."
Darcy Regier says maybe the Buffalo Sabres could have enjoyed another late surge and sneaked into a playoff spot. But the odds of winning the Stanley Cup this season were extremely slim, so the general manager was determined to look toward the future.
"The preference is to build for a Stanley Cup rather than a playoff spot," Regier said today after trading captain Jason Pominville to Minnesota for two prospects and a pair of draft picks, including a first-round selection this June. "It's no fun being where we are. There's no enjoyment, but there is an opportunity."
New Sabres acquisition Johan Larsson is known as a defensive forward, a powerful center/winger who goes by the nickname of "The Bull" in his native Sweden. He's begun to add finesse, too.
Larsson, a 20-year-old who is coming to Buffalo as part of the deal that sent Jason Pominville to Minnesota, had 12 goals in 49 games during his last season in the Swedish league. In the American Hockey League this year, Larsson recorded 15 goals and 37 points in 62 games.
"Johan is a player that has continued to get better since he was a young
player first being evaluated for the draft," his agent, Craig Oster, said about the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder. "He’s not a tall player but
extremely stocky, very, very strong. I think his nickname in Sweden is
"He’s demonstrated at different times a little bit more of a
scoring touch than people had originally anticipated.
"He can play center, wing, penalty killer. If I had to categorize him, responsibly defensive forward who can also chip in offensively and has some offensive creativity."
Quick video looks at new Sabres forward Johan Larsson, speaking to the Houston Aeros' web site in January and speaking after last year's gold-medal clinching game of the World Junior Championships. He was the captain for Team Sweden as it won the title last year in Calgary.
It's official: The Sabres have made a significant alteration to their franchise, shipping captain Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild.
The Sabres will receive Johan Larsson, a 20-year-old center/winger who has played one NHL game. Larsson was captain of Sweden's world junior team. He was a second-round pick in the 2010 draft. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder had 15 goals, 22 assists and 37 points in 62 minor-league games this season.
He's been categorized as a responsibly defensive forward who can also chip
The Sabres also will receive goaltender Matt Hackett,
a 23-year-old who was picked in the third round in 2009. He has played
13 NHL games, including one this season. In his career, he is 3-7 with a
2.64 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.
Hackett was 19-20-3 with a 2.66 and .907 save percentage with the Wild's minor-league club in Houston. He's 6-2, 173 pounds.
TSN reports the Sabres have also received Minnesota's first-round pick this year and a second-round selection in 2014. The Wild gets Buffalo's fourth-round selection in 2014.
Pominville had spent his entire 11-year pro career in the Sabres' organization, including the past two seasons as team captain. The right winger has 10 goals and 25 points in 35 games this season. The 30-year-old has 185 goals and 456 points in 578 games with the Sabres.
He has one year remaining on a contract that pays $5.3 million annually.
Darcy Regier is busy every year around the trade deadline. Here are the moves made by the Sabres' general manager.
2-4-98 Acquired Geoff Sanderson from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Brad May and a third-round draft pick in 1999.
3-24-98 Acquired Paul Kruse and Jason Holland from the N.Y. Islanders in exchange for Jason Dawe.
3-11-99 Acquired Stu Barnes from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Matthew Barnaby.
3-23-99 Acquired Joe Juneau and a 1999 third-round draft choice (Tim Preston) from the Washington Capitals in exchange for Alexei Tezikov. Traded Mike Wilson to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Rhett Warrener and a 1999 fifth-round draft choice (Ryan Miller). Traded Derek Plante to the Dallas Stars in exchange for a 1999 second-round draft choice (Michael Zigomanis).
3-10-00 Acquired Chris Gratton and a second-round draft choice in 2001 from Tampa Bay in exchange for Wayne Primeau, Brian Holzinger, Cory Sarich, and a third-round selection in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Acquired Doug Gilmour and Jean-Pierre Dumont from Chicago in exchange for Michal Grosek.
3-13-01 Acquired RW Donald Audette from Atlanta for C Kamil Piros and a fourth-round pick in 2001 NHL Entry Draft; acquired Steve Heinze from Columbus for a third-round draft pick in 2001 NHL Entry Draft.
3-19-02 Acquired C Bob Corkum from Atlanta for a fifth-round pick in 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
2-25-03 Acquired C Jakub Klepis from Ottawa in exchange for RW Vaclav Varada and a fifth-round draft pick in 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
3-10-03 Traded C Stu Barnes to Dallas for C Mike Ryan and Dallas’ second-round draft choice in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft; Traded RW Rob Ray to Ottawa for future considerations.
3-11-03 Acquired C Daniel Briere and Phoenix’s third-round selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft for C Chris Gratton and Buffalo’s fourth-round choice in the 2004 Entry Draft.
3-08-04 Acquired Brad Brown and a sixth-round selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft from Minnesota in exchange for a fourth-round selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
3-09-04 Acquired Jeff Jillson and a ninth-round selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft from San Jose in exchange for Curtis Brown and Andy Delmore; Acquired Mike Grier from Washington in exchange for Jakub Klepis.
3-09-06 Traded G Mika Noronen to Vancouver in exchange for a second-round selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
2-27-07 Acquired C Dainius Zubrus and D Timo Helbling from Washington for Jiri Novotny and Buffalo’s first-round selection in the 2007 Entry Draft; acquired G Ty Conklin from Columbus in exchange for Buffalo’s fifth-round selection in the 2007 Entry Draft; acquired D Mikko Lehtonen from Nashville in exchange for Buffalo’s fourth-round selection in the 2007 Entry Draft; trade Martin Biron to Philadelphia for their second-round selection in the 2007 Entry Draft.
2-26-08 Acquired Steve Bernier and a first-round selection in 2008 Entry Draft in exchange for Brian Campbell and a seventh-round selection in 2008 Entry Draft.
3-4-09 Acquired G Mikael Tellqvist from Phoenix in exchange for a Buffalo’s fourth round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft; Acquired C Dominic Moore from Toronto in exchange for Buffalo’s second round selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft; Acquired Edmonton’s second round selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for RW Ales Kotalik.
3-3-10 Acquired RW Raffi Torres from Columbus for D Nathan Paetsch, second-round pick; traded RW Clarke MacArthur to Atlanta for third- and fourth-round picks.
2-28-11 Acquired LW Brad Boyes from St. Louis for second-round pick.
2-27-12 Acquired C Cody Hodgson and D Alexander Sulzer from Vancouver for RW Zack Kassian and D Marc-Andre Gragnani; traded C Paul Gaustad and fourth-round pick to Nashville for first-round pick.
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, is in his sixth season covering the Buffalo Sabres. 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.