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Talkin' Sabres on Sirius

By Mike Harrington

The good folks at Sirius XM's "Hockey This Morning" reached out to yours truly today and host Mike Ross and I spent a few minutes talking about the Sabres' past, present and future.

We discussed the Ville Leino buyout -- which was finalized today after he cleared waivers -- as well as the philosophy of building a team in the wake of Terry Pegula's purchase of the club in 2011 as compared to Tim Murray's hiring as general manager, and the prospects for next week's draft in Philadelphia. 

Click below to hear audio of the interview.

Mike Harrington on Sirius XM

With Sabres career over, here's a look back at Ville's greatest misses with the microphone

By John Vogl

Ville Leino, waived today for the purpose of a compliance buyout, gave me one of the best quotes of my career in 2012. The Sabres were struggling again, and the atmosphere in Buffalo's arena was a cross between library and morgue. He was in his first season with the Sabres after playing in the hockey hotbeds of Detroit and Philadelphia, so I asked him about the crowds in Buffalo.

"Married couples fighting upstairs, you can hear that on the ice," Leino said.

That, in the journalism world, is pure gold. It was laugh-inducing, relatable to hockey diehards and casual readers, plus it was true.

Alas, I didn't often get a chance to hit Ville up for his opinions. His play didn't warrant formal interviews (we'd casually chat often), and fans quickly grew tired of hearing from him.

Why? Well, Leino's point of view and his frank way of expressing it didn't sit well in the city that loves hard-working players. With that said, here are some of Leino's greatest misses with the microphone.

October 2011: "It's really tough to play with nine, 10 minutes a game and try to make something happen, feel comfortable out there. It's pretty much every time you feel into it, you're not playing. It definitely is not easy for me."

February 2012: "There's always more pressure if you've got a good contract and people are looking at you to contribute. It's always more pressure and a little harder, but I don't think that would be the reason. It's just been hard to get things going team-wise."

April 2012: "It took me a really long time to get used to all the stuff. Sometimes the flow in our game wasn't the way that it should be. We didn't get the puck. Our defense didn't get the pucks to forwards. We didn't make enough plays. We didn't have the puck enough. The flow of the game, it wasn't quite there.

"Sometimes when you go out there and play, it's easy. It's just hockey. You go. But sometimes this season I felt like it was a different game. I wasn't feeling comfortable. I wasn't feeling like I was just playing hockey. Sometimes I had to think too much or it just was not coming naturally."

April 2012: "Hopefully, I can see myself out there somewhere in the lineup, maybe try to find a better spot for me. Hopefully, I can play some power play and get some points. I think I've just got to come back and start making those plays and play my game right away and start feeling comfortable."

March 2013: "I’ll just try to keep it simple and try to play my hockey. We definitely need to be better. It’s not like one man is going to change anything. We all know that. We need everybody.”

March 2014: "I’m sure it weighs on me, too, but obviously there’s a lot of other guys on the team, too, that hasn’t been able to really help that much, either."

March 2014: "You don’t want to do that play, but saying that we’re not able to bail ourselves out of those situations. Nobody’s bailing you out. It’s three-on-three. It turns the other way, then we lose guys and lose battles and don’t box out. When you’re not playing good, those things end up going in.

“Saying that, I’ve still got to try to make plays when there’s an opportunity. Sometimes, it involves a little bit of a risk and taking a chance. I’ll try to stay out of it because that will bite me apparently.”

April 2014: "There was so many chances that could have turned into a goal, but it didn’t. There was a lot of posts, lot of good saves. I don’t know. I guess it’s hard to describe. It hasn’t really hit me that hard. A lot of ups and downs, a lot of emotions, and definitely has been hard to play my game.”

Leino's agent: Ville not surprised by Sabres buyout, wants to continue career in NHL

By John Vogl

Ville Leino met with his agent last week in Finland, and they discussed the probability of his contract being bought out by the Buffalo Sabres. When Markus Lehto called his client today to say the Sabres were indeed letting Leino loose, the news was expected.

"He wasn’t surprised," Lehto told The Buffalo News by phone this afternoon. "He was pretty neutral about it."

The Sabres started their buyout process today by placing Leino on waivers. If he clears in 24 hours -- and Lehto fully expects him to -- Leino will become an unrestricted free agent.

"Free agency starts first of July, and we’ll go from there," Lehto said. "His priority is to play in the NHL. He knows he’s a very good NHL player. Obviously, the past two seasons have been just average, I would say, but I’m not going to go and try and analyze what happened. I mean, we’ll just look forward."

Leino put on waivers as first step to compliance buyout

By Mike Harrington

Mercifully and just a tad short of three years after it began, the Sabres career of embattled winger Ville Leino is over.

The team has placed Leino on unconditional waivers today for the purposes of using one of its two compliance buyouts on his contract. The actual buyout cannot happen until Leino clears waivers at noon on Wednesday but that is expected to be a formality, with no team likely to be interested in picking up the final three years of Leino's deal that has a cap hit of $4.5 million per season.

The Sabres signed Leino to a six-year, $27 million deal on July 1, 2011 and it will cost them $7.333 million to get out of the final three years. The contract rates as one of the worst free agent deals in NHL history, and sits in the annals of Buffalo sports ignominy alongside the $49 million the Bills gave offensive lineman Derrick Dockery in 2007.

According to Capgeek.com, the Leino buyout will be the sixth-largest in NHL history when it becomes official.

Leino, 30, earned $16 million from the Sabres. That's pretty good coin when you consider he scored just 10 goals and had only 46 points for Buffalo in 137 games. He did not score a single goal last season in 58 games, earning richly-deserved stints in coach Ted Nolan's doghouse. Leino has 40 goals in 286 NHL games with Detroit, Philadelphia and Buffalo.

Leino's Buffalo career was essentially rooted in his 19-goal, 53-point season for the Flyers in 2010-11, a season that also saw him score the overtime winner over Buffalo in Game Six of the teams' first-round series and sent the Flyers home to win Game Seven.

Leino had seven goals and 21 points in 19 playoff games for the Flyers the previous spring as they came within two wins of a Stanley Cup and was expected to be a solid postseason player when he signed during Terry Pegula's first free-agent summer as owner. Of course, Leino never got the chance as the Sabres failed to make the playoffs in his three seasons and have now been dismantled into a 30th-place team that's in rebuilding mode.

Leino and Vancouver winger David Booth were both placed on waivers today for buyout purposes. Booth, who had nine goals and 10 assists in 66 games for the Canucks last season, has one year left on his deal with a $4.25 million cap hit.

Teams going slow on buyout front, Bruins tell tough guy Thornton he won't be re-signed

By Mike Harrington

There's only one player on waivers in the NHL today, with TSN's Bob McKenzie reporting it's Dallas defenseman Aaron Rome. That means the Sabres and others are not immediately acting on their compliance buyouts, with most observers still fully expecting the Sabres to buy out winger Ville Leino sooner rather than later. Dallas will buy out the final year of Rome's $1.5 million deal.

The compliance buyout period, where players are given a check to essentially go away and no longer count on their team's cap, ends June 30. You have to be on waivers before you can be bought out but waivers are obviously a technicality in Leino's case because no team in the NHL would pick up his bloated contact, which has a cap hit of $4.5 million for each of the next three seasons.

The Sabres, however, have to at least be giving some consideration to a regular buyout of Leino, which would see them retain a portion of his cap hit to help their efforts to reach the cap floor for next season. John Vogl discussed the implications of both versions of a Leino buyout at this post last week, and a regular buyout would see some Leino money on the Sabres' cap through the 2019-20 season.

Elsewhere, the Boston Bruins have told tough guy Shawn Thornton that they will not be re-signing him and will be letting him head into free agency. Thornton spent the last seven years in Boston, posting career-highs of 10 goals and 20 points during the Bruins' 2010-11 Stanley Cup season.

Speaking to BostonBruins.com late this afternoon, GM Peter Chiarelli spoke wistfully of Thornton when he said, "He was here from almost the beginning and I told him he was one of the most significant acquisitions that we made. ... He was able to form one-third of maybe the best fourth line in hockey for the longest time."

Thornton, Gregory Campbell and former Sabre Daniel Paille formed that fourth line that helped Boston win its Cup in 2011. But he suffered a concussion in a beatdown from John Scott in January, 2013, and hasn't been much of a factor since.

In addition, he served a 15-game suspension last season for his attack on Pittsburgh's Brooks Oprik and was fined during the playoffs for spraying Montreal's P.K. Subban with water while sitting on the Bruins' bench.

One of the big takeaways from the Stanley Cup final is how important it is for teams to have four real lines. Both the Kings and Rangers did, with the role of pugilists like Thornton and Scott, who doesn't figure into the Sabres' plans, seemingly shrinking ever more on the NHL landscape. Thornton turns 37 in July, and this could be it for his career.

Leino's agent: 'Few very short discussions' with Sabres about buyout possibility

By John Vogl

Ville Leino remains the NHL's most likely buyout candidate, but there hasn't been much talk between the Sabres and his agent.

"I have had few very short discussions about Leino with Tim Murray," Leino's agent, Markus Lehto, told The News by email.

Murray, Buffalo's general manager, has said it's a "very good possibility" the team will part ways with Leino. The NHL buyout period will begin 48 hours after the Stanley Cup final ends and continue until June 30.

It will cost the Sabres $7.333 million to buy out the remaining three seasons of Leino's contract. The team signed him to a six-year, $27 million deal in 2011, and he's already been paid $16 million.

Buffalo has two buyout options for Leino. The Sabres possess two compliance buyouts, and using one would allow them to remove Leino from their salary cap. However, the Sabres' salary cap number next season is just under $39 million, according to CapGeek.com, and the salary cap floor will be approximately $52 million. They could use a regular buyout on Leino to help them get to the lower limit.

A normal buyout, according to CapGeek, would leave $1.72 million on the Sabres' cap this season, $2.22 on the cap in 2015-16 and '16-17, and $1.22 million from '17-18 through '19-20.

Leino moves closer to goal-less season as Sabres will scratch forward for penultimate game

By John Vogl

BOSTON -- The pain of a goal-less season is one day closer for Ville Leino.

The Sabres' much-maligned forward will be a healthy scratch for this afternoon's game in Boston. John Scott will replace Leino in the lineup.

Leino has played 57 games this season without finding the net. The Sabres' final game is Sunday at home against the New York Islanders.

Buffalo will set an NHL record when the puck drops in TD Garden. Connor Knapp will be the backup goaltender, becoming the ninth netminder this season.

"I’m setting records right away when I get in," said the 23-year-old, who is in the NHL for the first time. "It’s a crazy year, for sure, within the organization, but it’s given a lot of guys opportunities. It’s great just to be here and see what it’s like and how everyone conducts themselves. I’m pretty excited."

To hear from coach Ted Nolan and Knapp, click the audio files below.

Ted Nolan

Connor Knapp

Leino's shootout moment was a reminder of the good times that can be had

By John Vogl

Anyone who says it’s been fun heading to the Sabres’ arena day in, day out since September is either lying or unaware of what fun really is. Players, team employees and season-ticket holders have all bemoaned the drudgery.

It’s why Tuesday night was so ridiculously awesome.

For the first time all season, I drove away from First Niagara Center fully believing I saw the coolest thing in Buffalo that night. There is no place I’d rather have been around 10 p.m. when Ville Leino hopped over the boards for a shootout.

The crowd’s reaction to the most-maligned player on the last-place team was simply amazing. The fans already on their feet cheered louder than they had during the first eight rounds. The rest of the crowd stood to join them, with folks lifting their arms and exhorting their neighbors to get crazy.

When Leino scored – the first time any of his shots had hit the back of the net all season – it was bedlam. Players and coaches laughed, fans exchanged high-fives and memories were made.

It’s what sports is supposed to be about.

“That,” Drew Stafford said in the dressing room, “was the highlight of the season.”

Continue reading "Leino's shootout moment was a reminder of the good times that can be had" »

Leino back for Sabres, trying not to think about offensive troubles and buyout possibility

By John Vogl

MONTREAL -- Ville Leino will get another chance to score his first goal. The offensively challenged winger, who was scratched for the previous two games, will play against Montreal tonight with center Zenon Konopka out with a back injury.

"I’ll just try to make plays, work hard and try to create some offense, create some chances," Leino said in Bell Centre. "That’s my game. I can’t be anyone else."

He certainly hasn't been what Buffalo expected when it signed him to a six-year, $27 million contract in 2011. Leino has no goals and only 34 shots in 50 games this season. He has 12 assists and hasn't reached the score sheet in 10 games.

"I’m sure it weighs on me, too, but obviously there’s a lot of other guys on the team, too, that hasn’t been able to really help that much either," said Leino, who has tried to avoid thoughts of his benching. "There’s so much going on in here in the organization with how this team’s been lately. I’m just trying to stay focused and not think about it too much. When you go in, do your best."

Coach Ted Nolan benched Leino primarily because of a giveaway last Tuesday in Calgary.

"It’s not a good play," Leino said. "You don’t want to do that play, but saying that we’re not able to bail ourselves out of those situations. Nobody’s bailing you out. It’s three-on-three. It turns the other way, then we lose guys and lose battles and don’t box out. It always happens when you try to do that. When you’re not playing good, those things end up going in.

"I’ll try to stay away from that. Saying that, I’ve still got to try to make plays when there’s an opportunity. Sometimes, it involves a little bit of a risk and taking a chance. I’ll try to stay out of it because that will bite me apparently."

Because of his struggles, Leino is a candidate to be a compliance buyout this summer as the Sabres seek to get out of the final three seasons of his contract.

"I can’t really do anything about it, so I’ll accept whatever it is," Leino said. "When the season’s over, that’s time to think about that."

Leino will play alongside center Matt Ellis and left wing John Scott on the Sabres' fourth line. The other lines will be Tyler Ennis in the middle of Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford, Cody Hodgson centering for Cory Conacher and Torrey Mitchell, and Brian Flynn flanked by Nicolas Deslauriers and Matt D'Agostini.

Sabres' Nolan on Leino: 'It doesn't matter what your skill level is. It's nothing with no will'

By John Vogl

Ville Leino has no goals in 30 games. He takes less than one shot per outing. He seems uninterested some nights.

Add it all up and it results in a fourth-line role and a spot in Ted Nolan's doghouse.

Leino skated at center today with left wing John Scott and right wing Matt Ellis. He'll likely be there Tuesday when the Sabres host Florida.

"We’re looking for people that want to compete and want to work," Nolan said in First Niagara Center. "It doesn’t matter what your skill level is. It’s nothing with no will. We have to get him competing at a certain level. Some days he shows it. Some days he doesn’t.

"You're frustrated with most people that don’t do it on a consistent basis. He’s showed some signs lately."

Leino continues to provide evidence he may be the worst free-agent signing in NHL history. In the third season of his six-year, $27 million deal, Leino has no goals, six assists and a minus-8 rating in 30 games. He has taken just 22 shots, which ranks 575th in the league. He has no points in the last eight outings.

Leino scratched for tonight's game, says of Nolan: 'I'm not exactly sure what he wants out of me'

By Mike Harrington

Ted Nolan has seen the same thing all of you have -- and a little bit more. So the masses are probably happy with the news that goal-less Ville Leino is a healthy scratch tonight against the Ottawa Senators, a first for Leino since Nolan has taken over.

Leino has five assists and a minus-6 rating in 18 games this season. He has four of his assists since Nolan took over but still can't crack the net. Worse yet, he's minus-3 in the last two games and the coach has seen enough. Leino will join Mike Weber in the First Niagara Center press box tonight, with John Scott and Brayden McNabb moving back into the lineup.

"Certain players with a certain skill set, they have to bring it," Nolan said. "And if you're not going to play as well as you can, sometimes it's better off to sit and observe for a while. And hopefully when he gets back in here, he plays the way he's capable of playing."

Leino's ice time increased slightly when Nolan took over from Ron Rolston, who made Leino a healthy scratch Nov. 8 in Anaheim. In the five games prior to Saturday's 3-2 loss in Montreal, Leino played at least 18 minutes in all of them and had some great stints of puck possession. But he played just 13:18 Saturday and was dropped to the fourth line in practice Monday as part of Nolan's shuffing.

"I don't know what to tell you," Leino said. "Just like you said, Back and forth. I'm not exactly sure what he wants out of me."

Continue reading "Leino scratched for tonight's game, says of Nolan: 'I'm not exactly sure what he wants out of me'" »

Sabres' Nolan talks with players, making position changes for Leino, Foligno, Girgensons

By John Vogl

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.

Absence of Leino, Ehrhoff headlines lineup changes for Sabres against Ducks

By John Vogl

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Sabres are making a pair of significant lineup changes, one forced by injury and another by inept play.

Christian Ehrhoff, who suffered a lower-body injury Thursday against Los Angeles, will not play against the Ducks tonight in Anaheim. He will be replaced in the lineup by rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who was scratched during the previous two games.

Forward Ville Leino will take a seat as a healthy scratch. Leino has one assist in seven games and a minus-2 rating. He took his first shot on goal of the season Thursday. He will be replaced by Mikhail Grigorenko, who sat the last three games.

To hear coach Ron Rolston's pregame comments, click the audio file below. (I wouldn't bother if I were you.)

Ron Rolston

Leino could return to Sabres' lineup tonight; Weber out long term with thumb injury

By John Vogl

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Sabres badly need someone who can create offense. Ville Leino has a chance to heed the call.

The forward might play tonight when the Sabres visit Tampa Bay. He said his broken rib, suffered during the season opener, is no longer giving him discomfort.

"I’m feeling good," he said in Tampa Bay Times Forum. "It’s going to be for coaches and me to make the move.

"I’m just excited to go back out there and play hockey. I love playing hockey, so for me it’s just going to be fun to go out there and play, and that’s always when I play the best, too."

Coach Ron Rolston said it's a "possibility" that Leino returns against the Lightning.

"He’s obviously a veteran presence here," Rolston said. "He’s got the ability to create offense and control the puck, so it’ll be a help, but he hasn’t played for a while, too, so it’s going to take him a bit, I’m sure."

The Sabres would need to clear a roster spot to activate Leino, and they could do so by placing defenseman Mike Weber on injured reserve. He has a cast on his left thumb after blocking a shot Friday in Florida and will be out long term, Rolston said.

The only player to take the ice for the optional morning skate was suspended Patrick Kaleta, so it's not clear if Ryan Miller will start in goal as scheduled or if Jhonas Enroth has earned a second straight start after his 44-save performance Friday.

Lather/rinse/repeat: Injured Leino out indefinitely, Larsson to play in home opener

By Mike Harrington

Ville Leino wasn't on the ice for Sabres practice today in First Niagara Center and media antennas understandably went up. A couple players said they didn't know anything (sometimes that's true) but coach Ron Rolston then confirmed suspicions: Leino is injured again and will not play in Friday's home opener against Ottawa.

And, in fact, the cracked rib Leino suffered in the first period Wednesday in Detroit is going to keep him out indefinitely.

"It happened in the first period, probably about 3-4 shifts in," Rolston said. "It was just sore and it seized up overnight and we had it checked."

Leino played 12:36 in the game, registering no shots on goal. He was even on the ice inside the final two minutes so there were no obvious signs of injury. So for those scoring at home, that means Leino has now played nine games since the end of the 2011-12 season; he was limited to eight last year due to hip and lung injuries. 

The Leino injury means Johan Larsson will move into the lineup at center, likely with Tyler Ennis and Steve Ott. Ennis will go back to the wing. Larsson played one game for Minnesota last year and will make his Sabres debut in the home opener.

"He's going to get a good opportunity,' Rolston said. "I like everything about him. His attitude, the way he works, preparation. He's a good detail player. This will give him a good opportunity to play with some good players and show us what he can do. It's a good thing. He's ready."

After Wednesday's 0-for-7 clunker on the power play, the special teams got plenty of attention at today's practice.

"I thought we played slow on the power play," Rolston said. "I think at times I think we have to pass it in the net. We just played slow, didn't move it quick enough and once we got it out top we didn't get things down there."

Said Ennis: "We had golden opportunities there with 5-on-3 with clean ice. Those have to go in."

In other news, Marcus Foligno skated in a non-contact role and said he's targeting Tuesday's visit by Tampa Bay for his return. Zemgus Girgensons confirmed his parents had travel issues coming from Latvia and arrived in Detroit well after Wednesday's game ended, missing his first NHL goal. They were driving to Buffalo today so they could attend Friday's game.

Click below to hear Rolston's session with reporters, which opens with a salute to the Bills and includes plenty of talk about the power play Meltdown in Motown.

Ron Rolston

Sabres' Miller eager to enjoy his 500th game while knowing it won't be his last

By John Vogl

Ryan Miller is eager to make his 500th appearance in a Buffalo Sabres uniform Friday. It's a milestone he's thrilled to reach.

But, he says, it's not a finale.

"There’ll be more hockey games," Miller said today after practice in First Niagara Center. "It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s nice to just be able to talk about it right now. I think I’ve got a lot more hockey in me, so [it's nice] being able to just kind of reflect and enjoy a moment, but it’s going to be another hockey game and I have to prepare and compete. I’m just trying to enjoy that part of it. That’s what I like to do. That’s what I know to do."

Miller will become the 62nd goaltender to play 500 and just the 20th to do it with the same team.

Though Miller will certainly play again, there are questions as to where. He has only one year left on his contract, and the Sabres are rebuilding.

"There’s been a lot of ‘could be last game as a Sabre’ the last few years," Miller said. "I’m just trying to enjoy the moment. It’s going to be my 500th game. I’m going to approach it the same way I’ve approached the other 499: Just put your pads on and try to do your best. See where it kind of goes, go out and have fun, try and make the saves and see where it all shakes out."

Miller's previous start in Buffalo was rocky, with the goaltender getting pulled after allowing four goals in 22 minutes. The fans jeered him, and he gave them a wave during play.

"I’m not mad at the fans," he said. "It’s heat of the moment. You get emotional.

"Some people were giving me some grief, and I just picked my hand up like, ‘OK, I hear ya.’ It wasn’t a screw you. It wasn’t a, ‘I hate you guys.’ It was, ‘You know, I hear ya. Enough. I get it. Just let me try and do what I’ve got to do.’

"I’ve done more than my fair share to go out and prove that I’m part of this community and give back as much as I can. We don’t even talk about all the stuff I try and do to make this feel more like my second home. That’s where I’m going to leave it. I care about the people here. If they’re frustrated with the way we’re playing, I can acknowledge it and we can move on."

The Sabres will again be without Ville Leino when they host the Islanders in the season finale.

"He had some issues with his lung, yes, that he’s dealing with," interim coach Ron Rolston said. "He’s actually a lot better. He’s doing well right now. Obviously, it’s a serious injury, but it wasn’t anything that was major."

Ryan Miller

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" »

No Sabres on waivers today; Flynn or Foligno likely will return to Rochester to make room for Leino

By John Vogl

Ville Leino will be activated from injured reserve Saturday, and the Sabres need to clear room for him. It appears either Brian Flynn or Marcus Foligno will head to Rochester to open a roster spot.

The Sabres needed to put a player on waivers at noon today in order for him to clear Saturday, but they elected not to waive anyone.

Flynn and Foligno are the only players who can be sent to the Amerks without waivers, so they are the leading candidates to depart. A long-shot option would be to send Mikhail Grigorenko back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but his team has only two games remaining in the regular season.

UPDATE: There have been no discussions between Sabres and Quebec Remparts about sending Grigorenko back, a source told The News this afternoon.

"We’re actually meeting this afternoon on it to figure it out, but it will be solved by tomorrow," interim coach Ron Rolston said today.

Flynn has two goals and three points in six games with the Sabres. Foligno scored twice Tuesday in a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers to bring his totals to three goals and 11 points in 26 games.

Grigorenko, who practiced on the fifth line today with John Scott and suspended Patrick Kaleta, has one goal and five points in 22 games.

Flynn was the last player called up, but he has improved rapidly during his first appearance in the NHL.

"He’s gotten better every game," Rolston said. "He would understand the circumstances, but he’s played exceptionally well for us."

Ron Rolston

Sabres' Sulzer out for rest of season after knee surgery; Leino, Ennis, Miller set to return against Senators

By John Vogl

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.

Continue reading "Sabres' Sulzer out for rest of season after knee surgery; Leino, Ennis, Miller set to return against Senators" »

Rolston Report (w/audio): Sekera, Leino likely out Sunday

By Mike Harrington

With Rihanna in First Niagara Center and a massive youth tournament in the Northtown Center, the Sabres had to practice at Cazenovia Rink in South Buffalo this afternoon. (My first time ever in the place in six years on this beat. Not bad. Nice little heaters above the viewing section).  It was a short, quick workout with interim coach Ron Rolston keeping a sharp tempo in the wake of last night's flameout in New Jersey.

And Rolston put on a happy face with reporters after the workout too. He's 3-3-2 since taking over for Lindy Ruff -- and 3-1-2 since dropping his first two games against Toronto and the New York Islanders when he was largely in watch-only mode.

"The last six games we have eight points and we potentially should have had 10 points out of 12," Rolston said, referring to the blown points Sunday in New York and last night in Jersey. "There's certainly things that we want to have back like last night's game but there's also a lot of things that going positive. We're building some good roots in the ground right now for our team to grow and we just have to stay with it."

The suspended Patrick Kaleta and long-term injured Alex Sulzer were not on the ice today as expected. The only missing player was defenseman Andrej Sekera, who Rolston has pretty much ruled out for Sunday's game in Philadelphia after getting hurt in the third period Thursday. Rolston also said no to Ville Leino, who was hoping to make his season debut against his former team.

"We're just trying to get him back into practice and get him quality practice time," Rolston said. "Really grinding, get him in more competitive situations. It will be close. I don't know when. I would doubt Sunday but certainly next week a strong possibility."

Leino didn't know he had been ruled out until John Wawrow of the AP and I talked to him. He said "it really doesn't matter" who he heard it from but, from experience, I can tell you it matters.

"I think I'm at a point in the practice where I can't really push much harder," Leino said. "The next step will be the games. It's been a while. It would be nice to get back in there. [Philly] is always a special spot for me to play against. It would have been fun."

Rolston also responded to Jhonas Enroth's contention that he drank too much coffee during the day and that's why he cramped late in Thursday's game -- and why he may have been unable to get across the crease to stop Patrik Elias' tying goal with 66 seconds left.

"It's part of his growth," Rolston said. "I don't know what the final outcome was on it. Part of his growth as an athlete is making sure he's taking care of himself in that one. I know our staff has been over it and it's just something he has to take care of in the future."

Click below to hear Rolston's session with reporters today.

Ron Rolston

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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

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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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