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Top line, Rolston work to mend fences after Anaheim benching

By Mike Harrington

There's the old story in baseball, famously done by Billy Martin when he was a manager in Detroit and again in New York, about throwing all the names in a cap and picking them out to make a lineup card. Hockey coaches aren't that goofy when shuffling their forward lines, even though it might seem that way at times.

Sabres coach Ron Rolston made some moves during practice today in First Niagara Center, as I documented during my earlier post.  After benching the trio of Tyler Ennis-Cody Hodgson-Matt Moulson for the final 26+ minutes Friday in Anaheim, the work began anew today with Steve Ott on the top line and Ennis moved down to line two.

Moulson also said today he visited Rolston in a sort of clear-the-air session with his new coach. Moulson, remember, told John Vogl after the ugly 6-2 loss it's "the most embarrassed" he's been in his NHL career.

"He wants to make sure we're working," Moulson said. "When you're relied upon to produce in this league on a top line of any team, obviously you have to be the best line out there each game. Obviously, the staff didn't feel we were the last game. I didn't think we were and we'll move on from there."

Hodgson said he had not spoken to Rolston about the situation but had a simliar approach to Moulson's.

Continue reading "Top line, Rolston work to mend fences after Anaheim benching" »

Absence of Leino, Ehrhoff headlines lineup changes for Sabres against Ducks

By John Vogl

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Sabres are making a pair of significant lineup changes, one forced by injury and another by inept play.

Christian Ehrhoff, who suffered a lower-body injury Thursday against Los Angeles, will not play against the Ducks tonight in Anaheim. He will be replaced in the lineup by rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who was scratched during the previous two games.

Forward Ville Leino will take a seat as a healthy scratch. Leino has one assist in seven games and a minus-2 rating. He took his first shot on goal of the season Thursday. He will be replaced by Mikhail Grigorenko, who sat the last three games.

To hear coach Ron Rolston's pregame comments, click the audio file below. (I wouldn't bother if I were you.)

Ron Rolston

No time to regroup as date with Cup champs looms

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres have one point and are already dead last in the NHL's overall standing.  They lead the league with four regulation losses and join the New Jersey Devils, who play tonight in Calgary, as the only teams without a win.

They're coming off easily their worst performance in the five games, Thursday's dreary 4-1 sleepwalk against Columbus. But there's no time for a reset to a training camp mentality. There are five games in the next eight nights, starting with Saturday's visit to Chicago to meet the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.

"I think playing is going to add to the experience," coach Ron Rolston said today in First Niagara Center. "It allows guys to get back at it in game situations and tomorrow will be a big challenge for us on the road. You don't have to sit around for four days and let it stew. They can get right back out there and play better."

Tyler Myers (who is minus-7 on the season) and Mike Weber (who is minus-8) are tops on the list of guys who need a quick turnaround. Weber, who was minus-4 against Columbus, may not get that chance because he was paired with rookie Nikita Zadorov in practice Friday while Myers worked with Alexander Sulzer.

Asked if Sulzer was going into the lineup, Rolston smirked and said, "We'll see. He's practiced real well. He's one of the best puck movers and passers we have. Quite possibly."

Said Myers: "We're in a tough spot to start the season. To go into the defending champs' home arena to try to get our first win is a great opportunity for us to start some real momentum. It's going to take hard work. It's not going to come easy. Especially against those guys, we're going to have to compete."

On the injury front, Rolston had these updates:

---Henrik Tallinder (upper body) is progressing but won't play Saturday. The target for his return is Monday against Minnesota.
---Cody Hodgson sat out his second straight practice for maintenance of an undisclosed ailment but played a regular shift last night and is expected to be fine for tomorrow.
---Kaleta did not practice Friday because he needed some dental work in the wake of his fight with Columbus' Jared Boll. Kaleta returned to the game wearing a full face shield.

Click below to hear Rolston's session with reporters today, including his thoughts on Myers, the looming Kaleta suspension and the challenges presented by the Stanley Cup champions.

Ron Rolston

Lather/rinse/repeat: Injured Leino out indefinitely, Larsson to play in home opener

By Mike Harrington

Ville Leino wasn't on the ice for Sabres practice today in First Niagara Center and media antennas understandably went up. A couple players said they didn't know anything (sometimes that's true) but coach Ron Rolston then confirmed suspicions: Leino is injured again and will not play in Friday's home opener against Ottawa.

And, in fact, the cracked rib Leino suffered in the first period Wednesday in Detroit is going to keep him out indefinitely.

"It happened in the first period, probably about 3-4 shifts in," Rolston said. "It was just sore and it seized up overnight and we had it checked."

Leino played 12:36 in the game, registering no shots on goal. He was even on the ice inside the final two minutes so there were no obvious signs of injury. So for those scoring at home, that means Leino has now played nine games since the end of the 2011-12 season; he was limited to eight last year due to hip and lung injuries. 

The Leino injury means Johan Larsson will move into the lineup at center, likely with Tyler Ennis and Steve Ott. Ennis will go back to the wing. Larsson played one game for Minnesota last year and will make his Sabres debut in the home opener.

"He's going to get a good opportunity,' Rolston said. "I like everything about him. His attitude, the way he works, preparation. He's a good detail player. This will give him a good opportunity to play with some good players and show us what he can do. It's a good thing. He's ready."

After Wednesday's 0-for-7 clunker on the power play, the special teams got plenty of attention at today's practice.

"I thought we played slow on the power play," Rolston said. "I think at times I think we have to pass it in the net. We just played slow, didn't move it quick enough and once we got it out top we didn't get things down there."

Said Ennis: "We had golden opportunities there with 5-on-3 with clean ice. Those have to go in."

In other news, Marcus Foligno skated in a non-contact role and said he's targeting Tuesday's visit by Tampa Bay for his return. Zemgus Girgensons confirmed his parents had travel issues coming from Latvia and arrived in Detroit well after Wednesday's game ended, missing his first NHL goal. They were driving to Buffalo today so they could attend Friday's game.

Click below to hear Rolston's session with reporters, which opens with a salute to the Bills and includes plenty of talk about the power play Meltdown in Motown.

Ron Rolston

Sabres' Rolston returns to The Joe, this time as coach instead of fan

By John Vogl

DETROIT -- The Red Wings moved to Joe Louis Arena in 1979-80. Ron Rolston was there.

"The first year it opened up we had season tickets, my family did in ’80," the Sabres' coach said today. "It’s obviously one of those special moments to be able to represent Buffalo Sabres, obviously the organization, but being in Joe Louis Arena and open up here. It’ll be a good night."

Tonight's game against the Red Wings will be Rolston's debut in his home rink. The Michigan native grew up an hour away in Flint and played often in Detroit. Now he wants to beat the Red Wings.

"We’re playing a team tonight that’s obviously one of the best in the league," Rolston said. "They’re fast, so we’re going to have to make sure that we control things that we can but also make sure that we’re moving our feet to be ready for the pace."

To read an in-depth profile on Rolston as he begins his first full season as head coach, click here.

Coming Sunday: Great reads on Rolston, Ott and travel highlight the 2013-14 NHL Preview Section

RRcoverBy Mike Harrington

Be sure to pick up Sunday's editions of The Buffalo News to read our annual NHL Preview Section, chock-full of great reads, sharp photography and eye-popping graphics from The News' award-winning design department.

The cover story by John Vogl is a fascinating look inside the mind and hockey background of The Professor, Sabres coach Ron Rolston. He has graduated from the ranks of U.S. colleges and the National Development Team program to get his first full-time gig in the NHL and be the Sabres' first new coach since Lindy Ruff took over 1997.

The story features the insight of several Rolston contemporaries topped by Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson, who gave Rolston his first coaching job as an assistant at Lake Superior State.

"It's like getting a doctorate, basically, working under Jeff and learning about the game," Rolston said. "I was very fortunate because a lot of people don't get that mentorship right away. I was able to right off the bat learn from the best and then have a good foundation moving forward."

My main assignment was a feature on Sabres agitator Steve Ott, a mouth that roars and never stops while he drives opponents crazy. Said teammate Patrick Kaleta of Ott: "It would be funny to see what his Google searches are, that's for sure."

One thing I wasn't able to get into the story was how Ott spent his summer -- as a crew member for his father, Butch, who is a decorated power-boat racer.

"It's nerve-wracking for me. That's my dad out there," Ott told me last week. "I know he's highly competitive and he's going to go to the max, to the edge to win. His mindset is where I got my mindset from. There's only one way. For him, he's got his own boat race going. It's win or swim. He's either flipping or going for a win. To watch him sometimes barrel roll or flip that boat going 100 mph, things get pretty nerve-wracking. I never want to see him banged up."

Also in the section, Vogl provides an incredible travelogue with restaurant and sight-seeing recommendations in every NHL city and I take a look back at the wild history of the Sabres uniforms. There's also Vogl's reasons for optimism and pessimism on the Sabres and full capsules of every NHL team.

Be sure to pick it up. Only in Sunday's Buffalo News.

Zadorov out two weeks, Ristolainen makes roster, Adam off to Rochester (pending waivers)

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres wrapped up their final practice of the preseason Saturday afternoon in First Niagara Center and coach Ron Rolston firmed up several items with reporters during his daily briefing. Here's a quick rundown:

Nikita Zadorov: The 18-year-old defenseman, who just signed his entry-level contract on Wednesday, is going to be out for about two weeks after needing stitches to repair what Rolston called a "smashed" finger tip on his left hand. Zadorov suffered the injury blocking a shot on the penalty kill Friday night in Carolina. Rather than sending Zadorov back to junior, the Sabres could simply keep him here skating for the two weeks on injured reserve and not have him count against the 23-man roster limit.

The roster: The Sabres will take Sunday off and then open their preparations for Wednesday's opener in Detroit on Monday morning. The final 23-man roster doesn't have to be set until Monday at 3 p.m. but Rolston said the team has more meetings set for later today, so the bet here is the opening night lineup could be at practice Monday.

Rasmus Ristolainen: Zero surprise when Rolston said he's going to be on the team. He's been a top-six defender since day one of camp and Rolston said he was the team's best defenseman Friday night.

Luke Adam: The fall of the former second-round pick and NHL All-Star Rookie participant continued as he was put on waivers with the intent of sending him to Rochester.

The captaincy: Rolston said he will name a captain prior to the Detroit game. The most likely candidates remain Thomas Vanek or Steve Ott, although a case could instead be made for a player on a longterm contract like Christian Ehrhoff or Cody Hodgson.

Marcus Foligno: He has a shoulder strain and did not practice today but Rolston said he is fully expecting to have him in the lineup Wednesday.

Click below to hear Rolston's session with the media today where he talks about the lineup, the preseason, his solid goaltending and the importance of improvement on the special teams.

Ron Rolston

Postgame video: Rolston on the collaring of the Jackets

Ron Rolston's postgame press conference (MSG/

By Mike Harrington

Click above to see Ron Rolston's postgame press conference from Wednesday's 3-0 win over Columbus in First Niagara Center. Rolston discusses Joel Armia's uncertain status after suffering a hand injury, the play of Mikhail Grigorenko, and the success of the team's penalty killers in combination with goaltender Jhonas Enroth.

The Sabres killed off all seven Columbus power plays and are 25 for 27 in the preseason -- including 16 for 16 at home.

Here's a weird stat: They haven't lost a preseason home game in regulation since Sept. 21, 2007 -- going 9-0-3 in their last 12 exhibitions downtown.

With audio: Rolston says Tropp out 5-6 weeks with broken jaw, NHL fine for Scott-Kessel incident is 'because it was John'

By Mike Harrington

The Buffalo Sabres move on tonight with the preseason home finale against Columbus in First Niagara Center (it's the only MSG telecast of the preseason). But the talk of the dressing room after today's morning skate was still back on Sunday's chaos in Toronto and the league's decision Tuesday to fine coach Ron Rolston for "player selection and player conduct."

Before commenting on his fine, which is believed to be $10,000, Rolston announced that winger Corey Tropp suffered a broken jaw in his fight with Jamie Devane that was the precursor to the big brawl. Tropp, who also suffered a mild concussion, will be out 5-6 weeks.

Prior to the next faceoff, John Scott initiated a fight against Leafs winger Phil Kessel and a full line brawl erupted featuring goalies Ryan Miller and Jonathan Bernier. Rolston was clearly fined for Scott's actions and tried to be diplomatic toward league officials Wednesday.

"It's part of what they do," Rolston said. "They have to make a decision on what's best for the league. Those are things we can't control so we do what is handed down and go from there.  It's because it was John. It's just more reputation but he had played the whole game, played well and was playing a good game for us. He had an assist on the first goal. He's worked hard on his game to play hockey too. But I think obviously reputation is a big part of that."

"I was pretty surprised. I didn't expect that," Scott said. "I was a little shocked by it. ... It was strange because I was already on the ice and we had first change. I think it's foreign territory as far as player selection and coaches getting fined. "

Continue reading "With audio: Rolston says Tropp out 5-6 weeks with broken jaw, NHL fine for Scott-Kessel incident is 'because it was John'" »

(Audio now included) Scott on the Throwdown in TO: 'I would have went after whoever they put lined up next to me'

By Mike Harrington

What should have been a routine September Monday in Sabres training camp turned into a bit of media circus this afternoon as reporters and camera crews from Toronto showed up at First Niagara Center to get the day-after thoughts about Sunday night's brawl with the Leafs in the Air Canada Centre.

The star of the show was Sabres enforcer John Scott, who was unavailable to the media Sunday. The 6-foot-8 Scott stood tall in front of his locker and calmly answered every question he got Monday, pointing out that he was not targeting Leafs star Phil Kessel. In the wake of Jamie Devane's beatdown of Corey Tropp a few seconds earlier, the Sabres were not going to be picky.

"I said, 'Phil I think we're going to have to go here, just to let you know,' " Scott said. "I would have went after who ever they put lined up next to me. I don't know what their coach had in mine. I wasn't trying to hurt him. I was just trying to send a message."

Scott and the Sabres were surprised Leafs coach Randy Carlyle -- who had the last line change -- opted for a scoring line in that situation rather than tough guy Troy Bodie. Did Scott break hockey's unwritten code that an enforcer shouldn't engage a star?

"Hey, I'd be pissed off if someone went after my star guy too," Scott said. "It's one of those things. Their coach didn't have to put Kessel out with me.

Scott said his legs are surprised from the stick swings Kessel took against him and that he was surprised by the reaction from the Leafs star.

Continue reading "(Audio now included) Scott on the Throwdown in TO: 'I would have went after whoever they put lined up next to me'" »

Day-after thoughts on the crazy tussle in Toronto

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres don't practice until 11:45 today. So that means it's going to be early this afternoon before we get any injury updates or hear from any of them with any second-day thoughts on last night's third-period festivities in Toronto that are the talk of the hockey world today.

Be sure to see John Vogl's post from last night with the complete penalty list. I'm told it was updated multiple times all the way to around 1 a.m.

Sportsnet's Chris Johnston points out that David Clarkson's likely 10-game suspension for charging off the bench is going to hurt the Leafs on the ice -- and put them in a big salary cap pickle as well. Suspended players still count against the cap, with Clarkson and Phil Kessel likely both doing some time.

Damien Cox of the Toronto Star blames Ron Rolston for the whole thing. I was not there and a key point I missed that Cox missed also was that Rolston did not send John Scott on to the ice for a pound of flesh. Scott was already out there for the fight between Corey Tropp and Jamie Devane. 

Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! has a good Q&A here about the particulars of the punch-up.

From watching the video, here are my quick thoughts:

John Scott: He was going to extract his pound of flesh. Bad optics doing it against a top Leafs guy however. Still, it's not unlike Adam Mair and Andrew Peters going after Jason Spezza and the boys from Ottawa in that infamous dustup in 2007 after Chris Drury had been KO'd. People in Toronto want Scott suspended but he did nothing to earn a ban. He instigated a fight, got penalized for it and that was that. You want to argue Scott can't play and doesn't belong in the league, that's a different argument. He should get nothing from Brendan Shanahan for this one.

Leafs coach Randy Carlyle: He was one of the biggest dopes in all of this. He had the last change. After seeing Tropp in distress being taken off the ice and seeing Scott remain on, he sends out his scorers thinking it would diffuse things? How does he line up Phil Kessel -- Phil Kessel! -- next to John Scott? 

Kessel: What was he thinking? He obviously wasn't. You're not a fighter and you have a 6-8, 270-pound guy coming at you, just back away. No one will think less of you. Use your stick like Paul Bunyan and you get a match penalty and perhaps a 2-3 game suspension. And it wasn't one love-tap either. It was three. Plus a spear later on in the melee.

This GIF is making the rounds today. Pretty funny. Stick as lightsaber.


Ron Rolston: No issues. The Sabres can't be happy about seeing what happened with Tropp. He has to like the way his players were all in. Even Ryan Miller. 

David Clarkson: Here's the biggest dope. He didn't need to come off the bench. The Leafs on the ice had Scott contained. So now the biggest contract in franchise history starts with 10 games on the sidelines? That's crazy. And as Johnston wrote (link above), what do they do about money now in terms of Cody Franson or Mason Raymond? A veteran player should have known better.

Sabres' training camp already moving from scrimmages to games

By John Vogl

Training camp is moving fast in Sabreland. The team wrapped up its third day of scrimmages this afternoon, and the coaching staff is already moving on to the initial cuts and the first exhibition game Sunday in Montreal.

“We’re already in game time tomorrow,” coach Ron Rolston said in First Niagara Center. “It’ll be good to get to that point. Now you can play some games and kind of start trimming things down. You’ve got obviously game situations, game video for teaching, and you’ve got a smaller group so practices are better at that point. As you trim down, competition is better, practices are better.”

The Sabres will make their first cuts Sunday, mostly young players who will return to their junior teams. Buffalo will have a morning skate at home then fly to Montreal.

Rolston would not disclose his lineup but said goaltenders will split games at the start before easing into full contests. The coach also will keep an eye on the top prospects vying for a starting role in Buffalo.

“You’ll probably see a lot of different combinations throughout the course of exhibition,” he said. “We’re trying to find the right pieces. We had a little bit at the end of last season where I had some experience with guys, but we’re still trying to find those combinations. That along with giving some of these younger guys some real good looks, giving them good opportunities to play with good players and see where they’re at, if they’re going to step up and take those opportunities or not.”

Rolston said he’ll control the forward line changes during games. Teppo Numminen will handle defenders and power play. Joe Sacco will conduct the penalty kill and talk on the headset with fellow assistant Jerry Forton, who will be up in the press box.

The Sabres totaled three goals in the final scrimmage. Steve Ott scored twice, with assists going to Ville Leino, while Shawn Szydlowski also found the net.

The full audio of Rolston’s news conference is below.

Sabres' Rolston glad to have Hodgson long term, says Myers is in great shape

By John Vogl

Ron Rolston's first day of training camp featured three practice sessions, one scrimmage and a full roster. The Sabres' coach liked what he saw.

Rolston is happy to have newly signed Cody Hodgson in the fold and is confident the center will improve. The coach says Tyler Myers is in great shape, much better than last year when the defenseman's conditioning was an issue. Rolston also is eager to watch Ville Leino and all the position battles during camp.

The full audio is below.

Rolston starts first camp hoping to bring new philosophies to the ice

By Mike Harrington

Ron Rolston was an interim coach last season, handed the difficult task of keeping things together after the February firing of Lindy Ruff. Rolston went 15-11-5 and got the job on a full-time basis in May, and it all led to Wednesday when the team arrived for the 46-year-old's first training camp as an NHL head coach.

It's the first time since 1996 that a head coach other than Lindy Ruff has directed the Sabres at the start of camp, and Rolston said the gig is the culmination of a career dream.

"It's exciting in a sense that it allows you to have some preparation time and do a lot of thinking over the summer in philosophies," Rolston said as the team arrived at First Niagara Center for physicals and skill testing.

How different will a Rolston team look?

"The philosophy of play will be one where we continue to improve on the things we worked on at the end of last year. We've got to get way more difficult to play against," Rolston said. "From there, our puck possession has got to be a lot better. For the most part last year we were a rush hockey team. Limited power play offense, limited offensive zone play. Those are areas that have to get better for us."

Rolston announced that defenseman Teppo Numminen will move from the press box to the bench to work with the defense and power play. New assistant Joe Sacco is also expected to be behind the bench. The team also confirmed the hiring of Buffalo native and former Niagara assistant Jerry Forton, which was reported by John Vogl nearly a month ago.

Continue reading "Rolston starts first camp hoping to bring new philosophies to the ice" »

Joe Sacco, former NHL Coach of Year candidate, joins Sabres as Rolston's assistant

Joe Sacco was the head coach for the United States at this year's world championships. (Photo: Getty Images)

By John Vogl

Ron Rolston has added a former NHL Coach of the Year candidate to his staff.

Joe Sacco, who coached the Colorado Avalanche for four seasons and was a Jack Adams Award finalist in 2009-10, has been named Rolston's assistant coach on the Sabres.

The team made the official announcement following a report in The Buffalo News.

The Avalanche fired Sacco in April after going 16-25-7. He guided the Avs to the playoffs in his trophy-nominated first season, but Sacco failed to reach the postseason in his final three years. He went 130-134-30 as the bench boss.

Sacco interviewed for jobs as a head coach around the NHL before deciding to join Buffalo as an assistant.

"He was looking for the right fit of where he wanted to continue, and I think he was really comfortable upon leaving here what direction this organization was going," Rolston said today in First Niagara Center. "He thought that was exciting. He’d worked for Colorado that had a lot of young players in a similar situation in terms of building and developing and teaching. He was excited about that here to be able to come in and really put his stamp on things. That was important. I think it’ll be a great fit."

Rolston said he'll add one more assistant to a staff that includes Teppo Numminen and goalie coach Jim Corsi, who worked for the team when Lindy Ruff was on the bench.

Rolston and Sacco nearly worked together before with USA Hockey. Both were named assistants to Scott Gordon on the 2010 national team that represented the United States at the world championships, but Rolston didn't go because his son was born late. Sacco was the head coach for the United States at this year's world championships and won bronze.

The 44-year-old Sacco played 13 seasons in the NHL, totaling 738 games with Toronto, Anaheim, the New York Islanders, Washington and Philadelphia. 

The job with the Sabres opened when Rolston fired assistants James Patrick and Kevyn Adams in May.

"They were both outstanding when I got here and all the way through," Rolston said. "It was just part of change. Nothing else. They’re both outstanding people, both outstanding coaches, lot of character. They were outstanding in the transition for me coming from Rochester to here. It was just more of changing things."

Nashville hires Housley as assistant coach, eliminating him from Sabres speculation

By John Vogl

Phil Housley was ready to make the jump to the NHL coaching ranks. It was just a matter of which team would hire him.

Nashville did today.

The Predators have hired the former Sabres defenseman and USA Hockey coach as an assistant for Barry Trotz.

Continue reading "Nashville hires Housley as assistant coach, eliminating him from Sabres speculation" »

Sabres assistant coach possibilities from Rolston's past include Housley, Blashill

By John Vogl

One week ago, Sabres coach Ron Rolston figured it would take about a week to assemble a staff of assistants. He fired Lindy Ruff-holdovers James Patrick and Kevyn Adams on Thursday. Chadd Cassidy, who has been Rolston's assistant since 2006, is expected to get one of the jobs.

Here's a look at Rolston's other assistants from his time at USA Hockey.

Continue reading "Sabres assistant coach possibilities from Rolston's past include Housley, Blashill" »

Ex-Sabres assistant Patrick loved his time playing and coaching in Buffalo, plans to keep coaching

James Patrick
James Patrick


By John Vogl

James Patrick has been in Buffalo since 1998. He played for the Sabres in the Stanley Cup finals. He was an assistant coach when they won the Presidents' Trophy in 2007.

He'll always cherish his time, but it's over now as he and fellow assistant Kevyn Adams have been fired by Ron Rolston. They were holdovers from the staff of Lindy Ruff, and their departures were expected when Rolston had the interim tag removed from his coaching title this week.

"I was lucky to be here for 14 years," Patrick said by phone. "I love Buffalo and I love the Sabres. I was just so lucky to be able to work with great people, especially Lindy. To me, Lindy was the spirit and heart and soul of the Sabres, and to learn from him and work with him was such a great experience."

The 49-year-old said he plans to continue coaching.

The Sabres ranked 29th in power-play efficiency this season and 26th in penalty killing. They also lose 1,820 games of NHL experience with the loss of Patrick and Adams.

"It allows you to know all the situations that players are going through," Patrick said, "from young, naive, inexperienced players to older players still trying to hang on and can sometimes lack confidence but can still be real good, effective players. I guess what Kevyn and I can always relate to is we know exactly what they’re going through in all those situations."

Ruff vs. Rolston by the numbers: Where did the Sabres improve?

By Mike Harrington

I did some number-crunching today on the Sabres' stats under Lindy Ruff and the comparable numbers under Ron Rolston and found no real dramatic changes. A bad hockey team under the old coach was still a pretty bad hockey team at times under the new one.

Games were a little tighter under Rolston, who seemed to pull back on some of Ruff's four-in-the-zone rushes with defenseman pinching up. Buffalo's goals-for dropped a little but it's goals-against came down by more than half a goal under Rolston, so that was good.

The Sabres simply didn't have the puck enough by any measure, whether you're looking at traditional stats, new-wave analytics or the basic eye test that resulted in fan boos. Opponents average 33.5 shots per game against Ruff's Sabres and 33.5 shots per game against Rolston's. Odd. The Sabres were last in the league in shots against.

Continue reading "Ruff vs. Rolston by the numbers: Where did the Sabres improve?" »

Sabres sticking with Rolston as head coach

By John Vogl

Ron Rolston really wanted to see what he could do in a normal NHL season. This truncated lockout year deprived teams of practice and teaching time, two things Rolston feels he can do really well. Following the season finale, he lamented the inability to do them.

He'll get his chance now.

The Sabres have removed the interim tag for Rolston, who was named the team's permanent head coach this morning.

General Manager Darcy Regier and Rolston will make a formal announcement at an 11 a.m. news conference in First Niagara Center.

Rolston, who took over for Lindy Ruff on Feb. 20, went 15-11-5 with the Sabres. They were tied for the youngest team in the NHL at various points in the season, and they are likely to retain that title next season.

Rolston came into the organization with a reputation for being a teacher after a long stint with the U.S. National Team Development Program, and the club will need an instructor for the young players.

The 46-year-old is the 16th head coach in team history. A big question revolves around his assistants.

The Sabres promoted Rolston from Rochester to replace Ruff, but they kept all of the longtime coach's assistants, notably James Patrick, Teppo Numminen, Kevyn Adams and Jim Corsi. Rolston's assistants remained in Rochester, with Chadd Cassidy assuming the interim head role with the Amerks.

Rolston may want to surround himself with coaches he knows.

Rolston was under contract with the organization through at least the end of June, so the Sabres could have taken more time for a coaching search. It's unclear whether they interviewed anyone. A representative for Patrick Roy said the Hall of Fame goaltender and junior coaching prospect said Monday he was not contacted.

Watch live video of the Sabres' press conference here at 11 a.m.

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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 |