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Quick NHL tour: Murray says lottery won't change, Leafs likely looking at big changes

By Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- The Sabres skate this morning at 11:30 in Wells Fargo Center so keep it here for the latest updates in advance of tonight's game against the Flyers. Here's a quick tour of some NHL notes.

---In today's Inside the NHL column by John Vogl, Sabres GM Tim Murray says he doesn't expect any radical changes in the NHL draft lottery in future years. That potential has been the No. 1 teeth-gnasher for fans since CBC's Elliotte Friedman speculated a couple weeks ago the league may try to put some anti-tanking measures into the mix for the top spots with Connor McDavid available next year.

But as I remind people EVERY GAME on our pregame chat and seemingly five times a day on Twitter, Friedman was speculating. There has been ZERO chatter about this officially from the league or from anywhere else. He never reported it was going to happen. Major difference.

---The Leafs are just about toast in the Eastern Conference race after losing their home finale,  4-2,  last night to Winnipeg. They were outshot, 39-15,  at even strength in a must-win game! Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun called the loss "Fan Depreciation Night." Good one. Randy Carlyle has to be toast. Wonder what they do about GM Dave Nonis? Phil Kessel or Dion Phaneuf? 

The Leafs are just one point behind Columbus for the final wild-card but have only three games left -- and the Blue Jackets have two games in hand. The Leafs are tied with New Jersey and the wild-card race would already be over were it not for the Devils' incredible 0-11 record in shootouts.

Statue---The Tampa Bay Lightning put up a new statue on the plaza of Tampa Bay Times Forum, and it's an image of Sabres Hall of Famer and ex-Tampa captain Dave Andreychuk holding the Stanley Cup aloft after the team's Game Seven win over Calgary in 2004.

The ceremony outside included Scotty Bowman, Andreychuk's first coach in Buffalo after he was drafted in 1982. In the picture at the right from the team Web site, Andreychuk is at the podium addressing the crowd as his family looks on. You can click on the picture for a bigger view.

---The Wild beat the Penguins, 4-0, as old friend Cody McCormick got his first goal and first two points with Minnesota. Here's the video of the goal:

Continue reading "Quick NHL tour: Murray says lottery won't change, Leafs likely looking at big changes" »

Morning (yep) musings/links from Vancouver and around the NHL

By Mike Harrington

VANCOUVER -- Greetings from what has to be about the most scenic place on the Sabres' North American stops. Never been here before. Completely blown away.  A reminder that tonight's game in Rogers Arena is a 5 p.m.  local time start (8 p.m. in Buffalo), so there is no morning skate today.

The Sabres have played 111 meetings with their 1970 expansion cousins and have 111 points -- going 46-46-19.  Odd.  The Sabres' last game here was a 5-3 win over March 3, 2012. With a win tonight, the Sabres would have consecutive wins in Vancouver for the first time since they won three in a row from Oct. 9, 1996 to March 16, 2000. Tonight is former Canuck Cody Hodgson's 200th NHL game.

Read today's game preview on BC native Nathan Lieuwen starting against his once-favorite team.

Read today's Sabres notebook on the Canucks' desperation

Here's a quick Vancouver Sun preview, with some neat Canucks notes and quotes.

In other NHL news:

---Sure seems like the Sabres sent the Edmonton Oilers for a loop by winning in Rexall Place. The Oil was 10-4-3 in its previous 17 before losing to Buffalo, and then had a complete meltdown last night in an 8-1 loss to Calgary.

Star Taylor Hall and coach Dallas Eakins had an on-bench spat caught by CBC cameras after a frustrated Hall tossed a water bottle and it squirted on to Eakins. And a fan threw an Oilers jersey on the ice, prompting an enraged Edmonton native and goaltender Ben Scrivens to fling it back in the crowd with his stick. See a vine of Scrivens' jersey toss at this Edmonton Journal link.

Read more about the meltdown in the Edmonton Sun.

Continue reading "Morning (yep) musings/links from Vancouver and around the NHL" »

Sabres-Leafs: Season finale is already here, but what a series it's been

By John Vogl

TORONTO -- It's the middle of January. Hockey hasn't even really heated up yet.

But after tonight, the Sabres' best rivalry is already done for the season.

The Sabres and Leafs are getting ready for their fifth and final meeting of the year. It seems ludicrous that an intradivision rivalry between neighbors is over near the midpoint of the season, but that's the case for Buffalo and Toronto.

"The fact that we're finishing up our series this early is a different feeling," Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers said this evening in Air Canada Centre.

The season series went quickly, but it sure was memorable:

Continue reading "Sabres-Leafs: Season finale is already here, but what a series it's been" »

Name the three stars

Leaf leftovers as Sabres prepare to deal with the Devils

By Mike Harrington

NEWARK, N.J. -- In the wake of Friday's 3-2 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Sabres are staying off the ice this morning and meeting in their hotel prior to tonight's game in the Prudential Center against the New Jersey Devils. 

Jhonas Enroth is expected to be in goal and Mikhail Grigorenko and Brayden McNabb are expected to return to the lineup after serving as healthy scratches Friday night. It's possible Cody McCormick could return to the lineup as well. We'll have to wait until interim coach Ted Nolan's update around 5 p.m. for confirmation of the moves.

Tonight's game is the first of three this year against New Jersey. The Devils won two of three meetings last year -- with all the games going to shootouts.

For entertainment value, there's just about nothing like a Sabres-Leafs game in Buffalo and last night was no exception. The crowd, a pro-Leafs one, was rocking all night but the Sabres fans responded in OT to Christian Ehrhoff's game-winner, which produced a shower of beer cans to the ice from the Toronto faithful.

The Sabres were having some pretty good chuckles in their locker room over that whole scene. Captain Steve Ott captured it hysterically with this take-that tweet (and look at the numbers of RTs and favorites he's getting!)


Incredibly enough, the Ehrhoff shot went right through the skate of Leafs defenseman Carl Gunnarsson before snaking through goaltender James Reimer. Seriously. Check it out.


It was the Sabres' first overtime winner since Ott's power-play goal on March 19 in Montreal -- and their first OT winner at home since Derek Roy's power-play goal beat the Leafs on April 3, 2012, the night that Jordan Leopold score the tying goal in the final two minutes with that memorable jam-scramble in front of the Leafs net. The Sabres lost their only previous home overtime this season to Tampa Bay and were 0-2 in home-deciding OT goals in the lockout-shortened campaign.

Sabres Live: Pregame chat at 7 p.m.; Leafs-Sabres updates at 7:30

Leafs have their own problems heading into tonight's game

By Mike Harrington

The HBO cameras are going to start to follow the Toronto Maple Leafs around next week for "24/7," the acclaimed show that chronicles the two teams playing in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic. The cameras may get an eyeful if the Leafs continue to be as bad as they've been lately.

After a 10-4 October, the Leafs are just 4-5-2 in November. They've given up 11 goals in the last two games, a 6-0 home disaster against Columbus and Wednesday's 6-5 shootout loss at Pittsburgh. They're 1-2-1 in the last four games, and the lone win was a shootout victory over Washington that saw goaltender James Reimer make 49 saves.

Reimer will be in goal tonight in First Niagara Center and figures to get plenty of work. 

The Leafs lead the NHL with 36.1 shots on goal against per game (the Sabres are 29th at 36.0). They've outshot their opponents just four times in 25 games (the Sabres have done it three times in 26). This is a team, remember, that had Boston beaten in Game Seven of the first round of the playoffs last year until blowing a three-goal lead and losing in overtime.

In Wednesday's game, the Leafs blew a 4-1 lead and were outshot 19-0 over the third period and overtime. Yes, 19 to zip. 

"I don't think you need rocket science to figure out that if you continue to give up five and six goals, you're not going to get many points," said coach Randy Carlyle. "We have to buckle down definitely in that area and get our defensive game going to a higer level. Part of that is to create a little more in the offensive zone as far as time in there."

Continue reading "Leafs have their own problems heading into tonight's game" »

Turning over a new Leaf: All the coverage as a new era starts with a toppling of Toronto

By Mike Harrington

Quite a Friday night at First Niagara Center as the Sabres beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-1, in a smashing debut of the Pat LaFontaine-Ted Nolan era. The teams will go at it again tonight at 7 in Air Canada Centre, with only a couple of Sabres expected to skate this morning. Nolan and players will be available in the 5 p.m. hour and we'll have updates then.

As for last night's game, I actually forgot this point: The Sabres are on their first two-game winning streak of the season! The purge of Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston, remember, came after a win, Tuesday's shootout escape over the Los Angeles Kings.

Continue reading "Turning over a new Leaf: All the coverage as a new era starts with a toppling of Toronto" »

Leafs coach Carlyle on preseason brawl fallout: 'It happened a long time ago'

by Amy Moritz

The busy day of hockey news at First Niagara Center continued this afternoon as the Toronto Maple Leafs practiced here, flying to Buffalo directly from their game Wednesday in Minnesota.

And there was no bulletin board material from Leafs coach Randy Carlyle about the first meeting between the Leafs and Sabres since their infamous preseason brawl in the Air Canada Centre.

"It happened a long time ago," Carlyle said. "It's things like that we don't like to remember. We're just trying to move on from that. We're here to play a hockey game that's going to give us the best chance for success and they're a hockey club that wants to show its new coach what they're made of. It should make for an exciting time."

Continue reading "Leafs coach Carlyle on preseason brawl fallout: 'It happened a long time ago'" »

Hear from Leafs' Clarkson, read more on the brawl

David Clarkson meets the media in Toronto Tuesday night.

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres' morning skate for tonight's game against Columbus begins at 10:30 so we'll hear from Ron Rolston and the players shortly before noon. According to the roster sheet, the scratches tonight are Jamie McBain, Kevin Porter, Nakita Zadorov, Brian Flynn, Luke Adam, and the injured Corey Tropp.

Click above for David Clarkson's press conference following last night's game in Toronto, where he accpeted his 10-game suspension for leaving the bench and offered his thoughts on his heart overriding his head when he saw John Scott engaging teammate Phil Kessel.

Click here for our story on the Ron Rolston fine/Phil Kessel suspension. The word out there is Rolston got banged $10,000, the same as Randy Carlyle got in his automatic fine for Clarkson leaving the bench. 

Veteran Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox, a big proponent of Rolston getting fined, got his wish Tuesday and offers his thoughts here.  In the Toronto Sun, Steve Simmons said the league got the penalties right as well.   Bucky Gleason says there are many to blame.

In non-brawl reports, click here to read my story today on Mark Pysyk, who seems a lock to make the Sabres defense. 

More from Scott and the hockey world on the big brawl

By Mike Harrington

Be sure to read today's story on the reaction to the Leafs-Sabres brawl, featuring the first public comments from Sabres tough guy John Scott. The Sabres are off today while Leafs forward David Clarkson, who got a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench, did not speak to Toronto reporters for the second straight day. Might want to get it over with, big guy.

(Clarkson can't possibly be pondering an appeal, right? On what grounds? The video is the video. It's clear as day.)

10:30 p.m. update: Clarkson spoke to reporters after the Leafs' game against Ottawa and said he will not be appealing.

One of the things that didn't make my long story was Scott's thought on the Leafs not sending out a tough guy like wannabe-enforcer Troy Bodie against him rather than Phil Kessel (Toronto brawler Colton Orr was injured and not playing).

What if it had been Bodie and not the stick-wielding Kessel?

"It would have been done with," Scott said. "There wouldn't have been any brawl, the goalies wouldn't have fought, there wouldn't be any suspensions. It would have been two tough guys fighting it out like it's supposed to be done. It would have been done a lot different."

More reactions:

---Shortly after midnight Sunday, Ryan Miller tweeted,  "Well... that escalated quickly. #oldtimehockey #eddieshore". It has been retweeted or favorited nearly 9,000 times as of noon today.

---Tweet from former Sabres agitator Matt Barnaby: "I would fight Scott and lose but... he also could not have made my bantam team."

---Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner to Senators reporters: "Their heavyweight went after their star. And then Kessel went Star Wars on him. It was pretty good entertainment."

---Leafs alum Mikhail Grabovski to the Washington Post on Kessel's act: "He looked like a musketeer."

---Former NHL tough guy Jody Shelley, now a Blue Jackets broadcaster/ambassador, to the Columbus Dispatch: "I didn't mind the brawl. What I really didn't like was the fight before it where [Jamie Devane] drove [Corey] Tropp's head into the ice. The rest was whatever. The way the first fight ended, that really bothered me."

NHL makes Clarkson's 10-game suspension official, hands five-game ban to ex-Sabre Kassian

By Mike Harrington

Some quick news Monday night from the NHL Department of Player Safety:

---David Clarkson of the Leafs has officially been handed a 10-game suspension for (foolishly) leaving the bench to join Sunday night's Sabres-Leafs scrum. That costs him more than $269,000 and keeps him out of the lineup until Toronto's 11th game, which is Oct. 25 against Columbus.

---There is no word on any penalty yet to Leafs winger Phil Kessel for his stick chops at John Scott. That one is going to require a hearing in the next day or two but Kessel did get a match penalty so should get at least one game.

---Vancouver winger Zack Kassian, the former Sabres No. 1 draft pick, has earned a five-game suspension and will also miss the final three preseason games for the reckless use of his stick. Kassian broke the jaw of Edmonton's Sam Gagner Saturday night in Rexall Place. Here's Brendan Shanahan's video explanation:

(Audio now included) Scott on the Throwdown in TO: 'I would have went after whoever they put lined up next to me'

By Mike Harrington

What should have been a routine September Monday in Sabres training camp turned into a bit of media circus this afternoon as reporters and camera crews from Toronto showed up at First Niagara Center to get the day-after thoughts about Sunday night's brawl with the Leafs in the Air Canada Centre.

The star of the show was Sabres enforcer John Scott, who was unavailable to the media Sunday. The 6-foot-8 Scott stood tall in front of his locker and calmly answered every question he got Monday, pointing out that he was not targeting Leafs star Phil Kessel. In the wake of Jamie Devane's beatdown of Corey Tropp a few seconds earlier, the Sabres were not going to be picky.

"I said, 'Phil I think we're going to have to go here, just to let you know,' " Scott said. "I would have went after who ever they put lined up next to me. I don't know what their coach had in mine. I wasn't trying to hurt him. I was just trying to send a message."

Scott and the Sabres were surprised Leafs coach Randy Carlyle -- who had the last line change -- opted for a scoring line in that situation rather than tough guy Troy Bodie. Did Scott break hockey's unwritten code that an enforcer shouldn't engage a star?

"Hey, I'd be pissed off if someone went after my star guy too," Scott said. "It's one of those things. Their coach didn't have to put Kessel out with me.

Scott said his legs are surprised from the stick swings Kessel took against him and that he was surprised by the reaction from the Leafs star.

Continue reading "(Audio now included) Scott on the Throwdown in TO: 'I would have went after whoever they put lined up next to me'" »

Day-after thoughts on the crazy tussle in Toronto


By Mike Harrington

The Sabres don't practice until 11:45 today. So that means it's going to be early this afternoon before we get any injury updates or hear from any of them with any second-day thoughts on last night's third-period festivities in Toronto that are the talk of the hockey world today.

Be sure to see John Vogl's post from last night with the complete penalty list. I'm told it was updated multiple times all the way to around 1 a.m.

Sportsnet's Chris Johnston points out that David Clarkson's likely 10-game suspension for charging off the bench is going to hurt the Leafs on the ice -- and put them in a big salary cap pickle as well. Suspended players still count against the cap, with Clarkson and Phil Kessel likely both doing some time.

Damien Cox of the Toronto Star blames Ron Rolston for the whole thing. I was not there and a key point I missed that Cox missed also was that Rolston did not send John Scott on to the ice for a pound of flesh. Scott was already out there for the fight between Corey Tropp and Jamie Devane. 

Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! has a good Q&A here about the particulars of the punch-up.

From watching the video, here are my quick thoughts:

John Scott: He was going to extract his pound of flesh. Bad optics doing it against a top Leafs guy however. Still, it's not unlike Adam Mair and Andrew Peters going after Jason Spezza and the boys from Ottawa in that infamous dustup in 2007 after Chris Drury had been KO'd. People in Toronto want Scott suspended but he did nothing to earn a ban. He instigated a fight, got penalized for it and that was that. You want to argue Scott can't play and doesn't belong in the league, that's a different argument. He should get nothing from Brendan Shanahan for this one.

Leafs coach Randy Carlyle: He was one of the biggest dopes in all of this. He had the last change. After seeing Tropp in distress being taken off the ice and seeing Scott remain on, he sends out his scorers thinking it would diffuse things? How does he line up Phil Kessel -- Phil Kessel! -- next to John Scott? 

Kessel: What was he thinking? He obviously wasn't. You're not a fighter and you have a 6-8, 270-pound guy coming at you, just back away. No one will think less of you. Use your stick like Paul Bunyan and you get a match penalty and perhaps a 2-3 game suspension. And it wasn't one love-tap either. It was three. Plus a spear later on in the melee.

This GIF is making the rounds today. Pretty funny. Stick as lightsaber.

Kessel-lightsaber

Ron Rolston: No issues. The Sabres can't be happy about seeing what happened with Tropp. He has to like the way his players were all in. Even Ryan Miller. 

David Clarkson: Here's the biggest dope. He didn't need to come off the bench. The Leafs on the ice had Scott contained. So now the biggest contract in franchise history starts with 10 games on the sidelines? That's crazy. And as Johnston wrote (link above), what do they do about money now in terms of Cody Franson or Mason Raymond? A veteran player should have known better.

Pondering the playoffs: Where have all the long overtimes gone?

By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- We're on hand at the Air Canada Centre for Game Six of the Leafs-Bruins series (tonight at 7:30) and I'm wondering if we're way-way-way overdue for one of those into-the-night marathon playoff games that people talk about for a long time.

Last night's Pittsburgh-Islanders game was the 16th overtime contest of the first round -- tying the record for a round set last year. Former East Amherst product Brooks Orpik scored the game winner at 7:48 and you can watch the video above.

But none of the 16 games have gone past the first OT. Only two have gone past 15 minutes and just five have gone past 10 minutes (Boston's David Krejci scored at 13:06 to win Game Four of this series here on Wednesday night. Five have lasted less than three minutes. 

The average in total is just a shade over eight minutes. Sure, there's some great players on the ice but I can say no superstar has scored an OT goal yet. I point to bad goaltending and there's been plenty of it in the postseason so far. We'll see what happens here tonight, and whether Tuukka Rask and James Reimer can stretch a tie game deep into the night.

Leafs' Lupul gets two-game suspension, will sit against Sabres tonight

By John Vogl

Toronto will be without one of its more potent offensive weapons when it visits Buffalo tonight.

The NHL has suspended Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul for two games for a hit to the head of Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman on Wednesday night. The first game will be against the Sabres in First Niagara Center.

"Lupul approaches from the side and recklessly targets Hedman's head by elevating and making it the principal point of contact," the NHL department of player safety said in its suspension video.

Lupul, who has missed most of the season with a broken arm, has three goals and four points in five games. The suspension will cost him $45,945.94.

Video: Rolston's first presser, Carlyle pays tribute to Ruff

By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- Click below to watch the pregame meetings with the media for Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston and Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, who spoke on Lindy Ruff's firing beginning at about the three-minute mark.

Leafs wary of Sabres being fired up by coaching change

By John Vogl

TORONTO -- The biggest unknown for tonight's game between Buffalo and Toronto is how the Sabres will respond to the firing of coach Lindy Ruff.

Will they be fired up and eager to show they can play?

Will they be too stunned to perform?

Will they just keep shuffling along as they've been doing and play like a 27th-place club?

The Maple Leafs are banking on the first option.

"Especially with a new coach coming in, they're going to be fired up and want to show him what they've got," forward Nazem Kadri said today in Air Canada Centre.

The Leafs have their own motivation: to make the playoffs. They haven't reached the postseason since 2004, but they are in position now. They are tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference with 20 points from a 10-7 record. They are 5-2 in the last seven games.

Now they just have to hold off the Sabres.

"We know they're going to come hard," center Tyler Bozak said. "There's a lot of season left."

Day-after quick hits on troubling loss to Maple Leafs

GWG
Matt Frattin burns Jordan Leopold and Ryan Miller for the OT winner. (AP)

 

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres are off today, a concession to the new CBA that mandates far more time away from the ice than the old one. No way -- and I mean no way -- Lindy Ruff would have taken today off in the past. There are too many things to work on.

So the team is off to Boston later today and I'll be heading to the airport late this afternoon as well, with the next time on the ice coming at 11:30 a.m. Thursday for the morning skate in TD Garden. Still shaking my head about last night's 4-3 overtime loss to Toronto. Lots of little nuggets percolating in my mind:

Continue reading "Day-after quick hits on troubling loss to Maple Leafs" »

Bizarre eye injury KOs Leafs Komisarek from lineup

By Mike Harrington

Veteran defenseman Mike Komisarek was victimized by Marcus Foligno on the memorable Jordan Leopold goal late in regulation that tied the Toronto Maple Leafs' last visit to Buffalo in April. Relive the crazy video above. There won't be any rematch of Komisarek-Foligno battles tonight.

Continue reading "Bizarre eye injury KOs Leafs Komisarek from lineup" »

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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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