Nathan Lieuwen has dealt with multiple concussions over the course of his career, so he was very careful in dealing with his latest injury.
The 22-year-old goaltender was hurt late in Buffalo’s game in Philadelphia on April 8 when Flyers forward Jay Rosehill collided with Lieuwen’s head in the crease. Lieuwen was diagnosed with a concussion and just like that, his season was over.
It took Lieuwen five to six weeks to get back on the ice and he said he took some extra time after that to make sure he was all right. Monday morning, he was back skating at First Niagara Center as the Sabres held the first practice of their week-long development camp.
“I am fantastic, doing really well,” he said. “It sticks in your mind, but I think that’s part of the reason I’m so thrilled that I got healthy so fast. I’m very pleased with how quickly I made progress and I’m feeling really good right now.”
Lieuwen played seven games for the Sabres last season, logging a 2.98 goals against average and a .906 save percentage in this first stint in the NHL. He hopes to have another chance soon. Having that experience also gave him a major confidence boost.
“It was incredible. Just to get a taste of it,” Lieuwen said. “Now I know how badly I really do want it and I’m excited to have had that opportunity.”
He’s one of five goaltenders in camp. The other goaltenders are Andrey Makarov, who carried the load for the Amerks while Lieuwen and Matt Hackett were in Buffalo, 2013 draft pick Calvin Petersen and Swedish netminders Linus Ullmark and Jonas Johansson. Ullmark was the goaltender of the year in Sweden and Johansson was selected by the Sabres in the third round of this year’s draft.
Is there extra pressure knowing how many other young, talented goaltenders are in the system?
“It’s the same as it always has been. I worry about myself and I earn everything I get,” he said. “You talk about a depth chart or how many guys are out there or just how many in general, goalies – there are two on a team. But you play well and good things will happen.
“…At the end of the day, it’s whoever’s playing well now. Maybe there is a little bit of ‘What you have done and where you have been.’ But for me, it’s all about playing well whenever I get on the ice.”
On-ice coach’s practice: 10:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
65 Jordan Samuels-Thomas - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 10 William Carrier
47 Daniel Catenacci - 25 Mikhail Grigorenko - 24 Hudson Fasching
21 Jonathon Martin - 38 Sean Malone - 15 Justin Bailey
41 Liam Pecararo - 37 Colin Jacobs - 44 Victor Olofsson
72 Brycen Martin - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe - 4 Anthony Florentino
5 Andrew Prochno
78 Brendan Lemieux - 23 Sam Reinhart - 33 Joel Armia
45 Eric Cornel - 17 JT Compher - 20 Nicholas Baptiste
22 Drake Caggiula - 27 Tim Schaller - 13 Kevin Sundher
46 Maxwell Willman - 32 Justin Kea - 12 Patrick Russell
By drafting Samson Reinhart with the second-overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft on Friday, the Buffalo Sabres added a big new building block to their hockey team.
Sabres general manager Tim Murray sat next to Reinhart on Monday as the two addressed the media at First Niagara Center. Murray was hired in January to take over as general manager. He knew reshaping the organization was going to be complicated and it’s a task he was prepared for.
“I knew it was a big job and I know it’s a job that has to be done the proper way. And that’s hard. That’s the hard part,” Murray said. “We all want to speed things up. As soon as we got him, I said, ‘I wish it was 2016.’ But it’s not and you have to do it properly and you have to go through the good and the bad that goes with it.
“I firmly believe that we’re going to stay the course here and do what we think is the right way to be a good team for a long time.”
What’s helped, Murray said, is having a good stable of young players and prospects already in the organization. He mentioned NHL’ers like Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis and Tyler Myers and defensive prospects Mark Pysyk, Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov and Jake McCabe as examples of players the team can build around.
Possessing an abundance of young talent and other assets means Murray’s vision could come to fruition sooner rather than later.
“There are good young players that were here before me. If we turn this around, it’ll be me getting a lot of the credit, but there’s a foundation that was here before I got here,” Murray said. “And I have to recognize that and you guys have to recognize that. I think what that does is, it makes our plan to rebuild quickly a viable plan.”
Unrestricted free agency opens at noon on Tuesday. Sabres general manager Tim Murray and his staff have made their lists and hope their targets have a mutual interest.
“The first guy I call might not be the first guy on our list. It might be the guy who’s shown the most interest in coming here right off the bat. But there’s been a lot of interest,” he said on Monday. “Is it legit interest? I’m not sure. We’ll find out tomorrow, right? But I’m pleased with the amount of calls. I’m pleased with what they say is interest in coming to Buffalo.”
Murray said he’s looking for veterans who are willing to be mentors to the younger players in the organization. He cited former Sabres captain Steve Ott as an example of that type of player. Murray has been in contact with Ott’s agent as well as the agent of Matt Moulson among other unnamed players.
“Matt Moulson is a possibility. But one conversation doesn’t mean that they’re coming here for sure,” Murray said. “It’s just, ‘Hey it’s so-and-so. Steve liked his time there. Matt liked his time there, whatever the case may be.’
“But we might be 20th on their list. But there has been a conversation with those guys as there has been with many other guys.”
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Murray also talked about the team’s decision to use their second compliance buyout on defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. By using a compliance buyout, Ehrhoff’s cap hit will not count against the team.
Also since Ehrhoff signed a long-term contract prior to the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, there would be serious cap penalties assessed to Buffalo if Ehrhoff retired before the end of the contract even if he was traded.
Here’s what Murray had to say:
“We went through the scenarios. We didn’t feel that we could trade him. There was opportunity to trade him but with the penalties on the contract at the end if he were to retire, we felt that in six or seven years when he’s making a million dollars and he has a lot of incentive to retire, that the penalties were too high for where we want to be at that time.
"We want to be a contending team that spends to the cap and has ability to acquire a free agent at the trade deadline that puts us over the top that makes lot of money and that contract was a hindrance.
"I like Christian. He’s a good player. I guess he could’ve played it out here. He didn’t seem to be all in on that. And I respect that. I wasn’t here when he was signed so I don’t think going through a rebuild was attractive to him – not think, I know that.
"So this seemed to be the best course of action for us to move on, be out from under that contract, what could possibly come at the end of that contract, and now we don’t have to worry about it. Now we just have to focus on rebuilding, bringing in good young players and get going here.”
With Ehrhoff out of the picture, the Sabres will have more to spend to get to the salary cap floor. Murray doesn’t see it as an issue. He said he one way is to target teams near the cap ceiling who decided to spend money on big-ticket free agents and will look to shed salary in other ways.
Buffalo Sabres center Samson Reinhart arrived in Buffalo for the very first time Sunday night and started making the rounds around town on Monday. So far, he likes what he’s seen.
“It’s nice. I think it’s finally starting to sink in, coming here,” the Sabres' first-round pick told the media Monday morning at First Niagara Center. “I came in last night and seeing it this morning in the daylight is pretty cool.”
He’s ready to start playing hockey again. He’ll be back in Buffalo for Development Camp from July 14-18 and is looking forward to meeting and playing with the other players in the organization – both prospects and veterans.
“I think there are a lot of players that excite me to be honest, coming into a young team. I feel I’m pretty versatile in the sense that I can fit in comfortably and produce with any type of player,” Reinhart said.
“I’ve been with every type of player throughout my career and playing well with [them]. I’m looking forward to coming into a new team with a lot of talent up front and I’m excited about that opportunity.”
Sabres general manager Tim Murray praised Reinhart’s maturity and hockey sense, which he said can be very difficult to quantify.
“His focus is on, when they drop the puck, what is he going to do until the whistle’s blown? He’s very mature in that respect and all kids and teenagers mature at different time and different speeds,” Murray said. “That’s a big part of who he is on the ice. I hope he’s great on the ice and I hope he’s better than that off the ice and I know we’ll have a long-time franchise guy.”
|(Photo Credit: Getty Images)|
PHILADELPHIA – Brendan Lemieux didn’t think he’d end up in Buffalo after his combine interview with the Sabres in May.
Sabres general manager Tim Murray and the hockey department asked tough questions and many of the prospects coming out of those meetings said Buffalo was one of the harder interviews in the League.
It turns out Lemieux had similar feelings.
“I thought it was my worst interview. They weren’t easy on me but I guess they liked the way I reacted,” he said after being selected by Buffalo with the first pick of the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft on Saturday.
Partly because of that interview, Buffalo wasn’t really on his radar entering the draft.
“I was one of those guys trying to figure out for a long time where I was going to go. You don’t know and nobody really knew but I had no idea,” he said. “I had no idea I would drop out of the first round. I had no idea I’d be picked this morning. I walked in the arena like two minutes before I got picked. I had no idea.”
While Lemieux may have been disappointed with his performance in that combine interview, Murray liked what he heard.
“I know that he felt that. We didn’t feel that. We felt that it was outstanding. We made it uncomfortable for him a little bit, fairly,” he said. “We went after him a little bit about his relationship with teammates and different things. So I assume he didn’t think that Buffalo was going to draft him at all.
“And that’s how some interviews go. He thought it was tough and we thought it was great. We thought he responded very well to some tough questions.”
Murray said he also challenged first-round pick Sam Reinhart during the interview process and rehashed some of those conversations on Saturday.
“I didn’t get involved in a lot of interviews. I did on Reinhart. I asked him about that today. I questioned him on leadership and different things that he responded very well [to],” he said. “I questioned Lemieux on his character and how he gets along with teammates and different things like that and I thought that he responded well too. But I could see that he thought it was a tough one maybe.”
Murray said that the Sabres had Lemieux in their Top 30 and that the combination of his tenacious style and offensive upside made him a very appealing prospect.
Lemieux, who models his game after his father Claude – an infamous agitator – is going to use the perceived slight of being passed on in the first round as extra motivation to progress his career.
“Definitely I was disappointed. I expected to be a first-round pick and never even really looked at the second round,” he said. “But that being said, things have a way of working out and I think it could be a blessing in disguise that I had to wait it out. I’m proud to be picked with the first pick of the second round and I’m just going to use it as fuel now.”
PHILADELPHIA -- Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray wasted no time making the second-overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. He didn’t thank anyone or make a long speech. He announced the selection of center Sam Reinhart and stepped away from the podium.
“It was good. I liked it,” Reinhart said. “Didn’t stall at all. It shows the confidence he has in me and makes me feel better.”
Murray didn’t see any reason to take more time up on the stage.
“He was the first player on our list,” Murray said. “You shouldn’t hesitate when you’re getting the first player on your list.”
Murray said he’s been scouting Reinhart since the day he took the general manager’s job in Buffalo back in January. He had a trip planned to watch Reinhart play in Western Canada right away.
It’s Reinhart’s vision and hockey smarts that separated him from the other top prospects in the draft.
“Hockey sense, seeing the play three, four, five seconds before it happens, which most good players, I’d say it’s a couple seconds or whatever fractions you want to use. And I just think he has an ability to make wingers better,” Murray said. So now our job is to make sure that we have the proper guys to play with him.”
Reinhart’s next visit to Buffalo will be his first.
“I’ve never been to Buffalo so I’m pretty excited about it. Before they had the pick, I saw some of the city [in an intro video on the video board] so I’m looking forward to it.”
He’ll be in town for the team’s development camp July 14-18 and Murray said he’ll be involved in both that as well as the prospect tournament in Traverse City. Whether he’ll be ready for the NHL come October will depend on how he progresses.
“He’s a young prospect so he has a big summer ahead of him,” Murray said. “He’s got a development camp, a rookie tournament and training camp and exhibition games. And he will be judged each and every day of that schedule.”
|(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)|
PHILADELPHIA -- The Buffalo Sabres had their choice of forwards with the second-overall selection of the 2014 NHL Draft on Friday. They went with center Sam Reinhart, the Western Hockey League's Player of the Year.
What does Reinhart think separated himself from the other top prospects?
“I think the biggest thing is I feel ready to play. It’s a young team. I’m very familiar with the organization and I’ve pictured myself in this uniform for a very long time,” Reinhart said. “I’m very excited and I’m very motivated to step into the League next year with a young team that’s developing very well and to make an impact.”
Reinhart said that Buffalo was one of his most challenging interviews and that they really pushed him with their questions.
“They did and I think that’s only positive for them to do that,” he said. “It gives you a lot of confidence in them and with what they can do in those sorts of interviews. I’m thrilled and happy and I’m very thankful that they selected me.”
After his junior season wrapped up, Reinhart joined Team Canada for their training camp in Switzerland as they prepared for the IIHF World Championship. He was able to meet Cody Hodgson and Tyler Myers and get a first-hand look at the professional lifestyle.
He’s studied up on the Sabres organization over the past few months and knows he’s going to have to work hard to make the team in the fall.
“It’s not going to be given to me right away,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to step in and make an impact and take advantage of every opportunity.”
PHILADELPHIA – All is quiet on the trade front, according to Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray.
During his availability with the media Friday morning prior to the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft, Murray acknowledged that he’s tried to make some trades but no one around the League is returning phone calls.
The Sabres hold the second-overall pick in the draft and based on the conversations he’s had with his counterparts, it looks like Murray will use that pick.
WATCH: TIM MURRAY ADDRESSES THE MEDIA
“As of right now? Yeah. I have no other options right now so that’s my plan,” he said.
Murray said he’s tried to make some moves that would bring veteran players to Buffalo who can help change the culture and bring skill to the lineup. However, it doesn’t look like those talks are gaining any traction at the moment.
“[With] the amount of talking that we’ve done in the last three weeks, for it to come to down to this and look like that we may not do anything, I don’t know if it’s disappointing,” Murray said.
“I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been around this a long time but it’s quiet. I think a lot of people, including myself, did a lot of tire kicking. And I thought I did more than tire kicking. I said there must be a blockbuster going on because no one’s reaching out to us right now anymore.”
He said he has received some calls inquiring about younger players in the organization, although he feels like every GM is getting similar calls.
“I’m not shopping our players,” he said. “And truthfully, I have gotten some calls on a couple of our players and I said, ‘I’ll listen.’ I’m not going to be extremely aggressive in trading young guys that we feel we can go forward with. But in saying that, I have to listen so I have listened to some of those.”
Murray hopes things will pick up once all of the GMs arrive at Wells Fargo Center in the 5 p.m. hour for the first round. But that might not give him enough time to accomplish everything he’d like.
“I’ve talked to three GMs this morning, but even late last night around 11 o’clock, I got a couple of calls and I guess we ask the same questions to each other, ‘Is anything going on?’” he said. “They’re telling me they’ve got nothing going on. I’ve had a lot of irons in the fire. That doesn’t mean nothing will happen.
“…But I have a couple of really complicated ideas so I don’t know if I can execute them in an hour. But we’ve got good people here so we’ll get it done if something happens.”
Those conversations – or lack thereof – however, don’t look to have much of an effect on Murray’s quest to acquire another pick later in the first round. He said that trade, if it comes to fruition, will happen on the draft floor.
The first round begins at 7 p.m. on Friday and can be seen on NBCSN in the U.S. and on TSN and RDS in Canada. Stay tuned to Sabres.com for complete coverage throughout the night.
PHILADELPHIA – Even with a nagging shoulder injury, Jake Virtanen put together a fine season for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League.
The left wing scored a team-high 45 goals and then went on to help Team Canada win bronze at the Under-18 World Championship in Finland, tying for the team lead in points.
Virtanen had surgery in May to repair his partially dislocated left shoulder and was thus unable to partake in the fitness testing at the NHL Combine at the end of the month.
He said he first sustained the injury in the middle of the season but re-injured it sometime after and then again in the playoffs. When the combination of rest and rehab wasn’t working well enough, he elected to have surgery to repair the torn labrum once his season ended after much discussion with his family and agent.
Virtanen is NHL Central Scouting’s sixth-ranked North American skater and is expected to be a Top 10 pick Friday night.
He hopes to be ready by mid-October and he doesn’t think that his recovery will negatively impact his draft stock.
“I’ve told quite a few people that with the technology nowadays, I think that won’t hurt me,” Virtanen said on Thursday. “They have some great doctors and I know I had my surgery by great doctors. I think it won’t hurt me too much.”
Doctors have told him that he’ll be able to do all of the things after rehab that he could prior to the surgery.
“I’m doing great. I think my shoulder’s done really well so far and my doctor has said it’s one of the best-looking shoulders from rehab he’s seen,” Virtanen said. “So that’s good news and I’m happy about that news. It’s something you can look at and say I can only get healthy from this.”