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Sabres' Murray talking with agents about free agency, including reps for Ott, Moulson (with POLL)

By John Vogl

PHILADELPHIA -- While the NHL Draft is at the forefront, this year's selection show coincides with the free agency discussion period. General managers and agents can discuss the broad parameters of contracts for this year's crop of unrestricted free agents. It allows both sides to get a jump on the July 1 signing frenzy.

While Buffalo isn't expected to make a splash in free agency, GM Tim Murray has been taking advantage of the discussion time.

"I had meetings with agents noon till 7 yesterday, so I think I’m doing what everyone else is doing," Murray said today. "It’s no different. It’s just talking in generalities, ‘Would you have interest in our client?’ We’ll find out on July 1."

Continue reading "Sabres' Murray talking with agents about free agency, including reps for Ott, Moulson (with POLL)" »

In wake of Blues playing wrong playoff note, what becomes of Miller and Ott?

STLPD
Today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch front page (Newseum.com image)

By Mike Harrington

Been reading all over the Internet late this afternoon about Ryan Miller's flameout Sunday in Chicago and it was certainly an epic one, as I discussed in my column in Monday's editions.

Miller said after the game he liked St. Louis and the team and would be interested in returning but has not had any serious talks with the Blues. It would seem his hopes of getting a Henrik Lundqvist-type contract of seven years and roughly $60 million are toast.

Hard to imagine the Blues or anyone else would go much past 3-4 years. Candidates that jump out to me include the Ducks, Sharks, Flyers, Penguins and Islanders. Hard to see a great fit. Several of those teams already have goalies or good prospects. 

There was zero negative chatter in the Blues locker room about Miller, as you would expect. The team's  lack of offense was far more of a talking point.

"Ryan works his butt off," said Blues captain and fellow U.S. Olympian David Backs. "He's a consummate professional and a guy you love having on your team. Some of the plays, tips in front, I don't think it matters who's in the net. They made some good plays."

"It definitely wasn't Millsie," said Steve Ott, who said he was looking for a goaltender interference call on Chicago's second goal.  "He kept us in every single night."

Obviously, most people watching would disagree. Miller wasn't nearly good enough (.897 save percentage) but the Blues weren't beating anybody with 14 goals in six games, no matter who was in the net.

For his part, Ott was stunned by the sudden end to the Blues' season.

Continue reading "In wake of Blues playing wrong playoff note, what becomes of Miller and Ott?" »

It's all over for Miller, Blues after third-period implosion in Chicago

Miller-Shaw
Hawks winger Andrew Shaw celebrates his third-period goal against Ryan Miller (AP Photo)

By Mike Harrington

CHICAGO -- The St. Louis Blues brought in Ryan Miller as what they felt was the last key piece to make a Stanley Cup run. They didn't come close.

The Blues' season ended in stunning fashion Sunday as Miller got burned for four third-period goals in a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks before a roaring, red-clad crowd at the United Center. The Hawks took the final four games of the first-round series to win it, 4-2.

And Miller thus has still not won a single postseason series since 2007, when the Sabres beat the New York Rangers in the second round. Miller has now dropped four straight matchups.

Miller got badly outplayed in the game and the series by Chicago's Corey Crawford, who had a 1.98 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in the six games. Miller had a 2.70 GAA and sickly .897 save percentage. 

"I'm just really disappointed the game didn't turn in our direction," Miller said. "1-1 going into the third is a pretty good situation for us and we didn't get it done."

The Blues had a 17-3 advantage in shots on goal in the second period and the count ws 28-11 through 40 minutes. But St. Louis went 0 for 6 on the power  play and paid the ultimate price when Chicago captain Jonathan Toews broke the 1-1 tie with a power-play goal 44 seconds into the third period.

Things really started to fall apart  when Patrick Sharp scored a fluky goal at 2:01, chipping the puck under Miller on a semi breakaway while getting high-sticked by Kevin Shattenkirk. Miller was caught going too late for a poke-check.

"I was in the right spot and that last tug he kind of chipped it in between," Miller said. "So yeah.  It was just too bad."

"The third goal was a backbreaker," said coach Ken Hitchcock. "The bench was still fine. Our team had great spirit at the start, great spirit for the first and second period. We played as well as we've ever played in this building the way we played the first two periods. The third goal? 'Whoosh' The air went right out of our bench."

Miller then gave up a deflection to Andrew Shaw at 7:30 and Duncan Keith beat him on 2-on-1 at 17:05 to close the scoring. It's the second straight year the Blues have won the first two games of their first-round series and lost the next four; the same thing happened last year against the Los Angeles Kings.

It also means Miller and former Sabres captain Steve Ott will head into free agency. 

"We're through with the hockey part now," Miller said. "We'll have to see where we're at. See how they feel about me. I definitely like St. Louis. I like the guys. I like the team. We'll see what they feel about the playoffs."

"I don't know what my situation is," said Ott. "It's way too early to even think about that. I don't want to think about that. I'm still thinking I'm running for a Cup right now."

Click below to hear full postgame audio from Miller, Steve Ott and Hitchcock. There's some silence at the start of the Miller clip but be patient. He's standing among us taking a few seconds pondering his answer to the first question.

Ryan Miller

Steve Ott

Ken Hitchcock

Ott on Blues-Blackhawks series: 'This is why we play this game'

By Mike Harrington

ST. LOUIS -- I had a chance to sit down with Blues forward and former Sabres captain Steve Ott today following the pregame skate for Game Five against the Blackhawks, and he was as stoked as you can imagine about getting a chance to play in a series like this.

Ott, remember, has not been in the playoffs since the Dallas Stars' 2008 run to the Western Conference finals.

"I've been waiting for that moment for a long time," he said.  "To have that jump-started and get back after it, this is why we play this game. This is why we fight so hard for 82 games, to scratch and claw and get a chance in the playoffs. Now with the parity in the league, it doesn't matter where you finish as long as you're in the playoffs."

Here's a look at Ott's series to date, listing goals-assists-points, plus/minus, ice time, shots on goal, hits and faceoffs

Gm# G-A-Pts +/- TOI,  SOG,  Ht, FO
Gm1 0-1-1 Ev 30:53 3/3/7-3
Gm2 0-0-0 -1 15:05 2/3/7-4
Gm3 0-0-0 -1 20:05 2/8/14-6
Gm4 0-1-1 + 2 18:11 0/7/9-12
------------------------------------
Tot  0-2-2 Ev 21:05* 7/21/37-25
(*21:05 is Ott's average in the four games)

So you can see,  especially from hits and faceoffs, that Ott has been pretty active in this series. And he had the primary assist on Alex Steen's triple-overtime winner in Game One.

"I started feeling ... my game coming along because of the transition finally happening in the last 5-8 games," Ott said. "It's where I staarted to feel comfortable with structure and situations. It's kind of led into the playoffs, where now I feel totally comfortable like I have anywhere else in my
career."

Ott had a good laugh when I told him that Patrick Kane's overtime winner for Chicago in Game Four was probably the first time in his career the South Buffalo native had some folks back home fretting over his exploits. There are certainly a lot of Ryan Miller fans in Buffalo, plus Sabres fans hoping the Blues win this series and draw closer to giving Buffalo their No. 1 draft pick for Miller.

"We all know there's a lot to cheer for with this St. Louis team for the people in Buffalo," Ott said. "It's great to have that kind of recognition there in Buffalo for myself and Ryan."

Be sure to look for more from Ott in my story in Saturday's editions of The News.

Miller, Ott and others speak on Twitter

By Mike Harrington

Here's a collection of tweets posted last night and this morning by some of the principals in the Sabres-Blues trade (and one from Ryan Miller's wife, Noureen DeWulf):

Sabres say goodbye to Miller, Ott in blockbuster with Blues

By John Vogl

Ryan Miller, one of the most eloquent speakers in the hockey world, fumbled for the right words. Just traded from the only team he’d ever known, the goaltender had emotions whizzing though him faster than any slap shot ever could.

“I kind of figured this is what would happen,” said a tear-fighting Miller, who had thought long about a possible trade but could never truly prepare for it. “It just kind of hits you all at once.”

With that, one of the two best goalies in Buffalo’s history cut off his comments and prepared to join his new team in St. Louis.

Continue reading "Sabres say goodbye to Miller, Ott in blockbuster with Blues " »

Sabres scratch Miller, Ott

By John Vogl

Ryan Miller was supposed to play his last game in Buffalo tonight. It appears the last game actually was Tuesday.

The Sabres have made the goaltender a late scratch and will go with Jhonas Enroth instead tonight against San Jose. The decision likely was made to keep Miller healthy for a trade, which may be imminent.

The Sabres are also sitting captain Steve Ott.

"If that does happen and they’re not in, you’ll probably know why they’re not in," coach Ted Nolan said this morning. "I could say we’re resting them or they’ve got an upper-body or lower-body injury, one of those mysterious things, but you guys will probably know."

Word out of St. Louis is the Blues have zeroed in on acquiring Miller for their playoff run. Reports out of Montreal have Jaroslav Halak coming back to Buffalo in a deal for Miller.

Stay tuned to Sabres Edge for more details as they develop.

Steve Ott: No contract talks with Sabres, wants to stay but knows situation

By John Vogl

This is Steve Ott's 11th season in the NHL. He knows that unrestricted free agents on rebuilding teams usually get a new address at the trade deadline.

The Sabres' captain is a pending unrestricted free agent. Buffalo is in last place. The deadline is March 5.

It doesn't take a "Big Bang Theory" scientist to put those facts together and decide Ott's future with the Sabres is in question.

"I told them I want to be here," Ott said today after practice in the rink at Riverside Park. "We’ll see where it all goes. I am professional enough to know the business side of things and what the situation is here as well. We’ll see how it all plays out in the next two weeks."

Ott said he has not had contract talks with the Sabres.

"I’ve been in this same situation before in my career, and it’s control what you can control," he said. "That’s going out there and playing as hard as you can. Obviously, it’s great to be wanted, and the rumor stuff continues to float around when anybody’s a UFA. I think it’s just continue to be a professional, go out there and do what you’ve done and everything takes care of itself."

Steve Ott

Ott's Otters are outta here

Otter
(Photo by the Buffalo Sabres)

By John Vogl

The partnership between Steve Ott and the Buffalo Zoo, which brought stuffed otters to Sabres fans, went swimmingly -- just not for those people who waited to get one.

The Sabres have announced that all the stuffed animals, dubbed "Ott's Otters," have been sold. The team introduced the furry creatures Wednesday and had tremendous immediate response. The Sabres put the limited number of remaining otters on the shelves in the Sabres Store at 10 this morning, and they were gone within a half-hour.

"Thank you for the overwhelming support of #OttsOtters," the Sabres' captain wrote on Twitter.

The otters, wearing Ott's jersey and accompanied by his autograph, sold for $25. All proceeds are set to go to the Buffalo Zoo.

“This program is a great way for our fans to show their love of the Sabres while supporting such an important community asset in the Buffalo Zoo,” Ott said. “As a big animal lover, I’m excited to be involved in a program that will help raise money and awareness for the Buffalo Zoo.”

Ott on Kaleta's 10-game suspension: 'It's hard because there's no injury on the play'

By Mike Harrington

Patrick Kaleta has appealed his 10-game suspension and the Sabres are waiting to find out when his appeal process will be heard. Tonight's game against Vancouver will already be his fourth one out of the lineup. Fellow Sabres agitator Steve Ott said the issue he's had with Brendan Shanahan's ruling is that Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson was not hurt on the play and went on to get 23 minutes of ice time in the Oct. 10 game against the Sabres.

"It's hard because there's no injury on the play," Ott told The News today after the Sabres' pregame skate. "I have a hard time with it for that simple fact. Is it suspendable? Absolutely, as in the guy could have really been hurt. But could have is not good enough for me.

"No one wants to see anybody injured by any means but that has to play in the equation if you're going to throw a book at somebody. He didn't even fall. Could it have been bad? Sure. For me, the injury has to play into the situation."

That said, Ott acknowledged my theory that Kaleta could be at a career crossroads much like the one Matt Cooke hit when he was with Pittsburgh. Cooke, in fact, told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun yesterday in Toronto that he spoke with Kaleta late Monday night after the Sabres-Wild game and told him he'd be available to talk about how he dealt with his own situation at any point in the future.

"I'd rather have to tone down a player than try to raise him up," Ott said. "That's huge. If it's the essence of keeping him in the lineup, maybe you have to town him down a little bit but we need Patty to play hard minutes. And let's be honest here: Every other team in the league would like to have a Patty Kaleta out there. Every team has a guy that plays hard that way. You can tone down somebody. You can't tone them back up. What way would you rather have it?"

Kaleta was on the ice in today's morning skate wearing a full face shield as a result of the ensuing fight after the hit with Columbus' Jared Boll. The Sabres said they will make him available to the media after the timetable for his appeal is established, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.

In scripted scene, Ott loses patience, unveils Sabres' third jersey

By John Vogl

Steve Ott stopped by the Sabres' arena today before catching a flight to New York for an NHL media tour. He created a little scripted havoc before he went. The result was an unveiling of the Sabres' new third jersey.

The multicolored jersey is gold in front with the traditional logo, but the back is blue with silver numbers and gold letters.

Ottfrontlarge

Backlarge

The Sabres have been teasing small glimpses of the jersey on their Twitter feed. After Ott joked on Twitter that the jersey unveil was taking longer than a dinner invite from teammate and close friend Mike Weber, the Sabres responded, "Hi Steve, we appreciate your excitement for the jersey, but we have a lot more pics to go before we unveil!"

Ott proceeded to get a jersey in the arena and threatened to unveil it in 10 minutes if the Sabres didn't. He followed through with his threat.

The tweets followed a script set up by the Sabres, who had their change to the infamous "slug" jersey leaked in 2006.

Team still in awe after emotional night in Beantown

Silence
The Boston Marathon memorial ribbon is on the scoreboard and the ice during a moment of silence Wednesday in TD Garden. (Getty Images)


By Mike Harrington

The Sabres got a huge win last night in Boston and are still alive in the playoff race with the New York Rangers coming to town Friday (after hosting the Florida Panthers tonight in Madison Square Garden).

The team had a brief, 20-minute workout today in Amherst and will fully turn to the Rangers in video sessions and their pregame skate Friday morning. But it was basically impossible today to not reflect on last night's emotional shootout win over the Bruins, an event that is the talk of the nation and far transcends sports in the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

"It was probably the most emotional game I've ever been a part of for so many reasons," said Steve Ott. "The way the Boston fans and community with what they've been going through, it's obviously been a horrific 2-3 days now. For them to come out there and cheer and put some smiles on their faces for a couple hours is the least we could do to try to battle for the fans and show the pride of both teams."

"I had chills just looking around," Lynnfield, Mass., native Brian Flynn said of the fans-led national anthem. "I don't think there was one person in the stands that wasn't singing."

Added interim coach Ron Rolston: "It was an amazing night. It was a great tribute for the people of Boston. I know for our guys and certainly the staff, it was really a great event to be part of."

Click below to hear audio from Ott, Flynn and Rolston. Plenty of talk about the Boston game and some about the keys to the Sabres somehow staying alive in the playoff race in the face of all their deals at the trade deadline and their injuries.

Steve Ott

Brian Flynn

Ron Rolston

Sabres somber talking about Boston; ex-BC star Gerbe calls Marathon bombing 'embarrassing for our world'

By Mike Harrington

As you would imagine, some pretty raw emotions in the Sabres' locker room early this afternoon as they got set to head to Boston for Wednesday night's game against the Bruins, which will be the first in the city since Monday's bombing at the Boston Marathon.

Rookie defenseman Chad Ruhwedel was playing last week for Frozen Four team Mass-Lowell, a 30-minute commuter train ride away from downtown, and was shaking his head that he could have been at the site of the blasts had he not signed his pro contract and come to Buffalo on Saturday.

"It was just heartbreaking to see that," Ruhwedel said. "The Boston Marathon is huge. Marathon Monday is huge. People go out having fun all day long. It's a good time all day. For something like that to happen is devastating.

"If I didn't have this great opportunity, I'd probably would have been down there hanging out with my team. It hit me like that. I would have been somewhere in the vicinity."

Ruhwedel said he talked to friends, teammates and family members and everyone is OK in the wake of the blast. He said his teammates didn't see the actual explosions but were close by in the area when they happened on Boylston Street at 2:50 p.m.

Winger Nathan Gerbe, a former Hobey Baker runner-up at Boston College, had a look of similar shock.

"You know exactly where it is. I've walked past there I couldn't even tell you how many times," Gerbe said. "At times for yourself, you thank God for keeping you safe. But something like this happening is embarrassing for our world to affect innocent people and innocent children. Sad."

Gerbe said he's likely to just stay inside the Sabres' hotel the next couple days and not wander around Boston like he normally does.

"I think you're a little worried going into the city obviously," he said. "They don't know exactly why and how and who. You don't know the rhyme or reasons around it. Going into the city, I'm a little nervous and a little cautious I guess. I don't know if I'm going to go out walking around in the city or not. I'm probably just going to stay in the hotel and chill."

Steve Ott, who has a 5-year-old daughter, said he was touched deeply by the death of 8-year-old Martin Richard in the blast.

"It's horrific. Obviously life doesn't make sense sometimes," Ott said. "... The stories that are coming out of that incident are just horrible."

The Sabres figure to enter an emotionally charged atmosphere Wednesday in TD Garden, with the eyes of the nation likely to be on pregame ceremonies.

"It's going to be a little bit overwhelming to start the game with heavy hearts just as people," Ott said. "It's extremely disheartening to hear and see. ... I'm sure there will be a lot of mixed emotions. ... Everyone is going to be playing with heavy hearts. It's going to be very touching to start the game."

Click below to hear audio from Gerbe, Ruhwedel and Ott.

Nathan Gerbe

Chad Ruhwedel

Steve Ott

Ott not worried about reaction back home, says he wants to be a Sabre 'for a long time'

Ott2

By Mike Harrington

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The door to the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room opened early this afternoon at MTS Centre and the media swarmed Steve Ott. The horde that covers the Jets had already seen stories on TSN and other North American outlets linking our post from earlier today on Ott's explosive interview with WGR and there were other questions to be asked.

When most of the inquisitors were gone, I stayed and asked Ott for a few more thoughts. The biggest one he offered came when I asked him how worried he was about the fan booing saga becoming a factor in free agents or other players being willing to come to Buffalo.

"The reason why I care so much is because I have desire to be a Buffalo Sabre for a long time," Ott said. "I don't want to go anywhere. I've made that quite clear I want to be here for a long time. If I'm a UFA guy or trying to attract players, there's nothing better than coming into a building knowing, "Wow, this is a fun place to play.' And that's obviously concerning in the aspect of UFAs and trying
to attract the right players into the Buffalo Sabres."

Continue reading "Ott not worried about reaction back home, says he wants to be a Sabre 'for a long time'" »

Vanek and Ott switched as lines seek chemistry

By Mike Harrington

MONTREAL -- Thomas Vanek has two goals in the last 11 games, while Jason Pominville has two in his last 12 (and none in the last seven), so interim coach Ron Rolston is breaking up his top line for tonight's game in the Bell Centre.

Vanek will skate with Tyler Ennis and Ville Leino, while Steve Ott moves to the No. 1 unit with Pominville and Cody Hodgson. The line of Marcus Foligno-Kevin Porter-Brian Flynn stays intact while the fourth line will be Drew Stafford-Patrick Kaleta-Jochen Hecht.

"We're not winning as much as we want so obviously we're going to change things up but it doesn't matter," Vanek said. "Whoever you play with you try to make the best out of it. I've always said it doesn't matter who you play with, how much. You're a professional and you move on and deal with it.

Continue reading "Vanek and Ott switched as lines seek chemistry" »

After extra game out, Kaleta is back

By Mike Harrington

MONTREAL -- The Sabres have hugged it out and Patrick Kaleta is back in the lineup tonight at the Bell Centre.

That was the mood of the dressing room after today's pregame skate. Kaleta, suspended for five games and held out Sunday for another, was greeted by a swarm of Montreal media in the wake of Sunday's kerfluffle in Washington and said he had no issue with what Ryan Miller said after the game.

(The Sabres did not make Miller available to the media today even though Jhonas Enroth is starting; Miller, like many goalies, does not speak prior to games in which he is playing).

"He's like my brother, one of my best friends on the team," Kaleta said of Miller, his former road roommate. "Some things were misunderstood there but we're family. Our season hasn't gone the way we wanted it to go and everyone knows that. Our job is to come together as a team and go out there and battle."

Continue reading "After extra game out, Kaleta is back" »

Rolston breaks up top line, Enroth to start tonight vs. Montreal

By Mike Harrington

MONTREAL -- Quick notes from the end of the Sabres' morning skate:

---Interim coach Ron Rolston said after Sunday's game he might break up the top line and he made good on the thought today. Thomas Vanek has been dropped to the second trio and replaced by Steve Ott. Patrick Kaleta is also back in after missing six games, five on his suspension and Sunday's as a healthy scratch.

The lines were Ott-Hodgson-Pominville, Vanek-Ennis-Leino, Foligno-Porter-Flynn, Hecht-Stafford-Kaleta. The scratches are Gerbe and Scott.

---Jhonas Enroth will be in goal in place of Ryan Miller. He's 2-0 in three games against the Habs in his career with a 2.42 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.

More to come, with audio.

Video: Postgame reaction to Sabres loss to Penguins

Sounds from the Sabres' dressing room following 4-3 loss to Penguins

By John Vogl

While disappointment over the Sabres' 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh today was evident throughout the dressing room, there were wildly different views of the game.

Steve Ott, for example, was impressed with how the Sabres rallied from a 2-0 deficit and had a lead in the third period. Ryan Miller, in a profanity-filled chat, was furious the team blew that lead and got no points.

Continue reading "Sounds from the Sabres' dressing room following 4-3 loss to Penguins" »

Postgame audio: Miller, Ott and Foligno after another tough loss

Miller save
Ryan Miller and Mike Weber combine to thwart Chris Neil. (Getty Images)


By Mike Harrington

OTTAWA -- When you're judging quality of defeat, you know it's a bad season. That was the situation the Sabres were in after Tuesday's 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. 

There was plenty of merit to the thought because it was a big improvement over the previous three games. The offense generated chances (but didn't get nearly enough traffic in front of Craig Anderson) and for a good 35 minutes, the defense wasn't running around in its own end and smartly moved the puck around. No issues with Ryan Miller either. 

Continue reading "Postgame audio: Miller, Ott and Foligno after another tough loss" »

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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