If Zack Kassian’s recall last week would be considered “eagerly anticipated,” you can file Joe Finley’s in the “completely unexpected” category. Because that’s normally what happens when you start the season as a healthy scratch in the AHL after being a Sabres training camp invitee.
But Finley isn’t your run of the mill minor league recall. The 6-foot-8, 260-pound defenseman was a first-round pick of the Washington Capitals in 2005, and played four years at the University of North Dakota. In his first professional season with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays in 2009, Finley suffered a ruptured artery in his hand on an innocent play in the defensive zone when he was checking an opposition player.
The injury has limited Finley to just 69 professional games since then, including 26 at the AHL level with Hershey and now Rochester. In 18 games with the Amerks this season, Finley leads the team with 57 PIMs and a plus-10 rating, while adding one goal and one assist.
Finley, 24, started the season on an AHL deal, but was signed to an NHL contract by the Sabres on Monday. Three days later he finds himself preparing for his first NHL game on Friday night when Detroit comes to town. Finley knows what has worked for him in Rochester, and wants to play the same way in Buffalo.
“I really just took it upon myself to focus on the things I can control, and that’s trying to play a real simple, solid brand of hockey. I’ve been fortunate to do that so far. Things are moving in the right direction but there’s a long way to go to be here full time, that’s for sure.”
With Jordan Leopold out of the lineup recovering from an upper body injury, many would have assumed TJ Brennan and his offensive skills would’ve been a better fit as his replacement on the blueline. But Brennan also has an upper body injury, and Finley was the best man for the job in the eyes of Amerks coach Ron Rolston.
A native of Edina, Minn., Finley may not have the offensive numbers that Brennan does, but Lindy Ruff was very impressed with his skating during training camp.
“He was able to skate and make plays, and for a big man that’s always the challenge,” explains Ruff. “He skates very well, he’s able to handle the puck, and his first pass has been good. When you have that size and that reach, you’ve got an automatic advantage over a lot of players.”
INJURY UPDATES: Ryan Miller was going to undergo concussion testing today, and it looks like he will start one of the games this weekend … Drew MacIntyre has been returned to Rochester … Tyler Ennis (ankle sprain) skated on a line with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford today. He is expected to be back in the lineup tomorrow against Detroit after missing the last 17 games … Patrick Kaleta (groin) got through practice without any problems, and his playing status for Friday will be determined after the morning skate. He has missed the last four games.
The look on Jochen Hecht’s face said it all. After weeks of stalled comeback attempts, the 34-year-old declared himself 100 percent healthy and available to play in Wednesday’s grudge match with the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. It’s been a long road back for Hecht, who has yet to play this season after suffering a concussion on the second day of training camp in an innocent collision with teammate Shaone Morrisonn.
“I’m excited about it,” said a smiling Hecht this morning. “It’s been a long time. The last game was in the playoffs against Philly, so I’m excited to get out there and play.”
“It was getting frustrating. You’re close, you’re coming back, but you’re still not 100 percent. But like I said, that week really helped. The (chiropractic and active release) treatment right now is catching on and I feel 100 percent again.”
Hecht practiced at center today on a line with rookies Luke Adam and Corey Tropp, a trio that Hecht jokingly referred to as “two young kids and the old guy.”
Tyler Ennis didn’t skate today, and Lindy Ruff said his injured ankle had become sore due to the increased workload over the past few days. “Some of that can be expected,” said Ruff. “It tells us he’s not quite there yet.” … Ruff also said that while Ryan Miller is feeling better, he still isn’t symptom free … Patrick Kaleta was absent from practice with a maintenance day.
In Kaleta’s absence, today’s practice lines looked like this:
The red-hot Bruins come into Buffalo riding a nine-game winning streak, the longest such streak in the NHL this season. It’s a far cry from the 3-7 start they got off to, which everyone immediately credited to a Stanley Cup hangover. Well it appears that a few Tylenol and some Alka-Seltzer rid the B’s of that hangover because they’ve been on fire ever since. Check out some of these gaudy numbers from the current streak:
- This is Boston’s longest win streak since a 10-game stretch from Dec. 12, 2008-Jan. 1, 2009. They haven’t lost since a 4-2 setback in Montreal on October 29.
- They have outscored their opponents by a 43-14 margin, and have scored fewer than four goals just twice in the nine games (2-1 vs. Columbus on Nov. 17; 1-0 @ Montreal on Nov. 21). In their first 10 games, they scored just 22 goals and allowed 25.
- Boston’s goal differential of plus-26 is 11 more than second place Pittsburgh.
- Boston carries a 162:11 shutout streak into tonight’s game, with their last goal allowed being a Derek MacKenzie score on Tuukka Rask at 2:49 of the second period in the win over Columbus on Nov. 17
- The Bruins have scored 10 goals in their last 45 power play opportunities (22.2%), which snapped an 0-for-22 stretch after scoring on their first power play opportunity of the season.
MONTREAL – In the middle of a weekend stretch that has them playing three games over four nights in three different cities, the Buffalo Sabres opted to hold a team meeting rather than a full practice at the Bell Centre today. The team arrived in Montreal late Saturday night following a 6-2 loss in Boston to the Bruins. A handful of players took part in an optional skate afterwards, including injured forwards Tyler Ennis and Jochen Hecht.
The Sabres are back in action Monday here in Montreal against the Canadiens in a 7 p.m. start that will be televised nationally by Versus. They return home to the First Niagara Center on Wednesday to host the New Jersey Devils at 7:30 p.m. in another game that will also be on Versus.
In Tuesday’s game against Winnipeg, the Buffalo Sabres finished the night winning 50 of 75 faceoffs against the Jets. It was the highest single game total by the Sabres since the NHL started tracking faceoff stats in 1998, and the most by any team since Minnesota won 52 against Carolina on October 7, 2010.
Leading the way for Buffalo was the duo of Paul Gaustad (15-5) and Jason Pominville (12-2), who combined to go 27-7 in the game. The 12 wins were a career high for Pominville, who has quietly developed into one of the team’s most reliable faceoff artists.
Pominville is already at 52.4% (55/105) after 14 games this season, something that assistant coach Kevyn Adams credits to him simply being a good student of the game.
“Jason is very diligent about faceoffs,” explains Adams. “He works hard after practice, and studies a lot of video. He’s also very focused in the faceoff circle; he knows what he needs to do.”
Adams said Pominville’s success is a carryover from what they started last season, and he thinks it will only get better based on the early returns.
Having spent much of the year playing on a line with Luke Adam, the two have been splitting up a lot of the faceoff duties based on their strong side – Pominville is a right shot who excels on the right side, while Adam is a left-handed shot who takes most of the draws on the left side.
Pominville is quick to credit Adams and Gaustad for his continued faceoff development
“Having Paul and Kevyn here, being able to talk about it and practice them every day, I think it’s benefitted me. It’s an important part of the game – if you want to start with the puck you need to win faceoffs.”
INJURY UPDATES: After missing Wednesday’s practice with what he simply termed as a “maintenance day,” Tyler Myers was back on the ice today and expects to play Friday against Ottawa … Tyler Ennis skated today for about 30 minutes. Ruff said there wasn’t any agility skating involved, just several laps around the ice. His status remains week-to-week.
The Buffalo Sabres returned to First Niagara Center for practice on Monday, with much of the attention focused on goaltender Ryan Miller. Head coach Lindy Ruff surprised many observers when he started Jhonas Enroth on Saturday in Ottawa, keeping Miller in a backup role for a second straight game. Enroth backstopped the Sabres to a 3-2 shootout win, improving his record to 4-0-0 along with a 1.41 GAA and .952 save percentage.
Miller said he was informed of the move by Ruff on team’s flight to Ottawa on Friday night. While he was somewhat surprised by it, Miller said he took the change in stride.
Miller hasn’t been in the Sabres net since the team fell behind 3-0 in the first seven minutes against Philadelphia last Tuesday. For Miller, the biggest adjustment in this process has been trying to get used to having some much time in between game action. He’s expected to get the start tomorrow against Winnipeg, and he’s more than ready to get back between the pipes.
“I always try to use my time to the best of my abilities, and this week’s no different. We had practice time, and we also had some down time when I did what I could to just relax. My last outing wasn’t the way you like to leave the ice. You want to go out and do your job. The next chance I get I’ll be ready.”
Ruff said that having a goaltender of Enroth’s capabilities on the bench can be viewed as a luxury for a team like the Sabres, who play a league-high 21 sets of back-to-back games this season.
“Considering we’re the team that plays the most back-to-back games, it’s a good thing for our team. You can stick a fresh goaltender in there that you know is going to play well in those situations. I think it gives us something that could put us almost on a level playing field against the teams that aren’t playing back to back when we walk into their building. I look at is an equalizer for us.”
Jochen Hecht skated on his own after practice today, and Ruff declared him as being “symptom free” again He rode the stationary bike yesterday, and his workouts will continue to ramped up during the week … Ruff said they hope to have Tyler Ennis back in skates this week, however he was cautious to give a definitive timetable for his return. Ennis hasn’t had any problems working out off the ice since the injury, but being able to comfortably get his foot back into a skate will be the key.
Click here to listen to Regehr's entire interview with the media.
The 31-year-old Regehr joined the Sabres on June 25 along with Ales Kotalik and a 2012 second-round draft pick in a trade that saw Paul Byron and Chris Butler go west. Originally drafted 19th overall by Colorado in 1998, Regehr had 163 points (29+164) in 826 games with the Flames from 1999-2011.
“I’d love to beat any team. But especially when you’re playing a team that you’ve played with for a long time, the first time you play them you’ll want to beat them. Anytime we go out there, it doesn’t matter against who - we want to win the game. That’s the ultimate goal.”
At 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds Regehr was acquired to add some sandpaper to the Sabres blueline. He’s done that in spades so far, leading the Sabres in hits with 31 through 11 games. But he is also being counted on for his veteran presence, and that’s something the team could use right now as they try to rebound from a 1-3-0 start to their season-high five-game homestand that concludes Friday.
“We need to play a game a certain way, and we need to do it every single time we’re out there. If we do that, things will take care of themselves.”
Patrick Kaleta received a four-game suspension from the NHL today for his head-butt on Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek at 4:58 of the first period in Wednesday’s game. Kaleta will also forfeit $19,621.64 in salary. He is eligible to return to the Sabres lineup on November 12 in Boston.
The Flames are last in the Northwest Division – and 14th overall in the Western Conference – with a 4-5-1 record through 10 games. They open up a three-game road trip tonight in Detroit, and conclude Sunday in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche. Miikka Kiprusoff is 4-4-0 on the season with a 2.50 GAA and .913 save percentage. He played only two periods in his last start, surrendering five goals on 18 shots in a 5-1 loss to Vancouver. No Flames skater has reached double digits in points yet, with Alex Tanguay leading the way with nine points (2+7) in 10 games. Calgary captain Jarome Iginla has just four points (2+2) in 10 games.
Friday’s game is one of the 10 times this season the Sabres will come off a rest day against a team playing its second game in a row.
A lot has changed since we last saw the Philadelphia Flyers in Buffalo. Not only has the arena name since changed, but the Flyers’ overtime villain in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals is now wearing blue and gold. But don’t let Ville Leino’s stone-faced expression fool you: he doesn’t want to see his old employers leave First Niagara Center with two points on Wednesday night.
Leino’s departure for Buffalo as a free agent was just a small part of Philadelphia’s extreme makeover: offseason edition. The Flyers jettisoned veterans Mike Richards (LA) and Jeff Carter (Columbus) in a pair of trades, and acquired netminder Ilya Bryzgalov from Phoenix in an attempt to put an end to the team’s goaltending carousel. Oh yeah, they also signed some free agent by the name of Jaromir Jagr. The name may ring a bell.
Has it helped? The Flyers come into Buffalo with a 6-4-1 record, having lost two of their last three games -- highlighted by a wacky 9-8 loss to Winnipeg last Thursday. Jagr is second in team scoring with 11 points in 11 games, including seven (5+2) in his last four. Byrzgalov is a very ordinary 4-4-1 with a 3.16 GAA and .880 save percentage, and made headlines with his candid post-game comments to the Philadelphia media after allowing four goals on 10 shots against Winnipeg.
But the common denominator to the Flyers’ struggles as of late could simply be the absence of rugged blueliner Chris Pronger, who suffered a scary injury last week when he was struck in the right eye by the stick of Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski. Pronger dropped to the ice immediately and could clearly be heard screaming as he was rushed off the ice. There was no long-term damage done to the eye, but Pronger has yet to resume skating. He was placed on injured reserve earlier today.
|Chris Pronger (Getty Images)
Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff knows what a player like Pronger means to the Flyers entire lineup.
“He’s a big piece for them. They were going good when he was in there, and they’ve struggled a little bit with him out. He’s been a good player in this league and I think they miss him. I’ve seen the goals go up when he’s out, and I’ve seen the goals go down when he’s in.
Ruff has obviously done his homework on this. The Flyers are 4-2-1 with Pronger in the lineup this season, and 1-2-0 since he’s been injured. They averaged 3.85 goals for in the first seven games, while allowing just an average of 3. Those numbers jump dramatically in the last three games -- 4.67 GF/5 GA -- but they are skewed by the loss to Winnipeg.
Much of today’s practice was spent working on the power play, including Derek Roy manning the point on the first unit in Marc-Andre Gragnani’s usual spot.
“We used the same three up front. Derek was back there for a period of time last year so we’ll see what he can do.”
With Gragnani being moved off the power play, Ruff wouldn’t tip has hand as to whether this would see Mike Weber inserted into the Sabres lineup tomorrow for his first game action of the season.
Today’s practice at First Niagara Center was neither a trick nor a treat for the Buffalo Sabres. It was the first opportunity for Lindy Ruff to put his troops through a workout since Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Florida, and Ruff didn’t let a minute of the high-tempo 60-minute practice go to waste.
“That might have been one of the toughest practices we’ve had in a couple of years,” said Ruff, who was very vocal throughout practice. “I said the other night it wasn’t acceptable – how we acted and how we played. It’s not acceptable. I said that if you’re going to play like that, we’ll practice even harder. That’s just part of coaching.”
“You can go five or six minutes and play really well. Then we’ve done some things that have kind of hurt ourselves and we get on our heels. I don’t think we’ve been the team we were that started the year, and we’re just trying to get back to that.”
Nobody was caught off guard by the tone of today’s practice, especially captain Jason Pominville.
“We kind of expected it. There’s a couple of days before our next game. Coming off a day off, and let’s be honest, a pretty poor effort on our part, I think we needed to get back to basics. That comes with hard work and compete.”
Pominville said that Ruff’s message was received loud and clear.
“I think that’s what we needed. We had a good meeting (prior to practice) and saw some things that we needed to work on. Part of today was about hard work and being better with the puck. Maybe an up-beat, up-tempo practice is what you need. At the end of the day, it should be good for us.”
Ruff tinkered with the lines on Saturday night, and he did more of the same today. The most obvious change has Ville Leino moving between Pominville and Thomas Vanek, with Luke Adam now on a line with Drew Stafford and Derek Roy. Ruff said the move isn’t a knock on Adam; it’s more of an attempt to get Leino on track offensively while playing with the team’s top two scorers. Ruff also wouldn’t commit to Adam or Roy playing center, saying they could both see time at the pivot.
Jochen Hecht didn’t take part in today’s practice, and Ruff didn’t sound too confident when discussing his long-term prognosis.
“He wasn’t doing so well. It’s probably the first time in this process that I’m starting to get concerned.”
2010-11 (116 GP)
Eastern Conference: 318 goals for (2.74/game)
Western Conference: 322 goals for (2.78/game)
League Total: 640 goals for (5.52/game)
2011-12 (121 GP)
Eastern Conference: 337 goals for (2.79/game)
Western Conference: 305 goals for (2.52/game)
League Total: 642 goals for (5.31/game)
The biggest drop off is in the Western Conference where goal scoring is down .26 game, while the East has seen a bump of .05 – likely thanks to the 63 combined goals scored by Pittsburgh (33) and Washington (30) through 18 games. At this time last season, the top two Eastern teams – Tampa (27) and Pittsburgh (27) – combined to score 54 goals in 17 games.
The Sabres have scored 23 goals in the first eight games, compared to 24 in the first nine on this date last season.
|Ryan Miller (Photo: Bill Wippert)|
- October 27 vs. Columbus
- November 5 @ Ottawa
- November 16 vs. New Jersey
- December 3 @ Nashville
- December 9 vs. Florida
- January 3 vs. Edmonton
- February 10 vs. Dallas
- March 14 vs. Colorado
Be sure to log on to Sabres.com every game night for the live in-game blog. Tomorrow's blog will get underway at 6:45 p.m. Then when the game is over, check back for an enhanced version of the blog featuring game highlights and interviews.
Ennis was injured just 2:15 into the game when he fell awkwardly into the net after being given a push from behind by Tampa’s Ryan Malone while driving to the Lightning goal. The second-year winger, who had been held without a point so far this season, attempted to skate on the ankle during a TV timeout before shutting it down for the night.
Ruff said that he’s already got a plan in place to replace Ennis, who scored 20 goals for the Sabres in rookie season in 2010-11
“We’ll make the adjustments. We’ve got some pieces that we’re going to switch around. There’s guys that can obviously go into that role; Ville (Leino) can go over to the left side. We’re going to try some different things.”
|ICE CHIPS PODCASTM|
|Lindy Ruff Interview|
| T. Vanek Interview
|Derek Roy Interview|
| Ville Leino Interview
“Actually, Ville had mentioned that he’d like to go to the wing, so it’s funny how it works,” explained Ruff. “You’d like to find a line and keep them together, that would be the thing that you would hope most. I’d like to see Roy, Leino and Stafford play together for a while and gain some chemistry. I think that’s the most important part. It isn’t position to position, it’s leaving three individuals together for a while and they develop some chemistry.”
Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay will be just the Sabres’ second home game at First Niagara Center this season, and it also kicks off a stretch that will see them play seven of their next nine games at home. Ruff says it’s imperative they use this stretch of games to assert themselves as a difficult team to face at home.
“We really got away from our game the last home game, and we talked about that in this morning’s meeting. We need to be the team that wins the majority of the puck battles, and establish that this is going to be an awful tough building to come in to.”
Paul Gaustad also missed practice for the second time in four days, but Ruff said it was nothing more than a “maintenance day” to rest a pulled muscle.
Jochen Hecht skated on a line with Cody McCormick and Brad Boyes during practice, however Ruff was skeptical of his chances to be inserted in the lineup tomorrow for the first time this season.
“We’ll find out more today with Jochen as to whether he can play or not,” said Ruff. “Initially, I would say no.”