Ted Nolan has a reputation as a coach for whom players would run through a wall. He earns it through motivational techniques and by proving he's with them and believes in them. The latter trait is already shining through.
The Sabres' new coach sat down individually with players to learn about their backgrounds and desires. It's leading to a few changes designed to help the players -- and, by extension, the team -- perform better.
Nolan said erstwhile wingers Ville Leino and Zemgus Girgensons will play center tonight when the Sabres host Toronto in First Niagara Center. Marcus Foligno, who had been put in the middle recently, will move back to the wing.
"We want to put these players where they feel comfortable so there's no excuses," Nolan said after the morning skate, which ended differently than it had under former coach Ron Rolston.
The players congregated in the middle of the ice for post-drill stretching, an exercise done more for camaraderie than for the muscles. Players tapped their sticks when Henrik Tallinder skated to the middle to lead the stretch, and they talked and laughed throughout the maneuvers.
Under Rolston, players quickly went their separate ways at the end and a sense of team was lacking. Guys definitely felt "lighter" today, Nolan said. The coach said Tyler Ennis looked like he had "a 50-pound weight off his back."
Mikhail Grigorenko, Johan Larsson and Nikita Zadorov will be the Sabres' healthy scratches. Mike Weber (thumb) will return next week.
To hear from Nolan and his expectations on what's sure to be an emotional return to the Sabres' bench, click the audio file below.
Alexander Sulzer will miss the rest of the season for the Buffalo Sabres after undergoing successful surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The normal recovery time is a year.
The defenseman was injured Feb. 23 against the Islanders after a collision in the corner.
"He had successful knee surgery and he will be out for the
rest of the year," interim coach Ron Rolston said today. "What happens in those injuries – I’m not really a
doctor, but I play one on TV – what happens is there’s so much swelling early
on that it’s hard to diagnose early how damaged it is until that goes away and
until they can actually go in there.
Still, it was pretty odd how quickly Richards returned; NHL senior vice president for player safety Brendan Shanahan usually takes injuries into account on his supplemental discipline decisions and the fact Richards came right back will help Kaleta some. But only some.
Kaleta had a four-game suspension in 2011 for a head-butt and his reputation around the league is plain terrible. Look what Mark Spector, a senior columnist for Sportsnet.ca, tweeted last night: "Patrick Kaleta is a dangerous, irresponsible player. Has been for years. Game doesn't need him. Be a better place without him."
TORONTO -- Today is the first day since July 20, 1997 that Lindy Ruff is not the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres. Jeez. Think of everything that has gone on in the hockey world since then, or just simply in life.
For 12 players and three of the four assistant coaches on the roster, Ruff is the only head coach they've ever played for or worked under in the NHL. So it's pretty surreal that they're getting ready for tonight's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs without him.
The players and coaches were on the bus in Amherst yesterday to come to Toronto and some said it was odd Ruff wasn't there yet. When he showed up, he hopped on board and said he had some news. Several thought he was announcing a trade. Instead, he said he was fired and thanked them. And then he hopped off.
"That's when we totally realized changes were on the way," captain Jason Pominville said here today. "We all said, "We gotta go out there and see him.' It was pretty emotional for everyone."
Mikhail Grigorenko has been a surprise in the faceoff circle. (Getty Images)
By Mike Harrington
BOSTON -- The Sabres have to be quicker on the draw. That's become plainly obvious this season. But it could really be a major issue tonight.
Buffalo enters the game last in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 42 percent -- and the Boston Bruins are No. 1 at 60.7 percent. There's been plenty of chatter on Twitter in recent days over how significant the Sabres' troubles in the circle really are. I say it's one key problem to the season (although I would list lack of secondary scoring and poor play along the blueline as bigger trouble spots).
(*I acknowledge a decent argument can be made that six games is a small sample size, although I remind you it's already 12.5 percent of the season. And it also can be pointed out that the numbers might even out a little bit as well because 42 percent is historically bad; the last-place team in the league has never been under 44 percent since 1998.).
Let's start by comparing the two teams' numbers. The NHL lists faceoffs in wins-losses format so a team or player that's, say, 20-25 has won 20 and lost 25 and is NOT 20 OUT OF 25 (Going 20-25 essentially means 20 of 45).
John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.
Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.