November 8, 2011 - 11:32 AM
It's been six days since Ryan Miller has been in goal for the Buffalo Sabres. The wait ends tonight when Miller gets the top job in the crease back as the Winnipeg Jets come to First Niagara Center.
Coach Lindy Ruff wasn't giving any hints yesterday but said today he made his decision on the flight home Saturday from Ottawa after Jhonas Enroth posted a 3-2 shootout win over the Senators, his second in two days. Miller's renewed vigor and feistiness during and after Monday's practice had no bearing on the choice, the coach said.
"Everything in this case gets blown out of proportion a little bit,' Ruff said. "Probably Jhonas' numbers (4-0-0, 1.41, .952) are a little unrealistic and Ryan's (0-4, 3.91 in the last four) have taken a hit on some real bad plays by our hockey club at the same time. Any player can go through a tough stretch. In Ryan's situation, he's played good but he hasn't played great and I'll be the first to admit that. It might be a timely save here or there that makes a difference."
Ruff said he's sensed a difference in his team since the seven-minute nightmare Wednesday against Philadelphia that saw Miller get yanked after giving up three goals. The Sabres dominated the final 40 minutes of that game and then put together solid efforts against Calgary and Ottawa.
"I think that was a big wakeup call and I tried to use putting the goalie in without taking a timeout as the opportunity to talk to the team," Ruff said. "The referee was lambasting me at the same time but that situation is an eye-opener. We got off to a good start [to the season]. We were a little off track, a little inconsistent and we need to get back to being a lot harder team on the puck and lot harder team to play against when we don't have it."
Miller declined to speak to the media today. That's a little unusual for him, but there wasn't much new ground to cover anyway after he spoke for six minutes yesterday. And it's not unusual at all in the context of the league. Like starting pitchers in baseball, many NHL goalies don't speak after the morning skate on gameday.
No changes to the lineup. Marc-Andre Gragnani remains in at defense and Mike Weber remains a scratch.
Here the audio from Ruff's chat today with reporters below.
October 15, 2011 - 1:08 PM
PITTSBURGH -- Jhonas Enroth gets the call in goal tonight as the Sabres meet the Penguins in Consol Energy Center and coach Lindy Ruff insisted after today's optional skate that he's turning over a new leaf in the way he uses his backup goalie.
"We plan on using Jhonas a fair amount," Ruff said. "So in back to back situations we're defeinitely going to use him. The overall plan for him is every three or four games to get him in. He had a great preaseason for us, had a great finish to the year for us so I don't have any hesitation putting Jhonas in."
Ruff, of course, has had plenty of second thoughts about using backups since Martin Biron was traded in 2007. But Enroth seems like he won the coach over with his play last March when Ryan Miller was injured. Enroth was 9-2-2 overall last season with a 2.73 goals against average.
"We've got faith he can play well for us and that's important," Ruff said. "We're in a busy part of our schedule and we're looking for him to step in."
"I'm very excited," said Enroth, who has been idle since the Oct. 4 exhibition in Mannheim, Germany. " It's going to be a lot of fun to finally get a game under my belt."
Although Enroth is used to being a starter, he said he's adjusting to the fact he won't be getting every-day work.
"The biggest difference is you have to practice harder, stay out there a little bit longer every day and try to stay sharp that way," he said. "When it comes to a game, it's always the same thing."
More from the pregame skates:
---The Sabres will continue to scratch Jochen Hecht, Matt Ellis and Mike Weber, who is a Pittsburgh native. Cheap plug: Read more from Weber in Sunday's Sabres notebook.
---Sidney Crosby skated fully for the Penguins but there is no timetable as to when he will return from his concussion. Crosby does not speak to the media on gamedays while he is not in the lineup. Evgeni Malkin (leg) is out tonight while East Amherst's Brooks Orpik (abdominal) skated on his own prior to the team. Coach Dan Bylsma said Orpik, who has yet to play this year, is improving.
Bylsma noted the two short-handed goals the Sabres gave up last night against Carolina and said teams that play 1-3-1 sets or four forwards on their power play (Buffalo does both) can be susceptible to quick breakouts if they lose puck battles along the boards. The Penguins are dangerous killing penalties but Ruff said the Sabres won't change their approach.
"We're not going to get defensive on the power play," he said. "We're just going to make some smarter decisions. ... There's no chance you're going to be successful on the power play if you take a defensive approach. We're not going to do that. If you give up the odd opportunity being overly aggressive, that's OK but we're not going to do what we did last night."
April 26, 2011 - 7:36 PM
PHILADELPHIA -- Greetings again from high atop the Wells Fargo Center as we get set for Game Seven of what's been a classic first-round playoff series (It's also the fifth game I've covered here since March 6 so I would be more than happy to get to the Verizon Center if the Sabres oblige this evening).
The Sabres and Flyers have played six games, plus a combined roughy 10 minutes of overtime, and Philly's 17-16 advantage in goals is simply courtesy of Kimmo Timonen's empty-netter in Game Three. Pretty amazing.
At this point, the Sabres are playing with the house's money here. Sure, they blew a golden opportunity to close out the series Sunday and frittering away a pair of two-goal leads might haunt them all summer if they don't win tonight. But they're the seventh seed and the Flyers are the No. 2. And even without Chris Pronger and Jeff Carter, close Flyer watchers say they've played some of their best hockey since the new year in this series. Their problem has just been some horrific goaltending.
The Flyers are going with Brian Boucher tonight and he cannot have the start he did in Game Five, when he handed Buffalo two cheapies to Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek. The odd thing to note is that Boucher actually has better numbers (2.13 GAA, .935 save percentage) than Ryan Miller (2.61/.925). Miller has two shutouts and two five-goal games in the series. The Sabres are so short-handed, you figure he's going to have to nearly pitch another shutout.
We have had all kinds of information all day on the Sabres Edge blog, including notes, quotes and plenty of audio. Be sure to go back and check it all out if you've missed it. And be sure to check out the archive of our pregame live chat.
There's been a lot of jaw-flapping in this series since the end of Game Four and it's finally time for all the words to stop. It's time to play. Sixty minutes -- and maybe more -- to decide a winner. Keep it here for all your updates.
LINEUP: Montador is a scratch for Buffalo. So are Ellis-Kaleta-Connolly-Pominville. Roy-Hecht-Grier-Mancari are all in.
SABRES STARTERS: Vanek-Roy-Hecht-Sekera-Myers-Miller (guess they'll find out right away if these guys can play)
FLYERS STARTERS: Carcillo-Richards-Versteeg-Coburn-Timonen-Boucher.
7:37 p.m.: The Flyers take the ice to roars from the crowd. They pass out orange T-shirts here and EVERYONE is wearing it tonight. Quite a look.
7:38 p.m.: The Sabres hit the ice. Boos.
7:40 p.m.: Another Lauren Hart-Kate Smith duet. Hard to beat that. Pretty deafening in here right now.
Of note: Stafford has four shots and Gerbe three to lead Buffalo. Briere has six to lead the Flyers. ... The Sabres have the lead in faceoffs, 23-20, but Gaustad's two clean losses were crushers. The Flyers have blocked 23 shots -- 17 in the second period -- while the Sabres blocked just 11. ... Briere, Richards and Giroux all have two-point games. ... Roy has played a mostly ineffective 13:08. The Flyers have gotten 12:17 out of Pronger. Ice time leaders are Coburn (16:24) and Leopold (16:26).
9:35 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
18:01 left: Good night, nurse. Leino goes down the left wing and pounds a slapshot from inside the circle over Miller's left shoulder. Flyers lead, 4-0. And here comes Enroth. Miller taps him on the pads, Lindy says something to Miller and No. 30 disappears down the tunnel into the offseason.
16:09 left: Boucher stops Sekera from the point and the "Booosh" chants come out again. Fans having a great time here and why not? Team has played great. Flyers could easily go to the finals again if Boucher can give them consistent goaltending and Pronger keeps getting healthier.
14:00 left: The Flyers won't know their second-round opponent tonight because the Habs have beaten Boston, 2-1, and they'll play Game Seven tomorrow in Beantown. East second round if Boston wins will be WAS/PIT-TB winner and PHI/BOS rematch. If Montreal wins: WAS-MON rematch and BOS/PIT-TB winner.
13:27 left: And the Flyers still don't have a shutout this year. Myers takes a Stafford pass and beats Boucher cleanly from the slot. Flyers lead, 4-1.
12:17 left: Timeout, Philly. Sabres playing better and Laviolette doesn't want anything goofy to happen given how leads seem to disappear in this series. Shots are 7-3 for Buffalo in the period.
9:57 left: Carcillo is one of those punk players you love on your team and hate if ye's on the other team. Well, tonight he's been doing a great job around the net causing havoc and he just got rewarded as he backhanded one past Enroth while falling down. What a pest. "Icing on the Cake" reads the sign-man's sign. Flyers lead, 5-1.
8:54 left: They just announced a scoring change on the third Philly goal. It's now going to Van Riemsdyk, his fourth of the series, instead of Giroux. They ruled Van Riemsdyk tipped it in.
8:15 left: Flyers fans singing good-bye to the Sabres as Gerbe and Carcillo are shown the gate for the night. Gerbe gets 10, while Carcillo gets 10 plus a game. Hmmm. The last few minutes as Sabres for some guys in uniform. Maybe names like Mancari, Grier and Niedermayer? What do they do about Boyes? And this is probably the end too for Connolly, Montador and Lalime?
6:29 left: Boucher hasn't been tested but you can see his confidence too. Nice stop on Sekera. Out on top of his crease. Confident in what he's doing.
5:41 left: Timonen for holding.
4:39 left: Sabres convert as Boyes tips home a Roy feed. So he won't have a donut for the series but it hardly means anything. Flyers lead, 5-2. Boyes had gone 18 games without a goal.
3:02 left: Enroth with a great save on Powe's backhand tip of a Briere feed. How has Briere been so alone in this series?
2:00 left: Enroth to the bench.
58.5 left; Sabres have zone time, lose the puck and Ennis gets a slashing penalty.
Mercifully, it's over: A 5-2 loss ends the Buffalo season. The better team won here tonight. Final shots were 36-27. The Sabres had their chance in Game Six and they'll rue that one all summer. See you in training camp.
Of note: AP guru Mike Haim points out the only other time the Sabres had just two shots in a first period of the playoff game was on April 29, 1997 against Ottawa. That was a Game Seven overtime win too. Hmmm.). ... In Montreal, Boston's Milan Lucic got a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a hit from behind on old friend Jaroslav Spacek. Sabres can't even get five minutes called, let alone the gate. Of course, it gets called in Montreal where if you breathe on a Canadien, the crowd goes beserk and every referee in the league gets spooked. Biggest bunch of whiny fans in the league. ... OK, I'm told Grier's glove deflected the goal. Fine. Still hate it.
Stats: Coburn and Van Riemsdyk had three shots on goal. Grier and Gerbe have the only shots for Sabres. Um, top forwards? You gonna show up? Flyers had a 12-8 edge in faceoffs. Sabres have a 15-11 edge in hits. Both teams have blocked six shots. Even with just a 1-0 score, that might have been the Sabres' worst period since the new year.
8:38 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
18:56 left: Giroux for interference. Miller made a big stop on Versteeg after just 14 seconds. Let's see if Sabres can capitalize.
17:29 left: Ennis a near miss. Couldn't tee the puck from backhand to forehand with a lot of net available and Boucher smothered. Great work at the points by Myers and Gragnani.
16:39 left: Boucher stops a Stafford wrister. Sabres have four shots in this period already.
15:20 left: Gaustad and Boyes have two routine easy clears out of the zone and fail both times. Zherdev fires wide on the first and Van Riemsdyk nearly puts it home on the second (hit Zherdev) before Myers takes an interference penalty.
15:15 left: Gaustad is killing the Sabres. Lost the faceoff and bad clear for another goal. An easy PP goal. Lost another faceoff. Shot from point hits Leopold, drops at Briere's feet and he has a tap-in. Flyers lead, 2-0. Shots are 18-6. Briere has six goals in the series.
12:20 left: Roy to the dressing room after a hard hit. Was it the leg? Pretty slow on the way off.
10:51 left: Butler for hooking on Briere. Another goal here and they blow the roof off this place.
9:41 left: There goes the roof. Pronger can't shoot but he can pass. Feeds Giroux for a bullet from the left circle. Miller might have been screened by Leopold and/or Van Riemsdyk. Flyers have 2 PP goals and lead, 3-0. The "Mil-ler, Mil-ler" chants are out and this baby is just about over. Shots are 22-8.
7:01 left: Shots are 23-9. Sabres mounting little offense. At a time like this, you think back to 2001. Can't help it. Sabres were 78 seconds away from a series-closing win before Mario Lemieux's fluke goal tied Game Six and forced overtime. Buffalo lost that one and Game Seven on the Darius Kasparaitis goal. Sabres were 10 minutes away in regulation of Game Six and couldn't get the overtime goal they needed either. With just 27 minutes left here, they don't have a sniff of this Game Seven.
6:30 left: Another Mike Haim special: Briere's six goals most in a series against Sabres since Quebec's Michel Goulet had six in 1985 -- in a five-gamer!
4:00 left: Wild sequence sees Miller with a left glove to the face of Carcillo, which had to be a roughing penalty but wasn't called, followed by few seconds later by Carcillo doing a fake rush on Miller. Van Riemsdyk then barely misses the far post on a great solo dash.
3:32 left: Shots are 25-11. This place is insane right now. There is almost no way for you to talk to the person next to you in the press box. Like being at a heavy metal concert I would guess (no, I've never been to one).
1:12 left: Boucher with a couple good saves in tight on Stafford. Solid text reminder from Sully: Flyers did not have a shutout all season. Imagine getting one in Game Seven after all this talk about their goaltending? Carle gone for roughing.
57.8 left: Coburn and Myers go for cross-checking and slashing. Stays 5-on-4.
END-2ND: It's 3-0 for the Flyers. Shots are 27-14 (it was 12-11 for Buffalo in that period)
7:42 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
18:26 left: Pronger is taking a regular shift for the Flyers it would appear. Just made a steal in the neutral zone and Miller made a save on his wrist shot.
17:03: Gragnani and Briere go for holding and roughing, respectively. The lines have looked like this so far: Vanek-Roy-Hecht, Ennis-Niedermayer-Stafford, Gerbe-Gaustad-Mancari, McCormick, Boyes-Grier.
13:17 left: No whistles for quite a while. The Sabres have been pretty brutal with the puck so far. Giroux was alone in front and had most of the net but hit the post. Shots are 5-1 for Philly and the puck has hardly been out of the Sabres' zone. The defense pairs, by the way, are Sekera-Myers, Leopold-Gragnani and Butler-Weber. So Butler and Myers have been broken up.
11:53 left: Gragnani pounds Briere with a crosscheck into the goalpost. Knocks the net off and forces a whistle. No one noticed? Lucky there. Shots are 7-1.
10:52 left: Sabres' best chance is a 45-foot slapper from the boards by Grier that Boucher gloved. Buffalo has gotten nowhere near the Flyers' net so far. Shots are 7-2.
9:00 left: Sabres have held on for 11 minutes as the crowd was roaring. Let's see if they can settle this game down some. Flyers threw a pretty big roundhouse at them from the start.
8:36 left: Boyes fires wide on a 2-on-1 with Roy. Good to see him shoot but how big a pressure release would that have been for him to put that one home?
6:16 left: Shots are 11-2. That's a pretty good reflection of how the play has gone. And remember, the first period has been owned by Buffalo in this series, 11-5. The Flyers have finally found a way to get off to a good start. Don't have to worry about your goalie giving up a softie if he faces no shots.
5:45 left: Just as I said that, Boucher nearly gift-wrapped one to Hecht by losing the puck behind the net. Boucher recovers with help from Pronger & Co. Pronger has played eight shifts and 4:38 so far. Basically a regular turn. Maybe he's feeling better. Sure. But he knows this is Game Seven too. They lose, his hand will feel fine by October. A gamer for sure.
4:37 left: Briere for boarding on Niedermayer. Another dangerous play in the corner. Niedermayer stunned for a bit. Now on the bench. And the crowd actually booed the penalty call. FlyerFan, that could have easily been five minutes.
2:33 left: Flyers kill it easily. Richards actually had the best chance with a tip of a Giroux pass that went wide. Standing ovation at the whistle.
29.3 left: Miller with an absolute stoning of Richards from the slot after a terrible giveaway pass from Leopold. Passed it right to him. Sabres desperate to get out of this period zip-zip.
18.2 left: Devastating. Sabres simply couldn't clear the zone. Too many faceoffs. They lose another one (Briere beat Gaustad) and Coburn flips one from the point that somehow gets through Miller's legs. It dropped. Gotta stop it. Miller had been the best player on the ice by far. Almost got Buffalo outta here with no damage. Flyers lead, 1-0.
END-1ST: Shots are 16-2. Are the Sabres simply out of gas in this series? Looks like it. And that might have been the worst goal Miller has given up the whole series at the worst time. 1-0 is a huge difference right now from 0-0 given the way the Flyers are playing.
April 26, 2011 - 7:12 PM
Here at the Sabres' lines for tonight's Game Seven:
Jochen Hecht-Derek Roy-Thomas Vanek
Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Mark Mancari
Tyler Ennis-Rob Niedermayer-Drew Stafford
Cody McCormick-Brad Boyes-Mike Grier
UPDATE: Steve Montador is the defenseman that was scratched. Andrej Sekera is dressed in his place.
April 26, 2011 - 5:12 PM
April 24, 2011 - 3:07 PM
Welcome to a potential clinching game in HSBC Arena, something we haven't seen since Game Five against the Islanders in 2007. And we haven't seen a Game Six clincher since the Sabres waxed the Flyers here in 2001 with a crazy 8-0 rout. I do not expect that today.
We're waiting for the lineups to be made official but Michael Leighton was the first goalie on the ice for the Flyers and Chris Pronger DID take the warmup. So we'll see. No Derek Roy or Jochen Hecht for the Sabres. Matt Ellis is in for Jason Pominville.
Keep it here well into the evening for all your updates and we should have the lineup decisions from the Flyers in the next couple of minutes.
3:10 pm.: Lineups are in and Leighton and Pronger are both in for Philly. Connolly is wearing an A for Buffalo in Pominville's absence.
Sabres starters: Ennis-Niedermayer-Stafford-Leopold-Gragnani. Goal: Miller
Flyers starters: Van Riemsdyk-Richards-Versteeg-Carle-Meszaros. Goal: Leighton.
3:15 p.m.: The Sabres take the ice to a huge roar from their gold pom-pom waving fans. NBC's Darren Pang snags Nathan Gerbe for the quickie interview at center ice.
Of note: "We Can Be Heroes" is one of the tunes played in the intermission here. Good choice. Which Sabre might join Ennis in that category? ... This is the first playoff overtime at HSBC Arena since Daniel Alfredsson won the clinching Game Five of the Eastern Conference final here for Ottawa on May 19, 2007. ... Meszaros has played 28:31 for Philly, Leopold leads Buffalo at 25:05. Stafford is next at 24:09. ... Van Riemsdyk has 10 shots on goal in the game. Wow. Briere has six. Stafford and Coburn have five, while Gerbe and Zherdev have four. ... Sabres have a 41-32 edge in faceoffs. Buffalo also leads by a smidge in hits (22-20) but Flyers have the edge in blocks, 16-15.
6:20 p.m.: The puck is dropped. Where's Van Miller right now? Fasten your seatbelts.
17:51 left: No shots yet.
17:31 left: Gaustad just wide.
17:07 left: Kaleta shot from the wall stopped by Boucher with Gaustad in front looking for a rebound.
15:17 left: Leino with a tap-in. You could feel it coming. FLYERS WIN 5-4.
Of note: Vanek and Briere now share the NHL lead for playoff goals with five. Gragnani has seven points, one off the NHL lead, and is tied with Anaheim's Corey Perry for the assist lead with six. ... The Sabres are 2-5 on the PP and the Flyers are 1-4. ... Pronger has played just 3:24 -- all on the power play -- and took a penalty of his own. So he's basically useless. ... Gragnani is leading the Sabres in ice time at 18:01. Stafford is leading forwards at 16:24 as he's gotten 3:54 on the PP and 2:45 on the PK. Meszaros leads the Flyers are 18:34 but he limped off late after taking an Ennis shot to the foot.
5:29 p.m.: The puck is dropped. Connolly did not return. Imagine he's in the quiet room.
16:38 left: Stafford off the post on a 2-on-1. Great saucer pass by Ennis. Puck was rolling and he struggled to chip it up high and true. Flyer into the net to stop play and Stafford smashes his stick on the glass in disgust.
16:35 left: Boucher snags Gerbe quick wrister off the faceoff.
15:00 left: Boucher with a save on Boyes.
14:50 left: Miller comes back by stopping a Briere slapper and Leopold gets the crowd roaring by wiping out Briere behind the net. Shots are 4-3, Buffalo.
13:00 left: Ennis is skating circles around the Flyers for two games straight. Another great shift ended with a Weber slapper just missing.
12:36 left: Offside on Flyers and the crowd is up waving the pompoms. (And don't tell me how to spell that. NO ONE says "pom-pons")
11:21 left: Butler for holding. Pronger comes back out.
10:09 left: Pronger can only pass. He can't shoot at all. Won't shoot. Had a couple chances.
9:17 left: Hartnell with a tap-in on a Richards pass -- under both Gaustad and Miller just four seconds after the penalty expires. GAME TIED, 4-4. Shots are 42-31 for the Flyers and it's 11-5 in this period. Sabres tried to hold on for 24 minutes. Couldn't do it.
8:22 left: Connolly is listed as a MAY RETURN with an upper-body injury.
3:30 left: Sabres getting outworked badly. Are they out of gas? Shots are 14-5 for Flyers.
3:26 left: Vanek in alone stopped.
3;15 left: Briere passes on a 2-on-1. Didn't connect.
2:54 left: Offside. Flyers have 11-1 edge in shots in last 12 minutes. Ouch.
1:23 left: Kaleta with 70-footer that Boucher gloves but has to hold for faceoff.
39.5 left: Brutal icing on Flyers. Take another step.
And we are going to ooovertime: It's 4-4 through 60 minutes. Shots are 45-32 for the Flyers (14-6 in the third period)
Of note: The Flyers' power play is 2 for 29 in the series. The Sabres are 6 for 25. Myers had three assists in the first period and Gragnani had two more. Myers played 8:03. He's a beast. Van Riemsdyk has a game-high three shots on goal. By far the Flyers' best player. Has Mike Richards even played in this series? ... AP stats guru Mike Haim reports Vanek's five goals in the series are a first for a Sabre since the immortal Chris Gratton had five against the Flyers in 2001. ... Sabres have an 11-5 edge in the first period in this series.
4:23 p.m: BOUCHER IS IN GOAL FOR THE FLYERS. And the puck is dropped.
13:14 left: Apologies for the disappearance. I had a frozen laptop, not related to Internet issues, and it took a while to get it back. The Sabres' lead was cut to 3-2 on James Van Riemsdyk's snapshot from the slot 49 seconds into the period and the Flyers have been good in this period. Buffalo has a 7-6 edge in shots but Boucher has too much degree of difficulty to deal with ... The Flyers have been so good in the Buffalo zone for spells that Lindy Ruff used his timeout with 16:19 left. Didn't look like he said much. ... Gragnani pulled a puck off the goalline a few seconds earlier that was going in.
So we now should be able to resume our regular programming. Shots are 23-15 for Philly.
12:12 left: Leopold for holding after a scrum. Never event saw an arm in the air. Terrible call.
11:17 left: And the Flyers' PP finally gets it done. Connnolly played a long time with no stick and Briere blows it by Miller. Game tied, 3-3.
10:03 left: Boyes high and wide from the slot.
9:09 left: Sabres have an 11-5 bulge in goals in this period. It's 8-1 for the Flyers in the second. Hard to figure that out.
8:08 left: Boucher snags an Ennis shot to hit Carle's leg just before it gets over the line.
7:27 left: Miller makes the save on a 3-on-2. It's the Flyers' 30th shot of the game (Buffalo has 17).
6:54 left: Good shift from Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta results in Versteeg slashing penalty. Vanek PP time.
6:03 left: Richards boarding Connolly from behind. How is that not a major? Two-man for 1:10.
5:18 left: Boucher holding firm on three shots so far. Coburn dumped Vanek well after a whistle. Timeout, Philly.
4:00 left: FLYERS SURVIVE
3:51 left: And just like that , another goaltending mishap. Gerbe with the quick snapper high glove on Boucher, who pounds the ice after he misses it. It was deflected by O'Donnell. Sabres lead, 4-3. It was 12 seconds after the PP ended.
1:58 left: Shots on goal are 30-26 for the Flyers. The Sabres have had the last nine in the game.
END-2ND: Sabres lead, 4-3. Shots were 18-14 for Buffalo and it's 31-26 through two. A wild affair.
3:21 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
18:39 left: Great shift by Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta. Kaleta saves an icing and Gaustad throws his weight around twice. He ends up grappling with Hartnell and body slamming him behind the net. They're both getting two minutes. Could have been five. Crowd loves it.
17:47 left: A 3-on-2 break and Ennis feeds Niedermayer for a wicked snapshot to the top corner. Leighton on his knees. Has to make that save. right under the bar. Sabres lead, 1-0. The place explodes. Niedermayer's first playoff goal since 2007 with Anaheim. The guy was a dog during the season but great in this series. His 18th career playoff goal, first since the '07 final vs. Ottawa.
16:52 left: Miller stops a Coburn deflection, Coburn's second good chance of the game. Shots are 5-2 for Philly.
14:00 left: Pronger has not been on the ice yet. They dressed seven D in the game. He must be there for moral support.
12:30 left: Shots are 7-2 for the Flyers but it's not like they've had any real control of things. Sabres have been buzzing in the Philly zone but mostly kept outside. You get the feeling another goal on Leighton might really open the floodgates (or bring in Boucher).
12:10 left: Carcillo for cross checking. Not the most intelligent play in the world, coming in the offensive zone against McCormick.
11:19 left: And the penalty kills the Flyers as Myers puts one toward the net and Vanek reaches behind and deflects it off Andrej Meszaros' leg and in. Sabres lead, 2-0. Two goals on four shots. Vanek's fourth of the series, three on the PP. Another assist for Gragnani.
9:55 left: Gerbe for holding. Let's see if Pronger comes out. Shots are 10-4 for Philly. Pronger skating around limbering his legs. Looks like he's going to be a PP-only guy today. Gerbe has to think better than that. Don't get engaged with anyone and grab a stick when your team has all the momentum.
9:22 left: Briere-like boos first time Pronger touches the puck.
7:15 left: Solid job on the PK. Flyers had virtually no zone time at all. Shots are 12-4 for Philly but Miller is sharp again. The crowd up here by us is chanting, "Who's Your Goalie?" Reminds me of Yankee Stadium's "Who's Your Daddy" at Pedro Martinez. Solid creativity there.
6:39 left: Briere trips Kaleta well after the whistle in the Buffalo crease. Kaleta chirps at him on the way to the bench.
5:35 left: Leighton robs Montador from the slot and Montador misses the backhand rebound with much of the net. That would have been just about it for the Flyers and Leighton you'd think.
5:07 left: It was inevitable. Flyers have been better last few minutes. Briere gets open alone in front and flips one past Miller. Sabres lead, 2-1. Shots are 14-5 for Philly.
3:47 left: Connolly for cross checking. Flyers 2 for 27 on the PP in the series and desperately need one here.
2:22 left: Butler for delay over the glass. Big mistake. Another two-manner for the Flyers for 36 seconds.
1:58 left: Pronger for slashing in front of the net as Myers battled him and dropped him after the slash.
1:46 left: Meszaros for high sticking against Gragnani. So much for that Philly power play. Now it's 4-on-3 for Buffalo.
33.0 left: Vanek with an absolutely ridiculous circus goal on the PP. Pulls the puck behind him, through the legs, through Leighton's legs. Sabres lead, 3-1. Leighton has to stop that one too. Flyers have to go to Boucher for 2nd period, right?
End-1st: Sabres lead 3-1. Leighton skates off with mask atop his head, no chance of seeing the ice again. Shots were 17-8 Philly. This series is all about power plays and goaltending. Buffalo is absolutely killing the Flyers in both.
April 22, 2011 - 7:29 PM
PHILADELPHIA -- Greetings from high atop the Wells Fargo center for Game Five and I immediately bring you some good news as we get set for the latest installment of NHL's whine-and-cheesesteak series between the Sabres and Flyers: No, it's not that Chris Pronger is definitely out, although that is good for the Sabres. The big news is I got an Ethernet port going so we're expecting no issues with the connection here and the live blog, as we had in Games One and Two.
Now that you know my technical issues are secure, let's talk hockey. OK, wait a minute. We'll talk hockey in a minute after food. I had to stop at the Reading Terminal Market today and it was phalanx of people to navigate on Good Friday. Saw a Sabres fan wearing a slug jersey bless himself in line at a cheesesteak place. I thought he was worried about eating a Philly delicacy today but folks on Twitter reminded me about Good Friday and no meat (you lose track of days covering one of these).
We flew into Baltimore last night (saving the good folks at One News Plaza nearly $700 apiece on three airfares) and stopped for dinner at G&M Restaurant, about the greatest crabcake place on the planet. Props to John Vogl for that find.
Now, let's talk hockey. The Flyers are going to come out flying and hitting in this one. That's all they've been saying. They've even put incendiary quotes on the jumbotron during the pregame, such as Kimmo Timonen saying they'll double their hits tonight from Game Four and Ville Leino saying the Sabres "won't be heroes so much" on the road.
Here's one way to do it: It looks like injured Jeff Carter might be replaced by 5-foot-11, 180-pound Zac Rinaldo, the organizational thug from the Adirondack Phantoms. He had 331 penalty minutes in the AHL this season -- yes, 331 -- and ended it on a three-game suspension. Reading tweets from Flyers reporters, Rinaldo had more suspensions this year (4) than goals (2).
Ben Holmstrom, who can actually skate and play hockey, also took the warmup. We'll see who gets the call.
Let's see if the Flyers can dent Ryan Miller. Oddly enough, it's Brian Boucher who leads NHL goalies in the playoffs with a .954 save percentage and 1.54 GAA. Miller is fourth at 2.02 and .937, also pretty awesome stats.
We have another thanks-for-nothing-TSN 7:40 start on our hands. We should be able to provide plenty of updates here.
Just got this word from CSNPhilly.com -- They're reporting Pronger and Carter are both out for the series. Wow.
Check out the archive of Bucky and Vogl's pregame chat by going to this link. And be sure to join us Sunday at 2:30 prior to Game Six.
Scratches: It's official that Rinaldo is in over Holmstrom. Also out are Carter, Pronger and Andreas Nodl. The Sabres continue to scratch Roy, Hecht, Morrisonn and Sekera.
Sabres starters: Gerbe-Connolly-Stafford-Butler-Myers. Goal: Miller
Flyers starters: Carcillo-Richards-Versteeg-Coburn-Timonen. Goal: Boucher
10:23: The puck is dropped
15:51 left: Some technical trouble. Shots are 4-0 for Flyers. No great chances.
14:29 LEFT: Ennis on the rebound from Weber. SABRES WIN 4-3..
Of note: Van Riemsdyk leads all players with five shots. Meszaros has four and joins Giroux with two point games while playing 17:28. ... Vanek leads Buffalo with four shots. Sabres have a 19-18 edge in faceoffs -- even though Connolly is 2-10.
9:29 p.m: The puck is dropped.
16:24 left: Just an out-and-out disaster. Sabres doing nothing in this period and the inevitable tying goal comes. Of course, from Briere. Versteeg beats Butler to the puck and Briere sneaks from the back to take Richards' pass and beat Gaustad to the open set by a surprised Miller. Game tied, 3-3.
15:36 left: Leighton stops Boyes. His first decent save. Just the ninth shot he's faced.
13:59 left: Boyes and Ennis get a couple chances and Leighton stops Ennis, who has easily been Buffalo's best forward tonight. This is hard to believe that there's been three huge blown leads this week (NYR vs. Washington and LA vs. San Jose). In most cases, you get a big lead in the playoffs and you lock it down. Pretty amazing.
13:17 left: Leighton stops Stafford cutting in front.
12:24 left: Briere goes for interference. Mauls Gaustad near the Flyers' net. Sabres coming on.
9:55 left: Leighton solid during the PK. Sabres have 27-26 edge in shots. It's 9-2 in this period. They've been much better, oddly enough, since the tying goal. Leighton played just one NHL game this year but you have to remember he led this team to within two games of the Cup last year.
6:45 left: Shots are 27-27.
4:15 left: Timonen with the block on Connolly from the slot. Big news for the Flyers: Giroux limps off and looks bad doing it.
2:22 left: Leopold for hooking. Dumps Zherdev in front. Kind of ticky-tac for this late in this situation.
2:05 left: Giroux in alone. ... Miller stones him. Went right between Butler and Myers.
1:13 left: Timeout, Flyers. Lot of pressure so far. One of their best PPs of the series.
On to OT: We're tied at 3-3. Shots were 11-11 and it's 35-29 through regulation for Philly.
Of note: Flyers credited with 16 hits, Sabres just six. OK, Mr. Statman. Whatever. Myers played 8:57 and Gragnani 7:27. ... Briere is -2 and his penalty cost Flyers third goal. Vanek only Sabre wtih three shots.
NO POMINVILLE, NO LEOPOLD on the bench. Did Pominville get cut when the skate came loose?
17:21 left: Gaustad goes for holding. Building very quiet.
15:30 left: Niedermayer for delay, a rolling puck over the glass. Flyers up two men for nine seconds.
14:32 left: Great save by Miller on the 5-on-3 on a deflection from the edge of the crease by Giroux.
13:12 left: Sabres survive. Flyers power play is just terrible. Crowd booing after an icing.
13:04 left: Sabres say Pominville (lower body) will NOT return. Leopold (upper body) MAY return.
11:48 left: Van Riemsdyk, easily the Flyers' best player in the series, grabs the rebound of Meszaros' point shot, walks around Miller and stuffs it home. Definite danger zone for Sabres. Sabres lead, 3-1.
10:48 left: Miller snares Carle's shot from the point. Crowd getting back into it. Shots are 18-13 for the Flyers.
10:03 left: Now they're really back into it. Meszaros drills a one-timer from the slot past a screened Miller. Sabres lead cut to 3-2. Timeout, Lindy. Shots are 10-1 for Philly in the period.
9:02 left: During commercial, building roaring, heckling Miller, "Let's Go Flyers" etc. Vogl and I agree: At HSBC, they'd play a blooper reel or the kisscam and kill the crowd. That's why the atmosphere stinks there a lot. People running the game presentation don't understand hockey momentum.
6:15 left: Gragnani for cross checking. Looked like a nice dive by Powe. Plus the official at center ice a long way away called it rather than the guy looking right at it. Leopold returned on the last shift by the way.
4:17 left: Miller stops an open Briere to his right. Shots are 23-15 for Philly (14-2 in the period).
3:23 left: Another good save by Miller on a Carcillo backhand from in tight.
End-2nd: Sabres holding on to their 3-2 lead. Shots were 15-5 for Philly (24-18 overall). That's a good example of getting saved by the bell. Sabres need this break.
7:40 p.m.: After another scintillating Lauren Hart-Kate Smith duet, the puck is dropped.
17:36 left: Exactly the start Buffalo wants. A brutal goal allowed by Boucher as Ennis beats him with a low shot nearly from the goalline on the Sabres' first shot. Was Boucher playing a pass? To who? Wow. Sabres lead, 1-0. Ennis' first of the series.
17:14 left: Rinaldo played on the second shift and had a couple of hits, one on Vanek and a solid one on Kaleta. both clean. This place is stone quiet.
16:44 left: Stafford stopped on a wraparound. Sabres need to put every puck on the net while Boucher and this crowd are in shock. See if you get another gift, maybe another fat rebound.
16:09 left: Wow, part II. Kaleta beats a Flyer to the puck behind the net and tips it to Vanek -- who banks if off Boucher from behind the goal line. Incredible. Sabres lead, 2-0. Vanek's first of the series at even strength and third overall. Sabres lead, 2-0.
15:49 left: This shows the Flyers' problem. I'd have pulled Boucher. But can you really go with your No. 3 guy, even if Michael Leighton led the team to the Stanley Cup finals last year?
12:33 left: Shots are 8-2 for Buffalo. The place is stunned. Pominville just shot wide on an Ennis feed. Myers had a good chance blanked and Boucher made a save on Boyes. Aside from the score, it's a perfect start for Buffalo because the Flyers can't run around like crazy and risk taking penalties. You might not see Rinaldo at all now.
11:10 left: Flyers turning the puck over and Boucher giving out rebounds all over the place. Meszaros gone for tripping Vanek -- gave him the puck away at the blue line and had to prevent a breakaway. Shots are 9-2. I'm surprised Laviolette didn't go for the timeout after the second goal. He might have no choice here if Buffalo converts.
9:00 left: Just one shot on the PP. Let's see if that's some momentum for Philly. Sholts are 10-2.
8:42 left: Another Philly giveaway but Leino stops a 2-on-1 by blocking Stafford's pass to McCormick. This is by far the most lopsided 11 minutes of the series. The Flyers have been absolutely awful from the goal out.
8:17 left: Montador for high sticking. Careless play against the wall going with Hartnell. No reason for it.
6:14 left: Just as the penalty ends, Richards takes a slash at Miller. Butler responds. Crowd irate as Richards and Butler both go. And they have shown replays here at least three times that I've noticed to incite the crowd. Butler roughing, Richards slashing. Lindy would probably say Richards and the crowd are whining again.
5:10 left: Briere for goalie interference. Obvious call there. Not even much booing on the replays.
4:24 left: Great passing on the 4-on-3 and the Sabres convert. Gragnani lets it go and it beats Boucher between the legs. Sabres lead, 3-0, and here comes Leighton for Boucher. Shots are 11-7 for Buffalo.
3:23 left: Miller's best save on Giroux all alone after a Pominville giveaway at the line. And Pominville is off to the dressing room. Dropped his gloves and stick and I'll be totally honest -- I was looking down and typing. Didn't see it.
1:30 left: Weber limps off, took shot off left leg.
End-1st: Sabres hold the 3-0 lead. Shots are 13-9 for Sabres. We also note Leopold didn't play much at the end of that period. We'll have to see how all this injury stuff shakes out.
April 20, 2011 - 7:35 PM
Greetings again from HSBC Arena as we get set for Game Four, which will actually face off in the 7:40 range (raspberries and other noises from the press box in the direction of TSN for that one). I'm still trying to thaw out from the walk over here from One News Plaza a couple of hours ago through a biting wind that made it feel like January. I'm thinking the folks in the Party on the Plaza here at the arena should be inside at a watering hole somewhere? Why would you stand outside in this?
What happened to spring in this town anyway? That's one of the joys of playoff hockey, isn't it? The folks from Philly are snickering because the high temperature was 80 there today. Granted, it's supposed to be 53 range for Game Five on Friday but what we've had here has been ridiculous with the rain, wind, thunderstorms and Monday's snow.
The Bisons were supposed to be having Kids Week with ice cream giveaways all week. Yeah, right. Banged again today after playing two yesterday in 30-degree weather.
So maybe through all this we can agree it's hockey weather after all. By this point in the series, it's hard to have anything insightful to say. One thing that stick out to me is that the Sabres have to find more offense -- actually any offense -- from their top forwards.
They have seven goals in the series, with one each from the likes of Cody McCormick, Patrick Kaleta, Nathan Gerbe and Andrej Sekera. Thomas Vanek has two, both on the power play, and is minus-4. Drew Stafford has the other. Jason Pominville, Brad Boyes and Tim Connolly have yet to score, with Connolly's goalless streak in the playoffs at 26 games. Paul Gaustad hasn't scored either but that's nothing new -- 0 goals in 34 career playoff games. As well as he's playing, I'm not thinking the Sabres are long for these playoffs if Marc-Andre Gragnani continues to be their leading scorers.
The Flyers, meanwhile, continue to try to get through this series without Chris Pronger and take another huge step in that regard tonight. They were brutally mediocre (9-9-7) over the last 25 games but they're finding their stride. Bad news for the Sabres.
Be sure to check out the archive of tonight's pregame chat by going to this link. And if you missed the chat, be sure to join us Friday night at 6:30 for 30 minutes prior to Game Five.
Sabres starters: Gerbe-Connolly-Stafford? (Hmmm). Leopold-Gragnani. Goal: Miller
Flyers starters: Carcillo-Betts-Powe-O'Donnell-Meszaros. Goal: Boucher.
Of note: First off, the Caps have scored three goals in the first 12 1/2 minutes of the third to wipe out their 3-0 deficit and tie the Rangers, 3-3. Wow. ... Back here, Van Riemsdyk leads all players with six shots on goal and has been great again. Best player in the series by a lot. ... Pominville leads Buffalo with three shots. Connolly leads the forwards with 12:26 and that's a joke because he has been terrible most of the night. ... Butler has played a game-high 17:42. Flyers have 14 blocked shots. Sabres have a 20-15 lead in hits and faceoffs are split, 19-19.
9:32 p.m: The puck is dropped.
17:51 left: PP lousy so far. Puck knocked out of zone three times, Butler offside another. One shot. Connolly also passed up a wide-open one from 10 feet. That's why he never scores in the playoffs.
15:00 left: Lots of boos. The Flyers knocked the puck out of the zone 13 times - 13! -- after Buffalo got it in. Sabres had just two shots on the five-minute penalty, Flyers one. Richards was literally jumping up and down in the box as the clock expired. Now, it's five minutes less off the clock but you could have grabbed this game by the throat too. And you would think the Flyers have some momentum now. The crowd is quiet.
13:25 left: Sloppy, sloppy. Icing on Buffalo.
12:04 left: Caps-Rangers going to overtime. Incredible. Bergenheim goal with 3:17 left pulls Lightning into 2-2 tie with Pens after they were down, 2-0. Crazy night so far.
10:00 left: Sabres holding on. Shots are 4-3 for Buffalo.
9:37 left: Miller with the save on Versteeg from the slot.
8:50 left: Save of the SERIES: Miller stones Briere all alone in front with two dekes, snaring it with the glove. The crowd is wild now. Who made that horrible giveaway at the line? Gaustad? That puck has GOT to get out of the zone there. No excuse.
6:29 left: Shots are 6-4 for Flyers.
5:37 left: Boucher stops Pominville slapper and Ennis just misses rebound.
5:21 left: Ennis stopped on breakaway by Boucher.
5:03 left: Another SENSATIONAL STOP by Miller. Diving to his right on a rebound to rob Richards. We got "Ry-an Mil-ler, Ry-an Mil-ler, Ry-an Mil-ler" chants going. Wow.
4:01 left: Kaleta wipes out a great Vanek chance alone in front by wiping out in the crease and knocking the net off. Untouched.
3:00 left: Flyers nearly had too many men on the ice. Faceoff in Philly zone.
1:20 left: Boucher out.
1:12 left: Faceoff in Buffalo zone. Timeout, Flyers.
30.8 left: Miller survives scramble and spikes puck out of the crowd of players. Crowd chanting his name again. Faceoff to Miller's right. They're checking the clock. We think it ran. They're putting it back to 32.6.
18: Gaustad post on empty net
OVER: ANOTHER 1-0 WIN SERIES TIED. BIG SCRUM.
8:37 p.m. The puck is dropped. Myers has returned. But Carter has NOT.
18:19 left: Niedermayer stopped from right in front. Overpassing from Gragnani. Should have shot. Then niedermayer overhandled.
17:13 left: Good stop by Miller on Carcillo on a 3-on-2. Tough time for Weber at the Flyers' line and into the Buffalo zone.
16:11 left: Carter has a right knee injury. But the Flyers say he might return. They said lower body but it's pretty clear on replay what happened when he collided with Myers.
15:11 left: How about the Rangers leading the Caps, 3-0, at MSG? Pressure building on No. 1 seeded Washington again.
14:50 left: Miller stands up for a good stop on Hartnell. Sabres still treating the puck like a hot potato too much. One press box wag said hand grenade to me during the intermission. They're definitely jittery with it. Miller has been strong so far.
13:30 left: McCormick and Grier on a 2-on-1. That took forever. Shot wide.
10:52 left: Pominville slapper stopped. Shots are 17-15, Buffalo. Some good work by the Sabres in transition and I was really impressed with the backchecking on Vanek a couple shifts ago as he came back into the Buffalo zone and stole the puck. Key play. Never shows up in any stat column but you have to have them.
9:11 left: We're just past the halfway mark. Shots are 5-5 in this period and 18-16 for Buffalo.
8:21 left: Powe off the post after a sequence where Connolly got beat twice. Then Miller clubbed Carcillo in the crease and got help from Weber. Carcillo and Miller get roughing. Gerbe serves Miller. Weber got nothing and Laviolette isn't happy. He's getting an audience with the officials.
6:28 left: Miller stands up to stop Coburn. Flyers have 21-18 edge in shots and getting better of the play again. Miller has been strong in his crease tonight and not flopping too much. Good to see.
6:13 left: Great stop by Boucher on Myers. Gerbe just fails to handle rebound.
5:41 left: Myers for elbowing. Flyers to the PP. They're 0-2 in this one and 2-20 in the series.
3:00 left: Sabres survive the power play. Another terrible weak play with the puck by Connolly gave the Flyers another 30 seconds of zone time.
2:14 left: Flyers nailed for too many men on the ice as they were breaking into the zone. And Gaustad-Montador alertly get Kaleta away from Carcillo, who was chirping at him trying to lure him into an even-up deal.
2:03 left: Two goals in 57-second span early in the third by Caps at MSG. Rangers' lead cut to 3-2.
2.8 seconds left: WOW. Kaleta tries to hit Richards near the bench but Richards puts up the elbow and drills him in the face. FIVE-MINUTE MAJOR.
End-2nd: Sabres hold the 1-0 lead. Shots were 10-8 for Philly and it's 21-21 through two. Sabres will have 4:58 left on their power play. Huge chance.
7:40 p.m. The puck is dropped. By the way, Doug Allen did not stand on the Sabres logo mat at center ice while singing the anthem. Tara Minogue did the other night, just for the record. Hmmmm. Wonder if the players are gonna fine her 20 bucks?
16:00 left: Big, physical start by the Sabres. Gerbe nailed Betts, Kaleta drilled van Riemsdyk and Grier on Versteeg. And the lines are downright goofy. They rolled Gerbe-Connolly-Stafford, Vanek-Gaustad-Kaleta, Ennis-Niedermayer-Pominville, McCormick-Boyes-Grier.
14:05 left: Weber for tripping along the boards in the Buffalo zone. Just inside the blueline. Ticky-tack. Zherdev took a nice dive to accentuate the stick. Remember when someone asked in the chat about the officiating and I said I was OK with it? Not there.
12:00 left: Sabres survive as Butler makes a great save on Leino in the crease with Miller out of position.
11:27 left: Flyers got no shots on the PP. It's 4-1 for Buffalo through 8 1/2 minutes.
10:22 left: The Sabres make the breakthough and it's from a top-six forward. Badly needed. Great work from behind the net by Ennis and great veteran patience from Niedermayer to hold the puck and slide it over to Pominville for a tap-in at the edge of the crease. Sabres lead, 1-0 and the "Boo-chay" chants are out.
10:00 left: Grier and Boyes stopped from in tight.
9:42 left: Carcillo goes for goalie interference even though he landed right on his butt. Gotta see the replay on that one. Sabres to the power play.
9:01 left: Stafford for interference at center ice as Versteeg tries to get away. Total ticky-tack. Lindy was furious over that one.
7:18 left: Van Riemsdyk with a wide-open net -- but a sliding toe of Myers' got the puck and it went over th net. Sabres were in trouble on a 3-on-1 but Butler broke that up.
7:00 left: Sabres and the crowd upset as Miller gets sticked in the mask by Versteeg. Except it wasn't. Weber got him.
5:47 left: Shots are 7-6 for Buffalo. Flyers have been in control since Carcillo got out of the box.
5:37 left: Boucher for tripping Grier. Comes two seconds after a Myers snapshot from the slot beats Boucher -- but cranks off the post.
4:18 left: Versteeg gets a backhander on Miller. Save. Walked right around Connolly, who was lolly-gagging after the puck at the Buffalo line.
3:58 left: Boyes off the post on his own rebound. Sabres have had chances for the 2-0 lead. Big chances. Haven't converted.
3:00 left: Save on Niedermayer, who has been terrific again, as he cut down through the left circle. Shots are 10-8, Buffalo. Niedermayer spent 50 games doing absolutely nothing and has been very good for more than a month.
2:12 left: Myers down in front of the net. Got drilled high in a collision by Carter, right in the jaw. Last thing Sabres need is another D-man out. Bet Myers is headed to the quiet room.
End-1st: Sabres survive with their 1-0 lead. Shots are 13-11 for Buffalo. Flyers much better last couple minutes. Leopold has been pretty brutal with the puck and keeps getting beat. Looks nowhere near 100 percent.
April 18, 2011 - 4:14 PM
April 5, 2011 - 6:47 PM
I don't have a lot of deep thoughts to open with other than to greet you once again to my perch high above Section 319 in HSBC Arena for tonight's Sabres-Lightning matchup. One reason is you just let the games play out at this time of season with no buildup needed. The other is because I'm still frozen to the core from today's Bisons workout in Coca-Cola Field.
(Cheap plug alert: We'll have three Bisons stories in tomorrow's paper previewing the season in advance of Thursday's opener and a pair of videos here at TBN.com).
The snow was flying all around me as I stood on the field talking about what we might see this summer. Kudos to photog John Hickey for persevering as well. But at least the snow kept me in major hockey mode in April and this one tonight is so, so huge. Win tonight and get a Carolina loss tomorrow in regulation against Detroit and the Sabres are in.
It's a busy night on the out-of-town scoreboard among Eastern Conference contenders with Washington at Toronto at 7, Chicago at Montreal at 7:30, New Jersey at Pittsburgh at 7:30 and Philadelphia at Ottawa at 7:30. The Sabres, of course, control their destiny and are in complete Al Davis mode: Just win, baby.
Keep it here for faceoff.
Sabres starters: Gerbe-Connolly-Pominville-Butler-Myers. Goal: Enroth (who gets a well-deserved huge cheer). We're perplexed by the starting line. Gerbe spent Sunday with Gaustad and McCormick. Hmmm.
Lightning starters: Thompson-Lecavalier-St. Louis-Lundin-Ohlund. Goal: Roloson.
8:54 p.m. The puck is dropped.
19:43 left: Hold off on those Connolly plaudits. St. Louis intercepts his pass at the blue line and feeds Lecavalier in front for a quick wrister. Just like that we have a game. Sabres lead, 3-2. Uneasiness returns.
12:30 left: Apologize for the dearth of updates. Some laptop issues combined with a couple wireless issues. We'll see how it goes. Sabres holding on with just one shot in the period. Connolly's pass changed the momentum and really tarnishes his first three-point game of the season.
2:50 left: Been a bad third period for me folks. I might be back now. Sabres still leading 3-2.
13.6 left: The Lightning never got Roloson out. Great work by Gerbe, Gaustad, Mancari, Butler, among others. Vanek finally got the loose puck at center and drilled it -- and I mean drilled it -- home with a slapshot to make it 4-2 and give him his third career hat trick against Tampa. And the ice is littered. Vanek's 31st. Sabres lead, 4-2.
It's over: Great job by the Sabres to hold on in a nervous third period. If Carolina loses in regulation tomorrow against Detroit, this race is over. Sabres win, 4-2. And Enroth is 8-2-2. Bye-bye, Laffs. Toronto eliminated.
7:58 p.m.: The puck is dropped. Here's an odd stat: Sabres credited with no hits in the first period. Lightning with seven.
15:58 left: Enroth wtih a great save on Simon Gagne off a rebound. The only thing that has happened in the first four minutes as the Lightning keeps taking the air out of the game with Roloson freezing the puck.
15:30 left: Ellis-McCormick-Niedermayer have a 3-on-2 break and it's not offside. Why the whistle? Weber and Malone trading punches in the Buffalo zone. Well, Weber was trying to. Yikes, Malone crushed him with a couple rights. Weber is a willing customer but he's gotten killed a couple times this season.
14:56 left: Myers goes for cross-checking Lecavalier. They looked like they might go but Lecavalier smartly backed off.
14:37 left: Lecavalier goes for interference, ruunning through Montador from behind. Montador hit Sekera, his leg buckled and he looked gimpy going off the ice.
12:00 left: Vanek on the backhand for No. 30. Nifty. His second of the night. First time since 2007-08 the Sabres have had two 30-goal men (Vanek and Roy did it then). Vanek has 21 career goals in 24 games against Tampa, second to the 23 goals he had against Boston. Sabres lead, 2-1.
8:35 left: Butler for slashing, a pretty good two-hander on Steve Downie's hand. Shots are 6-4 for Tampa in this period.
7:41 left: Roloson stops Connolly on a 2-on-1 with Stafford. I like the fact Connolly kept it and fired a good wrist shot. No problem there. Good save.
6:14 left: Like I said, keep shooting. Connolly goes down the other wing, from the right side, on a 3-on-2, and fires another scorching wrister past Roloson on the stick side. His 13th. Sabres lead, 3-1.
3:30 left: Myers and Gaustad both miss a goalmouth pass with an open net staring them in the face.
2:30 left: Tampa is prone to short-circuits defensively and once you put the Lightning down, they really open up and seem to go haywire. Remember the six-goal outburst in February down south? This one was tight-tight-tight. Not now.
End-2nd: Big ovation as Sabres retreat to the room with a 3-1 lead as the playoffs get ever-so-closer. Shots were 8-6 for Tampa and are 17-16 for the Bolts but that's not the important stat.
17:02 left: Sabres have the first three shots as Ennis-Boyes-Stafford hem the Bolts in for a minute and get two great chances, one each for Stafford and Boyes.
9:31 left: After a long, long, long, loooong stretch with no whistles, we finally get one. The Sabres have a 5-4 edge in shots. The Boyes line is looking very dangerous tonight. Good bit of backchecking on one shift by McCormick and then Ellis. Solid start.
The lines so far are Gerbe-Connolly-Pominville, Ennis-Boyes-Stafford, Vanek-Gaustad-Mancari, Ellis-McCormick-Niedermayer. Defense pairs are Butler-Myers, Sekera-Weber and Gragnani-Montador.
6:07 left: The Lightning get on the board as Ryan Malone tips home a Mike Lundin shot from the right point standing just in front of Enroth. Myers didn't take him out. Sabres haven't done a whole lot since the big Boyes line shift in the early going. Bolts haven't either. Until now. Shots are 6-5 for Tampa. Lightning leads, 1-0.
444 left: Tyrell goes for interference, knocking down Montador in front of the Buffalo net.
4:31 left: Lundin fires a rolling puck from his zone over the glass behind the bench. Whole crowd called the delay of game. Two-man advantage for 1:47. Huge chance.
3:42 left: Two blocks and a Roloson save on a Pominville one-timer.
3:28 left: Big stop on Ennis, who takes return pass from Vanek to Roloson's left.
3:15 left: Vanek tips home the Pominville blast from the left point, with the puck dribbling through Roloson's legs. Vanek's 29th. Game tied 1-1. Have to like how Sabres won all but one faceoff on the 5-on-3 and how Vanek stopped the puck at the point on the one Buffalo lost.
2:25 left: Lightning back to full strength. Buffalo had four shots on the power play.
1:22 left: Enroth with a big save on Lecavalier in the slot after a bad giveaway behind the net by Sekera, who has been uneven to say the least the last few games.
End-1st: Tied at 1-1. Shots are 10-9 for Buffalo.
March 30, 2011 - 4:56 PM
Rumors have been spreading in the last hour at HSBC Arena and it appears Ryan Miller will not play tonight against the New York Rangers, sources have told The News. Miller is injured. It is not a night off. In response to an inquiry, the Sabres referred to their long-standing policy of often not announcing the starting goaltender so we'll have to wait until the team takes the ice for warmup at 6:30.
There is no word on the nature or severity of the injury but it's believed to be an upper-body situation. Miller did take a slapshot from Dion Phaneuf to the collarbone area with 14:48 left in the third period of Tuesday night's 4-3 loss at Toronto. He also took a Brian Rolston slapshot directly on the mask in the first period of Saturday's 2-0 win over New Jersey.
Miller was not at today's morning skate but that's not unusual. Jhonas Enroth and Patrick Lalime were on the ice. It was an optional skate with several players not on hand. Miller's absence was thus not a topic of conversation because he has often taken gameday skates off this season.
Enroth will start tonight. Miller has made the last seven starts. Enroth's last appearance was the 6-4 win March 13 against Ottawa. Lalime told reporters yesterday in Toronto his injured knee is better and he's ready to go so he should be the backup.
March 26, 2011 - 6:26 PM
Greetings again from HSBC Arena for the second half of the final home back-to-back on the Sabres' schedule. It's the Sabres and the New Jersey Devils. The Sabres split one in November (Los Angeles-Tampa Bay) and have gone 1-0-1 in the other two (beat Atlanta/lost to Detroit in shootout, beat Atlanta/lost to Nashville in overtime). So a win tonight gives them their first home back-to-back sweep of the season.
There should be big roster news from the warmup (confirming the scratches) so we're starting the live blog early. Keep it here.
6:30 p.m.: The teams take the ice and it is, as we speculated this morning, Mark Mancari and Jordan Leopold who are out tonight with Steve Montador and Jochen Hecht back in the lineup.
7:05 BULLETIN: Darcy Regier just met with the media in the press box and informed us Jordan Leopold will be seeing a hand specialist Monday. He has a broken hand and will definitely miss the rest of the regular season. His status for potential playoff games is uncertain.
Of note: Every score out of town is going the Sabres' way. Carolina down, 3-2, to Tampa Bay. Montreal still down, 1-0, to Washington and Toronto down, 2-1, at Detroit. This could be a big, big night in the standings and suddenly make sixth place a realistic possibility for the Sabres.
8:46 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
17:08 left: McCormick for high sticking. Came right after Miller made three point-blank stops on the first shots of the period for either side.
15:36 left: Grier limps off (right leg). Got tackled with Mark Fayne at the right point and might have gotten a skate.
13:29 left: Faceoff. Brodeur made good stops on Hecht and Pominville, with Hecht's shot leaking through but going just wide of the post.
12:43 left: Old friend Henrik Tallinder goes for tripping.
10:40 left: No clincher on the PP like the Sabres got last night. Still have to work through these last 10 minutes.
6:00 left: Gerbe hauled down hard behind the net by Clarkson but no call. Clock keeps ticking. There's 14 minutes left in Carolina and the Lightning still lead, 3-2.
5:39 left: Grier comes back on and gets hit again. Same leg. Limps off.
2:59 left: Miller stops Tallinder from the point. Shots are 9-5 for the Devils and 29-28 for New Jersey in the game. If he can hold on, Miller would tie his career high with five shutouts on the season.
1:30 left: Clock ticking.
38.7 left: Faceoff on offside. Brodeur out.
10.9 left: Faceoff after icing. Bad call. The Devils made the pass down the ice. It should be over.
0:00: And now it is. A 2-0 win keeps the playoff express on track. Final shots were 30-28 for Devils in Miller's fifth shutout.
Of note: Tampa Bay and Carolina are 2-2 after one. Washington leads Montreal, 1-0, late in the first while Toronto trails, 1-0, at Detroit.
7:57 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
14:10 left: Kovalchuk fires just wide and the puck bounces off the backboards through the crease. Kovalchuk then limped off (was typing..sorry didn't see what happened---update he blocked Vanek's shoot-in with his leg). There are loads of empty seats. Lots of folks stuck outside in the concourses because there's so few whistles. Listen to the two-minute bell, people!
13:00 left: Shots are 6-3 for New Jersey. Devils quite a bit more interested.
12:00 left: Miller with a neat save on an Elias deflection.
11:32 left: Rick Jeanneret has the T-shirt launcher -- and he just made the ice from the press box with two missiles. Dude is dangerous.
10:40 left: Tough hit on Weber by Palmieri. Weber is gimpy going off.
8:27 left: Clarkson alone in front of Miller. Goes to a couple dekes and backhands it wide. Sabres would do well to return to this one. Shots are 20-18. It was 14-3.
6:56 left: They keep showing this dude in a Cleveland Browns jersey dancing on the HD board. He keeps getting booed loudly. Didn't know there was that much Browns hatred here. Not like he's got a Jets, Patriots or Dolphins tog on.
4:25 left: Brodeur with the nifty glove save on Gerbe from the slot.
3:33 left: Ennis for tripping. First penalty of the night.
1:59 left: Elias for boarding after he smacked Pominville in the corner in the New Jersey zone.
End-2nd: Sabres survive to hold their 2-0 lead. Shots were 10-7 for the Devils and 23-19 for Buffalo through two.
7:07 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
Sabres starters: Gerbe-Gaustad-Boyes-Butler-Montador. Goal: Miller
Devils starters: Elias-Zubrus-Rolston-Tallinder-Fayne. Goal: Brodeur
16:00 left: Hecht is reunited with Vanek and Pominville. The other lines are Gerbe-Gaustad-Boyes (for Mancari, who has been returned to Portland), Ennis-Connolly-Stafford and Niedermayer-McCormick-Grier.
15:43 left: That little rat Gerbe sneaks around from behind the to Brodeur's left and fires a laser from the faceoff dot just under the bar. Gerbe's 14th. Sabres lead, 1-0.
13:00 left: Wonder if Ilya Kovalchuk thinks the Devils are done tonight?
10:00 left: Maybe the Devils are. Shots are 9-2 for Buffalo.
8:00 left: This baby is flying with no whistles basically. We've played 12 minutes in 15 minutes of real time.
4:38 left: We finally have a whistle. Shots are 11-3. Devils look pretty disinterested. Wow. Just lost 10 minutes, 14 seconds with no whistles! This is the first TV timeout. Crazy. Looks like Hecht is now between Stafford and Ennis.
3:43 left: Vanek pops home a Pominville rebound from the edge of the crease after Connolly wins a faceoff. Sabres lead, 2-0. Shots are 14-3. Devils playing exactly like Kovalchuk said. They're done. Vanek's first goal since March 13.
2:00 left: Miller takes a slapper right off the mask from Brian Rolston. He's a little stunned. Takes the mask off at the whistle.
:32 left: Miller's best save on Nick Palmieri from in tight.
End-1st: Sabres hold their 2-0 lead but Devils came on in the last three minutes. Shots were 16-9.
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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, 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.
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