DETROIT -- Greetings from Motown, where the Sabres have recalled defenseman T.J. Brennan from Rochester in the wake of the injury Robyn Regehr suffered Saturday night on Long Island. The team is hopeful Andrej Sekera can return to the lineup tonight after missing eight games but Lindy Ruff told me yesterday that's still uncertain. The morning skate here at Joe Louis Arena doesn't begin until 11:30 so we'll have to see how Sekera holds up.
If Sekera can't play, the Buffalo defense would be woefully thin going against a Detroit team looking for its franchise-record 15th straight home win. Brennan, Joe Finley, and Marc-Andre Gragnani would make up half the D corps, which would mean plenty of ice time for Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold and Mike Weber. Sekera, Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff and Brayden McNabb all out.
The Sabres had a later-than-usual meeting this morning in First Niagara Center with only injured players Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Myers, Tyler Ennis and Corey Tropp taking the ice. Coach Lindy Ruff said Gerbe will take the warmup prior to tonight's Tux and Pucks game here against Ottawa and could play.
T.J. Brennan has been called up from Rochester to replace Christian Ehrhoff, who was injured in his first last night with Washington's Troy Brouwer. Ruff said team doctors will be looking at Ehrhoff's upper-body injury again today and that the timetable of weeks will hold but that the injury is not season-ending.
So minus Myers, Andrej Sekera and Ehrhoff, that's three defensemen who play 20 minutes a game regularly out of the lineup for extended periods.
"I've never seen it like this before," Ruff said. "I hope I never see it like this again."
Ruff said the six remaining defensemen -- Jordan Leopold, Robyn Regehr, Mike Weber, Brayden McNabb, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Brennan -- should see pretty even minutes tonight with a couple going over 20 and all six pushing 16-17.
"We play a lot of games in a short amount of time and injuries are a part of it," Weber said. "We just need to make sure we stay focused here. The guys in this room are the guys that are going to have to play tonight. If we focus on what we need to do and how simple we can make the game and how easy we can make it for our forwards, that's going to help us get the two points."
"It's a shame to see guys get injured obviously but I just want to help the team as much as possible," said Brennan, who had a goal and an even rating in three games last month. "It seems like everyone in Rochester and here in Buff has been fighting injuries all year. It seems to be the problem. You just have to fight through it and hopefully get a couple wins."
Ruff wouldn't name a starting goaltender but Jhonas Enroth is 3-0 in his career against the Senators with a 2.27 GAA and a .935 save percentage. Ryan Miller has started eight in a row and 11 of 12. With this being the third game in four nights, he could use a break. Craig Anderson goes for Ottawa.
TORONTO -- The Sabres don't practice until 12:30 in the Air Canada Centre so our normal practice updates will be a little later than usual. Here's one nugget the team has announced: Marcus Foligno has been returned to Rochester.
That could mean either Patrick Kaleta or Brad Boyes are ready to return to the lineup tomorrow against the Leafs. It could also just be the Sabres saving a day of salary cap money too (Foligno makes a pro-rated $900,000 on his NHL deal while Derek Whitmore, who is still here, makes just $525,000 pro-rated).
The naked eye and the stat sheet say Whitmore was definitely the more effective of the two making their debuts last night as he had a couple good scoring opportunities over the final 40 minutes. Whitmore played 14:08 and had two shots on goal while Foligno had one shot in 13:19 and was a minus-1.
OTTAWA -- Check my earlier post to see the lines the Sabres will likely start with tonight against the Senators. Ryan Miller will be in goal and Marc-Andre Gragnani will be the scratch. Thomas Vanek got through the morning skate OK and should play.
As for injured players, Lindy Ruff said Patrick Kaleta and Brad Boyes both might be options for Thursday's game in Toronto. Tyler Myers was cleared to hold a stick and did plenty of drills on the ice with Teppo Numminen as well.
"We got good news with his last visit [to the doctor]," Ruff said. "He can hanlde the puck now and hopefully we can progress him along quickly."
So it's possible that Marcus Foligno and Derek whitmore's trip here tonight might only be for one game.
"There's a lot of light at the end of the tunnel here," Ruff said. "We've got a lot of them on the shelf but the shelf life looks short for quite a few of them right now."
Whitmore has played nearly 300 AHL games and has a four-goal game for the Amerks this year. He's from the Rochester suburb of Greece and played pee wee games at then-Marine Midland Arena.
"It definitely means a lot," he said. "This year has been good so far. It means a lot wearing the Rochester Americans jersey being from Rochester but at the same time Buffalo was my team as a kid growing up. I remember playing a couple pee wee hockey games at Marine Midland Arena and wondering if one day I'd ever be able to play in the NHL let alone for the Buffalo Sabres. It's definitely a dream come true."
OTTAWA -- The media swarmed the lockers of both Nick and Marcus Foligno here today in advance of tonight's Sabres-Senators matchup. While it will be Nick's 303rd NHL game, it will be the career debut for Marcus, the 20-year-old who was a standout for Team Canada in last year's World Junior Championships in Buffalo and got the call from Rochester last night.
The Folignos said they expect nearly three dozen friends and family to make the 5-hour drive from Sudbury, Ont., to the game. Included will be dad Mike Foligno, the former Sabres captain who was just fired as an assistant with Anaheim.
"[Nick] was pretty pumped. He was texting me all day yesterday to see if I was getting called up," Marcus Foligno said. "He was giving me advice. He's been doing that all year. He's excited and told me to prepare myself."
"It's a pretty neat opportunity for both of us," said Nick, who is third on the Senators with 10 goals. "I got to play against my dad last year and now my brother and hopefully we can do that for a long time. We're very fortunate to be able to do this and his first game against me is pretty exciting for the whole family."
The trash talking started a little too. Nick said "he's ugly" when asked about Marcus and Marcus responded with "I got the better looks in the family" and "definitely family members like me more."
Through all the laughs, there is deeper meaning to the game. Mike Foligno's wife and the brothers' mother, Janis, died of breast cancer in 2009.
"We think it's probably the best Christmas present we ever got," Nick said of the brothers matchup. "We feel like my Mom probably had a little something to do with that. It's pretty special."
"The family as a whole has gone through some tough times here in recent years," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "To have Marcus play against Nick and for Mike to be here, a former teammate of mine and he's a helluva guy. Both kids are great kids. It's a great family.
"For both his boys to be able to play in the NHL, you gotta be one proud father. In this situation, unfortunately he gets to watch in his case [because he got fired in Anaheim] but he's going to be smiling from ear to ear sitting up in the stands watching this one."
Marcus Foligno said he probably would have to do his father's patented jumping stomp if he scored a goal (Nick did it for his first NHL goal). Cracked Ruff: "If Marcus scores I'll do the leap. Put the camera on the bench, boys."
Here's the audio from Nick and Marcus. Check back in a few minutes with another post featuring Ruff's injury updates.
The Sabres are giving that instruction to someone in Rochester seemingly every day and the Amerks' captain got the call last night to drive west on the Thruway rather than hop the Amerks' bus East to Glens Falls. Corey Tropp (concussion) and Jochen Hecht (lower body) were injured last night and won't play tonight against the New York Rangers. They'll be replaced by Stuart and Ville Leino, back after a one-game NHL suspension.
Stuart, 29, is second on the Amerks with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists). He had 16 goals and 28 assists last year in 72 games for Portland, and played three pointless games for the Sabres. He said the Sabres' injury bug has been a daily topic of conversation in the Amerks' dressing room.
"There are a lot of familiar faces here, which makes the transition easier but it's been an interersting situation so far," Stuart said. "It's been pretty wild. When you're down there, you're focusing on doing your best and playing best for the team but the situation up here has definitely been followed pretty closely. We're surprised like everybody else is.
Coach Lindy Ruff said Hecht's injury is not a long-term one but was not as optimistic on Tropp. Tonight will feature backup goalies Jhonas Enroth and Martin Biron, the ex-Sabre.
Meanwhile, Ruff continued to heap praise on Brayden McNabb but remains down on Marc-Andre Gragnani, whose turnover created Claude Giroux's overtime winner Wednesday. Gragnani lost the puck to Stephen Weiss on an early power play Friday that saw the Panther beat Ryan Miller but have his shot clang off the post.
"We need more," Ruff said. "We need better focus, better intensity. We need him to be better in those situations. I don't sense tentative. His strength is with the puck. He's misplayed it, thrown some blind plays. I sense some frustration. I see him slamming his stick but you've got to get by that. The frustration part sometimes gets the better of a player."
The Sabres are taking a full morning skate in First Niagara Center and, at least for now, there's no new callups from Rochester to replace any injured players or the suspended Ville Leino. In fact, Paul Gaustad, Cody McCormick and Jordan Leopold are taking regular spots and Joe Finley is not here.
The numbers -- 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds -- already tell you Joe Finley is huge. But the Sabres' newest defenseman stood up on skates while meeting with the media Thursday afternoon and I was right next to him. And let me tell you, he is H.U.G.E.
Finley is up from Rochester and will likely pair with Brayden McNabb Friday night while making his NHL debut against the Detroit Red Wings. Not an easy spot. But the 24-year-old, a former No. 1 pick of the Washington Capitals, has overcome serious injuries the last two years and is grateful for the chance.
"I really just took it upon myself to focus on things I can control and that's trying to play a real simple, solid brand of hockey," Finley said. "I've been fortunate to do that so far. Things are moving in the right direction but there's a long way to go to being here fulltime, that's for sure."
Finley leads the Amerks with a plus-10 rating and 57 penalty minutes this year. He's been on the No. 1 pair with former Sabre Shaone Morrisonn in a meteoric rise from training camp tryout when coach Lindy Ruff said the Sabres were "test-driving a used car."
"I'm not really thinking about it too much, that's the good thing," Finley said of his debut. "You just have to worry about waking up tomorrow, having a pregame skate and worrying about the things you have control. That physical play comes. It's about playing good positional hhockey. All the guys up here are in fantastic position and they're on you that much quicker."
Ruff acknowledged that Finley got the call because T.J. Brennan is out in Rochester with an upper-body injury but the coach was intrigued by Finley in training camp, especially with his skating ability, and remains intrigued now.
"We've got another man 6-foot-8 who can skate almost as well as Tyler Myers can," Ruff said. " He's defended really well down there. You look at that and if he can continue to progress and stay hungry, you don't find those type of players. You don't find them in the draft anymore and it takes a long time to develop them."
In other news, Tyler Ennis is a go for Friday night after missing all of November with a high ankle sprain while Patrick Kaleta (groin) remains up in the air. Ryan Miller still has some concussion testing to take later Thursday and is on target to play either Friday or Saturday. Drew MacIntyre has been sent back to the Amerks.
The Sabres' defense got quite a bit bigger Wednesday night as 6-foot-8, 260-pound Joe Finley got called up from Rochester to replace the injured Jordan Leopold, who will miss Friday's game against Detroit and Saturday's game in Nashville.
Finley, 24, has made a quick rise in the organization from training camp tryout to AHL contract to healthy scratch in Rochester to the No. 1 defense tandem with the Amerks to his first NHL callup. And that came two days after the Sabres signed him to an NHL deal!
An intriguing player. Lindy Ruff said in training camp Finley is the second-best big man skater he's ever seen behind Tyler Myers. There are good reports down in Rochester. I want to see how his foot speed at his size translates to the NHL level. Never hurts to take a look.
Fans are happy to see the Sabres getting bigger by developing players such as Zack Kassian and Brayden McNabb to the organization and they signed another one to a deal Monday night by giving 6-foot-8 Rochester Amerks defenseman Joe Finley an multi-year NHL contract. Finley was on a one-year AHL deal after making the Amerks lineup via a training camp tryout.
The Sheehy Hockey agency tweeted the deal earlier today and the Sabres confirmed it around 9:50 Monday night. It's a three-year deal believed to hold the NHL minimum salary of $525,000 per season if Finley is in Buffalo.
A former No. 1 draft pick of the Washington Capitals, the 24-year-old Finley has been dogged by injuries in his first two pro seasons but has become a revelation in Rochester. He has one goal, one assist, 57 penalty minutes and a team-high plus-10 rating in 18 games and has pushed his way onto Rochester's shutdown pairing with veteran and former Sabre Shaone Morrisonn.
The Buffalo Sabres spent the first quarter of the season with seven healthy defensemen and Mike Weber sat most nights as a healthy scratch. Suddenly, they're very thin on the blueline.
Coach Lindy Ruff dropped a big dose of bad news on the media Monday afternoon following practice at the Northtown Center of Amherst -- Tyler Myers will be lost to the team for probably 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist suffered in the second period of Saturday night's loss to Phoenix. Ruff said Myers had surgery on the injury Monday morning.
"It happened just on an awkward play, nothing you would ever notice," Ruff said. "Just one of those freak-like incidents."
Weber continues to be sidelined by an upper-body injury so with Myers and Mike Weber out, T.J. Brennan has been recalled from Rochester. He will make his NHL debut in, of all games, Wednesday night's grudge match against Boston. Brennan will be paired with Marc-Andre Gragnani. He has three goals, four assists and a minus-3 rating in 17 games for Rochester.
"He's going to have to play a regular shift for us," Ruff said. "He's played well down there and it's not easy to step in but we need him to play well for us."
Myers had played three straight solid games in the wake of benching Monday in Montreal, although he lost coverage on Paul Bissonnette on what turned into the winning goal Saturday. He scored his only two goals of the season Wednesday against New Jersey. This will be the first time in his three-year career he's missed a game due to injury.
"He was physical, knocking people down," Ruff said. "Offensively, I thought he skated really well. That part hurts. That was a tough awakening for it and I thought he responded pretty well to it."
Among other injuries, there's no change in the status of Jochen Hecht and Tyler Ennis, who continue to improve. And Ruff said Ryan Miller is getting better, with the Sabres working more on alleviating some of his neck issues in the wake of the hit by Boston's Milan Lucic.
To hear from Ruff and defenseman Robyn Regehr on the Myers situation and the upcoming clash against the Bruins click the audio files below.
ROCHESTER -- Here's what's still in my notebook and my mind after the Amerks' dismal 5-1 loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in Thursday's home opener.
---The Amerks need offense. And I'm not talking Matt Ellis. Their center play has been poor so far. Michael Ryan has to lead the offense and he's been invisible so far. Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno have been ordinary at best. The lack of offense was a fear.
---Had a good chat with T.J. Brennan, who was brutal in this one but said he's moved on already. He took responsiblity and said he knows as a third-year AHL player that guys look to him for leadership.
"We have 10 guys born after 1990 so it's not exactly time to hit the panic button," Brennan told me. "Guys are learning how good this league is. It's not a joke. You have to play every night. We'll learn quick."
---There was definite disappointment in not putting on a better show for the crowd of 9,217.
"We wanted to come out firing and it didn't work out that way," Brennan said. "I hope it's not one game and they come and give up. You have to have a short-term memory here."
---Joe Finley and Nick Crawford on defense tonight with Dennis Persson and Drew Schiestel both out with injuries. The Amerks are denying a Hamilton Spectator report that Schiestel is out 4-6 weeks with a sprained knee ligament suffered in Saturday's opener at Hamilton, Schiestel's hometown. Hmmm.
--Loved the way the Amerks handled the alumni reunion, both on the red carpet in the atrium and on the ice. And great moment to see the announcement of Joe Crozier's impending induction to the AHL Hall of Fame.
---If you're a Sabres fan, you should come to a game here. The seating bowl was redone a few years ago and sightlines are great. Pegula & Co. forked over 200K for a new video board. There's no shots on goal counter anywhere I saw. Needs to be fixed.
---Got a few tweets about disastrous lines at concession stands too. The concourses are old and tight and that's a problem. But folks behind the counter have to work too. I went at 6:15 -- 45 minutes before faceoff -- to check it out and they were already out of pizza and trying to make more? Gotta be more prepared than that.
---A veteran baseball writer gets really messed up covering Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for 14 years and now being told he's covering Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
ROCHESTER -- We're live on the scene here in Blue Cross Arena for the Amerks' home opener against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. It's a festive night, the first back under the reign of the Sabres. The current players and more than 50 alums entered the arena via a red carpet through the glass-enclosed atrium. So did Terry Pegula and Ted Black, who got big cheers from the several hundred fans gathered two hours before faceoff.
The alums have just been introduced again -- names like Rob Ray and Andrew Peters got big cheers among ones Sabres fans would know. There was a special ceremony honoring former Amerks and Sabres coach Joe Crozier, and the octogenerian got a standing ovation when it was announced he would be inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2012. A banner was then unveiled in the rafters.
On the ice, Dennis Persson and Drew Schiestel are both out tonight with lower-body injuries. The Hamilton Spectator reported that Schiestel, a Hamilton native, would be out 4-6 weeks with a sprained knee after catching his foot in a rut on the ice but Amerks coach Ron Rolston said in the last couple days that was not the ice and the injury was not that severe. We'll see.
Drew MacIntyre, just back from Europe with the Sabres, will start in goal. The defense will be T.J. Brennan and Shaone Morrisonn. Up front will be Jonathan Parker centering Colin Stuart and Michael Ryan.
Stay tuned for more observations on the Sabres' prospects, who will hopefully put on a better show than they did in Saturday's 5-2 stinker in Hamilton.
---Mike Harrington (www.twitter.com/bnharrington)
Ceremonies: The Amerks get an A. Dimmed the lights, introduced the alums just like we saw in HSBC in April. Great moment with Crozier. Players came on via dry ice effect. Then Terry Pegula made a quick appearance for the ceremonial faceoff and got a roaring standing ovation. He was joined by daughter Jessie, wearing a white Lindy Ruff No. 22 Amerks jersey and she dropped the ceremonial first puck.
Line/defense combos: Up front, the Amerks are going with Stuart-Parker-Ryan, Whitmore-Voakes-Kassian, Foligno-Varone-Tropp, Boychuk-Turnbull-Legault. On defense, it's McNabb-Biega, Morrisonn-Brennan and Finley-Crawford.
First Period thoughts: It took me until the first intermission to realize I was on the wrong wireless network and that's why I wasn't hooked up. Tech problems should be over now but the Amerks' problems aren't. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton leads it 2-0 and had a 9-5 edge in shots through 20 minutes. The buzz in the crowd was killed by Eric Tangradi's goal at 5:10, which came as he walked out alone in front and deked past MacIntyre after a brutal back pass in the corner from T.J. Brennan, who is certainly experienced enough to know better. WB/S made it 2-0 at 18:04 on Brian Strait's knuckleball past MacIntyre from the left circle.
The Amerks' forwards have done very little thus far with just two shots. The team's best chance came when Morrisonn moved up and fired wide from the slot. The crowd's only real buzz was when Sabretooth showed up and was joined by the Amerks' moose mascot. A moose? I'm told that was a local radio promotion in the 80s that just stuck.
Second Period: A great tic-tac-toe passing play results in a goal by Wilkes-Barre's Colin McDonald at 2:10 to make it 3-0. The WBS radio guy is right in front of me and he's a Ted Baxter-like parody. Standing up, rocking back and forth, waving his arms. Lots of silliness. And he roars "Old McDonald got a goal." At least he left out ee-eye, ee-eye oh. The Amerks have skated much better as the period as gone on but have yet to score. Michael Ryan, in particular, doing some work getting some chances in front.
End second period: Good to see some life from the Amerks but they trail, 4-0, despite an 18-6 advantage in shots in the period. They had a two-man advantage for nearly two minutes but Brennan and Marcus Foligno, among others were stoned by Brad Thiessen. Then disaster struck. Brennan tried to feed Kassian out top and the pass missed. Brian Lerg beat Kassian to the puck and pulled away from him for an ice-length breakaway and then beat MacIntyre. Yep, a goal with his team two men shot. Ugly. Haven't seen that too often in my life. Lots of boos from the crowd of 9,217.
Third Period: The Amerks fell behind, 5-0, and finally score with 3:33 left as Marcus Foligno gets his first pro goal with a slapshot from the right circle off a Kassian back pass.
The final was 5-1. The Amerks had a 30-23 edge in shots but fall to 0-2. They've been outscored 10-3 thus far.
HAMILTON, Ont. -- Here's some quick thought on the Rochester Amerks' 5-2 loss to Hamilton in their season opener.
1). Their best defenseman was none other than Shaone Morrisonn, who has accepted his assignment to the AHL for now. He has nearly 2.1 million reasons to play here and not pout, Uh-huh.
"I was having fun out there. I got to play, have some ice time," he said. "I haven't been in a game since the playoffs last year. I had a lot of fun. I felt good in camp, and we'll see what happens the next couple weeks.
"If I can't do the NHL this year, you want to play in the best league as possible. Buffalo has my rights and it's up to them. Wherever they put me I'll work hard. It makes you stronger mentally. It's fun playing with these young guys again. I got lots of minutes and felt great out there."
Added coach Ron Rolston: "He's a professional. He came down and has worked extremely hard in practice. It's tough when that happens but he's done a really good responding to the situation and trying to get better for us. It's a tough situation, given where your expectations are and where you want to be. You have to give him a little time to respond to the situation. He was real good in practice and he showed nothing that he was going to have a different attitude."
2). Drew Schiestel left with a knee injury in the third period. Status TBA. Dennis Persson put a puck into his own net on a deflection. Alex Biega and T.J. Brennan were uneven. Same for Brayden McNabb, who got away with a first-period elbow that would net him two or three games from Brendan Shanahan.
3). Zack Kassian got better as the game went on. Skated well, created some chances. Marcus Foligno was invisible. Colin Stuart had eight shots on goal, one goal and looked good.
4). David Leggio was terrific. Forget about five goals. One was an own goal, two were tap-ins, one was totally screened and the fifth was a penalty shot. Leggio and Drew McIntyre should really make for a good combination in the AHL.
5). Liked Rolston's attitude postgame. "There's 75 more of these to go," he said. Chipper, positive, ready to work with a young team.
HAMILTON, Ont -- We've made it high atop Copps Coliseum, and I mean high, for tonight's Rochester Amerks season opener against the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal's top affiliate). Memo to Canada: These gondolas are just killer. This one wasn't Edmonton-bad but it was bad enough. Nor was it Calgary-bad but I was hoping not to deal with this in the AHL.
Up, out, down and all with views available through the floor. At least it was mostly enclosed but still. ... You want pictures? No chance. I was walking -- and looking straight ahead. BUT the Oklahoma City radio guy apparently filmed it last year. So you can check out what I just did. Yeesh.
We're in the AHL, of course, so sometimes things go wrong. The lights were dark and the scoreboard was running the opening video to the cliche of the Star Wars theme and what happens? Blue screen of death. Ooops.
First bit of news: Williamsville native David Leggio will start in goal for Rochester. He has been ill and nursing concussion symptoms and coach Ron Rolston told me this week he didn't know if he could go tonight. The starters will be Mark Voakes at center between Colin Stuart and Michael Ryan, with Brayden McNabb and Shaone Morrisonn (remember him?) on defense.
Stay tuned from some observations on some of the Sabres' top prospects.
---Mike Harrington (www.twitter.com/bnharrington)
The Amerks started up front this way: Colin Stuart-Mark Voakes-Michael Ryan, Derek Whitmore-Travis Turnbull-Zack Kassian, Marcus Foligno-Phil Varone-Corey Tropp and Riley Boychuk-Jonathan Parker-Shawn Szydlowski. On defense it was: Brayden McNabb-Shoane Morrisonn, Dennis Persson-Drew Schiestel and T.J. Brennan-Alex Biega.
Captaincy: Colin Stuart has the C but it's for tonight only. Everyone up here in gondola land agrees the Amerks are waiting for Matt Ellis to return from Europe to give someone the C on a regular basis.
12:00 left: No score although Tropp should have had the game's first goal 1:58 but rookie referee Darcy Burchell ruled the net was off its moorings. Was knocked off by a Hamilton player after the puck went in but no video replay in the AHL. McNabb issued a crunching check that went unpenalized, but it was clearly an elbow to the head of Aaron Palushaj. Brendan Shanahan would give you 2-3 games, kid.
9:44 left: That infernal stadium anthem, "Who Let the Dogs Out?" gets played after a goal here and the first one of the season was scored by Frederic St. Denis on a blistering shot from the left point that a screened Leggio had no chance on. Amerks trail, 1-0.
2:26 left: The Amerks might struggle to score goals at times, especially without Luke Adam, and it's easy to see why. After the first 3-4 minutes, they've done very little. Have not noticed Kassian or Foligno at all to this point. Leggio very good.
Last time I was here -- a 1992 neutral-site game between the Leafs and Quebec Nordiques. Came with the late, great Tom Borrelli, who was clad in his finest Leafs blues.
End-1st: Both teams had seven shots on goal and it remains 1-0 for Hamilton through one.
Of note: The building seats around 17,000 but the upper level is curtained off, leaving in the range of 8-9,000 in the lower bowl. It's less than half full. I'm betting 4,000 or so in the house. I would imagine the Amerks will get at least double that for Thursday's home opener against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (cheap plug: I'll be there).
16:20 left: The Amerks have run into big penalty trouble and they pay a price as St. Denis pounds home his second of the night on a two-man advantage. With his team already down a man, Voakes got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for shooting the puck after the whistle and the Amerks also got a too many men on the ice penalty for having four guys on the ice when it should have been a 5-on-3. Amerks trail, 2-0.
15:05 left: Leggio has stood on his head in this period but the Amerks haven't survived the penalty trouble. Brock Trotter scores on a quick snapshot from the slot and Ron Rolston goes for his timeout. Amerks trail, 3-0.
13:00 left: Amerks come up dry on a power play, with Corey Tropp stopped from in tight by Hamilton goalie Nathan Lawson, who played some last year for the Islanders.
9:01 left: The Amerks get on the board for the first time back with the Sabres as Jonathan Parker bangs home a rebound after a 2-on-1 with Whitmore passing to Kassian. A power play goal. Amerks trail, 3-1. I've liked Kassian in this period. Skating well, physical.
8:20 left: Leggio with a great left pad save on Trotter, who was in alone from the center red line. Leggio has been the Amerks' first star tonight by a mile.
6:29 left: The goal definitely helped the Amerks' energy level. Kassian just missed a tip-in from the edge of the crease on a Whitmore pass.
6:16 left: Just as I said that, a bad break for Leggio & Co. as Dennis Persson tips home Ian Schultz's centering attempt past the startled goalie and into his own net. Amerks trail, 4-1.
2:00 left: The Rochester defenseman I've liked best tonight? Shaone Morrisonn, believe it or not.
End-2nd: It's 4-1 for the Bulldogs through two. Hamilton had a 14-12 edge in shots in and it's 21-19 through two. Had a big scrap right at the buzzer with Corey Tropp and Ian Schultz throwing plenty of haymakers after a scrum in the corner that started with a late hit after the buzzer on Biega. Foligno jumped right in too. That was good to see.
15:23: T.J. Brennan wipes out a power play during a delayed penalty with a foolish frustration flash behind the play. Not very bright.
14:36 left: Trotter makes it 5-1 on a penalty shot, smoking Leggio with a neat deke to the backhand. Shot was awarded after the puck was glove out of the crease (sorry didn't see by who and you don't get many replays in the minors).
11:35 left: Drew Schiestel helped off the ice after a collision in the Hamilton zone. Not much weight on his left leg. Remember, this was his first game since January after a knee injury ended his season in Portland prematurely.
Game over: The Amerks lost, 5-2, with Colin Stuart getting the other goal with 2:09 left. Final shots were 32-27 for Rochesterl. Your intrepid blogger had more info posted here and never hit Publish and it thus went into cyber vapor lock. Apologies.
The Sabres won't be having a rookie camp in HSBC Arena this season, partly because of the ongoing locker room renovations but also because they're going to instead take their young players to Traverse City, Mich., for the first time and play in the NHL Prospect Tournament that has been run since 1998 in cooperation with the Detroit Red Wings' training camp.
The Sabres will be joining the Red Wings, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues at the event, which runs Sept. 10-14. Count this as a big added expense on the scouting/development side under new owner Terry Pegula: Traverse City, a city of about 15,000 people, is in extreme northwest Michigan, a four-hour drive from Detroit.
Teams are divided into two divisions for a round-robin portion of the tournament and then ranked by their win-loss records for final placement in 7th-, 5th-, 3rd-place and championship games on the final day. The winning team will be given a plaque and their name put on a trophy to be housed at Centre Ice Arena.
Buffalo's full roster:
Forwards: Adam, Kassian, Foligno, Steven Beyers, Riley Boychuk, Daniel Catenacci, Cedrick Henley, Jacob Legace, Jonathan Parker, Steven Shipley, Kevin Sundher, Gregg Sutch, Shawn Szydlowski, Corey Tropp, Phil Varone. Defense: Pysyk, McNabb, Lepkowski, Alex Biega, Nick Crawford, Corey Fienhage, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, Matt MacKenzie. Goalies: Nathan Lieuwen, Ryan Rondeau.
The complete schedule for the tournament is at this link. The Sabres open against Minnesota Sept. 10 at 3:30. They then meet Columbus at 2:30 on Sept. 11 and Detroit at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 before playing their placement game on Sept. 14.
The Rochester Amerks will be holding a press conference Wednesday at 11 a.m. in Blue Cross Arena to announce that former Sabres defenseman Jay McKee and Chadd Cassidy, a former assistant with the U.S. National Developmental Team, will be named the team's assistants to new head coach Ron Rolston.
McKee, who turns 34 on Sept. 8, is one of the most beloved defensemen in Sabres history and most recently served as a volunteer assistant coach at Niagara University. He played 802 NHL games, closing his career with Pittsburgh in 2009-10. McKee played 24 games over parts of three seasons with the Amerks, and played with the Sabres from 1995-2006.
He served as a key member of the blueline on the 1999 Stanley Cup finalists and a stalwart on the 2006 Eastern Conference finalists, although he's probably most remembered for the most famous staph infection in Buffalo history, the leg problem that caused him to miss Game Seven at Carolina. Any Sabres loyalist will tell you they would have won that game and the Stanley Cup that season had McKee been able to play.
Cassidy served under Rolston the last five years with the U.S developmental squad. he also spent four years as head coach at the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid and time as an assistant at Cortland State (his alma mater) and Potsdam State.
How is Zack Kassian spending some of his final days prior to training camp? The Sabres' top prospect is in Toronto for the 2011 NHLPA Rookie Showcase. It's an orientation session for rookies with the players union that features several seminars.
It's also a chance for Panini America and Upper Deck, the official trading card partners of the NHLPA and the NHL, with an exclusive opportunity to photograph many of them for the first time in shots that will be used for upcoming trading card and memorabilia launches.
Among the players participating were Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the top pick in the June draft, and Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog, the No. 2 choice; Nashville's Blake Geoffrion, who made his NHL debut last season; and some of Kassian's Team Canada teammates from the World Juniors such as Ryan Ellis of Nashville, Carter Ashton of Tampa Bay and Cody Eakin of Washington.
The American Hockey League finally released its schedule Thursday -- I'm told NBA arenas make the process a long and difficult one -- and the Rochester Amerks will open their first season in their return to affiliation with the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 8 at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton against the Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal's top farm team.
The Amerks' home opener at Blue Cross Arena will be Oct. 13 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
And if you want a full blow-by-blow analysis of the slate, including the load of back-to-back (and sometimes back-to-back-to-back) games they play in the AHL, check out Kevin Oklobzija's blog at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle site.
One highlight: The game March 24 at Syracuse may be played in the Carrier Dome in an attempt to break the AHL attendance record by drawing 25,000 plus. Wow.
ROCHESTER -- Darcy Regier and Ted Black were both freely tossing around the "Sabres University" moniker today in Blue Cross Arena, and Black went one step further when he introduced Ron Rolston as the "first professor at the University of Sabres." That's otherwise known as the new head coach of the Rochester Amerks.
It's an out-of-the-box hire when you're putting a coach with no pro experience in the AHL, but Rolston has a combined 20 years with the US National Development Team and as an assistant in major Division I college hockey. And he's not unfamiliar to Regier, who said he met Rolston several years ago in Lake Placid through Jon Christiano, the Sabres' director of pro scouting, and has followed his work since with the US program.
"I personally believe you have to be in the forefront of whatever business you're in," Regier said. "In our case, we have for a number of reasons strived to find advantages outside of conventional wisdom. ... I recognized that we first decided to come back to Rochester, the reference to University was largely about doing things differently, taking more responsibility for the players' development and also demand the player take more responsiblity for his own development.
"When we started to look at the model and started to look at potential coaches who could fill that and believed they could fill that type of a model, Ron to me was right at the forefront. He was our first choice."
Rolston said he's been watching Terry Pegula closely since the Sabres owner donated $88 million to Penn State to start a hockey program and build an arena last fall.
"There's not many organizations I'd want to work for in terms of their philsophy, core values, their beliefs in how they want to run things," said Rolston, 44. "Buffalo was certainly at the top of my list in terms of organization, in terms of clear vision on where they want to go, in terms of what they believe in, the values they have and philosophy they have for players at every level. To me, it was extremely enticing."
Regier said the Sabres approached USA Hockey for permission to talk to Rolston and interviewed him last week in Buffalo.
"I feel very strongly that he is the only best candidate but we are going to learn from him," Regier said. "He hopefully will learn from us and it will point to championship teams in Rochester and Buffalo."
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.