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.”
11:15am: Welcome to the blog folks. I just finished an hour on the Sabres Hockey Hotline radio show with Kevin Sylvester and Andrew Peters. Any chance I can get that time back? We spent far too much time talking about captains, and not enough about trades. Not to mention I’m still tired from last night’s 12:30am arrival from Pittsburgh. Now to sit and watch TSN and follow Twitter in hopes of some actual movement.
11:28am: First big move of the day! I’ve gone from my desk to the conference table about five feet away. Unfortunately that also means sitting near Detroit Tigers superfan Matt Gould and Social Sam Hicks. I also found some cashews and peanuts in my backpack leftover from recent flights. Told you I was bringing snacks today.
11:50am: I’m not surprised that there have yet to be any trades today. With all the movement over the last few days, I’m anticipating a flurry of action between 1-3pm as GM’s start to use the deadline to their advantage. Wouldn’t shock me if we’re still hearing about deals as late as 4pm today because of the backlog of trade calls to the league office.
12 Noon: Thankfully the NHL Network cut away from TSN’s coverage to show the commercial for the Sticky Buddy. But I wont be satisfied until I see the Wax Vac ad. So, no Slap Chop?
12:20pm: I’m very hungry, which means as soon as I walk away from the table a trade will be made. My best bet would be to have Darcy go with me. I wonder what he’d eat for lunch on deadline day? I could really go for some wings – hot and extra crispy.
12:21pm: The Bruins have traded Maxime Sauve to Chicago for Rob Flick! Holy crap!
12:36pm: The Montel Williams money commercial on NHL Network just prompted a conversation about Montell Jordan. In case you care, “This is How We Do It” was released in 1995. I was 26. Social Sam was considerably younger than that.
12:51pm: Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos is reporting that the Devils are dangling a first rounder in hopes of landing a scoring winger. Could this be the fit for Jason Pominville? On Sabres Hockey Hotline this morning, Andrew Peters said that Pominville is just the kind of player that Lou Lamoriello would love to have on his team.
1:20pm: Jason Pominville has moved to the top of TSN’s “Trade Bait” list, with Minnesota suddenly popping up as a team showing considerable interest in Buffalo’s captain. As we get closer to 3pm, Pominville’s stock will continue to rise.
1:34pm: BREAKING NEWS – Ryan Clowe still hasn’t scored a goal this season.
1:50pm: The best news I’ve heard all day? That it’s supposed to 50 and sunny in Buffalo for the Bisons season opener at Coca Cola Field. It’s baseball season!
2pm: Less than an hour left until the deadline, and my buddy Eklund is now reporting “news of a possible Clarke MacArthur deal.” Is that what this day has come to? (E4)
2:07pm: Tampa acquires 6-foot-7 goaltender Ben Bishop from Ottawa, and he’ll form a tandem with 6-foot-6 Lightning netminder Anders Lindback. In related news, Bishop and Lindback will now join forces to face Kane and Undertaker at Wrestlemania this Sunday.
2:27pm: To quote Eklund, “the dominoes are falling.” With Bishop dealt to Tampa, Columbus now ships Steve Mason to Philadelphia. So basically they swapped Mason for Bobrovsky.
2:34pm: Gaborik to Columbus … and something brewing in Minnesota.
2:37pm: RDS reporting Pominville to Minnesota.
2:41pm: Remember what I said about things heating up late?...
2:53pm: Multiple outlets now reporting Pominville to Minnesota. Waiting for official confirmation/details.
3pm: Deadline! Now we wait on the last minute deals to start leaking out.
3:13pm: Thanks for coming along for the ride everyone. Stay tuned to Sabres.com for more details!
POOLSIDE IN FT. LAUDERDALE, FLA. – For the second time in a week, Thomas Vanek finds himself nursing an upper body injury that could keep him out of action. Vanek didn’t take part in today’s practice at the BB&T Center, and interim head coach Ron Rolston said he’s “potentially” available for Thursday’s game against the Florida Panthers.
“He didn’t skate today. He’s got an upper body (injury), just a muscle strain,” explained Rolston. “We’ll see tomorrow, see how he’s doing at the (morning) skate and go from there. He’s still pretty sore today, so we’ll see how he feels if he can get out there tomorrow morning. If he can’t, he’ll be out.”
Vanek had 13:29 of ice time during Tuesday’s 2-1 loss in Tampa, and left the game after playing just one shift at the beginning of the third period. This injury comes just a week after Vanek had to miss the game against Toronto on March 21, after absorbing a slap shot in the hip from teammate Christian Ehrhoff in Montreal two nights earlier. It’s not known if this injury is related to that.
LISTEN TO ROLSTON AUDIO
Regardless of Vanek’s playing status on Thursday, Rolston did confirm that winger Drew Stafford will return to the lineup after spending the last two games in the press box as a healthy scratch. Rolston hopes the two-game hiatus can serve as a wake-up call for Buffalo’s assistant captain and what he can bring to this team.
“With Drew, we just want him to go out there and make things happen for our team; lead the way for us. He’s in that position because he earned it, and that’s what he’s gotta do. Just lately it’s been a reminder of the things he’s gotta get back to more than anything,” explained Rolston. “And that’s for all of our guys. They just can’t take for granted they’re going to be in the lineup. We need them to play a certain way. For Drew, a large part of that is just leading the way; being a leader out there for us. I expect he’ll come back and play really well for us.”
The NHL’s off-ice officials crew in Tampa experienced some system issues on Tuesday, and that created havoc with the in-game scoring. Shots on goal were an issue right away, at one point reading “0-0” in the first period, despite the fact the Lightning held a 1-0 lead. Several penalties and plus/minus stats were also affected, until the crew was finally able to update the system hours after the game. The official stats now list Tampa as outshooting Buffalo 25-14 on the night, including a 16-5 run in the second period.
TAMPA – Anyone that watched Saturday’s 2-1 in Montreal knows goaltender Ryan Miller definitely earned his first star status that night. Miller made 38 saves in the victory, including 15 saves in the final period. Miller frustrated Montreal shooters all night long – just ask Tomas Plekanec. The Canadiens center recorded a game-high eight shots without scoring a goal, with five of those shots coming in the final period as Montreal looked to tie the score.
But a deeper look at the game sheet revealed some startling numbers. The Canadiens may have recorded 39 shots on goal, but they attempted a whopping 85. Buffalo blocked 31 additional Montreal shot attempts, and the Canadiens failed to hit the net on 15 others. As a comparison, the Sabres had 31 shot attempts – 18 shots on goal, nine blocks and just four misses.
AUDIO: RON ROLSTON TALKS ABOUT SHOT BLOCKING
Mike Weber led the way for Buffalo with eight shot blocks, one shy of the nine recorded by the entire Montreal team. (Weber is currently second with on the Sabres in both shot blocks (56) and hits (80) through 26 games this season.) Christian Ehrhoff added to his team-leading 61 shot blocks with four more on Saturday, and Robyn Regehr also chipped in four. Jochen Hecht and Tyler Ennis each had three shot blocks to lead all Buffalo forwards.
And as the going got tough on Saturday, the Sabres got blocking. Buffalo had six blocks in the first, followed by periods of 13 and 12. And in fitting fashion, Weber blocked his final shot of the game – on Montreal’s last attempt. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, and Montreal had pulled Carey Price for the extra attacker, Weber got a piece of Andrei Markov’s shot from the left wing with his outstretched stick to preserve the one-goal win.
NEWARK, NJ – Ville Leino has yet to play in a game for the Buffalo Sabres this season, but that could change very soon. The injured winger skated in full during Wednesday’s practice at the Prudential Center, and said he could be back in the lineup as soon as Sunday night in Philadelphia.
“I would say (next week) at the latest hopefully,” said Leino. “But we’ll see how it goes, today was a hard working day. Philly (on Sunday) would probably be one of the good options here.”
There were reports in early February that Leino’s hip injury would require season-ending surgery, but he said they didn’t alter his rehab at any point to speed the process up.
“It was more about time, and to get the inflammation out. And the treatments paid off. It’s one of those things that you never know what it’s going to be. I was feeling pretty good and hopefully we can continue with that.”
Jordan Lepold hasn’t played since February 17 after sustaining an upper-body injury during practice. He didn’t have a timetable for his return, only saying that he was progressing.
“It happened in practice, midway through practice. I ended up working through it the whole time and I don’t know if I did more damage or what. It just ends up being a slow process right now.”
UPDATE (5:30 p.m.) – Following a phone hearing this afternoon, Patrick Kaleta has been handed a five-game suspension by the NHL for his hit on Brad Richards during the third period of Sunday’s game in New York. Because the hearing took place via the phone, five games was the maximum number of games that Kaleta could have received.
From the NHL:
Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta has been suspended for five games, without pay, for boarding New York Rangers forward Brad Richards during NHL Game No. 317 in New York on Sunday, March 3, the National Hockey League's Department of Player Safety announced today.
Kaleta is considered a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Based on his average annual salary, he will forfeit $76,219.25. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
The incident occurred at 3:28 of the third period. Kaleta was assessed a major penalty for checking from behind and game misconduct.
For a full explanation of the Department of Player Safety's decision, complete with video, please click on the following link:-- http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=60&id=212619
UPDATE (1 p.m.) -- The Sabres are off today, but both Patrick Kaleta and interim head coach Ron Rolston met with reporters this afternoon at the team hotel in Raleigh.
Not surprisingly, Kaleta wouldn't comment specifically on the hit on Brad Richards that landed him a disciplinary hearing with the league at 3 p.m. Kaleta did say how upset he was for what his actions immediately resulted in, and that was two power play goals by the Rangers to pull ahead 2-1 at the time.
"I'm sorry for the position I put the team in trying to kill that penalty ... makes me feel like a bag of garbage after seeing that."
With the Sabres already having to deal with the absence of an injured Thomas Vanek for the past two games, Rolston said the team will just have to continue on with another lineup change if Kaleta is forced out for any period of time.
"Obviously we've had some adversity already since I've been here with Vanek being out a couple of games, and other guys stepping into roles. We have players that will go in and their opportunity will be there for them to help our team be successful. We'll do with whatever we have."
RALEIGH, NC (9:45 a.m.) – The NHL announced this morning that Patrick Kaleta will have a hearing with the league at 3 p.m. today for the game misconduct he received during Sunday’s game in New York.
Below via the NHL:
Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta faces a hearing with the Department of Player Safety on Monday afternoon for an incident in a game Sunday night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Kaleta received a five-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct for a hit he delivered against Brad Richards at the 3:28 mark of the third period.
The Sabres are off today, but Kaleta is scheduled to meet with the media around Noon at the team hotel in Raleigh. Stay tuned to Sabres.com and @BuffaloSabres for updates and reaction.
With his NHL coaching debut now in the rearview mirror, Ron Rolston took to the practice ice with the Buffalo Sabres for the first time on Friday as the team skated at the Northtown Center in Amherst.
Following last night’s 3-1 loss in Toronto, Rolston and his assistants put their players through their paces, while also focusing on some areas of detail that he says need to be cleaned up quickly in order for the Sabres to get back on the winning track.
“There’s things in the hockey game where we don’t take care of situations in games. Last night, what happens when you’re on the road like that, you want to be able to go into the third period at 1-1. What happens right now with our hockey team is we’re the team that blinks first when you have a staredown,” explains Rolston. “In other words, the faceoff’s in the zone and we make a mistake in execution. The next thing you know it’s a 2-1 game going into the third.
“That’s part of the reason why things aren’t going the way they way we want them to go. It’s because there are times in a game when we execute for a very long period of time. But in this league, when you have a short span of a couple of shifts where you don’t execute, that can be the difference in a game. A lot of times it’s been the case here, and it was last night for us.”
It was a different style of practice that Jason Pominville has been used to for the past eight season, mainly because of the new voice in charge.
“We had to be focused on what he was saying. You’re used to be doing some drills, and obviously he’s bringing some new things that he wants to work on. Again, he doesn’t have much time; we don’t have that much practice time. But he’s trying to get as much as he can to us as quick as possible. Whether it’s by video or one the ice, I think that some adjustments are made.
There was a lot of emphasis on speed in today’s practice, and Pominville said that will be a key in executing Rolston’s plans for making the Sabres a faster team to play against on many levels.
“Not a quicker team speed wise, but a quicker team with our execution going north-south, and getting pucks deep behind their d-man and making them turn. I think from what I’ve seen so far that’s the biggest thing,” said Pominville. “I think sometimes we’re taking our time a little too much, and he’s really put the emphasis on get it going up ice quick and not hang on to it too long, creating more speed in our game.”
Ryan Miller was given the day off for rest after making his eighth straight start last night in Toronto… Jordan Leopold did not take part in practice, and Rolston said he’s still nursing an upper body injury… Rolston also said that defenseman Andrej Sekera is very close to a return to full health after suffering a charley horse against Boston last Friday.
Former head coach Lindy Ruff addressed the media briefly on Friday morning at First Niagara Center, following his dismissal on Wednesday. Click here to watch a replay of Ruff’s press conference.
MONTREAL -- Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux made NHL history on December 31, 1988 against New Jersey, becoming the first player in league history to score a goal in all five possible game situations in the same night: even strength, power play, shorthanded, penalty shot and an empty netter. In hockey lore, Lemieux’s achievement is simply referred to as “Five Goals, Five Ways.” Thomas Vanek’s five-point performance in Boston last night didn’t make NHL history, but it was equally as impressive.
Vanek torched the previously-unbeaten Bruins with his eighth career hat trick and added a pair of assists on crucial goals in the game. It was his second five-point game this season, ironically making him the first player since Lemieux in 1992-93 to score five or more points twice in his team’s first seven games. He’s also the first Sabre with two five-point games in one season since that same 1992-93 campaign, when Pat LaFontaine (six times) and Alexander Mogilny (three) both had multiple five-point performances. Vanek currently leads the league with 15 points (6+9) in six games, and was named as the NHL’s Third Star for the month of January.
What made Vanek’s performance so memorable last night was not just the sum of the parts; it was the impact each point had on the game. These weren’t your run of the mill secondary assists or cheap goals. Every single goal and assist had a direct bearing on the outcome of the game. These weren't just moments in a game, they were defining moments. Don’t believe me? Let’s break each one down:
Point #1: Goal (2nd period, 1:38)
The two teams played a scoreless first period, with Boston holding a decisive 14-9 edge in shots. But Vanek temporarily hushed the TD Garden when he opened the scoring 98 seconds into the second period with an absolute howitzer from 26 feet out that he one-timed past Tuukka Rask off a perfect pass from Cody Hodgson. It was the fifth time in seven games Buffalo scored the first goal of the night, and they are now 3-2-0 when doing this.
Point #2: Goal (2nd period, 16:46)
After Vanek’s goal had given Buffalo the early lead, Boston scored three times in a 5:42 span, and appeared to be taking a stranglehold on the game in front of their raucous fans. But when Milan Lucuc and Zdeno Chara both were called for minors at 15:45, Buffalo was handed a golden chance to get back into the game with the rare five-on-three opportunity. Just over one minute into the two-man advantage, Vanek camped out in front of Rask and deftly redirected Christian Ehrhoff’s pass into the net to cut the Bruins lead to 3-2.
Point #3: Assist (2nd period, 18:19)
With the period winding down, the Sabres were buzzing the Boston net to try and tie the score before intermission. Tyler Ennis fired a puck through the crease, and Marcus Foligno corralled the loose puck on the left boards. After some strong work along half wall, he fires a pass to the slot where Vanek is being absolutely abused by defenseman Andrew Ference. Somehow Vanek manages to take the pass and feeds Ennis on his forehand to his left while diving forwards. Ennis then buries the easy tap-in from 20 feet out to tie the game at 3-3.
Point #4: Assist (3rd period, 6:54)
With the game deadlocked at 4-4, momentum had suddenly shifted to the Sabres. Jason Pominville stripped Lucic of the puck at center ice and chipped it ahead to Vanek. In mid-stride he banked the puck off the wall and sped past a flatfooted Johnny Boychuk. Vanek fired a slap-pass across the ice to Cody Hodgson, and his one-timer past Rask turns out to be the game-winner, and almost a mirror image of the second-period goal they teamed up on at the other end of the ice.
Point # 5: Goal (3rd period, 18:29)
The Bruins were pressing late in hopes of knotting things up when Rich Peverley’s point shot was blocked in front by Mike Weber. The puck kicked up to Vanek, however his bank shot up the boards was intercepted by Peverley at center ice. But Peverley put the puck right back on Vanek’s stick with an ill-timed hand pass, and he was off to the races from there. As Vanek reached the slot, he waited out both a sliding Dennis Seidenberg and a thoroughly-confused looking Rask with a forehand-backhand deke that gave the Sabres some much-needed insurance at 6-4.
WASHINGTON, DC – Coming off back-to-back losses to the Carolina Hurricanes, head coach Lindy Ruff followed through on his promise to shake up the forward lines at Saturday’s practice. The Sabres skated at the Northtown Center on Saturday morning before jetting off to the nation’s capital for a Sunday afternoon tilt with the Washington Capitals.
Thomas Vanek was the only player not in attendance, as he was given a maintenance day to rest the muscle strain that forced him to miss part of the second period in Friday’s 3-1 loss. Ruff said he expects Vanek to be in the lineup on Sunday.
The most drastic changes came on the second and third lines. Drew Stafford remained on the right wing, but he was now joined by rookie Mikhail Grigorenko at center and Steve Ott on left wing. Tyler Ennis dropped back to center the third line with Jochen Hecht (left wing) and Patrick Kaleta (right wing). The fourth line consisted of John Scott-Matt Ellis-Nathan Gerbe.
Washington comes into Sunday’s game with a record of 0-3-1, putting them last in the Southeast Division with just a single point. They started the season with three consecutive regulation losses before dropping a 3-2 OT decision to the New Jersey Devils on Friday. The Capitals have been outscored 17-8 in the four games.
Mike Ribeiro leads Washington with four points (1+3) in four games, while Alexander Ovechkin has collected just one point – an assist – this season.
Ville Leino did not take part in Saturday’s practice at First Niagara Center, and his status for Sunday’s home opener against Philadelphia is now questionable.
Head coach Lindy Ruff said the injury has been nagging at Leino for a few days, and he finally succumbed to it on Friday when he was forced to leave during practice. Leino will test the injury on Sunday morning, and Ruff said they’ll determine afterwards if he’s able to play.
LISTEN TO LINDY RUFF'S PRESS CONFERENCE
“My discussions with him are if he feels like he’s good, he’s ready to roll, then we’ll get him in. If not, then I’ll adjust the lineup.”
At today’s practice, Jochen Hecht took Leino’s spot on the line with rookie Mikhail Grigorenko and Steve Ott. The fourth line center position vacated by Hecht between John Scott and Patrick Kaleta was filled by Matt Ellis.
“The thought is Jochen can be there; we can bump Kaleta up. We’ve got a couple of options there. We can maneuver.”