TORONTO -- When Buffalo Sabres interim head coach Ron Rolston met with his new team for the first time last night, he said the message was simple and to the point.
“We were pretty brief. We understand at this point that the talking part of things is over,” explained Rolston this morning in Toronto before a post-morning skate media throng at the Air Canada Centre. “As Michael Jordan says, ‘I want to see it done and I want to hear it done.’
“We just talked about the situation. For a lot of players, that was there first time involved in a situation like that where a coach was let go and a new one was coming in to talk to them. We briefly talked about what we wanted to focus on; not worry about where we’re at, but what direction we’re moving in at this point.”
It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for Rolston, who woke up yesterday morning as the head coach of the Rochester Americans, getting ready to prepare for a home game against the Texas Stars. He realizes that with 31 games left in the regular season, it’s just a matter of jumpstarting a Sabres team that has struggled to not only score goals, but defend them as well.
“There’s not going to be major changes in terms of systems and things like that. Certainly, I think the players know what needs to be done at this point. The responsibility at this point falls on us to make sure we’re moving in that direction. And most importantly for the players as individuals, they have to make sure they’re accountable, and when they come to the rink tonight they’re ready to roll.”
For a handful of Sabres, this isn’t their first experience having Rolston behind the bench. Youngsters Marcus Foligno and TJ Brennan have spent parts of the last two seasons under Rolston in Rochester. The newest member of the Sabres, Kevin Porter, who joined the Sabres today, has served as the Amerks’ captain this season after being signed as a free agent in the summer.
This trio of players gave us some of their thoughts about Rolston, the 16th head coach in Sabres’ franchise history:
Foligno on how Rolston helped him in his rookie season with Rochester
"We did a lot of video. He brought me in to explain what he expected from me, and that he wanted me to be an important player. He just explained the facts. We started with the little things, and from there it moved on to bigger things. Ron is just very good at developing young guys, and I’m very fortunate to have been coached by him."
Foligno talks about what Rolston will bring to the Sabres
"Ron’s definitely a good developer and a good teacher, and he’s going to bring a lot of good things here. He’s familiar with my play, and he’s familiar with my style, so I think it’ll be a pretty easy transition."
Brennan describes Rolston’s coaching style
"He’s very positive; he’s an energy guy. I feel lucky that he’s coming in. He’s a familiar face that I know, and it’ll make me a little more comfortable. Hopefully it can be a positive turnaround for the team having Ron come in."
Porter’s thoughts on Rolston’s coaching philosphies
"He’s a great coach, really knows what he’s doing. He’s good with defensive play and he lets you play offense. I think it’s a good mixture and he’s going to be a good fit here"
Porter talks about Rolston’s future in the NHL
"He really has the tendencies of an NHL coach, and he definitely has the qualities. I think he’s going to be a good fit here for this team."
Cody McCormick cleared waivers today, and was replaced on the roster by Porter. The Detroit, Mich., native has played in 48 games this season with Rochester, amassing 44 points (15+29) and 38 penalty minutes.
Jordan Leopold did not take part in today’s skate, and will miss tonight’s game with an upper body injury. Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will be a healthy scratch for the third straight game, and fourth time this season.
The Buffalo Sabres will look decidedly different tonight when they host the Winnipeg Jets at First Niagara Center. Defenseman Jordan Leopold will find himself scratched for the first time this season, and Drew Stafford has been dropped to the fourth line with John Scott and Cody McCormick. TJ Brennan will replace Leopold alongside Mike Weber, and will also man the point on the first power play unit. Patrick Kaleta moves up to the second line alongside Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno.
Buffalo’s forward lines at today’s morning skate:
Power play unit #1: Vanek/Ennis/Foligno; Pominville/Brennan
Power play unit #2: Gerbe/Hodgson/Ott; Myers/Ehrhoff
Mikhail Grigorenko skated as the extra forward during today’s skate, and is expected to be a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game.
Ruff on the decision to scratch Leopold:
“I’ve talked to Jordan recently, probably three or four games ago, about improved play. I thought we got a couple of pretty strong games. But in the last game, I expect more out of him, out of a veteran defenseman. He’s gonna have to work hard to get back in now.”
Ruff on the decision to move Stafford off the second line:
“There’s an inside part to his game that is getting a little better. When he’s going well, you notice his skating. You notice the one-on-one battles; winning the majority of the one-on-one battles. When it isn’t going well, we’re not winning those battles.
“I didn’t think he was quite up to speed with his skating again the other night, and he lost some battles that I thought were key battles inside the game. It’s something that we’ve talked about. He needs to take a little bit more ownership on some of those battles to make a better play that turns into something better for us.”
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KANATA, ONT. -- After being banished to the press box as a healthy scratch for the past two games, Tyler Myers will be back in the lineup tonight when the Buffalo Sabres face the Ottawa Senators for the second time in a week at Scotiabank Place. Ottawa won last Tuesday’s game by a 4-3 score.
Just being back in the lineup isn’t good enough for Myers. He knows there is still plenty of work to be done with his game.
“It feels good to be back in, but I don’t know if it’s a relief,” Myers said this morning. “I don’t come here just to get in the lineup. I need to put together a solid defensive game and just build it from there.”
Myers will be paired with Robyn Regehr on the blueline tonight, and he says the veteran defenseman has been a sounding board for him since he arrived in Buffalo.
“Ever since he came to the team, you really notice how much leadership he has. He’s helped me through a lot. We’ve had a bunch of conversations these past few days. He’s a guy I like to go to and look up to.”
Based on the morning skate, Buffalo’s other two defensive pairings tonight will be: Leopold/Weber, Ehrhoff/Sekera. With eight healthy defensemen, TJ Brennan and Alexander Sulzer are expected to be scratched.
Buffalo’s forward lines today were as follows:
John Scott also skated on the fourth line today, but is expected to be a healthy scratch.
Robyn Regehr has seen it all throughout his 14-year NHL career, experiencing all the highs and lows that go along with being a professional athlete. That’s why he’ll be the first to admit he knows exactly what Tyler Myers is going through right now.
Myers was a healthy scratch in Saturday’s 3-2 win on Long Island, and head coach Lindy Ruff categorized him as a “game-time decision” for tonight’s game against Boston at First Niagara Center. Regehr has gone through similar rough patches in his career, and has spoken at length with Myers about them. In times like this, Regehr says the key is getting back to basics.
“It’s just a matter of focusing on his game. When things aren’t going as well as you’d hope as a player, there are stretches like that when you go through some rough times and your confidence is down, and you just don’t feel that you can do things you want to out there,” explains the 32-year-old Regehr. “You just have to bring it down a level or two just to the basics and say, ‘I’m gonna do these four or five things out there tonight. That’s what I’m gonna focus on and that’s it.’ Once you do that, you start gaining a little bit of momentum and confidence in yourself, and you start building your game back up again.
“It sounds simple, but it’s hard when you’ve got some mistakes that are running through your mind that you’ve made in the past couple of games. You just have to try to learn from that and move on. Sometimes a guy’s worst enemy is himself. It’s happened to me where you get down on yourself for making a mistake, and that doesn’t do you any good. What you have to do is learn from it and move on, and go back and try to make up for it. I think that’s kind of where (Myers) is right now.”
Regehr is expected to be back in the lineup tonight after missing the last six games with a lower body injury sustained in Washington on January 27. His physical presence will be a much-needed addition against a rested Bruins team that hasn’t played since Wednesday, thanks to a game cancellation yesterday due to blizzard conditions that dumped two feet of snow in the Boston area from Winter Storm Nemo.
“They were sitting here waiting for us, and we have to make sure that we’re ready. If we play the way that we know we can, and that we’re supposed to, we’ll be fine. Matching the intensity in the start - because I’m expecting a very big start from them - will be very important.”
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Patrick Kaleta and Andrej Sekera are both expected to return to the Buffalo lineup tonight, but the big news is who won’t be on the ice when the Sabres face the Islanders on Long Island. Struggling defenseman Tyler Myers will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season, following a stretch of games that have left many shaking their heads.
Myers is a league-worst minus-nine through 11 games, and has recorded just one point – the game-winning goal in Buffalo’s season opener against Philadelphia.
“I’m embarrassed, and I should be,” said Myers after today’s optional morning skate at the Nassau Coliseum. “Two years in a row now, it doesn’t feel very good. But the silver lining, I responded the way I needed to last time and that’s what I have to do this time.”
Last season, Myers was a healthy scratch when the Sabres played in Montreal on November 14. At the time he had recorded just four assists and was minus-three in Buffalo’s first 16 games. Myers was back in the lineup for the team’s next game at home on November 16 against New Jersey, and scored his first two goals of the season.
The 23-year-old Myers is hoping for a similar rebound this time around, but knows he has to clear his head first after what has been a tough start to the season.
“It’s just all mental for me. I make a mistake, I’m too hard on myself and put too much pressure on myself in the long run,” explains the 2010 NHL Rookie of the Year. “I think I just need to relax and take a step back and start enjoying myself instead of working my way out of my own game.”
With Myers taking a seat, Andrej Sekera will return to the ice after being out for the past three games with a deep bone bruise on his foot. Sekera blocked an Alexei Emelin shot just 54 seconds into Buffalo’s 6-1 loss in Montreal last Saturday. Sekera struggled to the bench, and went to the dressing room briefly, but returned to play 3:37 of ice time in four additional shifts. The 26-year-old Slovakian had three points (1+2) in eight games prior to the injury.
Kaleta is back after missing five games with a neck injury following a nasty hit-from-behind by Toronto’s Mike Brown on January 29. The injury forced Kaleta to be stretchered out of First Niagara Center to a local hospital where he ended up spending the night.
With Kaleta’s history of neck problems, head coach Lindy Ruff said he’s had ongoing talks with the rugged winger about being more careful of his surroundings on the ice.
“We’ve had discussions, and I’ll have another one with him today. In his case, he can’t put himself in that position,” Ruff said. “I still think there’s a little bit of the onus on the player that’s attacking, but there’s an onus on the player that’s gonna receive that hit too. Especially in Patty’s case, to not put your head in that position.”
It was an optional morning skate for the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center this morning prior to tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. While names like Vanek, Ott and Pominville weren’t in attendance, the presence of three injured defensemen did open a few eyes.
Christian Ehrhoff, Andrej Sekera and Robyn Regehr skated in full with the defense group, and all three could return to the lineup by the weekend. In fact, if all goes well for Ehrhoff, he could be back as early as tonight after missing Tuesday’s game in Ottawa with an undisclosed muscle strain.
“(Ehrhoff) is gonna take the warm-up tonight, and we’ll see where he’s at,” said head coach Lindy Ruff. “Early indications are he should be able to make it. But no guarantee yet. We’ll dress seven ‘D’ for warm-up and go from there.”
Sekera has missed the last two games with a deep bone bruise on his foot after blocking a shot in Montreal last Saturday. Ruff expects him to be ready for this weekend’s games against the NY Islanders (Saturday) and Boston (Sunday).
Regehr has also been hobbled by a foot injury for the past five games, and had been wearing a boot since suffering the injury in Washington on Jan. 27. Ruff listed him as a “possibility” for the upcoming weekend.
The Sabres will be facing a tired Montreal team that arrived in Buffalo during the wee hours of the morning after a 2-1 loss at home to Boston last night. This is just their third road game; they come into the Queen City with a record of 1-1-0 in the first two.
Ryan Miller will get the call in goal for Buffalo, and he’ll be looking to avenge last Saturday’s 6-1 defeat at the Bell Centre where he took the loss after allowing four goals in two periods of work. Miller is 23-9-6 in his career against the Canadiens with a 2.26 GAA, .923 save% and three shutouts.
KANATA, ONT. -- Christian Ehrhoff will not be in the Buffalo lineup tonight when they face the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place for the first time this season. Ehrhoff was on the ice for the start of today’s morning skate, but left about 10 minutes later. Head coach Lindy Ruff said Ehrhoff is battling a “muscular thing that just popped up,” even though he played the entire game on Sunday against Florida.
In Ehrhoff’s absence, defenseman Adam Pardy was recalled from Rochester yesterday, and he will be paired with Tyler Myers tonight. The 28-year-old Pardy had three points and a plus-five rating with Rochester (AHL), and was playing more than 20 minutes per game for the Amerks. Pardy was acquired from Dallas on July 2 in the deal that also brought Steve Ott to Buffalo in exchange for Derek Roy.
The line of Marcus Foligno-Tyler Ennis-Drew Stafford was skating together at today’s skate, but Ruff indicated he might have a short leash with the struggling trio tonight. Ennis has two goals in nine games; Foligno has one; and Stafford has yet to find the back of the net. The line had great chemistry late last season following Foligno’s recall; however they’ve yet to show that same production through the first nine games.
“We’ve had lots of conversations the last few days, and we’ll give it one more shot to see if they can make a few adjustments. And if not, we’ll have to make a quick change,” stated Ruff. “I thought Stafford was in on a couple of opportunities last game. That line was a big line for us. If you can get that line going again, it would give us some depth at scoring.”
Jhonas Enroth is expected to get the start in goal for Buffalo. In four career games against the Senators, Enroth is 3-0-1 with a 2.16 GAA and .939 save%.
BOSTON -- The Buffalo Sabres are in the midst of a four-game winless streak (0-3-1), having picked up just a single point in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday after opening the season with two straight wins.
But while everyone else in Western New York is expecting a line brawl tonight, head coach Lindy Ruff is the first to admit there’s more on the line than just revenge for what happened here last November.
“You try to win the puck battles. You try to win the territorial battles. We have to win a game. Not coming out of here with points is not being successful,” said Ruff after today’s morning skate at TD Banknorth Garden. “We need points; in a short season, you need points. We’ve answered the physical challenge, we’ve been there for each other since day one. We play a gritty style, a hitting style.
“But we have to win games. What we dealt with last year – we had a game where Gaustad foght Lucic, and Regehr fought Chara. We played a couple of great games against them and came away with points. Hockey is about winning the game, it’s about winning the mental battle, it’s about winning the physical battle. It’s about winning the territorial battles. You win those, you give yourself a chance to win.”
The Sabres were 2-2-2 against the Bruins last season, but were 0-2-1 in three games in Boston. Their only point was a shootout loss on the final day of the season.
Ryan Miller will get the call in goal tonight, his first start in Boston since being steamrolled by Milan Lucic on November 12 of last season.
Patrick Kaleta did not travel with the team to Boston after being released from the hospital in Buffalo on Wednesday, and Ruff said he expects Kaleta to be out of the lineup for a while. Kaleta injured his neck in Tuesday’s game against Toronto when he was hit from behind by Mike Brown. A boarding penalty was assessed on the play, but the NHL has since reviewed the play and said there will be no supplemental discipline.
Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier ended the speculation this morning, announcing that 18-year-old rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will remain in Buffalo for the rest of the season. Grigorenko will make it official tonight when he plays in his sixth career game, against the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center.
Regier said that two specific factors played into the final decision to keep Grigorenko in Buffalo.
“The ability to continue his development, in conjunction with his ability to help us win hockey games. Those two things really make it up.”
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Head coach Lindy Ruff joined Regier earlier today to inform Grigorenko of the decision, and he said it was obvious to everyone how the Russian felt about their answer.
“I think by the smile on his face, it was quite a big relief,” explained Ruff. “I think that moment for any young player – playing in your first game, and now having that pressure off. At the same time, knowing that you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.”
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Grigorenko has played in all five of Buffalo’s games so far, including a season-high 17:10 of ice time on 20 shifts against Washington on Sunday. He’s yet to collect a point, but created several good scoring chances against the Capitals. In 32 games with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts this season, Grigorenko had 29 goals and 21 assists. He also had six points (2+4) in seven games for Russia at the 2013 World Junior Championship.
Buffalo’s leading scorer Thomas Vanek will return to the lineup tonight after missing Sunday’s game with a muscle strain suffered against Carolina on Friday.
Defenseman Robyn Regehr has an undisclosed lower body injury, and will not play tonight. Ruff confirmed this morning that blueliners TJ Brennan and Mike Weber will both make their season debuts for the Sabres tonight. Brennan, who has 14 goals and 35 points in 36 games with Rochester this season, spent time at today’s morning skate working as part of a power play unit.
Ryan Miller will get the start in goal. He’s 2-2 on the season, but has a career record of 28-14-0 against Toronto, with 2.41 GAA and .923 save%.
RALEIGH, NC – Lindy Ruff tends to put history on his side when deciding on his goalie rotation, and tonight appears to be one of those games. Jhonas Enroth will make his first start of the season as the undefeated Buffalo Sabres (2-0-0) play the first game of a back-to-back set against the winless Carolina Hurricanes (0-2-0) at PNC Arena. These same two teams will face-off again on Friday back in Buffalo at First Niagara Center.
Enroth blanked the Hurricanes with a sparkling 34-save performance in Carolina on November 18, 2011 for his only shutout of last season. In his career against the Hurricanes, the 24-year-old Swede is 2-0-0, with both wins coming in Carolina (the other being a 2-1 OT decision on April 3, 2011). Enroth has posted a stingy 0.49 GAA and .986 save% in those two games against the Hurricanes – his best numbers against any team.
“I don’t know why I’ve been playing well down here,” Enroth said with a smile. “Two games, one goal. And the team has played very well in front of me those games. The first game down here was a very big game down the playoff stretch. I’ve just been enjoying playing down here.”
Also making his season debut for the Sabres tonight is winger Nathan Gerbe. The 5-foot-5 sparkplug started the season on IR while recovering from offseason back surgery, but has spent the last two days skating on the left side of a line with rookie Mikhail Grigorenko and Steve Ott.
With Gerbe moving to the Grigorenko line, Jochen Hecht has dropped back to the fourth line center spot Patrick Kaleta and John Scott. Buffalo’s top two lines remain intact from Monday’s 2-1 win in Toronto: Vanek-Hodgson-Pominville; Stafford-Ennis-Foligno. Matt Ellis is expected to be a healthy scratch tonight along with defensemen Mike Weber and TJ Brennan.
Tonight’s game is the first of three games in four days for the Sabres, and the mid-point of a stretch that has them playing five games in eight days to open the season. This is also the first of three games between the Sabres and Hurricanes this season. Buffalo is 5-3-2 in its last 10 against the Canes; 4-2-4 in Carolina.