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Sabres determined to make it three straight wins; Vanek likely out again

By John Vogl

The Sabres are aware most people are counting them out. They still have faith in each other.

Buffalo has won two straight heading into Sunday's home game against New Jersey, and the players are eager to finish this season strong.

"It’s a big game for this group just to keep the momentum going," forward Nathan Gerbe said today after practice in First Niagara Center. "In the past in the season, we would lose this game. Now we’ve got to win it.

Continue reading "Sabres determined to make it three straight wins; Vanek likely out again" »

Vanek, Miller want to talk with Regier about future with Sabres; Ott named alternate captain

By John Vogl

Thomas Vanek knew big changes were coming once Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said he was listening to offers on all his players.

"It hasn’t happened in the past. I'm sure there were talks but never publicly," Buffalo's leading scorer said today after taking Jason Pominville to the airport to join his new team, Minnesota. "Now with Jason gone, that obviously sends a message that change is happening."

Regier said the rebuilding process could take years. Vanek and Ryan Miller have one year left on their contracts, so they're eager to sit down with the GM and hear his plan.

Continue reading "Vanek, Miller want to talk with Regier about future with Sabres; Ott named alternate captain" »

Vanek wants to stay with Sabres but would 'look the other direction' if Buffalo decides on long-term rebuild

Vanek

By John Vogl

Thomas Vanek knows the Sabres are in position for a rebuild. He also knows he might not be part of it.

General Manager Darcy Regier has talked during the past two days of looking toward the future, which might leave the team's leading scorer as a trade target before Wednesday's deadline.

"Every year you think about that, but obviously this year probably more than any other year because of the position we’re in and one year left on my contract," Vanek, who will miss tonight's game against Boston with an upper-body injury, said in First Niagara Center. "Obviously, you think about it, but at the same time it’s part of the business. If it happens, it happens, and we’ll move on.

Continue reading "Vanek wants to stay with Sabres but would 'look the other direction' if Buffalo decides on long-term rebuild" »

Sabres' Regier gives clearest indication yet that he's leaning toward core overhaul

By John Vogl

Ryan Miller wondered aloud this month whether veterans such as himself, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek were still the Buffalo Sabres’ core. Given the team’s struggles, the goaltender didn’t know whether management viewed a rebuild as its ideal course of action.

General Manager Darcy Regier gave his clearest indication to date he is contemplating franchise overhaul.

“Where our hockey club is right now we have to be open to listening to just about anything and everything, and I am listening,” Regier said tonight after trading Jordan Leopold to St. Louis. “We have to be open to everything, and I think the players recognize that as well.

Continue reading "Sabres' Regier gives clearest indication yet that he's leaning toward core overhaul" »

Vanek expects to return to Sabres' lineup Saturday in Montreal

By John Vogl

Thomas Vanek thought his hip was broken. Christian Ehrhoff's slap shot plunked the Sabres forward directly on the hip bone Tuesday, and Vanek seized up immediately.

"I got hit on the bone, and it just kind of froze me for two days," Vanek said today in First Niagara Center. "I couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything. Late last night it felt a little better, and this morning I woke up and had most of my motion back. I felt pretty good skating."

He felt so good that he's ready to return to the lineup Saturday in Montreal after sitting out Thursday's 5-4 shootout win over Toronto.

Continue reading "Vanek expects to return to Sabres' lineup Saturday in Montreal" »

Morning skate updates: Thomas Vanek out, Ryan Miller back in

By Jay Skurski

Leading scorer Thomas Vanek will not play tonight when the Buffalo Sabres host the Toronto Maple Leafs in First Niagara Center, interim coach Ron Rolston said this morning.

Vanek was hit by a Christian Ehrhoff shot Tuesday night in the second period of the Sabres' game in Montreal.

"He's better today," Rolston said. "He feels, actually, good. We're starting the process, so we're hoping to get him on the ice tomorrow."

It looks like Vanek will be joined in the press box by forward Nathan Gerbe, who's expected to be a healthy scratch for the second straight game.

"I think he's working hard, but we have to make some tough decisions right now in our lineup," Rolston said of Gerbe. "I can only have 12 forwards in there and [he] was a player that I think didn't give us a reason to keep him in right now. And that's what he has to work for."

Burly forward John Scott is expected to be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past three games.

Ryan Miller will start in goal for Buffalo.

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" »

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.

Vanek still out, Miller remains in for Sabres as they visit Rangers

By John Vogl

NEW YORK -- Thomas Vanek isn't ready to return. Ryan Miller isn't ready to come out.

Vanek, the Sabres' leading scorer, will miss his second straight game with an upper-body injury tonight when Buffalo visits the New York Rangers.

Continue reading "Vanek still out, Miller remains in for Sabres as they visit Rangers" »

Audio: Rolston confirms Vanek out

By Mike Harrington

Turns out Thomas Vanek's "maintenance day" off at Friday's practice, his second of the week, was a sign of bigger issues. Vanek will miss today's game against New Jersey in First Niagara Center, interim coach Ron Rolston confirmed to reporters during his pre-game briefing during the 1 o'clock hour.

Rolston said Vanek is dealing with upper-body issues but the coach is expecting him to play tomorrow night against the Rangers in Madison Square Garden. Vanek leads the Sabres in goals (12), assists (15) and points (27), and enters today third in the NHL in points behind Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby (31 apiece).

Despite the numbers, Vanek clearly hasn't looked right in recent games: He has no goals in the last five and just one in the last nine.

Continue reading "Audio: Rolston confirms Vanek out " »

Penguins hoping to keep Vanek cool for Sabres

By John Vogl

Thomas Vanek leads the NHL in goals and points. The Penguins have noticed.

"Vanek has started off extremely hot, and it’s not something new," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said following practice this afternoon in First Niagara Center. "He’s a dangerous player. He’s a skilled player. He can make plays, score goals. He’s a guy who doesn’t have a reputation for doing it on the inside, but he’s good at the net. He’s good in tight spaces. He goes to the net, gets a shot off, does it on the power play.

"He’s a dangerous guy you’re going to have to watch."

Continue reading "Penguins hoping to keep Vanek cool for Sabres" »

Vanek on Austria's Olympic berth: 'It's huge, just huge'

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres took Wednesday off and will return to the practice ice Thursday morning in First Niagara Center to prepare for Friday's game against Boston.

While we were in Ottawa on Tuesday, I had a chance to chat with Thomas Vanek and the conversation was a rare one for both of us because it had nothing to do with his explosive start to the season.

Vanek hooked up his laptop to his TV Sunday morning to watch a Web stream of Austria's overtime loss to Germany in an Olympic qualifying tournament. Despite the loss, the Austrians qualified for Sochi and knocked the Germans out. That means Vanek -- the most decorated professional hockey player from Austria -- will almost certainly represent his homeland at the Olympics next February.

Click the YouTube above for Vanek's first goal while playing for his hometown Graz team during the lockout. Amazing crowd reaction when his name is announced as the scorer. (Wild jerseys too).

Continue reading "Vanek on Austria's Olympic berth: 'It's huge, just huge'" »

By the numbers: Vanek's ice time

By Mike Harrington

In Saturday's paper, I take a look at Thomas Vanek's burgeoning ice time -- which is the most in his career even if it's slightly behind that of other big-name forwards in the NHL. 

If Vanek hits 20 minutes tonight on Long Island, it will mark three straight 20-minute games for just the second time in his career. The other time? October, 2005 in games 3-4-5 as a Sabre!!

The story also included a chart showing Vanek's standing compared to the league leaders. Graphic elements sometimes don't make the Web site, so I've reproduced the chart here:

-------------------------

Comparing Vanek’s ice time to NHL leaders among forwards

Player                     Per game    Even      PP       PK   Secs/shift Shifts

1. Ilya Kovalchuk, NJ    26:02      17:47     6:15    1:59       58.0     27.0

2. John Tavares, NYI     21:52      17:13     4:29   0:10       54.0     24.3

3. M. St. Louis, TB        21:50      16:23    4:35    0:51       56.0      23.2

4. Steven Stamkos, TB   21:49     16:26    4:34    0:47       55.0      23.6

5. Travis Zajac, NJ        21:43     15:22    3:49   2:32        48.0      27.1

6. Claude Giroux, Phil    21:41     15:07    4:44   1:49       51.0       25.5

7. Alex Ovechkin, Wash  21:32     15:49    5:26    0:16       58.0      22.5

8. Alexander Semin, Car  21:31    15:39    5:33    0:18       50.0      26.0

9. Jarome Iginla, Cal       21:24    16:42    4:03   0:39        47.0      27.1

10. Eric Staal, Car          21:23     14:56   5:13    1:13        46.0     27.7

42. VANEK                    19:47     15:02   4:24   0:21       51.0     23.1

Vanek’s rankings among forwards:
Even strength ice: 41st
Power-play ice: T-21st
Penalty kill ice: T-240th
Seconds per shift: T-17th
Total shifts: T-114th

The latest Vanek attack (with postgame audio)

Vanek tying
Thomas Vanek is pumped after pulling the Sabres within 4-3. (Getty Images)



By Mike Harrington

It certainly helps to have the NHL's leading scorer but it's still hard to imagine the Sabres are third in the NHL in goals with 35. But that's the fact. Of course, being tied for last in goals-against with Washington (41) remains a huge issue.

Here's the latest numbers on Thomas Vanek's epic start to the season:

Continue reading "The latest Vanek attack (with postgame audio)" »

Red-hot Vanek named NHL's First Star of the Week

Vanek-FlaBy Mike Harrington


Sabres winger Thomas Vanek put together three more points Sunday against Florida and the league's white-hot leading scorer was named the NHL's First Star of the Week today (The other stars were Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo).

Vanek had five goals and five assists in just four games while compiling a plus-6 rating. For the season, he leads the league with 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in eight games. Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay is next with 16.

Asked his thoughts on the honor today, Vanek said, "I don't have too many. Our line is going well but we're not producing wins so that's about it. I think I found two guys I feel real comfortable with. The passes we make and the shots that we take, a lot of them go in. But again, it doesn't matter. You do well and you lose games, it doesn't feel good."

Coach Lindy Ruff is obviously loving the way the line of Vanek, Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville has combined for 41 points thus far. The problem? No other Sabre has more than two goals or five points.

"We have something special that we have a line that, as they say in Spanish, is 'en fuego,' " said Ruff. "Everybody else would be jealous of that line right now. But now we don't have the secondary so now we're jealous of the secondary around the league when the league is looking and going, 'Holy man, they got a line that's as hot as any line in the league.'

"You love having that. That line has so much confidence and makes so many plays and is playing so well together, now we've got to find the other side
again."

Click below to hear audio from Vanek on the award -- he's not impressed -- and the current sad state of the Sabres.


Thomas Vanek

(Vanek photo: James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

Not-so-Super Sabres numbers

By Mike Harrington

We should hear an injury update from Lindy Ruff in the 1 p.m. hour as we head toward the 3 p.m. faceoff downtown between the Sabres and Florida Panthers. Can this club play any worse than it did Saturday during what John Vogl aptly called its beatdown in Montreal? Doubt it. But there's still 40 games left. 

As I went through the NHL stat pack this morning, I pondered some of these numbers:

---Thomas Vanek enters today tied for the NHL scoring lead with Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos. Both have seven goals and nine assists for 16 points, although Vanek has played one less game. Frankly, Vanek needs to get on the ice more. He enters today averaging 19 minutes, 13 seconds per contest -- and that's only 58th among NHL forwards. (Stamkos is at 21:13).

Here's the leader board in that department.

Here's the second page, which pegs Vanek right between Michael Grabner of the Islanders and Joe Pavelski of San Jose.

Continue reading "Not-so-Super Sabres numbers" »

Sabres' Vanek earns NHL's Third Star of the Month

By John Vogl

MONTREAL -- Thomas Vanek is arguably the best player in the NHL right now. The league took notice today.

Continue reading "Sabres' Vanek earns NHL's Third Star of the Month" »

Video: Vanek's hat trick

BOSTON -- Watch and marvel at Thomas Vanek's three goals Thursday night. No further explanation or chatter needed.

---Mike Harrington

Final thoughts and audio from a wild night in Beantown

Vanek goal
Thomas Vanek burns Tuukka Rask for his hat trick goal. (AP)

 

By Mike Harrington

BOSTON -- So much happened in the Sabres' 7-4 win over the Bruins that it's hard to process in the hour or two immediately after it. My sense, however, is this has the potential to be a huge turnaround game. Quick hits:

---The Sabres need to get some scoring out of more than one line but Thomas Vanek is so hot right now, it doesn't matter. He's got 15 points in just six games this season -- and 54 points (28-26) in just 46 career games against Boston. And his passing has never been better.

"He's been awesome," said coach Lindy Ruff. "That play to Tyler Ennis [to score Buffalo's third goal] was second to none. Outmuscled a guy in front of the net and really a diving type pass that helped us get back in the game."

"The puck is going in," Vanek said. "I've always been a good passer in my mind. People are focusing on it more right now because the puck is going in."

Continue reading "Final thoughts and audio from a wild night in Beantown" »

Tonight's lineup: Vanek returns, big changes on D

By Mike Harrington

There was so much talk about Mikhail Grigorenko this morning that reporters couldn't be in two places at once. The Sabres were skating on the ice while Darcy Regier was making his announcement that the 18-year-old was staying, so putting together tonight's lines would be total guesswork.

Grigorenko started Sunday with Steve Ott and Drew Stafford and finished it between Jochen Hecht and Marcus Foligno. But that game was played without Thomas Vanek, and the team's leading scorer is back in tonight to rejoin Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville so the lines may juggle again. Nathan Gerbe is expected to be scratched.

There are big moves on the blueline as well. Coach Lindy Ruff said Mike Weber and T.J. Brennan, healthy scratches for the first five games of the season, will both be in the lineup. Robyn Regehr and Alexander Sulzer are out.

Continue reading "Tonight's lineup: Vanek returns, big changes on D" »

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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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