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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.2.2011 / 1:21 PM ET
By Rob Crean - Public Relations Director / BEYOND THE BOARDS

The Sabres practiced at the Verizon Center this morning and are set to begin the April portion of their schedule tonight when they face the Washington Capitals.

Ryan Miller, who is day-to-day with an upper body injury, did not travel with the team to Washington for tonight’s game, according to Head Coach Lindy Ruff.

“It turned out he wasn’t going to practice today, so we just felt that we wouldn’t bring him along,” said Ruff, who added that Miller has not experienced any setbacks.  “He’s still moving forward, actually, he’s doing well.”

4/2 - Lindy Ruff Pregame

Jhonas Enroth is expected to once again start between the pipes for Buffalo in Miller’s absence and is coming off his first NHL shutout on Wednesday.  The 22-year-old netminder will look to carry the momentum from the 1-0 win over the Rangers into tonight’s contest while staying focused on the task at hand.

“Of course I have a little bit more confidence now, but at the same time I have to put it back behind me and just focus on this game.  I can’t live in the past, so I have to just get ready for this game now,” Enroth said.

Enroth has never played against the Capitals, and he talked about facing one of the League’s top offensive threats in Alex Ovechkin, who leads Washington in scoring with 78 points (29-49-78).

“He’s a tough, fast player, so we’re going to be aware when he’s on the ice, but at the same time not over-think it,” said Enroth.

Cody McCormick said the key to trying to slow down Ovechkin is limiting his time and space.

“When he can get in full flight, that’s when he’s most dangerous, so if we can get on him quick, I think that can contain him a little bit.”

Washington and Buffalo currently occupy the second and seventh spots, respectively, in the Eastern Conference standings, but there is still too much congestion among the teams competing for playoff berths and seeding to suggest this game will be a first round playoff preview.  The Capitals can, however, assure themselves of one of the top three seeds, as a win tonight combined with a Tampa Bay loss to Minnesota would clinch the Southeast Division title for the Capitals.

“They’re a powerful team over there. They’ve got a lot of offense and they’re going well.  It’s a team that we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for,” McCormick said of the Capitals. 

On the injury front, Ruff said on Friday that Jochen Hecht (upper body) would not play this weekend and that it did not appear that Mike Grier (knee) would play, either. 

Ruff offered an update on defenseman Jordan Leopold, who injured his hand last week against Florida. Leopold was supposed to visit a hand specialist this past Monday, but was unable to make the appointment because he came down with the flu.  Then, Leopold came down with pneumonia, further delaying his ability to begin the recovery process on the hand injury.

“It was a tough week for him,” Ruff said.

Tonight’s game marks the front end of Buffalo’s 21st set of back-to-back games on the season as the Sabres will also visit the Hurricanes tomorrow.  Through their first 20 sets of back-to-backs, the Sabres are 11-8-1 in the first game and 9-8-3 in the second game.

POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.30.2011 / 3:59 PM ET
By Rob Crean - Public Relations Director / BEYOND THE BOARDS

Buffalo Sabres prospect and Portland Pirates forward Luke Adam was named to the American Hockey League's 2010-11 All-Rookie Team today. The team, which is made up three forwards, two defensemen and a goaltender, was voted on by AHL coaches, players and media in each of the League's 30 member cities.

Luke Adam
Adam has appeared in 19 games for the Sabres this season, recording three goals and one assist.  The 6-foot-2, 203-pound forward made his NHL debut on Oct. 26 in Philadelphia, and scored his first NHL goal in Boston on Dec. 7. 

Currently, Adam ranks 3rd on the Pirates in scoring with 54 points (25-29-54) in 49 games, which trails only Mark Mancari (32-32-64) and Marc-Andre Gragnani (12-48-60) for the team lead.  Both Mancari and Gragnani are currently with the Sabres.

Here’s what the AHL’s official press release had to say about Adam:

“The sixth Portland Pirates forward to be named to the All-Rookie team in the last six seasons (following Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe, Tim Kennedy, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Shannon), Luke Adam notched four points on opening night and was named the first Reebok/AHL Player of the Week of the 2010-11 season. Adam has gone on to rank second among all AHL rookies in goals (25), points (54) and plus/minus (+22) in just 49 games with Portland while earning five NHL recalls to Buffalo, where the Sabres’ second-round draft pick in 2008 has three goals and one assist in 19 games. A 20-year-old native of St. John’s, N.L., Adam had an 11-game scoring streak from Feb. 26 to Mar. 22.”

The 20-year-old Adam was selected by the Sabres in the second round (44th overall) in the 2008 Entry Draft.

POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.30.2011 / 1:35 PM ET
By Rob Crean - Public Relations Director / BEYOND THE BOARDS

The Sabres will shuffle the deck tonight as injuries will cause a couple of lineup changes when Buffalo takes the ice against the New York Rangers at 7 p.m.

Jochen Hecht will be sidelined by the same upper body injury that has caused him to miss nine of the last 13 games, plus the second and third periods of last night’s game against Toronto, according to Head Coach Lindy Ruff.

“I think these are the games that are fun to play. You’ve got to have fun playing them. You’ve got to go after it. We’re not going to change our style; our style has got us to where we’re at right now." - Lindy Ruff on tonight's game vs. the Rangers
Ruff also confirmed that Mike Grier will be out of the lineup and, as a result, Matt Ellis has been recalled from Portland of the American Hockey League.  Grier aggravated his knee Saturday night against New Jersey and missed last night’s game.  Ellis has played eight games for the Sabres this season.

One other significant change will be the addition of Marc-Andre Gragnani, who will quarterback the Buffalo power play tonight. 

“Marc is going to go in and play. I really feel that we need somebody on the back end that can quarterback our power play in Leopold’s absence,” Ruff said. 

With Jordan Leopold missing the last two games – and expected to miss the rest of the regular season – the Sabres have not scored a power play goal in his absence.

“It could have made a difference late in the game (against Toronto) for us,” Ruff said of the power play.  “We’re just going to play who we think can help us win. I don’t want to wait two or three games. I think it’s important right now if we have one or two power plays… (Gragnani) has had a great year down there (in Portland) quarterbacking their power play, and I just feel that he could give that unit a boost.  He’s a great passer. He might be as good a passer that we’ll have from the back end.”

Marc-Andre Gragnani
Gragnani was held scoreless in the three games he played for Buffalo in January, but leads all AHL defensemen in scoring with 60 points (12-48-60) in 63 games this season.  Of his 60 points, 25 (4-21-25) have come with the man advantage.

“I’m happy to be here and I’ve got to make the power play work and help the guys to score goals… I think it’s a matter of making the right decision out there, sometimes it’s taking a shot, sometimes it’s faking a shot and passing to the other guys,” Gragnani said of his approach to quarterbacking the power play.

In addition to being one of Portland’s top two scorers, along with Mancari, Gragnani also leads the team in plus/minus with a +22 rating, which speaks to his effectiveness in 5-on-5 play.

As for the Sabres' opponent tonight, the Rangers come into the contest leading Buffalo by two points in the Eastern Conference standings and have gone 6-0-1 in their last seven games.

“I think it will be tight.  I don’t see them giving up a lot, so in our case, we have to take better care of the puck than we did last night,” Ruff said.  “I think these are the games that are fun to play. You’ve got to have fun playing them. You’ve got to go after it. We’re not going to change our style; our style has got us to where we’re at right now.  I've told the team, ‘get on your toes, be ready to play, we’ll play our game.’”

Rangers Head Coach John Tortorella’s club is playing the first of back-to-back games tonight.  They will play the Islanders in Long Island tomorrow, but Tortorella is focused only on tonight’s game.
“I’m not even thinking of the back-to-back, I’m thinking of the Buffalo team.  Whatever games come our way, that’s the game we’re thinking about.  I think Buffalo is going to be better tonight than they were yesterday, so it’ll be a tough game for us, so this is the one we’re thinking about,” Tortorella said.

POSTED ON Saturday, 03.26.2011 / 1:03 PM ET
By Rob Crean - Public Relations Director / BEYOND THE BOARDS

The Sabres will get right back to work tonight as they close out another set of back-to-back home games by hosting New Jersey and will be looking to win their third straight outing.  They will have two players returning to the lineup from injuries as Jochen Hecht (upper body) and Steve Montador (lower body) will both play tonight, according to Lindy Ruff.

“We’ve got one injured player that Steve will be in for,” Ruff said, but declined to say which defenseman would be coming out of the lineup.  He also did not say which forward Hecht would be in for.

3/26 - Lindy Ruff Pregame 

Hecht has been out for nine of the last 11 games.  Prior to that stretch, Hecht had not missed a game this season.  He has also recorded a point in five of the last seven games in which he has appeared.  Montador, meanwhile, has missed the last three games.

Ruff also confirmed that Ryan Miller will start in goal against the Devils tonight.  Over the last five games, Miller has gone 3-1-1 with a 1.81 goals against average, a .938 save percentage and one shutout. He made 22 saves on 24 shots in last night’s 4-2 win over Florida.

The Devils are coming off a 1-0 shootout loss to Pittsburgh last night, which marks the second straight game in which the Sabres will face a team that was shutout in its previous game.  In fact, New Jersey has scored just four goals in its last four games.

Buffalo brings a 10-3-3 record over the last 16 games into tonight and has the chance to win three straight for just the second time this season.

POSTED ON Friday, 03.25.2011 / 5:29 PM ET
By Rob Crean - Public Relations Director / BEYOND THE BOARDS

The Sabres continue to hold the eighth and final playoff spot entering the weekend with a three-point cushion on ninth-place Carolina.  The Hurricanes, however, now have company as the Toronto Maple Leafs have tied them at 78 points, although Carolina has two games in hand on the Leafs.  The seventh-place Rangers, meanwhile, gained a point last night in a shootout loss to Ottawa.

Buffalo (8th place, 36-28-9 in 73 games, 81 points) has the chance to gain ground with back-to-back home games this weekend against Florida tonight and New Jersey tomorrow.

Here’s a look at what the Rangers, Hurricanes and Leafs will be up to this weekend:

NY Rangers (7th place, 40-35-5 record in 75 games, 85 points)
    Friday: Off
    Saturday: at Boston
    Sunday: Off

Carolina (9th place, 34-29-10 in 73 games, 78 points)
    Friday: at Tampa Bay
    Saturday: vs. Tampa Bay
    Sunday: Off

Toronto (10th place, 34-31-10 in 75 games, 78 points)
    Friday: Off
    Saturday: at Detroit
    Sunday: Off

For a look at the full NHL Standings entering Friday's action, click here.

Knowing which teams the Sabres must hold off in order to earn a playoff berth begs the question: Do the players keep an eye on the out of town scoreboard in the Arena?

“I try not to, but sometimes you do look around to see what’s going on,” said Jason Pominville.  “If you look at last game we played in Montreal, we had no idea what the other scores were, but after the game we kind of asked around and figured out that everybody else had won.  We can only control what we do, and that’s going out there and playing, and hopefully the rest will take care of itself.”

Ryan Miller was asked the same question following the team’s win over Montreal, and said he never gave it a thought.

“We don’t make a point of talking about it. It’s not something that really matters.  It can’t affect our game out there. If you let it creep in, it’s just another distraction.  You just keep it off to the side; there’s enough to worry about out there with your own game,” Miller said.

POSTED ON Friday, 03.25.2011 / 12:15 PM ET
By Rob Crean - Public Relations Director / BEYOND THE BOARDS

The Sabres skated at HSBC Arena this morning to kick off another weekend of back-to-back home games.  Jochen Hecht and Steve Montador are both close to returning from injuries, but as of this morning there was no definitive answer as to whether either of them would return tonight.
Steve Montador (Photo: Bill Wippert)

This morning, Ruff said Montador would be a game-time decision tonight. 

"I don't know yet, we're going to see at game time," Ruff said when asked whether Montador would play tonight.  "He's doing pretty good.  He's not 100 percent, but he's doing well."

As for Hecht, Ruff did not address his status on Friday, but said yesterday that he “would anticipate that if (Hecht) isn’t available for Friday, that he could be available for Saturday.”

Tonight’s opponent, the Florida Panthers, have been shutout in each of their last two games, a fact that means little to the Sabres tonight.

“To be honest, I had no idea they had been shutout, but we expect every team to be hungry at this time of year,” said Jason Pominville.  “On our side, we’re trying to compete to keep climbing.”

“Them being shutout the last two (games) kind of means nothing right now, because we know they’re going to be a different team than they probably were the last two games,” added Nathan Gerbe.

Gerbe, who scored both goals in Buffalo’s 2-0 win at Montreal on Tuesday, will bring a three-game goal-scoring streak into tonight’s game.  Gerbe has credited some of the team’s veteran players for helping him improve over the course of the season, including Mike Grier.

“He’s a great kid. He loves hockey, he works hard every day in practice, and he wants to be better and wants to be a good player in this league,” Grier said of Gerbe.  “He’s a little bit of a sponge.  He’s listening to everyone and what everyone’s got to say.  I just try to keep his confidence up and let him know that it’s ok for him to make mistakes and not to get too down on himself when he does.  At the same time, I try to help him out defensively, and what he should be doing.  I think he’s coming around nice. I think it’s showed the last couple games when Lindy’s had him out there in the last two minutes of games and he’s got the job done.”

POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 5:24 PM ET
By Rob Crean - Public Relations Director / BEYOND THE BOARDS

I’ve always been told that if there’s one arena where you must see an NHL game, it’s the Bell Centre in Montreal. With puck drop for the big divisional game between the Sabres and Habs still a few hours away, I haven’t experienced the game yet, but the walk to the Arena was like getting a history lesson on the Canadiens.

The plaza outside the building featured statues, history on the team and monuments for each of the retired numbers. Here's a brief look:


POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 1:35 PM ET
By Rob Crean - Public Relations Director / BEYOND THE BOARDS

Ryan Miller
- The Sabres won’t have to wait long for an opportunity to rebound from Sunday’s disappointing loss to Nashville as they play on the road in Montreal tonight.

“It’s actually good that we have a game right away,” said Rob Niedermayer.  “You don’t want too much time to dwell on what happened. You’ve just got to learn from it and not let it happen again.”

- Buffalo enters tonight’s game against Montreal, the final meeting of the season between the teams, with a chance to pull even with the Habs in the season series.  After dropping the first three games of the season against Montreal, the Sabres have won each of the last two, with one coming in overtime and the other in a shootout.

- Tyler Ennis has 10 points (6-4-10) in the last 10 games and talked about shooting the puck with more confidence.

“Earlier on in the year I would pass up chances.  I still like to pass.  I always think pass first, but I’m shooting to score a little better now,” he said. 

- Lindy Ruff offered his take on the factors that have helped the Sabres go 20-10-5 since January 1:

“I don’t think it’s one thing. I think it’s a lot of things.  Derek Roy’s injury put a lot of onus on other players to become important players, to play better.  We got production from different areas. We had some young players step in and play well for us.  Tyler Myers, who struggled early on, really started to play well for us.  Andrej’s play on our seven-game road trip was probably the reason we played so well on that trip.  We’ve had different players.  Our bottom six, what you look at as our third and fourth lines, have been producing.”

- No lineup changes are anticipated for tonight.

POSTED ON Saturday, 03.19.2011 / 12:24 PM ET
By Rob Crean - Public Relations Director / BEYOND THE BOARDS

For the second straight game, the Sabres will host an opponent they lead by four points in the standings.  Like Carolina on Tuesday, the Atlanta Thrashers enter tonight’s game in Buffalo with 72 points to the Sabres’ 76.  Buffalo currently occupies the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but is now tied in points with the Hurricanes. 

Following today’s morning skate, Lindy Ruff talked about the importance of tonight’s matchup with the Trashers.

“I’m not going to hide from the fact that this game means a lot to us.  This is a big game for us.  After losing a real tough one where it could have been a game we could have had, we didn’t get it, now our answer has to be an even bigger effort and better finish,” Ruff said.

Entering play tonight, the Sabres lead a group of teams (Carolina, Atlanta, Toronto, New Jersey) that are separated by six points in the standings and have either one or two games in-hand on all of them.

“We’re in great position. We just have to win games,” said Ruff.  “We don’t have to look over our shoulder, we just have to put the work in – the emphasis being ‘work.’  If we put the work in and create the opportunities, our key guys are going to have to finish, are going to have to take advantage of those situations, but it starts with getting the work done.

“We’re in a best-of-12 right now, where you go 7-5, or if you really want to be in good shape, you go 8-4.  But these are the situations you want to see how your players react.  You want to see if they can handle that one great opportunity to make a difference in the game.”

Nathan Gerbe, who appeared in two postseason games for the Sabres last season, talked about the excitement of the playoff race.

“This is by far the best time of the year. It doesn’t matter what league you’re in, if it’s the American League, college… playoff time is fun. That’s when it matters, that’s when it counts, and that’s when everyone steps up their game.”

Despite firing 40 shots at Cam Ward on Tuesday, the Sabres were shutout for the fifth time this season.  Brad Boyes talked about what the Sabres need to do to put pucks in the net.

“The biggest thing that Lindy talked about is getting more traffic at the net, we worked on that a little bit the other day in practice, and I think that’s key, that’s important.  Getting more traffic, getting a couple ugly goals, things like that, because now we need any type of goal, any way it goes in,” Boyes said.

POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.15.2011 / 12:51 PM ET
By Rob Crean - Public Relations Director / BEYOND THE BOARDS

- Drew Stafford is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury.

“I had a few good days of good rehab and treatment, and I feel good, ready to go,” Stafford said following the morning skate.

Drew Stafford
The news of Stafford’s return was tempered by the announcement that Jochen Hecht, who left Sunday’s game with the same upper-body injury that caused him to miss four games last week, will not play tonight against Carolina.

“We’re disappointed we lose Jochen but at the same time, getting ‘Staff’ back is a big help for us,” said Lindy Ruff.

- Steve Montador was a healthy scratch in Sunday’s win over Ottawa, but Ruff did not reveal which of his seven defensemen would sit tonight, saying he defense pairs would be a game-time decision.

Over the last six outings, Montador, Chris Butler, Mike Weber and Shaone Morrisonn have each missed at least one game either due to injury or as a healthy scratch.

- The Sabres spent about 30 minutes on the ice this morning to prepare for tonight’s game against the Hurricanes, who currently occupy the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference and sit four points behind the Sabres and Rangers. 

“You look at where we are in the standings, and where they are, it’s a big task ahead of us tonight,” said Jordan Leopold.  “It’s what we consider a four-point game.  We had a good skate this morning and we’re getting ready to go out there for battle.  We had a long road trip, we had a good day off yesterday to refresh the batteries, and (we’ll) go out here and look to get two points.”

- Ryan Miller, who is expected to be back in goal tonight after getting Sunday’s game off, shared his thoughts this morning on the loss of Sabre great Rick Martin.

“It’s horrible that Rico is gone too soon,” Miller said. “I was just talking to him at the gathering we had when Mr. Pegula took over. I talked to him for a while and his energy and his excitement and his demeanor… it was just nice to talk to him.  I feel so bad for his family and it’s a sad moment for all of us because he was a quality person who really cared about the community.”

The Sabres announced yesterday that the team, along with Martin’s family, will hold a public memorial service at HSBC Arena on Thursday, Mar. 24 at 11 a.m.  More details will be announced later this week.

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