MONTREAL – Jhonas Enroth will look to improve on his perfect record against the Montreal Canadiens tonight when he gets the start for Buffalo at the Bell Centre.
Despite being just 1-5-2 this season, Enroth is 3-0-0 in his career against the Habs, along with a stingy 2.34 goals against average and .922 save%.
Tonight’s start will be the first for Enroth since he turned away 23 shots in a tough 1-0 overtime loss in New Jersey one week ago. Prior to that start, Enroth had gone two weeks without any game action.
Interim coach Ted Nolan said he’s spoken to Enroth and Ryan Miller about their playing time in recent days. With Miller having started 10 of Buffalo’s last 12 games, Nolan said he needs to be aware of when his number one goaltender could use a break.
“We had a nice meeting with the goaltenders about a week ago, and kind of mapped out a game plan. But it’s always subject to change,” explained Nolan. “The way Jhonas played last game, I had no hesitation about putting him back in today.”
Citing the need for additional speed up front against Montreal, Nolan said that Brian Flynn will be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Thursday’s loss to the Rangers.
Drew Stafford and Christian Ehrhoff were the only two Sabres to not take part in today’s optional morning skate, however both will be in the lineup tonight. Defenseman Brayden McNabb got some extra work after the skate and is expected to be scratched. Nolan didn’t tip his hand as to which forward would be watching from the press box tonight.
Montreal comes into tonight’s game 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, including four straight wins. They currently occupy top spot in the Atlantic Division with a record of 18-9-3 (39 pts.), and have won five straight at home.
Tonight’s game is expected to be the 378th consecutive sell-out crowd at the always-raucous Bell Centre, which seats 21,273. It’s been almost 10 years since Montreal last played before a home crowd that was below capacity – January 8, 2004 vs. Tampa Bay.
SUNRISE, FLA. -- A lingering injury combined with a pair of suspensions will force the Buffalo Sabres to dress only 11 forwards and seven defensemen for tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers.
Henrik Tallinder will be the lone scratch on the blueline, and Jamie McBain will return after being a healthy scratch in Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to Boston. Following a two-game absence with a leg injury, forward Cody McCormick has been activated from Injured Reserve and is expected to start the game as part of Buffalo’s two-man fourth line along with Drew Stafford.
Sabres head coach Ron Rolston understands the challenge of juggling an extra defenseman, but also realizes he’s in a tough spot with the 23-man roster.
“We’ll rotate seven guys back there. But that’s kind of where we’re at with the roster,” explained Rolston following today’s morning skate at the BB&T Center. “We’ll have seven back there, and if anything happens up front, then we can move a guy up there.”
Ville Leino has been skating for the past few days and had hoped to come off IR this weekend, but he’ll remain out while nursing a rib injury that has sidelined him for the past 10 games. Rolston categorized Leino as a possibility for Monday’s home game against Dallas.
“It’s basically about him getting back in shape now, and being comfortable doing what he’s gotta do when he’s playing,” said Rolston. “That’s taking hits and getting hit. And if he’s gonna have the puck he’s gonna get hit. So he’s gotta be ready for that and comfortable with that, so it’s probably going to be next week.”
Forwards Patrick Kaleta (seventh game missed) and John Scott (first game) are both out of the Buffalo lineup due to their respective suspensions. Kaleta traveled with the Sabres and took part in today’s skate, while Scott remained in Buffalo.
Jhonas Enroth will get the start in goal for Buffalo tonight, and it will be the first time he’s ever faced the Panthers. Enroth’s counterpart in the Florida cage will be fellow Swede Jacob Markstrom.
Forward Kevin Porter was placed on waivers Thursday, and was assigned to Rochester today after officially clearing as of 12 Noon. Rolston thinks very highly of Porter, and said the decision to waive him was a difficult one.
“It’s always the toughest thing you have to do, to cut somebody or waive somebody, whatever the case may be. I have a lot of respect for [Kevin]. He came here last year when I got here, and worked really hard for us and played really well. He’s a guy that brings it every day and battles, and he’s a real good teammate.
“It’s a difficult thing, but it’s kind of where we’re at. Especially with the amount of young guys that are getting opportunity here. It’s a tough thing and I know he’ll land on his feet and have a good attitude about it and keep working.”
The Panthers are midway through a season-high six-game homestand at BB&T Center, going 1-1-1 through the first three. Their last game was a 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago on Tuesday, after having battled back from a two-goal deficit in the third period. Rookie Aleksander Barkov is second on the Panthers in scoring with seven points (3+4) in 10 games, numbers that rank him third among NHL freshmen.
The Sabres have swept nine of their 30 Florida/Tampa Bay road trips in franchise history, including six of the last 14 since 2005. Buffalo has a record of 19-8-1 in the Sunshine State during this time, and they are 6-3-1 in the last 10 on the road against the Panthers.
Tonight’s game opens Buffalo’s third of 13 sets of back-to-back games this season. The Sabres are 0-2-0 in the first game of back-to-back sets and 1-1-0 in the second game this season. Buffalo’s point breakdown in back-to-back sets this season is: four points (0), three points (0), two points (1), one point (0) and zero points (1).
The subject of trade rumors and speculation since April, Thomas Vanek says he hasn’t been fazed by all the chatter. Speaking today with ABC affiliate KTSP in Minneapolis, the veteran winger said he expects to be a member of the Buffalo Sabres when camp opens in September.
“As of right now, yeah. I haven’t heard anything differently. I’m preparing myself like I’m going back to Buffalo, so that’s what I’m doing.
“I’m not flattered by (trade speculation) by any means. I’ve enjoyed my time in Buffalo and I’m looking forward to going back. In this business you can’t look into that stuff, read the internet or look at the papers too much. If something happens, I’m sure my agent or the GM in Buffalo will call me and tell me where I’m going.”
The 29-year-old Vanek is entering the final season of a seven-year contract that will pay him $6.4 million (with a cap hit of $7.14 million) in 2013-14. Despite playing in just 38 of Buffalo’s 48-game lockout-shortened schedule in 2013, Vanek’s 20 goals marked his eighth consecutive season of 20 or more goals.
With the trades of Jason Pominville, Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr at the deadline, coupled with GM Darcy Regier’s comments that the Sabres were going to have a younger core group moving forward, many assumed that Vanek would be the next domino to fall. But as training camp approaches, Vanek knows that may not be the case.
“We’re rebuilding, and I’m hoping we have the right pieces to accomplish something. I’m not saying I’m old. At 29, I’ve still got many years left,” Vanek explained. “But at the same time, you like to be on a team where you feel like going into camp you’re contending. You’re not guaranteed to win a Cup, but right now in Buffalo I think we’re rebuilding which is not the best case scenario for me. But at the same time, there’s a lot of good young players and hopefully we pick the right ones.”
As the Buffalo Sabres prepare to face the New York Islanders in their final game of the regular season tonight at First Niagara Center, Ryan Miler is set to become the 62nd goaltender in NHL history to play in 500 games. Here’s a look back at some of the numbers Miller has accumulated during his outstanding 11-year NHL career in the Nickel City.
Born: July 17, 1980 (East Lansing, MI)
Drafted: 1999 Entry Draft, 5th round (138th overall)
Did You Know?
Ryan Miller has played more NHL games than the combined total of the 29 other players drafted in the fifth round of the 1999 Draft. (Leaders: Derek MacKenzie, 234; Niko Dimitrakos, 158).
Games played leaders from goaltenders drafted in 1999
Ryan Miller, 499 (Buffalo, 5th round)
Craig Anderson, 316 (Calgary, 3rd round)
Alex Auld, 237 (Florida, 2nd round)
Michael Leighton, 105 (Chicago, 6th round)
LISTEN TO MILLER TALK ABOUT THE 500-GAME MILESTONE
First NHL game: November 19, 2002 @ New Jersey (4-3 OTL)
First NHL win: November 22, 2002 vs. Columbus (5-4)
First NHL shutout: January 14, 2003 @ Minnesota (1-0)
SINGLE SEASON RECORDS:
Most wins: 41, 2009-10
Most shutouts: 6, 2011-12
Lowest GAA: 2.22, 2009-10
- Vezina Trophy, First All-Star Team, NHL Foundation Award: 2009-10
- won Silver Medal with Team USA
- Tournament MVP, Best Goalie & All-Star Team
- Miller will become the 62nd goaltender in NHL history to play 500 games. The last was Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who reached the milestone on April 5 at Pittsburgh. The last before Lundqvist was former Sabres goaltender Martin Biron, who also appeared in his 500th NHL game as a member of the Rangers in a road game against the Penguins, exactly one year prior to Lundqvist.
- When added to the list of 61 goaltenders who have played 500 NHL games, Miller currently ranks fifth with a .915 career save percentage. Dominik Hasek (.922, 1st) is the only retired goaltender to rank in the top 10 in save percentage among this group. Miller also ranks 14th among this elite group with a 2.59 GAA. In addition to topping the list in save%, Hasek also leads the “500 Club” with a GAA of 2.20.
- Miller, who has spent his entire career with the Sabres, will become the 20th goaltender in NHL history to play at least 500 games with one team, and the 12th to play his first 500 with the same team.
- Of the 19 goaltenders with 500 NHL games played with the same team, 12 of them played in the NHL Entry Draft era. Of these 12, half were drafted in the fifth round or later: Billy Smith, Miika Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov, Kirk McLean, Henrik Lundqvist and Marty Turco. Only two (Martin Brodeur and Olaf Kolzig) were selected in the first round.
- Despite being ranked 62nd on the all-time games played list, Miller ranks 40th in wins (268). His record ranks him second among these goaltenders in win percentage (.549), seventh in points percentage (.607) and 19th in adjusted points percentage (.564), a measure in which all ties, overtime losses, and shootout wins/losses are counted as regulation ties to better compare goaltenders from different eras.
PITTSBURGH -- It was an optional morning skate for the Buffalo Sabres at the Consol Energy Center, with seven skaters and both goalies taking part in advance of tonight’s tilt with the red-hot-but-hobbled Pittsburgh Penguins. In addition to expected starting goaltender Ryan Miller, the following players were on the ice for the 30-minute workout: Jhonas Enroth, Brian Flynn, Marcus Foligno, Nathan Gerbe, Chad Ruhwedel, Mark Pysyk, Mikhail Grigorenko and Adam Pardy.
No lineup changes are expected as forward Patrick Kaleta remained in Buffalo with a hand injury. Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will be in the lineup for a second straight game, after skating 15:18 last night against Winnipeg, his first NHL action since March 12 after being recalled from junior last week.
The last time the Sabres came to Pittsburgh on April 2, they brought an end to the Penguins’ 15-game winning streak, the second-longest such streak in NHL history. Tonight they’ll look to snap another successful run, as the Penguins come into the game as winners of seven in a row following a 3-1 victory in Ottawa on Monday. A second win in Pittsburgh this year would be the first time since 2005-06 that the Sabres will have won two consecutive regular-season road games in the Steel City. It would also be just the fifth time in franchise history the Sabres have won two or more consecutive games in Pittsburgh.
Tonight’s game also wraps up Buffalo’s ninth and final set of back-to-back games this season. Following last night’s 2-1 loss to Winnipeg at First Niagara Center, the Sabres dropped to 4-3-2 in the first game. Entering tonight’s game they are just 2-5-1 in the second of back-to-back games. Buffalo’s point breakdown in previous back-to-back sets is as follows: four points (2), three points (1), two points (1), one point (2) and zero points (2).
If the Buffalo Sabres want to play spoilers tonight against the Winnipeg Jets at First Niagara Center, they’ll have to accomplish two things they haven’t been able to do in the last five meetings between these two clubs: 1) win, and 2) score more than one goal.
Winnipeg defeated Buffalo 4-1 at the MTS Centre on April 9, and that was preceded by a 2-1 Jets win in Buffalo on February 19. The Sabres are 1-5-0 against the Jets since they relocated from Atlanta prior to the 2011-12 season, with Buffalo’s only win being a 6-5 OT decision on November 8, 2011. In their last six games, the Jets have outscored Buffalo by a 20-11 margin.
The Jets come into tonight’s game sitting in ninth spot in the Eastern Conference at 49 points with three games left to play. They are three points behind the eighth-place New York Rangers, while also trailing the Washington Capitals by three points for the lead in the Southeast Division.
Tyler Ennis knows the Sabres are in for a dogfight tonight facing a Jets team that is 5-0-1 in their last six games.
“They’re a good team, and they’re fighting for their lives. We know they are going to come out with everything. It’s do or die for them, and it should be intense.”
Jhonas Enroth will start in goal for the Sabres, following his 39 minutes of mop-up work in Friday’s 8-4 loss to the Rangers that eliminated Buffalo from playoff contention. In his last five starts, Enroth is 4-0-1 and has posted a .958 save% during this stretch. Enroth’s only previous start against the Jets was a 2-1 loss in Buffalo on January 7, 2012.
Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will return to the Sabres lineup for the first time since being recalled from his junior team last Tuesday. Grigorenko has five points (1+4) in 22 games for Buffalo this season, with his last game action coming on March 12 versus the Rangers.
Interim head coach Ron Rolston is interested to see how Grigorenko handles his role tonight against a gritty team like Winnipeg.
“We’re gonna put him in game situations, and see the compete and just his overall game against a team like Jets who are going to be desperate. We’ll find out.”
Patrick Kaleta will miss tonight's game after blocking a shot with his right hand in Friday's loss to New York. His status for the final two games is questionable at this point.
LISTEN TO ROLSTON'S' FULL AUDIO
“We have to take care of our destiny.”
Those were the simple words of Sabres interim head coach Ron Rolston this morning, as the Sabres prepared to face the New York Rangers at First Niagara Center tonight. With just four games left on their schedule, a regulation loss tonight would eliminate the Sabres from playoff contention. If the Sabres have any hopes of securing a spot in the postseason, a regulation win would be their most favorable result. Giving away points in any other form are basically unacceptable at this point.
“You want to play in these games, especially when you’re trying to develop the kind of mentality that you need in this league,” explained Rolston. “With the close games we’ve been in (the Sabres have played 17 one-goal games under Rolston), you want to test your teams in those situations. Tonight’s another test of a really high caliber opponent in a situation where you need to be successful.”
LISTEN TO ROLSTON'S FULL AUDIO
Ryan Miller will be back between the pipes tonight, one game after locking down a 3-2 shootout win in Boston on Wednesday with 41 saves and stops on all three Bruins’ shootout attempts. In his last 14 games against the Rangers, Miller is 8-2-4 with a 1.71 GAA and .943 save%.
Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will be Buffalo’s only healthy scratch.
- Buffalo comes into tonight’s game on a three-game winning streak, and will be looking to win four straight for the first time since a five-game run from March 19-27, 2012.
- The Sabres have allowed 40 or more shots in two of their last four games, and have averaged 36.1 shots against in the last seven games.
- The Rangers have averaged 33.4 shots for in their last 10 games, including five games of 35 or more shots. Rick Nash leads the Rangers with 158 shots on goal, which is good for fifth in the NHL.
BOSTON -- Ryan Miller will be back in goal tonight in Boston as the Sabres look to extend their winning streak to three games in what should be an emotionally-charged TD Garden. Tonight’s game will be the first professional sporting event in Boston following Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon that left three people dead and more than 170 others injured.
Miller’s last game was a 5-1 loss to Montreal last Thursday, before giving way to Jhonas Enroth for Buffalo’s consecutive weekend wins over Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. Miller has played in all four games against Boston this season, posting a 2-2-0 record, 2.53 GAA and .930 save%.
Luke Adam was returned to Rochester today, after scoring one goal during a four-game recall. The Sabres have just one extra skater, and recently-recalled rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will be the team’s only healthy scratch tonight. Ville Leino (upper body injury) is out indefinitely and did not travel with the team to Boston.
Patrick Kaleta will play in his 300th career NHL game tonight, becoming the 67th Sabres player in franchise history sto reach this milestone. The 26-year-old native of Angola, NY, played his first game in Buffalo on February 22, 2007, against the Ottawa Senators. Kaleta has 51 points (27+24) and 501 penalty minutes in his previous 299 games.
This is the fifth and final meeting between the Sabres and Bruins this season, with the teams splitting the previous four games. In the only game at Boston’s TD Garden on January 31, Thomas Vanek collected five points (3+2) as the Sabres came-from-behind to defeat the Bruins 7-4. Vanek’s five points are tied with Boston’s David Krejci (2+3) to lead both teams this season.
The Buffalo Sabres will fly to Boston this afternoon, just 24 hours after the bombing of the Boston Marathon that left three dead and 144 injured.
With the postponement of Monday’s Bruins-Senators game, and the cancellation of tonight’s Celtics-Pacers NBA contest, Buffalo’s game on Wednesday against the Bruins will be the first sporting event in the city since the bombing.
Unfortunately, the Sabres have been in this position before. In October 2001, the Sabres and Rangers played the first game at MSG following the World Trade Center bombings. Then on February 13, 2009, just one day after 50 people were killed in the crash of Continental Airlines flight 3407 in Clarence Center, NY, the Sabres hosted a home game against the San Jose Sharks that featured an incredibly emotional moment of silence before the game.
Sabres general manager Darcy Regier was part of both games, and immediately saw the connections.
“I actually found myself thinking about 9/11 when I heard about that, knowing we were going to Boston. We had gone into New York shortly after 9/11. Actually right after it, we flew down to South Carolina for training camp. That obviously affects all of us. It’s tragic and it’s horrific. But I don’t have any reservations. You just move forward.
“You can’t help but think in terms of the families that are involved and how difficult it must be. The only thing you can do is that thoughts and prayers are with them and their families. It’s terrible.”
Regier said he had yet to receive official word from the league on the status of Wednesday’s game, saying that it’s still business as usual for the team in terms of preparing for it from both a hockey and logistical standpoint. He knows the final decision of whether to play or not is out of his hands, but also realizes there’s more than just two points on the line right now.
“There’s at least a couple of ways you can look at it. You can either stop everything, or make a statement to these types of situations that you’re gonna get on with life.
“It won’t be our decision. It’ll be a decision made by the people in Boston that are empowered to make those decisions. We’ll wait to see what that decision is. But right now we’re planning on going.”
Regier also said that knowing the area of the bombings in Boston as well as he does makes the events that much more surreal.
“It’s not far from the Boston Library and Lenox Hotel; I looked at the map this morning. We’re very familiar with that area. Unfortunately it casts a different light on everything.”
To say that Tyler Ennis has struggled lately is being polite. The 23-year-old center has gone five games without collecting a point, and was on the ice for all four goals in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss in Winnipeg. Ennis is a cumulative minus-seven over the past five games, and has recorded just eight shots on goal during this stretch.
Ennis is third in team scoring with nine goals and 17 assists in 39 games, but interim head coach Ron Rolston says the youngster will needs to use his speed for more than just generating offense when the Sabres host Montreal tonight at First Niagara Center.
“Obviously he’s a huge part of our team. He’s just gotta make things happen out there; he’s gotta get his feet moving more than anything. When he’s playing well he’s moving his feet – he’s fast, he’s on pucks. That’s what he’s got to get back to.
“It’s everywhere, getting to loose pucks, even in our zone. Putting himself in position to play defensively and winning his battles. Just making things happen out there, being proactive on things. It all starts with him moving his feet.”
Buffalo comes into tonight’s game with a 3-1-0 record against the Canadiens this season, and they have won three straight against Montreal since being trounced 6-1 at the Bell Centre on February 2.
The Sabres are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games vs. the Canadiens, including a 6-2-2 record at home. Buffalo is 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Montreal, with the Canadiens’ last regulation win in Buffalo being a 3-2 victory on November 5, 2010.
Thomas Vanek leads both teams with five goals on 16 shots during the four-game season series. Vanek scored both of Buffalo’s goals in their last meeting, a 2-1 Sabres’ win at the Bell Centre on March 23.