February 17, 2012 - 2:51 PM
The Montreal Canadiens will have a big hole on defense tonight in First Niagara Center as they have just traded 6-foot-7 Hal Gill and a conditional fifth round draft pick in 2013 to the Nashville Predators for Blake Geoffrion and Robert Slaney, as well as a second round draft pick in 2012.
Gill had played 53 games, averaging nearly 17 minutes. He had one goal, seven assists and a minus-7 rating. Geoffrion, 24, had no goals in 22 games for Nashville this season. He had six goals for Nashville last year -- including a hat trick March 20 in Buffalo, the game the Predators rallied from a 3-1 deficit with two goals by Geoffrion in the final three minutes and won in overtime, 4-3. Slaney has been in the minor leagues.
Geoffrion is the grandson of Hockey Hall of Famer Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, and the great-grandson of Hockey Hall of Famer Howie Morenz, both of whom were longtime Canadiens stars. He also was the first player raised in Tennessee to play for the Predators when he made his NHL debut last season.
So far, compensation for trades has been steep so that might bode well for the Sabres if they kick it into sell mode. Nashville gave up plenty for Gill, who will be a UFA. San Jose gave up a second-round pick to Tampa Bay Thursday night for ex-Sabre Dominic Moore (a second-rounder for Dominic Moore??!!), and Philadelphia gave up a second- and third-rounder to Dallas for defenseman Nicklas Grossman.
February 17, 2012 - 1:19 PM
The Sabres didn't skate this morning and instead hunkered down in their locker room for a video session. Pretty standard for the second day of a back-to-back. Would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for that popcorn-less session after last night's collapse in Philadelphia, where a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes turned into a 7-2 debacle.
"We still believe. We've just got to put together 60 minutes," Derek Roy insisted today. "For 20 minutes last night, we looked like a really, really good team. The last 40 we looked terrible."
Sure did. Blown defensive coverages all over the place, missed scoring opportunities, an 0-for-6 night on the power play and even a too many man on the ice penalty during one man advantage. It added up to one of the worst nights in recent team history. The team is so mentally fragile that once bad things happen, they're cooked.
"I don't know if it's mental toughness," said captain Jason Pominville. "They got momentum, they scored on a power play, we took a penalty we shouldn't have taken that led to 4-on-4 play and they scored on the power play again. We gave up opportunities they didn't even have to work for."
"You're in another building, youre up two goals and they go out and score a goal, you just have to go out there and keep making plays," Roy said. "You can't stray away from the game plan. You have to mentally be focused and know what you've got to do out there on the ice."
The Sabres meet Montreal tonight at 7:30 in First Niagara Center and the glass is half-full view is that Buffalo is 3-0 against the Habs this year -- all in the Bell Centre -- and has won six straight games vs. them overall. Montreal, coached by former Sabres player and assistant Randy Cunneyworth, is 4-1-1 in its last six.
The Habs lead the NHL in penalty killing (88.9 percent overall and 91.9 percent on the road). Buffalo is 20th on the power play -- but went 0 for 6 last night, is 1 for 24 in the last nine games and just 4 for 47 since the calendar hit 2012. The Sabres failed twice last night with the man-advantage when a goal would have made it 3-0.
"We ended up having eight chances to put it away and when you don't put them away, it just fits what's been going on," said coach Lindy Ruff. Brad Boyes was point-blank, Thomas [Vanek] hits a post. We had some situations we didn't take advantage of and that was a killer. Special teams was a killer last night."
Ryan Miller will start in goal tonight, with Ruff admitting today he nearly put Jhonas Enroth back in during the third period last night. Cody McCormick and Marc-Andre Gragnani are the scratches.
Hear the full interviews from Ruff, Pominville and Roy below.
February 15, 2012 - 5:47 PM
The Sabres began a stretch of four games in six nights with Tuesday's loss to the Devils.
Thursday's game against the Flyers starts a run of three games in four days, including a 12:30 p.m. start Sunday against the Penguins in First Niagara Center.
That means Ryan Miller is due for a rest soon. The Sabres' goalie has started 10 straight games.
"It’ll be a conversation I’ll have with Ryan today," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after practice in First Niagara Center. "But I think if you look at four in less than six [days] and an afternoon game in there with three in less than four [days], Jhonas [Enroth] is probably going to have to play one of these two [either Thursday in Philadelphia or Friday at home against Montreal]."
The complete audio of Ruff's interview is below.
February 15, 2012 - 2:38 PM
The Sabres practiced today in First Niagara Center before leaving for Philadelphia to face the Flyers tomorrow night.
Forward Brad Boyes and defenseman Robyn Regehr were not on the ice, with coach Lindy Ruff saying both got "maintenance days" and should be ready to play Thursday.
Regehr was a little banged up after blocking a couple shots in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Devils.
The line combinations were:
Matt Ellis was centering a fourth line with Zack Kassian.
Spoiler alert: Read more about Ville Leino and his return to Philadelphia in Thursday's Buffalo News.
February 15, 2012 - 2:10 PM
The news sounded grim, even frightening, when delivered by Sabres coach Lindy Ruff on Jan. 24.
Veteran forward Jochen Hecht had suffered another concussion -- his second of the season and third in less than a year -- one that left him "really unstable."
Ruff described Hecht as "a mess," said he "couldn't focus" and that the team was worried about him.
"He's in a tough place right now," the coach said.
So the sight of Hecht smiling after a workout today was a welcome one for the team.
"I feel good," Hecht said in his first meeting with reporters since being hurt. "I rode the bike the last couple days. Now I’m at that point where I can start working out again and pump the intensity up slowly."
That's a point Ruff wasn't sure would come this season, or maybe ever.
"I really felt he was in a bad place when we left Jersey, that he may not bounce back from this one. But it seems with some of the treatment he's had that he's on the right track to coming back and skating again and may play."
Hecht had a non-surgical procedure done last week that he said involved the use of needles being placed in his back. It's worth noting that acupuncture has been used to treat post-concussion symptoms, although Hecht did not explicitly describe the procedure as that.
"It was pins and needles they put in the back, and medicine, and it took away some of those sensations I had," he said.
No timetable has been set for Hecht's return to the ice, but he's confident that will come this season.
"That’s why I’m working out and doing all the rehab again," he said, as sweat dripped from his forehead. "I still have to go through the bike rides where they monitor my heart rate and look that I’m symptom-free and I’m just going to go from there.
"It was a very tough day on me mentally, in New Jersey [when] I realized that all that came back again. I feel pretty upbeat now that I can go on the bike again, do some workouts, -- even though they’re light workouts -- do something and still feel good about myself and the rest of the day."
Hecht is in the final year of a contract that pays him $3.5 million this season. While there's no guarantee the 34-year-old German will be back with the Sabres, he's got a long life to live once he decides his playing days have come to an end.
That was certainly on his mind Wednesday as he talked about how happy he was to be free of symptoms.
"Even the long-term effects 20 years from now, it makes it a lot better that I don’t have scrambled eggs and I’ll still be able to spend time with the kids and do all that fun stuff," he said.
The audio from Hecht's interview is below.
February 13, 2012 - 2:11 PM
Lindy Ruff would like to get back on the bench Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils but the Sabres' coach still has some limitiations so he could be slumming it again in the press box.
Ruff, who is probably weeks away from being on the ice at practice again, watched today's workout in First Niagara Center from the bench wearing a Sabres hoodie and he's feeling better. Assistant James Patrick continued to run the team.
"Even if I do go back tomorrow, I'm going to need help beacause there's situations there where I can't vocalize loud enough, especially with the crowd, and react quick enough to have people ready," Ruff said. "So if I do go back there, I'll have James sort of in the same role."
In addition to being able to yell when needed, Ruff still can't move quickly if a stray puck comes into the bench. He said four of them did during Saturday's game against Tampa Bay and assistant coach Teppo Numminen took a glancing blow from one.
"I'd like to laugh about it but I don't want to because I don't want to get hit at the same time," Ruff said. "If I hung out by the tunnel, there's a good chance I get hit. If I stay in the same spot I normally do, I won't. I don't think we can change too much."
Cody McCormick and Jochen Hecht missed practice, with McCormick still on the day-to-day list and Hecht still hoping to play this season after having a procedure done last week on his neck.
Click below to hear from Ruff on his status, the injuries, the work of Patrick Kaleta and more. And be sure to join me here for another On The Beat Chat today at 3.
February 11, 2012 - 12:15 PM
The Sabres have pulled the trigger on what's probably an overdue move by sending struggling rookie Luke Adam down to Rochester and calling up Zack Kassian. Adam, last year's AHL Rookie of the Year at Portland, did not have a point in his last 20 games here while Kassian has 15 goals and 11 assists in 30 games with the Amerks; he had two goals last night in Rochester's 9-4 rout of Texas.
"Right now [Adam's] confidence level is low," coach Lindy Ruff said today. "He needs to go play a lot of minutes, he needs to get back on the scoresheet. And I don't think this is unlike a lot of young players. It's been a tough stretch for him. Zack has been going well down there, he's been scoring. We'll bring him in, put him in the lineup."
Ruff said Adam could have a short stint in Rochester.
"Luke will make that decision himself," Ruff said. "He goes there and plays well, it's temporary. But he needs to go and put points up and play really well."
Kassian will go into the lineup tonight against Tampa Bay because Cody McCormick is nursing an upper-body injury suffered last night against Dallas and will sit. Ruff said McCormick's injury is not serious and he's day to day.
The coach, meanwhile, said he's feeling better and is a "game-night decision" as far as returning behind the bench. The coach suffered three broken ribs in a practice collision Monday and has spent the last two games upstairs in the press box while James Patrick has run the club.
The Sabres are 5-0-1 in their last six games while the Lightning are 6-1-2 in their last nine and two points behind Buffalo in the Eastern Conference standings. Tampa center Steven Stamkos leads the NHL with 36 goals.
Red-hot Ryan Miller (1.11 GAA, .962 save percentage) is expected to stay in net for Buffalo while Mathieu Garon has made seven straight starts for Tampa.
February 8, 2012 - 10:53 PM
Lindy Ruff made a surprise appearance at his regular postgame news conference Wednesday nigght following the Sabres' 6-0 win over the Bruins.
"I felt better and better as the game went on," Ruff said. "By the end, I felt really good."
Ruff said he will be in the press box for the forseeable future, partly because he can't get out of the way of errant pucks and also because he can't yell, so it would be difficult to yell out lines over the crowd (and ostensibly resist the urge to yell at officials).
Here's the audio of the session.
February 8, 2012 - 12:39 PM
The first thing Boston coach Claude Julien was asked after his team's pregame skate today was how strange it would be to not see Lindy Ruff on the Sabres' bench. Tonight's game, after all, will be just the second one since 1997 with Ruff absent.
Julien admitted it would be odd and said he's had several close calls in practice as well with collisions like Ruff and with pucks to the head like the one Edmonton's Tom Renney took Monday in Toronto.
"He may pop in there, you never know," Julien said of Ruff. "But I know he's been through a pretty bad fall. You don't like to see those things. Tom gets the puck in the head and it just goes to show you there's always a risk out there.
"... It happens. That's why you've got to be ready all the time. Sometimes when you see it, you can brace yourself. When you don't, it can be a tough fall. We don't have much protection underneath that sweatsuit except for the extra weight we carry."
Julien confirmed that Tuukaa Rask, who beat the Sabres in the playoffs as a rookie in 2010, will start tonight against Ryan Miller instead of Tim Thomas. Rask is a backup goalie who hardly has backup numbers -- he's 11-6-2 and third in the NHL in both goals-against average (1.88) and save percentage (.936). But like his team, Rask has struggled of late with an 0-2-1 record, and figures of 3.26 and .884 in the last three games.
Rask is 4-3, 2.28, .931 in his career against Buffalo in the regular season. Thomas, meanwhile, is 10-9-4 against Buffalo and his stats against the Sabres (3.10, .899) are his worst in every category against teams he's played at least 10 games.
February 8, 2012 - 11:45 AM
Lindy Ruff will not be behind the First Niagara Center bench tonight for the Buffalo Sabres for the first time since March 20, 2006, and James Patrick will be in charge as the Sabres meet the Boston Bruins.
Patrick will move from changing the defense pairs to changing the forward lines and Kevyn Adams, who has been on the bench all season, will change the defense. First-year assistant Teppo Numminen will move down from the press box to the bench for the first time since his playing career ended here in 2009.
Patrick said Ruff is "hoping to be here" but it's certainly up in the air if the head coach if will be in the building tonight. Patrick said he could be in the press box or could simply stay in the coaches' suite in the locker room area and watch the game on the big-screen TV.
Patrick said it a little unusual to be calling forward lines but will try to keep things business as usual.
"The helpful thing is there's a lot of veteran guys with Pommer [Jason Pominville] and Gaus [Paul Gaustad] and Derek Roy," Patrick said. "It's a pretty veteran lineup. And they communicate on the bench and I don't expect any problems.
"It is a new voice but at the same time, the game plan will be the same," Pominville said. "The systems will be the same. Not much is going to change besides the person speaking and talking to us in intermission. Our focus has to remain the same. No matter who's there, we have the trust and confidence in what they're capable of doing."
"It's the ebb and flows of hockey. You can't predict how you're going to play the game either," said defenseman Jordan Leopold, whose collision with Ruff Monday caused the coach's three broken ribs. "It's one of those things. We're plenty prepared either way. If Lindy were back there, great. If not, we'll make do and stick with our system. He's made sure everything is implemented. It's just a matter of us going out there and doing it."
Patrick had a brief on-ice meeting with the team at end of the morning skate and said his message was to continue to be hard on the puck as the club has been during its 3-0-1 run. He said his first foray as a head coach should be interesting, especially if he needs to make his case known to the referees.
"Usually Lindy has to tell me to stop yelling at the referees so I've had a lot of practice at that," Patrick said. "You get answers or get a little more respect whhen you're the head coach. Hopefully that's not an issue."
Thomas Vanek skated with the team today and Patrick said he's improving. Vanek confirmed he's hoping to play this weekend, either Friday against Dallas or Saturday against Tampa Bay.
Hear Patrick's session with reporters below:
February 5, 2012 - 4:46 PM
Here's some numerology on Ryan Miller in the wake of his 235th career win Saturday night on Long Island, which allowed him to break Dominik Hasek's franchise record.
First Win: Nov. 22, 2002, vs. Columbus (5-4)
First Shutout: Jan. 14, 2003, at Minnesota (1-0)
100th Win: Feb. 10, 2008 vs. Florida (5-3)
200th Win: Dec. 28, 2010 at Edmonton (4-2)
234th Win: Jan. 31, 2012 at New Jersey (2-1/shootout)
235th Win: Feb. 4, 2012 at NY Islanders (4-3/shootout)
Career Record: 235-141-44-1 (W-L-OTL-T)
Only Tie: Jan. 16, 2003 at San Jose (2-2)
Most Saves: 48, Jan. 8, 2010, in 3-2 win over Toronto.
Career shutouts: 24
Shootout record: 33-21
February 4, 2012 - 11:56 PM
UNIONDALE -- Ryan Miller had a pretty big smile in the Sabres' locker room after Saturday's 4-3 shootout win over the Islanders, and he had a puck marked 235 with him after setting the franchise record for victories by a goaltender.
Hear Miller's thoughts below on the record, the big comeback win and the overtime penalty kill that made it all possible.
(For those asking, I made it out of the Nassau Coliseum unscathed this time. Red light showed open door at Gate 5 and concourse was filled with workers. Told you last year they were all Jets fans. Not a soul).
February 4, 2012 - 1:01 PM
UNIONDALE -- The Sabres face a red-hot team tonight in the New York Islanders but for once, Buffalo was the team sitting in a city waiting for their opponent to show up. The Islanders posted a 2-1 overtime win last night in Ottawa but between the long ride to the airport there and customs and the flight home, they probably weren't in their beds until the 2 a.m. range.
One school of thought after today's pregame skate is a quick jump on the Islanders is rarely as important as it will be tonight.
"It's important if we get the puck down low below the goal line and really spend the majority of the first period there, or at least the first 10 minutes maybe," said coach Lindy Ruff. "Sometimes a team gets a little bit stuck in back-to-back games."
The Islanders (21-22-7) will be gunning to get to .500 tonight while the Sabres can move ahead of them with a regulation win. Buffalo can be anywhere from 11th to 15th in the East after tonight's play.
The Islanders are 6-1 in their last seven against the Sabres. They're 5-1-1 in their last seven overall this season and 10-5-1 in the last 16. And their top line of John Tavares centering Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo has been one of the hottest in the league.
Tavares was named the NHL's First Star for January after leading the league with 22 points in the month. In his last 16 games, he has 11 goals and 15 assists.
"They play very well together," said Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers. "Tavares has proven he's a pretty special player in this league. Especially as of late, he's been unbelievable for them."
"They're a tough line to control and Tavares is becoming one of the premier younger players in the league,'" Ruff said. "His stats are really going up (53 points in 50 games), his skating has been excellent and they've got some good chemistry."
Ryan Miller will start in goal. Ruff said the Sabres will dress all the forwards for the warmup, although Zack Kassian was the extra this morning and would be the best bet to join Marc-Andre Gragnani as a scratch.
January 31, 2012 - 12:42 PM
MONTREAL -- Tyler Ennis, who has been out since spraining his ankle a second time this season Dec. 17, will return to the Sabres tonight against Montreal.
Not only is he excited to be back, he's thrilled to be making a return to center. He played in the middle in juniors and the minors. With Jochen Hecht sidelined by a concussion, the Sabres needed someone to play center and are ready to try Ennis.
Paul Gaustad may also return from injury. He will skate in the warm-up and coach Lindy Ruff will make a game-time decision on the center's status.
Marc-Andre Gragnani will be the healthy scratch on defense.
To hear the interviews with Ruff and Ennis, click the audio files below.
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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.
About Sabres Edge
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.
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