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On an off day, more thoughts on a wild loss to the Caps

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres are off today and currently en route to Phoenix for Thursday night's game against the Coyotes. By the way, the boys from the Valley of the Sun have just announced they will be called the "Arizona Coyotes" starting with the 2014-15 season.

Tuesday night's 5-4 overtime loss to Washington was one of the more entertaining Sabres games of the year and left plenty of follow-up thoughts in my mind as I watched parts of the tape today on my DVR.

---Surprised to hear no NHL discipline hearing for Sabres defenseman Mike Weber, especially for the very cheap shot in the final minute against Washington's Nicklas Backstrom. I may have jumped the gun in today's story saying it was a hit to the head. It appears Weber doesn't hit the head just by happenstance, so he may go unpunished. Still, a pretty stupid play overall. Caps coach Adam Oates certainly thought it was a penalty. Take a look for yourself: 

---How cool is it to watch a kid on any team score his first NHL goal? It always is. As Amy Moritz writes, we saw that last night with Phil Varone, who has certainly not looked out of place since he came up from Rochester.

---How cool is it to watch a superstar in action? Alex Ovechkin was a flat-out stud with two goals in the first five minutes and one of his two assists coming on the game-winner. Bucky Gleason's post-game column on the Great Eight includes plenty of thoughts on the Olympics too. I watched Sidney Crosby and Ovi live on back-to-back nights. Sometimes the gig has its privileges.

Continue reading "On an off day, more thoughts on a wild loss to the Caps" »

Against Caps, same lineup will have a key goal: Stay out of the box

By Mike Harrington

In his pregame briefing with reporters this afternoon,  interim coach Ted Nolan said he will use the same lineup as he did in Friday's shootout loss in Toronto and will start off at least with the same lines. That means Alexander Sulzer will again be a healthy scratch.

"To make a change just to make a change doesn't seem right," Nolan said. "Defense wasn't our problem the last game."

Nolan initially hedged when asked who would be in goal and then said Ryan Miller "probably" will play. But the look on his face was one of I-dont-really-want-to-say-but-I-just-did.

The Capitals have the NHL's top power play at 25.9 percent, no surprise when the lineup includes NHL goal leader Alexander Ovechkin and his league-high 12 goals on the power play. The Sabres are just 20th on the penalty kill and 12th at home. Their first priority, Nolan said, is simply to not take penalties at all.

The Sabres have taken 11 penalties in the last three games, killing nine. The Caps, conversely, have scored a power-play goal in seven of their last eight games.

"If we are going to take a penalty, if there's such a thing as a good penalty, we have to make sure it's a good one," Nolan said. "Not one of those lazy ones that are 200 feet from our end, in the offensive zone or neutral zone. It has to be a good penalty for us to have the spirit to kill it off."

The Sabres also have to figure out their second-period struggles. When Nolan arrived, they had been outscored, 27-3, in the first period but that deficit is just 10-8 in his 18 games. In the middle frame, however, the Sabres have been outscored, 21-9, under Nolan when their deficit was just one (18-17) under Ron Rolston.

The Sabres' 2-0 lead went poof-in-the-Toronto night in the second period Friday as the Maple Leafs scored all three of their goals. 

"We had we thought that problem fixed and then all of a sudden the last game, there's no answer for the way we played," Nolan said. "There was just one mistake after another mistake, one turnover after another turnover. It was just very uncharacteristic of the way we've been playing lately."

More bad news for the Sabres: Ovechkin has gone scoreless the last two games -- and hasn't failed to score in three straight all season. He had 12 shots on goal over the last two games so he certainly seems overdue.

Red-hot Ovechkin big test for struggling penalty killers

Ovi
Alexander Ovechkin leads the NHL with 10 power-play goals. (Getty Images)

 

By Mike Harrington

The Sabres' woeful power play has been a major talking point all season but they've scored in five of the last six games and improvement is readily apparent. The penalty kill, however, has taken a huge step backwards at the same time.

Heading into tonight's game against Washington, the Sabres are 27th in the NHL on the PK at 77 percent (Hmmm. A 30th-ranked power play and a 27th-ranked PK unit. That might account for being a non-playoff team). Even worse, Buffalo is 29th on the PK at home at 73.9 percent.

The Capitals, meanwhile, are second in the NHL on the power play at 24.1 percent and tied for second on the road at 22.8. Alexander Ovechkin leads the league in PP goals, with 10 of his 16 coming on man-advantage situations.

Ovechkin has tallied 19 goals and 12 assists in 29 career games against Buffalo, including two goals in two games this season. He's also coming off NHL First Star of the Week honors after piling up five goals and eight points in four games ending Sunday. And he's on a six-game point streak (6g, 4a)

Buffalo has allowed a power goal in four straight games, including two in Thursday's shootout loss in Florida. In that stretch, the Sabres have killed just 11 of 17 penalties. Under interim coach Ron Rolston, they've killed just 49 of 67, a 73.1 percent clip that would put them last in the NHL if it was their season total (Florida is currently last at 74.1).

Continue reading "Red-hot Ovechkin big test for struggling penalty killers" »

Live from Verizon Center: Sabres at Capitals

Injured Vanek is out for Sabres against Capitals; Grigorenko will play final game of tryout

By John Vogl

WASHINGTON -- Only three players on the Sabres are producing, and one of them won't play today.

Continue reading "Injured Vanek is out for Sabres against Capitals; Grigorenko will play final game of tryout" »

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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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