BuffaloNews.com and the Sabres Edge blog will provide thorough coverage leading up to and following today's 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline.
It kicks off with The News' Bucky Gleason, John Vogl and Mike Harrington live chatting at 12:30 p.m. A live two-hour video broadcast starts at 1:30 p.m., hosted by Tim Graham and Jay Skurski, with updates from Vogl and Harrington from First Niagara Center. Any news conferences will be carried live as well.
New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano is suffering from the same flu bug that forced goaltender Evgeni Nabakov to stay home on this trip, and he has decided to stay back at the team hotel and not direct the Isles in tonight's game at First Niagara Center.
(No truth to the rumor Capuano was completely sickened by his team's no-show Monday against Ottawa.)
Capuano will be replaced tonight by Doug Weight, the longtime NHL veteran who won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and wrapped up his career with the Isles last season. By this time, I'm guessing Weight knows who Jason Pominville is.
You may recall that it was Weight's boarding call against Pominville during overtime of Game Six here that set up Daniel Briere's overtime goal that allowed the Sabres to pull even in the '06 Eastern Conference finals. Weight said afterward he didn't even know Pominville's first name, to which the then-Buffalo rookie famously shot back, "He knows my last name because he hit me from behind."
Great memories. And now the Sabres struggle just to climb into -- maybe -- 11th place in the East if things all go the right way tonight. Oh, well.
Be sure to join me here at 7 for tonight's live game blog.
A quiet morning in Sabreland as a only a few players took an optional skate in First Niagara Center prior to tonight's game against the New York Islanders. Ryan Miller will be in goal for Buffalo, and he posted his franchise-record 235th career victory Feb. 4 in the Nassau Coliseum when the Sabres posted a 4-3 shootout win. The Islanders won the first two meetings, 2-1 and 4-2, as Jhonas Enroth started in goal.
The Islanders are coming off Monday's brutal 6-0 loss to Ottawa and enter tonight's game one point ahead of the Sabres in the tight Eastern Conference standings. They struggled in goal in that game as Kevin Poulin got a quick hook after two goals in the first 95 seconds and was replaced by Al Montoya, who beat Buffalo here in November. Starter Evgeni Nabokov has been saddled with the flu since Thursday and did not make the trip.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano did not attend his team's optional morning skate due to the flu and assistant Doug Weight said that Poulin will start in goal again tonight.
Tonight's game is the 150th regular season between the teams. Buffalo leads the series, 72-55-22, and is 40-23-11 against the Isles at home.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.