MONTREAL – The season of frustration continues for Drew Stafford tonight, as he will be a healthy scratch when the Sabres face the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
Stafford has just four goals and 11 points in 31 games, and says he understands the decision made by interim head coach Ron Rolston to have him watch from the press box.
“I don’t know if surprised is the right word, but it’s definitely disappointing,” said Stafford following the morning skate. “It’s his decision, and something I have to respect. I have to work my way back to get in the lineup. It’s no secret I haven’t been getting on the scoresheet, but other than that it’s pretty simple.”
Rolston said there wasn’t any kind of message attached to Stafford’s benching.
“It’s just a coach’s decision,” explained Rolston. “We want everyone to play, and to play hard. We’ve got a lot of guys; we’ve got some tough decisions right now. It was just a decision.”
Thomas Vanek skated again today, and will return to the lineup after missing Thursday’s game with a hip injury. Nathan Gerbe will also be back after being a healthy scratch against Toronto. Andrej Sekera remains out with an upper body injury, and John Scott will join Stafford as Buffalo’s other healthy scratch.
Ryan Miller gets the start in goal for the Sabres. In his career, Miller is 24-9-6 against Montreal, with a 2.30 GAA, .922 save% and three shutouts.
The Buffalo Sabres will be without their leading scorer tonight when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center (7 p.m.).
Thomas Vanek will miss the game with a lower body injury, after absorbing a slapshot from teammate Christian Ehrhoff on the hip during the second period of Tuesday’s win in Montreal. The NHL’s 10th-leading scorer left the game shortly afterwards but never returned.
Vanek hasn’t skated since Tuesday’s game, and interim head coach Ron Rolston said they’re hoping to get him back on the ice Friday. Rolston said Vanek remains a possibility for Saturday’s return match in Montreal.
Look for Drew Stafford to draw into Vanek’s spot on the second line with Tyler Ennis and Ville Leino, and John Scott will be inserted into the lineup on the fourth line with Jochen Hecht and Patrick Kaleta.
Andrej Sekera took part in today’s morning skate, but will join Vanek on the sidelines tonight, missing his third straight game with an upper body injury. Nathan Gerbe is expected to be a healthy scratch for the second game in a row.
Ryan Miller will be in search of his first win in almost three weeks tonight, while looking to add to his career-best numbers against the Maple Leafs. Miller is 28-15-1 all-time against Toronto, with a 2.45 GAA and .921 save percentage. The 28 wins and four shutouts Miller has posted against Toronto are his most versus any opponent.
MONTREAL – After hinting at it recently, interim head coach Ron Rolston has finally shuffled the deck on his forward lines, as the Sabres get set to face the Montreal Canadiens tonight at the Bell Centre.
The top line of Thomas Vanek-Cody Hodgson-Jason Pominville has been together since game one this season, but that won’t be the case tonight. Vanek has been dropped to the second line alongside Tyler Ennis and Ville Leino. The left wing spot on the top line will now be occupied by Steve Ott.
Patrick Kaleta returns to the lineup after being a much-publicized healthy scratch on Sunday in Washington, following the conclusion of his five-game suspension. Kaleta will man the right side of the fourth line with Jochen Hecht and Drew Stafford.
Coming off his 3-1 win over the Rangers at home last Tuesday, Jhonas Enroth gets the start in goal, as the Sabres prepare for a run of five games over the next 10 days. He's 2-0 in his career against the Habs with 2.42 GAA/.917 save% - with all that action coming at the Bell Centre.
WASHINGTON – Green may be the color of choice on St. Patrick’s Day, but Patrick Kaleta was definitely seeing red following today’s morning skate at the Verizon Center.
With Kaleta’s five-game suspension now over and having him eligible to return tonight, the rugged winger was expected to be back in the lineup when the Sabres face the Washington Capitals. But interim head coach Ron Rolston has decided to make Kaleta a healthy scratch, and will go with the same four forward lines that played together in Saturday’s 4-3 OT loss to Ottawa.
A visibly-frustrated Kaleta expressed his displeasure after getting some extra work in with the assistant coaches following the skate.
“I’m pissed off. I want to play. Especially after watching some things. Sitting there watching the game, I want to play.”
Kaleta wouldn’t elaborate on the reasons given to him by Rolston for being a healthy scratch.
“That’s between me and the coach. I have to listen to what he wants. Obviously I’m going to be pissed off for today; not be too pleasant. I’ll think about it, let it bother me for a little bit, and I’ll move on and prepare myself, because hopefully the team will want me back here in the next couple of games.”
Rolston said it was simply a matter of not wanting to tinker with four lines that he really likes right now.
“Up front we like our depth right now and there’s going to be some tough decisions,” explained Rolston. “Right now (Kaleta) is just going to have to work hard and see how it goes. As far as some of the line combinations right now, we kind of like the chemistry the guys are getting so we don’t really want to mess around a lot with that.”
Defenseman Andrej Sekera was injured during Saturday’s loss, and will not play tonight. Rolston said he is day-to-day, and wasn’t sure if he’d be available for Tuesday’s game in Montreal.
Needing another body on the blueline, the Sabres have recalled 2010 first-round pick Mark Pysyk from Rochester, and he’ll make his NHL debut tonight. Pysyk arrived in Washington this morning after playing back-to-back games with the Amerks – including Saturday in Toronto.
In 57 games with Rochester, the 21-year-old Pysyk has recorded 18 points (4+14) and 20 penalty minutes in his first AHL season, and is tied with Kevin Porter to lead all Amerks skaters with a plus-8 rating.
NEWARK, NJ – It’s been over a month since Jhonas Enroth last saw action, but he’ll be between the pipes tonight when the Buffalo Sabres (9-13-2) take on the New Jersey Devils (10-8-5) at the Prudential Center. These same two teams met last Saturday in Buffalo, with the Sabres claiming a 4-3 shootout win.
Enroth has only played in three games this season, with his last start coming on February 5 in Ottawa – a 4-3 loss to the Senators. The 24-year-old Enroth is 0-2-0 with a 4.73 goals against average and .847 save percentage this year.
Interim head coach Ron Rolston knows how important it is to get Enroth some playing time in this truncated season, especially after watching Ryan Miller play Buffalo’s last 14 games. He also knows how crucial it is for the Sabres to perform well in front of Enroth to help the young netminder gain some confidence, especially since he hasn’t posted a win since November 26, 2011 against Washington.
“Most importantly for us, we want to play well in front of Jhonas. All along since I’ve been here, our job is to make the goaltender’s game easier than it has been. Whether it’s Ryan or Jhonas, we want to do a good job in front of him, and be consistent, keep working on our game.
“That makes it easier on your goaltender; an easier night when you see more pucks. Not as many backdoor chances; just kind of clean things up that way. We would certainly like Jhonas to have success, that’s our game plan. But we want to make sure that we’re really solid in front of him.”
John Scott skated on a line with Mikhail Grigorenko and Drew Stafford during today’s skate, and appears to have sent Jochen Hecht to the press box as a healthy scratch. Rolston wouldn't confirm the move, but Hecht was part of a group of five players getting extra work after practice, joining: injured players Jordan Leopold and Ville Leino; suspended forward Patrick Kaleta, and defenseman Adam Pardy.
TJ Brennan will remain in the lineup on defense for the second consecutive game, and was paired with Mike Weber today. The other two defensive pairings were: Tyler Myers – Christian Ehrhoff; Andrej Sekera – Robyn Regehr.
The Sabres come into tonight’s game with a record of 3-1-1 in their last five games, while the Devils are 0-4-1. New Jersey is just 4-5-3 at home this season, and haven’t won a game at the Prudential Center since February 15 against Philadelphia.
Johan Hedberg is expected to get the start in goal for the Devils. In 20 career games against the Sabres, Hedberg is 12-3-4 with 2.83 GAA and .909 save% - along with one shutout.
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.”
RALEIGH, NC – The Buffalo Sabres lineup will get a boost tonight as leading scorer Thomas Vanek returns after missing the past two games with an upper body injury suffered last Thursday in Florida.
Vanek confirmed after today’s morning skate at PNC Arena that he’ll be available in all situations when the Sabres take on the Carolina Hurricanes for the third time this season.
“I’ll be a full go, as long as he plays me,” joked Vanek.
Vanek’s return will coincide with the addition of defenseman TJ Brennan, as interim head coach Ron Rolston looks for ways to jump start a power play that is currently sputtering at a league-low 10.7 percent (9/84) through 23 games, including just two goals in 40 opportunities (5%) on the road.
Rolston knows what he’s getting from Brennan, after coaching him for the past two seasons in Rochester. But despite scoring 35 points (14+21) in 34 games with the Amerks before his recall, that success hasn’t translated at the NHL level for Brennan. He’s yet to collect a point in seven games with the Sabres this season.
“Most importantly we want to make sure that his five-on-five game is good, and he’s playing good strong defense,” said Rolston. “From there he has an opportunity on our power play to use his gift of offense and his shot. He’ll get that down. He’s a big shooter and he’ll put pucks on net and that’s why he’s out there.”
At today’s skate, Brennan was playing the point on the number one power play unit along with Jason Pominville. The forwards were Vanek, Tyler Ennis and Steve Ott. Buffalo’s second power play group consisted of forwards Nathan Gerbe, Cody Hodgson and Drew Stafford, with defensemen Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff.
Ryan Miller will make his 14th straight start for Buffalo tonight. He currently leads all NHL netminders in saves (637), shots faced (695) and minutes played (1,254), and is tied for first in games played (21) with Ilya Bryzgalov and Pekka Rinne.
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.
SUNRISE, FLA. – If the Buffalo Sabres hope to win consecutive road games for the first time since last March, their offense will need to get on track tonight against the Florida Panthers. (7:30 p.m., MSG)
The Sabres are 2-6-0 in their last eight games, and have scored just 12 goals – an average of just 1.5 per game. As good as Ryan Miller has been this season, you won’t win too many games averaging less than two goals a night.
Thomas Vanek (0+2) and Cody Hodgson (1+1) combined for four points in Tuesday’s 2-1 win in Tampa, but interim head coach Ron Rolston is well aware of the need for production from his team’s other three lines.
“Right now we’re looking for that secondary scoring. For a lot of teams that are that struggling, that’s been one of the issues,” Rolston said following today’s morning skate at the BB&T Center. “Obviously our first line and the power play have to be good because of that. Secondary scoring for us right now, we’re still trying to find the right chemistry and combinations to get that going.
“We’ve gotta be better offensively. We’re in a situation now where we are getting more puck possession, or at least quicker. And we’ve had some situations where we’re getting man advantages where we’re not executing the way we need to be offensively. We have to find more ways to create offense; we can’t afford to just be a rush team, and just rely on our power play, especially when we’re getting just one a game. We have to have more bullets to our gun, and right now we’re working on that.”
Jordan Leopold took part in today's morning skate, but Rolston said he’s still not fully recovered from an upper body injury that has kept him out of the past three games… Rolston also said they are still waiting for final test results on Alexander Sulzer before he can give a timetable for his return. Sulzer suffered an undisclosed lower body injury against the Islanders last Saturday, but a significant amount of swelling in the area of the injury has prevented proper evaluation.
TAMPA – Ryan Miller will get the start in goal tonight against the Lightning as the Buffalo Sabres look to snap a four-game losing streak that has dropped them to 29th overall in the NHL standings. Miller is 18-7-0 in his career against Tampa Bay, with a 2.75 GAA and .905 save%.
Interim head coach Ron Rolston said there won’t be any lineup changes tonight, which means that forward John Scott and defenseman TJ Brennan are expected to be healthy scratches. Defenseman Jordan Leopold did not take part in today’s morning skate, and Rolston says he is still day-to-day with an upper body injury.
Adam Pardy will be in the lineup after being recalled from Rochester on Monday to replace the injured Alexander Sulzer. In one previous recall this season, Pardy had an assist and two penalty minutes against Ottawa on February 5.
This is the first of three meetings this season between the Sabres and Lightning, and the first of two here in Tampa. The Sabres are 5-5-0 in their last 10 against the Lightning; 7-3-0 on the road.
In their last trip to Tampa on March 19, 2012, the Sabres walked all over the Lightning by a 7-3 count. Marcus Foligno and Jason Pominville both scored twice that night, and Drew Stafford had one goal and two assists.