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Girgensons scores key goal as Nolan-led Latvia stuns Team USA; Hodgson's hat trick sparks Canada

By Mike Harrington

The standout NHL team at the World Championships today in Minsk? None other than your Buffalo Sabres.

With Ted Nolan behind the bench and Zemgus Girgensons getting the go-ahead goal with 5:25 left in the third period, upstart Latvia upset Team USA, 6-5. Girgensons' goal was simply spectacular -- and he burned Sabres/Team USA prospect Jake McCabe (No. 29 in white). Take a look at the play and the celebration on the Latvian broadcast, from both the announcers and the fans:

Keeping their momentum going from their strong showing at the Sochi Olympics, the Latvians have three wins in this tournament -- after not posting one since 2001. Latvia plays Russia on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Cody Hodgson notched a hat trick as Canada rolled past Denmark, 6-1. Hodgson had a goal in each period and Tyler Myers added an assist for Canada. 

Canada leads Group A with 10 points while Latvia is second in Group B with nine and Team USA is fourth with six.  The U.S. meets Kazakhstan on Friday and Finland on Sunday. You can see all the standings here. 

Risto back to Roch but decision looming on Grigorenko

By Mike Harrington

Sunday was an off day so what did many of the Buffalo Sabres do? Of course. Watch hockey. Specifically, they were drawn to the medal games of the World Junior Championships as Mikhail Grigorenko scored a goal in Russia's 2-1 bronze-medal victory over Canada and Rasmus Ristolainen scored the overtime winner that gave Finland a 3-2 win over Sweden for gold.

Interim coach Ted Nolan watched too and was impressed but he's already moving on to the Sabres' next thought. The interim coach said Ristolainen will return to Rochester while Grigorenko will come to Buffalo to meet with Nolan and Pat LaFontaine and discuss returning to junior. That seemed to be where Nolan was heading when he was asked what he thought of Grigorenko's play.

"Some mixed reviews. That's a problem with some young players, that consistent factor," Nolan said. " He played great at moments and not so well at other moments. ... That's been the book and it's up to our organization to correct that.

"And you don't correct that by giving things to players. You make them earn it and you watch them do it on a consistent basis for a consistent amount of time. You donn't just do it for a week and say, 'We're all fixed.'

In other news from practice today: 

---Tyler Myers' phone hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety is this afternoon after his head shot on New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus on Saturday night.

"I was expecting at least something just because of what penalty I got on the play," Myers said today, referring to the checking to the head penalty he received.

---Ville Leino sounds pessimistic he'll play tomorrow but continues to say he's feeling better.

---Jhonas Enroth said Sweden will be picking his Olympic team tomorrow and he's hoping to hear if he's been selected as a backup to Henrik Lundqvist. 

Click below to hear Nolan's session with reporters on the Myers hit, his defense and the World Juniors.

Ted Nolan

With World Juniors over, it's back to decision time on Ristolainen and Grigorenko

How's your Finnish? Forget TSN. Here's the how-it-sounded-back-home TV call to the folks in Helsinki and environs as Rasmus Ristolainen scores the Golden Goal to beat Sweden.

By Mike Harrington

With the World Junior Championships complete, it's back to decision time for the Sabres with their three highly-touted young stars.

Defenseman Nikita Zadorov, a tournament all-star for Russia, is certainly going back to London of the OHL so he can be a standout there and get experience playing in the Memorial Cup. As hosts, the Knights get an automatic bid to Canada's premier junior championship tournament. Easy call.

The picture is not so clear for Rasmus Ristolainen and Mikhail Grigorenko.

Ristolainen, who scored the golden goal in overtime Sunday for Finland over Sweden, played 19 games for the Sabres before heading to Rochester and then joining the Finnish team. He was named the most outstanding defenseman in the tournament.

The team's No. 1 draft pick from last June could probably use more time in the AHL rather than be thrust into an NHL lineup on a weak team. But the Sabres have holes on defense with Alexander Sulzer, Jamie McBain and Mike Weber making for marginal NHLers and resurgent Tyler Myers perhaps looking at a multi-game suspension for Saturday's hit on Dainius Zubrus of the Devils.

While there might be some temptation to bring him to the NHL, Ted Nolan and Pat LaFontaine want to develop players and not rush them and they have that avenue by sending Ristolainen back to  Rochester. It's not so easy for Grigorenko.

Grigorenko can't go to Rochester but the Sabres can send him back to junior. The Quebec Remparts have struggled to make room for him but could trade him by Tuesday's Quebec League deadline. Or the Sabres could bring him back to Buffalo and try again to see if they can get any of his offensive talent to shine at age 19 in the NHL. He led Russia in the tourney with five goals, eight points and a plus-6 rating, and scored the first goal against Canada in the Russians' bronze-medal game victory.

You be Nolan and LaFontaine for a minute. What do you do?

Zadorov, Grigorenko combine to knock USA out of World Juniors medal race

Nikita Zadorov (left) and Anton Slepyshev celebrate one of Zadorov's goals today against Team USA (Getty Images).

By Mike Harrington

MINNEAPOLIS -- There will be no gold-medal repeat for Team USA at the World Junior Championships. And they can thank two Sabres prospects for causing their ultimate set of problems.

Defenseman Nikita Zadorov had two power-play goals and Mikhail Grigorenko also scored as Russia posted a 5-3 quarterfinal win today in Malmo, Sweden. Zadorov scored both of his goals from the point on a 5-on-3 situation in the second period to put Russia into the semifinals against the Sweden-Slovakia winner. 

We know Zadorov is going to back to London of the OHL after this tournament, especially with the Knights hosting the Memorial Cup this year. But what in the world do the Sabres do with Grigorenko now? If they keep having injuries, they're going to simply put him back in the lineup and see what he does.

There's a full report on the game with comments from both Sabres prospects at this link on the tournament's official site.

Looks like Grigorenko headed to Russia for World Juniors

By Mike Harrington

Sabres center Mikhail Grigorenko posted on Facebook late Wednesday afternoon that he was flying to Russia Sunday to join his national team -- and former Buffalo teammate Nikita Zadorov -- for the World Junior Championships that open later this month in Sweden.

Grigorenko told reporters for the second straight day Wednesday (see video above from that he had heard nothing about the tournament from the Russian Hockey Federation but that he remained interested in playing. He told Amy Moritz of The News the same thing on Tuesday.

The Sabres said they had no information on the post or Grigorenko’s potential status but a source close to the situation told The News the process was moving forward and the team is expected to approve loaning the 19-year-old so he can play in the tournament.

Continue reading "Looks like Grigorenko headed to Russia for World Juniors" »

Sulzer still out; Grigorenko decision could play into McCormick's return

By Mike Harrington

Alexander Sulzer missed his second straight day of practice today and the Sabres defenseman, who missed Monday for what the team termed a "maintenance" day, is now iffy for Thursday's game against the New York Rangers. Interim coach Ted Nolan said he's hoping Sulzer can practice Wednesday but would probably miss the game if he didn't. Jamie McBain and Brayden McNabb have both sat out the last two games as scratches and could step in to replace him.

The Sabres have a bigger decision looming because Cody McCormick will be back in the lineup after missing the last four games. The team has to make a roster spot for McCormick and could simply ship Brian Flynn off the fourth line to Rochester. But Nolan acknowledged today that discussions continue about Mikhail Grigorenko's role on the club.

The 19-year-old could be sent back to junior or could be loaned to the Russian Federation for the upcoming World Junior Championships that open Dec. 26 in Malmo, Sweden. Grigorenko was not on the Russia roster for the tournament that was released late Monday night but said today he would be interested in playing.

"It's always good to represent your country," said Grigorenko, a standout for the Russian team in last year's tournament on home soil in Ufa. "Nobody has spoken with me. If they have put me on the list, I would have been happy. I would have been happy to play for my own country."

Grigorenko was not on the list ostensibly because he's currently in the NHL and would need to be loaned out.

"Patty and I have discussed all those possibilities," said Nolan, referring to president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine. "We have to make sure we find a good role for him. ... He's got to be playing. I've never seen a player develop not playing."

Defenseman Nikita Zadorov, recently returned to London of the OHL by the Sabres, was named to the Russian roster. 

"I'm pretty sure he's going to dominate there and be one of the best players in the tournament," Grigorenko said.

Click below to hear Nolan's session with reporters today on the roster moves, plenty of thoughts on Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno and the Sabres' continuing struggles to score goals.

Ted Nolan


Buffalo's Bailey, Blujus invited to USA Hockey's world junior camp

By John Vogl

The United States will go for a repeat at the next world junior hockey championships. Justin Bailey and Dylan Blujus have a chance to be part of it.

USA Hockey will hold its national junior evaluation camp Aug. 3-10 in Lake Placid, and the Buffalo-area duo is among the 40 players invited. Bailey, a 17-year-old forward from Williamsville, plays for Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League and is eligible for the NHL draft June 30. Blujus, a 6-3 defenseman for North Bay of the OHL, was selected by Tampa Bay in the second round of the 2012 draft.

The national team will be selected during a pretournament camp in mid-December. The world juniors will begin Dec. 26 in Sweden.

Hockey really is fun in other places

OK, so you're probably in a bad mood. The Sabres are still a trainwreck and Darcy Regier told John Vogl in an exclusive interview after Friday's loss in Carolina that no shakeup is imminent with this team. Maybe you have Time Warner and can't even see the games (right now at least, maybe that's not a bad thing). Your only hope is that the state attorney general really can have some pull.

Hockey is no fun right now so we'll give you a little levity. No Sabres news for a while as the team won't skate this morning and won't even meet in First Niagara Center until 11 a.m.

So let's take it back for a second to Thursday night. Did you catch the World Junior gold medal game in Calgary between Sweden and Russia?

The Swedes had a 58-17 advantage in shots on goal but it took an overtime tally by Mika Zibanejad to finally give them a 1-0 victory. It was the Swedes' first title since 1981 and it set off a wild celebration on the ice -- and on the Swedish television broadcast.

Take a look at the call of the Golden Goal and the aftermath. Hysterical. (More Sabres news later).

---Mike Harrington

Two Russian gold medalists from Buffalo World Juniors among the dead in plane crash

In addition to the former NHLers killed Wednesday in the crash of the plane carrying KHL team Kokomotiv Yaroslavl, the victims include two members of the Russian team that won the gold medal at the World Junior Championships in January at HSBC Arena.

Forward Daniil Sobchenko, San Jose’s sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft, and defenseman Yuri Urychev are confirmed among the dead.  Sobchenko had four goals, tied for second on the team, and three assists in seven games of the tournament. Neither player registered a point during the five-goal third period that stunned Canada in the gold medal game.

One of his Sobchenko's goals, assisted by Urychev, was the tying tally late in the second period of the Russians' 6-3 preliminary-round loss to Canada. He had two more in an 8-2 win over Norway, and talked to Amy Moritz of The News after that game. His final goal came in an 8-3 win over the Czech Republic. The latter two games were played at Niagara University's Dwyer Arena.

Urychev had a goal and three assists, with his goal the first tally in a 4-3 overtime win over Finland in the quarterfinals. 

Sobchenko and Urychev were both 20 and were born 10 days apart in 1991.

---Mike Harrington

Ice chips, pre-practice style

Clearing the notebook now that the World Juniors are out of town and we can return to the NHL schedule:

---The Sabres return to practice today in HSBC Arena in the midst of a 4-0-1 run that has them back to .500 at halfway mark of the season (18-18-5). They're 10th in the East, eight points behind Boston and Montreal.

---The Penguins have one goal in two games without Sidney Crosby. And it's likely he'll be out a few more games as well so they have to figure out where to get some offense. They host the Bruins tonight on Versus.

---Things are no better for the Bruins with David Krejci underperforming, Milan Lucic slumping, and Marc Savard a shade of his former self. 

---Have you checked the Western Conference standing lately? Four points separate No. 4 Nashville from No. 12 St. Louis (From 4-12 in the East is an 18-point difference!). The defending champion Blackhawks have climbed from 12th to sixth just by winning the last two games. They beat the Islanders, 5-0, on Sunday and announced before the game that they'll put up statues for ex-Chicago greats Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull outside the United Center. Move over, Michael Jordan.

---Things are really bad in San Jose, where the Sharks were shut out again Sunday by the Ducks and have dropped to 11th place in the West. They've lost four straight games and have been shut out twice in the last three (by Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller). Worse yet, they have just five goals in their last five games.

---In a last farewell to the World Juniors, the ratings for Wednesday's Canada-Russia final were astonishing north of the border. A record audience of 6.88 million viewers watched on TSN and its French counterpart, RDS. The audience peaked at 9.3 million viewers during the third period. The 6.23 million who watched on TSN marked the highest audience ever for the network, Canada's equivalent of ESPN.

If you missed any of our World Juniors coverage, be sure to check out our special section on this site.

---Mike Harrington

Inside the NHL -- Live Chat

Ice chips flying in the late afternoon

Stuff breaking all over the place as we head toward the 7 p.m. faceoff between the Sabres and Senators.  Follow along:

1). The Thrashers have told Ilya Kovalchuk he's getting traded and it looks like sooner rather than later, well before the March 3 deadline. There's a lot of desperate teams in the East, like the Bruins, Flyers and Rangers, would would take on a rental. Lots of talk about the Kings too. Forget about the Sabres and throw out the money. The first time Kovalchuk took a 90-second shift and floated up and down the ice without backchecking, Lindy Ruff's head might implode. Not a guy to fit this system.

2). The Blue Jackets have fired Ken Hitchcock and named Claude Noel their interim coach. Bummer. I was planning to chat up Hitchcock Saturday morning when the Sabres got to Columbus after his summer week in Calgary on the Team Canada staff with Ruff. Hitchcock got the Jackets to the playoffs for the first time last year but they're a disaster this season, largely because Steve Mason couldn't duplicate his Calder Trophy form in goal. Why today? The cynic in me says the Jackets did it on Ohio State football recruiting day so it wouldn't get much attention in their town.

3). Might Claude Julien be next? The Bruins are 0-6-2 in their last eight games -- their worst stretch since the 1955-56 season -- and in danger of missing the playoffs after winning the East last year. Last night's 4-1 loss to the red-hot Capitals left them 12th in the East and they've scored just 12 goals in those eight games. Think Kovalchuk might help? Guess Daniel Paille hasn't.

4). Speaking of the Caps, they go for their 12th straight win tomorrow against the Rangers. They have six games left before the Olympic break and if they win them all, they would tie the NHL record of 17 set by the 92-93 Penguins. Where would No. 18 potentially be? In their first game after the break. March 3. In HSBC Arena. The night after the Sabres open the post-Oly period in Pittsburgh. Ooof.

5). Major boo an hour ago to the IIHF, which announced the pools and pairings for the World Junior Championships here next year. The U.S. and Canada are not in the same pool and may not meet at all. Bummer. That US-Switzerland game on New Year's Eve doesn't have the same cachet as a potential US-Canada. The schedule runs Dec. 26-Jan. 5 with no game on Jan. 1 (the Sabres may try to sneak in a home game there).

7 pm update:  A clarification from the Sabres -- the pools are not arbitrary. IIHF rules mandate the defending champion (US) is the No. 1 seed in Pool A and the silver medalist (Canada) becomes the No. 1 seed in Pool B. That, of course, means that they can't meet until the medal round. Still, it would be pretty horrible if a World Championship was held in Buffalo with no US-Canada matchup.

---Mike Harrington

Kassian hit leads to indefinite suspension

UNIONDALE -- Zack Kassian, the Sabres' No. 1 draft pick last year from Peterborough, has been indefinitely suspended by the Ontario Hockey League for a shot to the head in a game this week against Barrie. Kassian, now playing for his hometown team in Windsor after a trade, left his feet on the hit and will miss at least the next two games before the OHL reviews the situation.

Kassian has a history of suspensions for on-ice indiscretions and will certainly need to learn where the line is drawn as he moves on in his career. There's a good chance he could be on Team Canada in next year's World Junior Championships.

Here's the hit that earned the suspension. Leave your feet and go to the head, you're going to get nailed I would say. What do you think?

---Mike Harrington


Ice chips: Paetsch on waivers

After their charter plane got stuck in the mud before they got to the Montreal airport, the Sabres returned to their hotel and hunkered down for the night. They didn't get home until around 11 this morning so coach Lindy Ruff canceled practice. Some odds and ends from the notebook:

---Sabres utility man Nathan Paetsch has been put on waivers. Might he get claimed? We'll see. Adam Mair got through waivers earlier in the year. Paetsch has some versatility that you'd think would be attractive to teams. Plus, he only makes a shade over $1 million on a deal that runs out after this season so you can basically get him for $500K. If he clears waivers, the bet is the Sabres would send him to Portland to get some ice time.

---Canada and the U.S. play for the gold medal in the World Junior Championships Tuesday night at 8 in Saskatoon (Sabres prospect Luke Adam plays for Canada). You can watch it live on NHL Network. Worth a look if you haven't checked out any of this tournament yet. And remember, of course, that the next version of it comes to HSBC Arena starting Dec. 26.

---The Bruins and Rangers meet tonight at 7 on Versus. Boston is seven points back in the Northeast Division and will join the Sabres at 41 games played after tonight.

---Look for Team USA Olympic coach Ron Wilson to make Ryan Miller his man in Vancouver. Said Wilson on a conference call today: "I would in my mind tend to .... play one goalie, ride the hot goalie. One of our things here was when we talked with our players is we're not going to Vancouver to prepare anybody for Sochi (the 2014 Games site in Russia). This is about going to Vancouver to win a gold medal. Generally speaking, teams in the past that have won goal medals played one goaltender. It's not unlike what you do in the playoffs."

---What's up with the Penguins? They've lost five straight, including Sunday's 6-2 defeat in Florida. Evgeni Malkin's struggles continued in that one and he took the blame

---Ratings for the Winter Classic in Boston were down but Yahoo's Puck Daddy blog said that shouldn't be cause for concern.

---Mike Harrington


World Juniors chatter

Never too early to start thinking about the 2011 World Junior Championships in HSBC Arena -- which actually begin Dec. 26, 2010. Last year's event was in Ottawa (be sure to check out John Vogl's post from Scotiabank Place on the reeling Senators as they face the Sabres tonight).

This year, the World Juniors are in Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Next year, it's HSBC and Niagara University's Dwyer Arena.

USA Hockey has announced the NHL Network's television schedule for this year's tournament and it's a big one -- all Team USA games, all medal-round games and six other matchups. That's 16 games in all, and they'll be in HD. Click on the link and you get an idea of the kind of games we'll be seeing here next year. USA vs. Canada on New Year's Eve at 8 p.m. Something tells me that might be the case on Dec. 31, 2010 in Buffalo! Other than the 1993 World University Games, this is easily going to be the biggest international sports event ever held in these parts.

This year's Team USA candidates are arriving in Grand Forks, N.D. for a pretournament training camp that opens Thursday. There are 29 players on the roster -- including seven first-round draft picks from either 2008 or 2009 -- and it will be trimmed before the team heads to Saskatchewan. There are no Sabres prospects on Team USA. Here's a link to USA Hockey's World Junior tournament page.

Meanwhile, Canada has completed a roster that includes 10 first-rounders in its quest for a sixth straight gold medal. Last year's team featured John Tavares and Tyler Myers and the headliners this year include defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, the No. 4 overall pick by St. Louis in 2008 who has seen NHL time with the Blues, and London forward Nazem Kadri, who was No. 7 overall this year to Toronto. He was sent back to juniors at the end of training camp even though many people say he was perhaps the Leafs' best forward in the preseason.

Center Luke Adam, the Sabres' second-round pick in 2008 who plays for Cape Breton in the Quebec League, is also on the Team Canada roster. Adam had a four-goal game last week and left for the junior camp leading his league in goals with 25 in 32 games. He was second in points with 52 in a big bounceback year after a ruptured spleen prematurely ended his 2008-09 junior season.

Two of Buffalo's '09 draftees, top choice Zack Kassian and third-rounder Brayden McNabb, were part of  Canada's summer evaluation camp but were not in this week's main camp. But that puts them in position to be contenders for a spot on Canada's roster next year when the tournament hits Buffalo.

---Mike Harrington


Ennis, Myers make Canadian junior team

Big news from north of the border: Both of the Sabres' first-round picks last June have been selected to play for Team Canada in the upcoming World Championships that begin Dec. 26 in Ottawa (the 2010-11 tourney, remember, will be at HSBC Arena and Niagara University).

Tyler Myers, the 6-foot-6 defenseman who was selected 12th overall, and center Tyler Ennis, taken 26th with the pick acquired from San Jose in the Brian Campbell trade, were both named to the roster Monday.

"That's great they both made it," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said when told the news after practice. "It just tells you we've got a couple good players coming down the pipeline."

Ennis and Myers both attended the Sabres' prospect camp over the summer at Niagara University and were at training camp in September before being returned to their junior teams in the Western Hockey League. Ennis has 36 points (15-21) in 31 games this season for Medicine Hat while Myers has four goals, 16 assists and is plus-9 through 26 games at Kelowna.

The Canadian team also includes Oshawa winger John Tavares, the consensus top North American prospect in next year's draft and the nephew of the Bandits star of the same name, and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo of the Niagara Ice Dogs, the fourth overall choice last year by the St. Louis Blues. Pietrangelo played eight games for St. Louis this season before being returned to junior and his final NHL appearance saw him log 19 1/2 minutes of ice time Nov. 12 against the Sabres in HSBC Arena.

---Mike Harrington

World juniors coming

Before we applaud USA Hockey and the Sabres for putting the 2011 world juniors in Buffalo, let's clear up a few "facts" from the news conference in case any of you heard it or saw it:

1. The Sabres did not sell out every game last season.

2. Tom Golisano was not involved in building HSBC Arena.

3. Gary Bettman is not the commissioner of the NFL.

4. As unbelievable as this region is, Detroit is still Hockeytown. Its youth programs are legendary, and its team has control of the Stanley Cup.

OK, with that out of the way, it's great that the world juniors are coming. It will bring millions of dollars into the community (and the guess here is most of them will be loonies and two-nies). And it's a wonderful chance to see intense hockey by the future stars of the NHL.

Larry Quinn, who by all accounts did a masterful job selling Buffalo to the decision-makers at USA Hockey, also said the waterfront will have stores there by the time the teams from 10 countries arrive at Christmas 2010. It will be nice to showcase the area.

"This is a huge win for Buffalo and all of hockey-loving Western New York," Sen. Charles E. Schumer said in an e-mail. "As soon as the puck hit the ice, all hands -- especially the Sabres -- fought hard to bring the 2011 world junior hockey championships to Buffalo because this marquee event will bring much-needed tourism dollars and first-rate hockey talent from around the world into Western New York."

My only concern for the locals is the price. According to the tournament Web site, a Gold Package with seats for all 31 games is $1,240 ($40 per ticket). Lower-bowl seats for just the 17 games in HSBC Arena come to $833 ($49 per ticket), while 300 level ducats are $493 ($29). Seems like the prices are geared more toward the folks in Toronto, who certainly will scoop them up.

Still a good day.

---John Vogl

The skinny on the World Juniors

As Bucky Gleason reported Wednesday, the official word has come from USA Hockey that Buffalo is one of the finalists for the 2010-11 World Junior Championships. That would be a huge coup for the area and HSBC Arena. And even though the event might not register much in this country outside of Western New York, you'd probably be talking about the biggest worldwide audience focusing on Buffalo since the 1993 World University Games (remember them?).

Here's some facts the Sabres have provided today:

---Ten countries send their best 20-and-under players. There would be 31 games played over 12 days (Dec. 26, 2010-Jan. 6, 2011) and all the games would be at HSBC and Niagara University's Dwyer Arena. All medal-round games would, of course, be at HSBC. Memo to the Vincentians at Niagara: Get your arena expanded!

---Attendance at both venues is expected to total 300,000 with an economic impact to the area in the $6 million range.

---Here's a list of recent World Junior participants from the Sabres: Maxim Afinogenov (Russia 98-99), Tyler Bouck (Canada 99-00), Chris Butler (USA 06), Tim Connolly (USA 99), Jhonas Enroth (Sweden 07-08), Nathan Gerbe (USA 06-07), Phillip Gogulla (Germany 07), Clarke MacArthur (Canada 05), Adam Mair (Canada 99), Nathan Paetsch (02-03), Dan Paille (Canada 03-04), Derek Roy (Canada 03), Felix Schutz (Germany 07), Andrej Sekera (Slovakia 06), Drew Stafford (USA 04-05), Thomas Vanek (Austria 04), Marek Zagrapan (Czech Republic 05-06).

---When the event was last in the US in 2005, the top names on the ice were Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.

It's Buffalo, Grand Forks, ND and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Site visits are expected next month with a decision before the end of the year. You would think the proximity to Canada would give Buffalo a big edge. We'll see.

---Mike Harrington

The end for Flyers, the end for Canada

Many of you probably saw the Penguins crush the Flyers, 6-0, to easily wrap up the Eastern Conference final and advance to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1992. Not much of an effort from Daniel Briere, Marty Biron & Co. They just added to the Flyers' odd habit of no-shows in clinching games (think of the Sabres' 8-0 and 7-1 series wrapups earlier in this decade).

But for sheer drama, I wish we could have seen the final of the World Championships in Quebec City. Russia overcame a 4-2 deficit in the third period and won it in overtime, 5-4, on a power play goal by Atlanta Thrashers star Ilya Kovalchuk, who had also scored the tying goal in the third period. Had to be a total crusher for folks north of the border to have that happen on home ice.

Here's TSN's video recap of the dramatic gold-medal game.

---Mike Harrington

It's Canada vs. Russia for the gold

Canada Canada, with a roster that features Derek Roy, will meet Russia (Maxim Afinogenov, Dmitri Kalinin) in Sunday afternoon's gold-medal game at the World Championships in Quebec City. Canada overcame Sweden, 5-4, on Friday (see the video highlights here) while Russia earned its berth in the final with a 4-0 win over Finland.

And if you missed the highlights of Finland's 3-2 overtime win over the United States in the quarterfinals, you can catch up here. The U.S. was in a 2-0 hole late in the third period before getting two quick goals to tie the score and the second one was netted by Drew Stafford.

---Mike Harrington

(CP Photo: Goalie Pascal Leclaire, who plays for Columbus, is pumped as the clock runs out in Canada's victory)

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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 |

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 |

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 |