POSTED ON Monday, 01.02.2012 / 4:03 PM
Both defenseman Tyler Myers and winger Tyler Ennis participated in today’s practice and while they aren’t ready for action quite yet, both said they’re feeling better and getting closer.
Myers, who has been out since Nov. 23 with a broken wrist, worked out as the extra defenseman but took regular repetitions in 5-on-5 drills with the rest of the team.
“I take another CAT scan tomorrow morning,” Myers said. “We’ll know a little bit more there, if I can start leaning on my stick a lot more, start engaging in physical play. I think today was its best day.”
Although the initial diagnosis was four-to-six weeks, Myers said he expected it to take extra time to heal.
“In my experiences in the past with broken bones, I’ve always taken a little bit longer,” Myers said. “It’s always frustrating not being able to get out there, but at the same time I’m staying positive. I feel good on the ice so I’m close.”
Ennis has been out for the last six games after injuring his ankle. He missed 17 games earlier in the season with the same injury. He says now that while there is some concern that it could become a nagging problem, pain is normal and he’s feeling better every day.
“It’s kind of tough to balance the cautiousness and the anxiousness to get back in the lineup,” Ennis said. “I’m feeling good, but last time I was feeling pretty good, too. It’s just kind of a weird thing. I just need to keep doing the same thing. Ice it, work on it, skate on it. Just do everything I can to push myself, too. You don’t want to take any extra time off that you could be playing.”
Ruff said that it’s going to be up to Ennis to decide when he will return to the lineup.
“He’s close. I talked to him today. That’s one of the ones where only the player knows and he doesn’t feel he’s quite ready yet,” Ruff said.
Forward Brad Boyes, who missed 13 games earlier this year with an ankle injury of his own, fell near the half-wall during a drill towards the end of this morning’s practice. He got up in some discomfort and skated to the bench where he sat for a few minutes before heading off to the dressing room. Ruff said he hopes that it isn’t serious.
“Boyes just tweaked his ankle for a second and it’s one of those where it could just be a stinger but we’ll have to wait and see,” Ruff said.
Jason Pominville also left practice early with an illness but Ruff expects him to be fine for tomorrow night’s home game against the Edmonton Oilers.
“It was great. You felt nervous and in a lot of NHL games, you just go in and you don’t feel nervous because it’s just pretty much the same thing. But to see 70,000 people and to play outdoors and to know it’s nationally televised is great,” Roy said. “It was a great experience. I had butterflies in the stomach going to [Ralph Wilson Stadium] that day and it was snowing. It was a great experience and it was fun.”
Defenseman Robyn Regehr participated in the second Heritage Classic last season in Calgary when he was a member of the Flames. Initially, he says, he wasn’t looking forward to it.
“When I first heard about it, I thought, you know what, I’m not too excited because as a kid I played outside and there were some really cold days out there,” Regehr said. “They were enjoyable, but your hands and your feet were freezing and things like that. But you still had a smile on your face. I wasn’t sure what the ice conditions were going to be like and all that. For me, I was kind of lukewarm with the idea.”
However, as the game approached and he was able to get out to McMahon Stadium the day before the game, his feelings changed.
“The stadium was right near where we lived and I got really excited. It was a great event and I highly recommend it for anyone whether it was a player or a fan or anything. The experience is fantastic,” Regehr said. “For me, it brought back all those memories of as a kid playing outside, playing on the road, playing in outdoor rinks and things. It was a great experience.”
TODAY'S FORWARD LINES AT PRACTICE:
Thomas Vanek-Jochen Hecht-Pominville. Nathan Gerbe-Roy-Drew Stafford. Matt Ellis-Paul Gaustad-Patrick Kaleta. Cody McCormick-Boyes-Luke Adam. Ennis and Zack Kassian skated as the extra forwards.
Myers, Regehr, Jordan Leopold, Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani, T.J. Brennan and Brayden McNabb participated on defense. Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth manned the nets.
The defenseman was knocked out of the game in the second period with an upper body injury when he was hit from behind along the boards by Eric Boulton. A two-minute roughing penalty was handed out to Boulton, but it looks like Sekera will missing for a matter of weeks.
“I didn’t really see the hit,” Sekera explained today. “I just kind of hit the boards and I was struggling from there … I saw him coming but I didn’t expect him to hit me that way. I was turning to the boards, going to pinch the puck. He came and smoked me, and that was the end of the story.”
Ruff said that Marc-Andre Gragnani will be inserted back in the lineup to replace Sekera, and doesn’t expect to make any recalls from Rochester.
LISTEN TO LINDY RUFF'S COMPLETE AUDIO FROM TODAY
Nathan Gerbe skated today as the fourth member of a line that also included Luke Adam, Matt Ellis and Zack Kassian. Ruff thinks it’s only a matter of time before Gerbe is back in the lineup.
“Nathan is getting real close. He could possibly be an option for one of these two (weekend) games maybe.”
Tyler Ennis practiced in the non-contact red jersey today, and Ruff has been encouraged by his progress.
“Tyler looked pretty good today overall. Obviously in a little more of a limited sense. But I thought he really skated well.”
Ryan Miller has started seven straight games, and 10 of Buffalo’s last 11. But that streak may be coming to an end this weekend. Jhonas Enroth hasn’t started since a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers on December 10, and Ruff says he is likely going to see some action against Washington or Ottawa.
“It’s a discussion we’ve had. I think we may go that route. We’re going to need Jhonas obviously. With four games in six nights, it’s been a fairly heavy load.”
“It’s definitely a different view from up there; it’s a lot slower than it is on the ice,” he explains. “You can kind of see things open up and develop a little bit, and where the empty spaces are. And just kind of the way the team plays, whether we’re down low or guys are getting pucks to the net or wherever. You read off that, and once you’re back in you have a sense of where guys are gonna go.”
Buffalo heads into New Jersey on Wednesday in search of their first two-game winning streak in almost seven weeks. The Sabres last won back-to-back games as part of a four-game run from November 5-11. With the Eastern Conference so clustered up, going on a streak right now could propel the Sabres into as high as fifth spot by the time the clock runs out on 2011 this Saturday night. Jason Pominville knows how important the team’s next three games are.
“These are four-point games. You either want to catch them or push them back. Our next few are going to be big for us, three games in four nights. It’s going to be important for us to take care of ourselves and be ready to play.”
It may be cliché to say that the league-mandated two-day Christmas break played a part in last night’s win over Washington. But Pominville is one player who believes that the break came at a perfect time for the struggling – and hobbled – Sabres.
“You get to spend time with your family. Not think about hockey, do other things. Not watch the news or the internet. Just focus on your family. Get refreshed and reenergized, and come back to the rink with a smile and start from zero. I think it benefited us, and a lot of guys looked and felt good last night.”
TORONTO – At this time last year, Drew Stafford had nine goals in 20 games, his playing time limited due to a pair of injuries that kept him out of a combined 15 games. This season he has only scored six times in 32 games, and his frustration level has gone from a simmer to a slow boil. It was never more evident than last night in Ottawa when he passed to Derek Roy during a two-on-one, instead of taking the wide open shot from the slot.
“He said to me ‘I don’t know why I didn’t shoot it,’” Ruff said afterwards. “He lacks some confidence when it comes to scoring, and he’s passed up some good opportunities. His frustration level is pretty high. I said ‘those are situations you wouldn’t normally pass up; you know you’re a shooter.’ I think when things go well, it’s automatic. When things aren’t going well, you second-guess yourself.”
Stafford knows exactly what it feels like when things are going well. After his slow start last season, he exploded for 22 goals in the final 42 games, including a four-game run that saw him light the lamp eight times on just 13 shots. Plays like the one he made last night are the things he’d like to eliminate from his game right now.
“I’m kind of searching for some goals here, and it’s one of the plays that you’d like to have back,” he explained. “I can’t do anything about it now, but next time I’d like to put it in the back of the net.
“It’s one of those things where I thought I could maybe make a little pass to Derek, instead of just going straight down, driving and finding a hole to put it in. I can’t do anything about it now, but I’ll work to get in that position again and pull the trigger.”
Thomas Vanek and Paul Szczechura were given today off to rest their bumps and bruises, but Ruff expects both to be ready for Thursday’s game here against the Maple Leafs. Ruff also said Patrick Kaleta is a go for Thursday, but likely not Brad Boyes. In the case of Boyes, Ruff said “it’s a gamble” because he hasn’t had enough time to prepare himself with the down-low battle drills that will really put his injured ankle to the test. It seems more likely that Boyes will take the Christmas break to ready himself for Monday’s home game against Washington.
In other injury updates: Tyler Myers (wrist) is skating with the team but not in a full-contact role … Nathan Gerbe (concussion) has been skating on his own the last two days back in Buffalo … Tyler Ennis (ankle) is traveling with the team, but was kept off the ice again today as a precautionary measure … Corey Tropp (concussion) is still not feeling well, and hasn’t skated since being injured against Florida on December 9.
Just when you thought things couldn’t any worse for the Buffalo Sabres, you can now add Thomas Vanek to the list of the team’s walking wounded. Vanek was one of several Sabres that didn’t take part in Buffalo’s practice at First Niagara Center today, before they boarded a short flight to Canada’s capital for a Tuesday night meeting with the Ottawa Senators.
After being dealt another three injuries on Saturday, combined with a minor league affiliate returning home from a three-game Texas road trip, the team couldn’t even ice four full practice lines this morning. With Tyler Ennis (ankle) and Colin Stuart (knee) now out of the lineup, that meant one of today’s lines consisted of Brad Boyes, Marc-Andre Gragnani and…nobody.
“It’s dire here. It’s probably even worse in Rochester,” said Lindy Ruff. “I’ve never seen anything like it really. Hopefully we can start getting a few bodies back. It looks now like Brad Boyes will be the first one we could get back. It’s tough, but you’ve gotta find ways to win games.”
Two players are expected to be recalled from Rochester for Tuesday's game, but Ruff said they hadn't determined yet who they would be.
** UPDATE (6:50 p.m.) -- Marcus Foligno and Derek Whitmore have been recalled from Rochester. **
Ruff updated the status of a few of the injured Sabres:
- Brad Boyes (ankle): Although he skated well in a non-contact role today, he will not be available on Tuesday. “I thought he made out well, it was encouraging. I wouldn’t have said this before practice, but maybe there’s a chance for Thursday.”
- Tyler Ennis (ankle): “Tyler tried to skate this morning and couldn’t go, so he won’t be available.”
- Patrick Kaleta (lower body): “We’ll find out today. I don’t think it was a big step back. We’ve really nailed it down; it’s a little more definitive now. He could be good by the end of the week.”
Hard to believe that it’s taken this long, but the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs will finally meet for the first time this season tomorrow night at First Niagara Center. In fact, Toronto is the only Eastern Conference team the Sabres have yet to play this season.
But despite all their success this season, the Maple Leafs have struggled mightily against Buffalo over the past six seasons. The Sabres are 29-12-1 against the Maple Leafs since the lockout. The 29 wins are Buffalo’s highest win total against one team during this time, ahead of Boston (27) and Montreal (24). After dropping a 2-1 decision at home to the Leafs on February 16 of last season, Buffalo will look to avoid consecutive home losses to Toronto for the first time since March 21/December 12, 2008.
Toronto’s power play success this season could also come to a screeching halt tomorrow night. Not only do the Sabres have the league’s seventh-best penalty killing unit (86.4%, 95/110), they have killed off their last 47 penalties against Toronto. The streak spans 13 games, dating back to March 27, 2009 when Nikolai Kulemin scored at 8:30 of the 3rd period. At 13 games, it’s also the longest active streak in the NHL.
Ryan Miller has posted some gaudy career numbers against the blue and white, going 24-11-0 all-time with a 2.28 GAA and a .928 SV%. He has more wins (24) and shutouts (4) against the Maple Leafs than any other team in the league, and his .928 save percentage is his best against any team that he’s played more than six times. Miller’s 24 career wins against the Maple Leafs lead all active goaltenders.
The Buffalo Sabres injury carousel added another passenger today as head coach Lindy Ruff announced after practice that Ville Leino is expected to miss several weeks with a lower body injury.
Ruff said the injury took place in last night’s 3-2 overtime loss to Ottawa, but didn’t provide any specific details. Leino had 14:49 of ice time in 16 shifts, but remained on the bench throughout the entire game. His final shift lasted 56 seconds and ended at 18:59 of the third period. Leino played seven shifts in the first period, five in the second and just four in the third.
Tyler Myers said the rehab for his broken wrist is progressing well, and he would like to return to the lineup before the Christmas break if possible. Myers injured the wrist against Phoenix on November 19. He will be reevaluated by doctors on Friday and Monday, and a decision regarding his playing status will be made at that time. He has been skating and doing some light puckwork, and is now able to start getting more involved in practices.
Ruff wasn’t as optimistic about Jochen Hecht coming back to the lineup anytime soon.
“Jochen still can’t do anything so he’s going to be a while,” said Ruff.
When asked if Hecht may have broken a bone when he blocked a shot against Florida last Friday, Ruff wouldn’t elaborate on the extent of Hecht’s injury.
“It’s a little more complicated than that. It’s not really a broken bone, but it’s a little more complicated.”
Brad Boyes has started skating again, but is weeks away from returning to the lineup. He’s still experiencing some soreness in his right ankle, and doesn’t have a timetable as to when he’ll be back practicing with the team. Boyes suffered a high ankle sprain against Boston on November 23. This is the first time Boyes has missed any time due to injury. At the time of his injury, Boyes was among the NHL leaders with a consecutive games played streak of 513 games.
Sabres prospect Mark Pysyk was today named to Canada’s 22-man roster for the 2012 World Junior Championship that will take place December 26-January 5 in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta. Pysyk was selected 23rd overall in the 2010 Entry Draft, and is currently in his fourth full season with the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings. The 19-year-old defenseman has 18 points (2+16) and 47 penalty minutes in 25 games so far this season.
Pysyk was one of two Sabres prospects invited to Canada’s selection camp. Defenseman Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (2010, 3rd round, 68th) currently leads all CHL defensemen in scoring with 47 points (18+29) in 31 games with Rimouski of the QMJHL, but he was cut on Tuesday.
It’s only mid-December, but the Buffalo Sabres are about to begin as important a 10-day stretch of their schedule as they will face all season.
Starting tomorrow, four of Buffalo’s next five games are against their divisional and geographic rivals from Ottawa and Toronto. They will face each of them at home this week (Tues. vs. Ottawa; Fri. vs. Toronto), before heading out on the road next week for pre-Christmas tilts in their barns on Tuesday (Ottawa) and Thursday (Toronto). Sandwiched in between is a road game in Pittsburgh this Saturday.
Buffalo enters play today with sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference with 32 points. They are one point behind sixth-place Toronto, and two ahead of Ottawa in the 11th spot. In a conference that is clustered together worse than holiday shoppers in your local mall, the Sabres know they have to treat this stretch of games like a late season playoff run.
“It’s March all the time. You lose the points now, they’re hard to get later on,” says Thomas Vanek. “We definitely want to finish out good here before our little Christmas break. That’s definitely our focus.”
“They’re very important. It’s a big week for us,” Ruff stated today. “We’re getting a little bit healthier, and that’s a big plus for us. Ryan (Miller) is back, he’s healthier. I think we’ve got a lot of good things coming back into the fold, and it should be just a great, emotional week. You get to play the teams you like to hate. You get to play them in your division.”
It was uncharted territory for Paul Szczechura today, as he was finally able to take part in a full team practice for the first time this season. The 26-year-old Szczechura has played in four games during three separate recalls from Rochester, but in each case he’s never been around long enough to take part in anything more than pre-game warmups. Even during training camp, Szczechura was limited to non-contact drills because he was rehabbing from injury.
“It’s been different,” said Szczechura, who once again centered a line between Vanek and Jason Pominville. “It was good to get some reps in with those guys to see how they do things a little more. I think it’ll help build the chemistry a little bit.”
INJURY UPDATES: Ruff said that forwards Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta are close to returning, and he expects one or even both to be back sometime this week … Defenseman Mike Weber is also nearing a return, and Ruff wouldn’t rule him out as a possibility for tomorrow's game against Ottawa … Tyler Myers has been skating on his own, and has begun using his stick and handling the puck on a limited basis. While Ruff is encouraged by Myers’ progress, there’s still no timetable for his return. Myers broke his wrist on November 19 in the second period of a game against Phoenix. The original prognosis called for a 4-6 week recovery process.
The NHL has handed down their ruling, and Nashville’s Jordin Tootoo has received a two-game slap on the wrist for running over Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller during the second period of Saturday’s game in Nashville. Tootoo received a charging major and game misconduct on the play. This was Miller’s first game back in goal after suffering a head/neck injury in Boston on November 12 during a collision with Milan Lucic.
Here’s the video explanation of Tootoo’s suspension from NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan:
This is not the first time Tootoo has been suspended by the NHL. In March 2007, he received five games for a reckless punch to the face that left Stephane Robidas of the Dallas Stars laying unconscious and concussed on the ice. However in this case, Shanahan said the league took into account that Tootoo had not been assessed any supplemental discipline in the past four years.
Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff had already completed his media availability prior to the suspension being announced this afternoon. We’ll have his reaction following Wednesday’s morning skate at First Niagara Center. Ruff said yesterday he hoped to see a “strong message” from the league in regards to the suspension. “It’s just time; I hope they do the right thing with it,” he said.
Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia is the start of five consecutive games at home for the Sabres. They have won just once in their past six on home ice, and have compiled a 6-8-1 record at First Niagara Center so far this season.
Captain Jason Pominville says part of the team’s success will be derived from their tenacity in the one-on-one battles during a game, something that Ruff focused heavily on during today’s practice at the Northtown Center in Amherst.
“It’s kind of like what Detroit did to us when they came into our barn,” Pominville explained. “They were hard on pucks, and turned their backs and made some good plays. That’s kind of what we want to do. We want to be better at home in this little stretch that we have here.”
Cody McCormick passed his baseline test, and could be available for tomorrow’s game … Joe Finley has been recalled from Rochester and will take the place of Jordan Leopold (upper body) in the lineup.
Jochen Hecht was back on the ice today centering a line with Pominville and Thomas Vanek. The other lines today were: Drew Stafford-Derek Roy-Tyler Ennis; Ville Leino-Luke Adam-Zack Kassian. The fourth line featured Matt Ellis between Nathan Gerbe and a combination of McCormick and Corey Tropp.
The defense pairings were: Christian Ehrhoff-Marc-Andre Gragnani; Robyn Regehr-Andrej Sekera; Brayden McNabb-Finley. Leopold and Mike Weber participated in practice in non-contact roles.
It’s getting to the point where Lindy Ruff should open his daily media briefings wearing a lab coat and carrying a clipboard. The injury bug continues to ravage the Sabres lineup, with Paul Gaustad and Jochen Hecht being the latest casualties during Saturday’s 3-2 win in Nashville.
“You’d almost say that it becomes humorous, but it’s something that obviously we don’t take lightly,” said Ruff. “You go through some of the injuries, and some of them have been in really tough incidents for us. From Gerbe – he’ll be back – but that was a tough incident to lose him. Even the Myers play was tough. A guy falling on Brad Boyes, (Tyler) Ennis going into a post. We’ve had some incidents that really haven’t happened to us before. I think once we get by that and get healthy, we’ll be okay.”
- Gaustad: Suffered an upper body injury in the scrum following the Jordin Tootoo hit on Ryan Miller. He did not skate today, and a timetable for his return is unknown at this time.
- Hecht: Day-to-day with an upper body injury sustained on the last shift of Saturday’s game. Ruff said it’s not related to the concussion that caused Hecht to miss the first 20 games, and he has a shot to play on Wednesday.
- Cody McCormick: Hasn’t played since November 14 at Montreal. He’ll undergo post-concussion testing today, and is expected to get the green light to return for Wednesday's game against Philadelphia.
- Jordan Leopold : Missed the last two games with upper body. He skated today but is not expected to return Wednesday.
Ruff has seen enough of Tyler Ennis not shooting the puck, and it took a play in the second period on Saturday to send him over the edge. When Nashville goaltender Anders Lindback came all the way out to the blueline to play a loose puck, Ennis grabbed it and held on instead of advancing the puck towards the net.
Ruff wasn’t happy with the play and said as much to the young winger in between periods.
“I actually talked to him. I brought him in and said, ‘You’ve gotta start shooting. No more of the fiddling around with it and thinking about what you’re gonna do … you’re gonna go in and you’re gonna shoot.’ I broke it down this way: ‘You stickhandled 10 times when the goalie was out.’ From when he pulled up, he handled the puck over 10 times. By the time he handled it the last time, there were three guys playing goal. Just little areas like that, that’s not being on top of your game. That’s not playing the game quick enough.”
Ennis came into the game scoreless in eight games, but finally got off the schneid when he scored the game winner late in the third. Ruff has no doubt that his words were still echoing in Ennis’ mind.
“I think he made a decision in the third period that was aided, that he’s shooting the puck from now on. And he got rewarded. It’s that simple. We’ve gotta play the game quicker.”