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.
WINNIPEG -- Interim head coach Ron Rolston classified Thomas Vanek as a “possibility” for tonight’s game in Winnipeg, as the Buffalo Sabres (16-17-6) put their three-game winning streak on the line against the equally-desperate Jets (19-19-2). Buffalo’s leading scorer has missed the last six games with an upper body injury sustained in Tampa on March 26.
The injured Buffalo winger showed no visible signs of discomfort during drills at today’s morning skate at the MTS Centre, but stayed on the ice longer than most of his teammates. When Vanek came off the ice, he would only smile when asked by reporters if he’ll be back in the lineup tonight.
Buffalo enters tonight’s game on their third three-game winning streak of the season, and will attempt to win four straight for the first time since they won five in a row from March 19-27, 2012.
Ryan Miller will make his fifth straight start in goal for Buffalo; posting a record of 3-1-0 in the previous four games. In Miller’s last start, he stole two points for the Sabres by making 37 saves and stopping all three Devils’ shooters in a 3-2 shootout win over New Jersey on Sunday.
Winnipeg comes into the game having lost five of its last six games, after snapping a five-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over Philadelphia on Saturday. The Jets are just 9-9-0 at home this season in the raucous MTS Centre, after posting a 23-13-5 home record last season.
It’s been a while since the Sabres have won a regular season game in Winnipeg; 20 years in fact. The Sabres were 0-2-0 in their two visits to Winnipeg last season as the Jets returned to the NHL after relocating from Atlanta.
Buffalo’s last win in the province of Manitoba was a 6-2 decision on February 10, 1993. Pat LaFontaine was involved in every Buffalo goal that night, collecting one goal and five assists. In the middle of his record-setting 76-goal season, Alexander Mogilny scored four times and added an assist. Grant Fuhr defeated Bob Essensa to earn the win in net. Sabres assistant coach Teppo Numminen was playing for the Jets at the time, but missed this game due to injury.
Buffalo only played two more games in Winnipeg before they relocated to Phoenix in 1996.
To take this stat one step further, when the Sabres last won in Winnipeg, Jochen Hecht was the oldest current player at 15 years old; Ryan Miller was only 12; and rookie defenseman Mark Pysyk had just celebrated his first birthday one month earlier.
Thomas Vanek will miss his fifth straight game with an upper body injury tonight when the Sabres (14-17-6) host the Ottawa Senators (19-11-6) at First Niagara Center in a 7 p.m. start.
Buffalo’s leading scorer skated for the third day in a row and continues to improve, but he’s still not ready to get back into a game for the first time since February 26 in Tampa.
Ryan Miller gets the start in goal tonight, coming off an impressive performance in Buffalo’s 4-1 streak-stopping win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
The trade of Jason Pominville to Minnesota not only left the Sabres without a captain, but it also opened up a hole on the right side of Buffalo’s first line. The first player to get a crack alongside Steve Ott and Cody Hodgson will be Nathan Gerbe.
The feisty winger will be elevated from the third line to the first unit tonight, and knows this is his shot to prove himself with the team’s top offensive center in Hodgson.
“It’s a good opportunity for me. I’m just gonna come in and try to take advantage of it, play hard and try to compete. Hopefully good things happen,” Gerbe said today. “I’m kind of the guy that can move around everywhere in the lineup. This is a good chance for me.”
Gerbe has seven points (4+3) in 31 games this season, and has bounced all over the depth chart. While the constant shuffling might bother some players, Gerbe says he’s become accustomed to it.
“I’m getting used to it for sure. I think towards the beginning it was a little difficult; new guy every game or new position. Now I’m getting the hang of right wing and it’s becoming more natural for me to play on that side and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable.”
Interim head coach Ron Rolston says there’s value in a player like Gerbe who can fill a variety of roles on a hockey club.
“He’s pretty versatile so that’s probably a good thing. He’s played left wing and right wing, and some of his best offensive games have been on the right side,” said Rolston. “He’s one of those guys that brings you the same thing every night. He’s got good speed and he competes. Again, you can put him anywhere and he’ll be that same player. That’s what gives him value for us.”
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!
PITTSBURGH -- Thomas Vanek’s upper body muscle strain continues to bother him, and he’ll be out of the lineup again tonight when the Sabres visit the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins at the Consol Energy Center. The Penguins come into the game riding an NHL season-high 15-game winning streak, along with a franchise-record 12 straight home wins.
Vanek took part in today’s morning skate, but could be seen noticeably wincing on several occasions when shooting the puck. This will be the fourth straight game Vanek has missed since suffering the injury in Tampa on March 26.
As expected, Ville Leino did not skate today as he is also battling an upper body injury. Sabres GM Darcy Regier said last night during a conference call with the media that Leino would be unavailable for at least the next few days.
Luke Adam was recalled from Rochester on Monday night, and he’ll be in the Buffalo lineup tonight for the first time this season. In 64 games with the Amerks, Adam has 14 goals and 18 assists.
With the trade of Robyn Regehr to Los Angeles last night leaving Buffalo with just five defensemen, Adam Pardy was also recalled from Rochester today. This will be Pardy’s third stint with the Sabres, having collected one assist in five previous games.
Ryan Miller gets the call in goal for Buffalo tonight, and will become the franchise’s all-time leader in games played by a goaltender with 492. Miller is 5-11-3 in his career against the Penguins, and he took the loss in their only meeting this season – a 4-3 Pittsburgh victory at First Niagara Center on February 17.
The Buffalo Sabres will be minus leading scorer Thomas Vanek again tonight when they host the Washington Capitals at First Niagara Center.
Vanek did take to the ice at today’s optional morning skate, but he’s still being hampered by the upper body muscle strain that also kept him out of Thursday’s shootout loss in Florida.
“He was out there today and moving, but it’s just not where he needs to be,” said interim head coach Ron Rolston. “I would say it’s possible for tomorrow.”
Jhonas Enroth will get the call in goal for Buffalo, and comes into the game riding a two-game winning streak. In his two career starts against the Capitals, Enroth has a 1-0-1 record, with a 2.93 GAA and .903 save%.
Brian Flynn is expected to return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Florida on Thursday. The rookie winger had two goals in his first five games after being recalled from Rochester on March 1, but had just one goal and two assists in the next seven games. Rolston thinks the one-game rest could be exactly what was needed for Flynn.
“I just think his energy more than anything lately was a little down. It’s just building that back up and being ready here for the last push.”
SUNRISE, FLA. – Thomas Vanek will miss tonight’s game with an upper body injury, and winger Drew Stafford will be back in the lineup when the Sabres close out their two-game Florida swing with a 7:30 p.m. start at the BB&T Center against the Panthers.
Vanek didn’t skate for the second day in a row after he was forced to leave Tuesday’s game in Tampa following just one shift at the start of the third period. Interim head coach Ron Rolston said Wednesday that Vanek is suffering from an upper body muscle strain, but didn’t say if it was related to the injury that held him out of the Toronto game one week ago tonight.
Stafford will skate on a line with Tyler Ennis and Ville Leino, after being a healthy scratch for the last two games. Based on the brief line work done at the morning skate, rookie Brian Flynn appears to be in line as tonight’s healthy scratched forward. Today’s lines were:
Rolston wouldn’t confirm if defenseman Andrej Sekera would return tonight, although he did say Sekera is available after missing the last five games with an upper body injury.
Ryan Miller will get his fourth straight start in goal for the Sabres, and his third this season against the Panthers. Miller has a record 1-1-0 versus Florida this season, with a 3.38 GAA and .908 save%. Florida will start 23-year-old Jacob Markstrom, who is 3-7-1 with 2.59 GAA and .921 save% in 11 games this season.
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 – Since it ain’t broke right now, Ron Rolston sees no need to fix the Sabres lineup. Buffalo will employ the same roster as Saturday when they look for their fourth straight win tonight in Tampa (7:30 p.m., MSG).
Drew Stafford will be a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game along with John Scott, and defenseman Andrej Sekera will miss his fifth straight game with an upper body injury. Rolston said that Sekera is “real close” to returning, but wouldn’t confirm if he’d be ready for Thursday’s game against the Florida Panthers.
Sekera’s absence will give rookie Mark Pysyk another chance to play (paired with Jordan Leopold), and Rolston said he’s been impressed with how his defensemen have performed as a group in recent games.
“We’re happy with the way our guys played in Montreal, especially our ‘D’ corps has been building some chemistry, so we like where they’re at. We’re gonna stick with that same corps tonight.”
Ryan Miller gets the start in goal for the Sabres tonight. In his career, Miller is 19-7-0 against the Lightning, with a 2.68 GAA and .908 save%.
The Lightning are expected to counter with Mathieu Garon, who has only posted three wins in 13 games this season – with all three wins coming against the Carolina Hurricanes. Garon is 4-8-0 all-time against Buffalo with 2.82 and .901 save%. Garon’s last shutout was a 3-0 blanking of the Sabres in Tampa on October 22, 2011.
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.