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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.7.2011 / 1:52 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES

Tyler Ennis (Photo: Bill Wippert)
-Thanks Carolina for making us wait another day.  Actually, the Carolina win over Detroit amplifies how great of a run the Sabres have been on.  You can extrapolate the team’s record back to the ownership transaction, the All-Star Game, or the turn of the calendar and it’s impressive in each in case.  To me, the most impressive thing has been what the team has done in the final 12 games (two yet to be played) of the season.  Lindy Ruff said it would take a 7-5 record down the dozen to make the playoffs.  The key figure being seven wins equaling 14 points.  The Sabres have already met that figure, and have done even better at 7-1-2.  Now, it may not be enough, but it’s the most impressive finish to a regular season that I’ve witnessed. 

-I think some credit is due to the media-maligned scouting department here at the Sabres.  The younger and computer savvy scouts down the hall seem to know what they’re doing, especially when it comes to drafting.  Want proof?  Check out the current roster and the Portland Pirates that have contributed along the way.  Many of the same scouts were here for the 2005 Draft that produced Nathan Gerbe and current defensemen Andrej Sekera, Chris Butler and Marc-Andre Gragnani.  The 2006 Draft brought Mike Weber and Jhonas EnrothPaul Byron was drafted late in the 2007 Draft, and had memorable contributions this season.  The 2008 Draft has had a profound impact on this season with Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis playing big roles, and Luke Adam racking up some frequent flyer miles.  Great stuff there, and I’m looking forward to seeing the fruition of the 2009 Draft, with selections Zack Kassian, Brayden McNabb and Marcus Foligno.

-I think I am speaking for all players, fans, employees and their families when I say “CHANGE THE SCHEDULE NEXT YEAR!”  I know there are many things to factor in when making the NHL schedule, and the 2011 World Junior Championship played a big role for the Sabres, but this second half was just brutal.  The highest number of back-to-back games in the league and a two-week eastern road trip should not return next year.  When you think of it, with the schedule and injuries, there were plenty of excuses for the team to fold the tent.  That makes what they have accomplished even more impressive. 

-I’m not sure how fans feel about the set change on the 200 level, but it’s growing on me. 

-I’ll have what Jhonas Enroth is having. 

POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.30.2011 / 10:26 AM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES

Gilbert Perreault (left) and Rene Robert speak at the a public memorial service for Rick Martin (Photo: Bill Wippert)
-As I sat in the media center of the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday, things felt pretty good compared to a week ago.  The entire organization and community was grieving the loss of legend and friend Rick Martin, and we had a narrow lead on Carolina for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.  Now, the sun was out and our friend’s life had been celebrated with extreme class and style, and the Sabres are still holding onto a playoff spot with the chance of moving up depending on how things play our over the next couple of games.   Patience is tough to have, but usually is rewarding.   Now that could, and possibly has, all changed by the time you’re reading this, but I don’t believe that will be the case. 

-Hats off to Corey Martin for the passionate and loving eulogy of his father. 

-Isn’t the number ‘7’ behind each net a great tribute? 

-It’s hard to believe (at the time of writing this) that there are just seven games remaining in the season.  The season flies once we hit St. Patrick’s Day.  I’ve spoken to many fans and friends that think it's great how we’re finishing the season strong heading into a possible postseason berth.  Many of the same folks cite how last year, the Sabres eased in as the Northeast Division champions.  That’s actually not the case if you look at the numbers.  I looked at the final 15 games of the season last year and compared them to where the team is at this year.  It’s a bit of a stretch since only nine of the final 15 have been completed this year.  But this is more about last year than this year.  In the closing portion of the 2009-2010 season, the Sabres finished 9-6 with that big win in Ottawa (Vanek scored four  goals) in the second to last game.  That’s not coasting or easing in my opinion.  This year is not different, so far, as the team is 5-3-1 in the first nine of the final 15.  We all certainly hope the first round, should the team stay in position, is different this year. 

-Never trust directions from anybody who works at The Buffalo News.  OK, that may not be fair to all the employees of The News, but too bad.  What am I talking about?  Here you go.  During a lunch break in Toronto, John Vogl of The News was headed out the door the same time as the Sabres’ Web guru and me.  We asked where he was headed, and he said “a couple of blocks” up the street for a shawarma.  Yes, we had the same question:  what the heck is a shawarma?  It’s a middle eastern “sandwich” or “burrito.”   Never ones to shy away from a new experience and curiosity, the Guru and I tagged along as it was only a couple of blocks.  A couple of blocks turned into at least eight in a -5 degree wind chill.  Another ‘sh’ word was uttered several times and believe me, it wasn’t ‘shawarma.’  The story does have a happy ending as the shawarmas were quite good and packed with healthy stuff.  Now that I think about it, maybe he did me a favor.  I could probably use more long walks for healthy food (easy Guru). 

POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.15.2011 / 5:59 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES

By now you’ve probably heard and read various memories and opinions on the life and impact of Rick Martin.  It’s with good reason.   He touched so many people directly and indirectly.  While still shocked by his sudden passing, I can‘t get enough of the “Rico” stories.  In that spirit, here’s my experience and memories of No. 7:

I was born in Western New York but didn’t grow up here, so I missed all the great goals scored by Martin and the iconic French Connection.  Odds are I would have had only a few memories given that I was born the year after he was drafted.  However, I quickly learned of his scoring prowess and the lore of one of the greatest lines in NHL history.  I wonder how much greater Martin would have been if medicine had advanced to treat knee injuries the way they do now.  Even so, he still holds the top spot in several categories in the Sabres record book, indicating a greatness that has lasted four decades and counting.

Rene Robert, Rick Martin, Terry Pegula and Gilbert Perreault on Feb. 23, 2011 (Photo: Bill Wippert)
I am not going to pretend that Rick Martin and I were close.  I knew him, liked him, admired him, spoke to him almost every home game, and possess his cell number in my contact list.  He was so friendly and welcoming, not just to me, but to everybody.  It was as unique in the world of professional sports as Rico’s ability to rip a slap shot by any goaltender.  He was a gem.  There are plenty of great guys in hockey, but there aren’t many as great as Rick Martin on AND off the ice.  Just ask the volunteers at the various charities in our in area.  Rick was generous with his time and money.  He was at all the charity golf events, partly because he loved golf, but mostly due to his sense of community.

Golf is how I first met Rick, and provides my fondest memory of him.  Some of you may watch or listen to my golf shows in Buffalo, so you know I have a passion for the game and can imagine what a round with Rick Martin meant to me nine years ago when it happened.  My radio partner and I were invited to play golf and were told the fourth in our group was going to be Lindy Ruff.  We each knew Lindy pretty well from his first few years coaching the team as he did a radio show with us.  When we arrived that day, we were told Lindy couldn’t make it, so Rick Martin was filling in.  Can you imagine?  Yeah, it was that cool and we hadn’t even teed off yet. 

I was nervous.  I had never met Rico, but knew he was a really good golfer.  That was actually the first thought that came to mind, not the fact that he was the greatest goal scoring left winger in Sabres history and part of the French Connection.  The only thing I can say about the following three and half hours of golf is, it was amazing.  Rick’s golf swing was short, powerful and looked effortless.  It produced a low rising draw that seemed to hit every fairway and green.  In between each shot came a joke or a funny crack about your game.  When you hit a good shot, he was the first to acknowledge it.  At the end of the day he beat me by two shots.  I didn’t mind losing to him; who would?  But golf wasn’t the best part of the day.  Our host couldn’t stay for a post-round beverage, so my partner and I figured that was it.  Martin said, “You guys want to go to Damon’s and get a beer?”

We sat in Damon’s for three hours talking hockey and getting to know Rick Martin.  We only had a few beers over that duration, but could have stayed for six hours to fulfill all the complimentary drinks sent Rick’s way.  The conversation ranged from golf, to his playing days, our families, the future of the Sabres, the future of Buffalo, etc.  At the end, when we were walking to our cars, Rico said to me, “Hey Kevy, you’re a good player.  Let’s do it again.”  At the time, it meant a lot to me.  It means even more now because that’s the first time he called me Kevy.  I’m not really fond of it, but it sounded so much better coming from him.  I’m going to miss hearing “Hey Kevy” followed by the latest funny joke in his repertoire.

Many of you reading this have a Rick Martin story of your own or know somebody who does.  That’s why his death stings even more.  Rico was not only one of the greatest sports heroes this city has ever known, he was one of us.
POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.1.2011 / 12:59 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES

- Phew, another year that I was not traded. 

- The trade deadline was a bit of a dud as compared to last year across the league, but I think Darcy Regier was right yesterday.  Too many teams are still in the playoff hunt, so the price of poker was high.  There were too many buyers and too few sellers.  The laws of supply and demand were at work. 

Brad Boyes (Getty Images)
- I wrote on my Facebook page that I liked the move of acquiring Brad Boyes.  Here’s why:  They acquired an offensive player that will be around for another season in exchange for a 2nd round pick.  To me, it’s as if the Sabres drafted Boyes in the second round.  Considering that Boyes is a former first rounder, has scored over 40 goals in the past, and currently has 41 points, it looks like a great move.  It also helps with options for the summer as Boyes is on the roster for next season and is a threat from the right side, which may be big since RW Drew Stafford is a restricted free agent.  Assuming Stafford stays (I hope he does), right wing is a position of considerable strength with Boyes, Stafford and Jason Pominville.  Of course, Thomas Vanek works over there on occasion, and all are of “Top 6” quality, so somebody will be on the left. 

- If the Sabres had traded Luke Adam (the last 2nd round draft choice of the Sabres) for Brad Boyes, then I might not like it as much. 

- Kudos to Tim Connolly for meeting with the media after practice on Monday and answering questions about his immediate future.  It had to be uncomfortable for a guy who has been carved up in the media all season.  He could have refused, but faced the music like a professional.  Can he play better? Yes.  With the deadline passed and the distraction behind him, let’s hope he does.

- I saw Derek Roy last week and he’s in good spirits while rehabbing.  He’s thinking about becoming a movie critic since he saw everything while he was immobile for six weeks.

- It was exciting last week with the Pegula family taking over ownership of the Buffalo Sabres.  I think everything that can be written about them has been, so no need to waste space here.  However, I will say they could not have made a better first impression publicly or privately. 

POSTED ON Thursday, 02.17.2011 / 3:53 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES
-I’ll start with a few follow up items from last week’s notes.  The few days in Florida were great, and were buoyed by two wins.   Many of you are probably heading there for the winter break that’s coming next week for most Western New York schools.  For those men that are, I offer this advice: keep your shirt on.  Of course if you’ve been doing P90X, then go for it, but otherwise buy a swim shirt. 

Tyler Myers
-I hope you caught the postgame interview with Tyler Myers following his OT winner against the Panthers.  It was interesting to hear him say that he had no idea how little time was left when he ripped the shot past Tomas Vokoun.  Tyler said he was just looking to get a shot on net for a rebound.  Even better, his dad was on the trip and got to enjoy the big moment with his son.  I just hope the next time I interview Myers after a game- winner, he takes his skates off.

-I know most teams do it now, but what a neat thing it is for players to bring their fathers on a road trip.  It’s special.  I won’t reveal too much due to that fact, but I will mention that I thought it was really cool that Jordan Leopold brought his grandfather on the trip. 

-It was great to meet some of you last Friday at Aces & Blades.  It was a great time, and I hope those that were playing Black Jack at my table made a nice donation back to the Sabres Foundation when they cashed in their winnings.  The pit boss was not happy with me.

On to hockey:

-What an incredible win Tuesday night in Montreal.  Jhonas Enroth was awesome and deserves his just desserts.  But credit is also due to Thomas Vanek and Jochen Hecht. Vanek made an incredible between the legs pass to Drew Stafford to get the Sabres back in it in the second period.  Vanek then continued his perfect season in the shootout with an easy-looking (I’m sure it wasn’t) blocker-side goal on Carey Price.  Jochen Hecht made a great pass from behind the net to Jason Pominville to tie the game in the third, and then buried the shootout-deciding goal in the 10th round. 

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)
-Anyone who wasn’t a fan of the shootout had to be after Tuesday night’s display in Montreal.  It was compelling to see who was coming over the boards next for each team.  Add to that the anticipation that grows with each stride as the player heads in for his shot, the celebration after a score, or the dejection of being denied, and you can’t beat it for entertainment value.  It was awesome.  It reminded me of (this is where our editor, Rob, has to fact check again) a Sabres pre-season game a few years back in Hamilton vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.  The game went to a shootout and Clarke MacArthur scored the shootout-deciding goal in the 13th round.  (Editor’s Note: The shootout was decided in the 11th round of the preseason game between the Sabres and Penguins at Copps Coliseum on Sept. 23, 2006).

-Wednesday’s game against the Maple Leafs was a big downer after the win vs. the Habs, but give the Leafs credit.  They deserved the win.  Toronto was able to sustain the energy both teams displayed in the first period and capitalize on a few mistakes.  The Sabres were just a bit off, as close as Tyler Ennis’ crossbar miss in the first period.  Actually, that’s how close I think the game was.  If that shot is an inch lower, it’s in and I think Buffalo wins.  However, if ‘if’s’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a party.

-Enjoy Hockey Weekend Across America.
POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.9.2011 / 10:58 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES
-I’m writing this week’s version while aboard the team flight to Florida.  I just had to write that sentence to make my friends jealous of the three-and-a-half non-shoveling days ahead of me in the Sunshine State.

-Speaking of friends, college buddy and former forward for the Fredonia State Blue Devils Craig Conley was part of Jeremy Roenick’s crew on the recent episode of All-Star Celebrity Treasure Hunt (at least I think that’s the title of the show; we’ll find out if Rob, the site’s editor, is fact checking).   Craig was the good-looking one buried in the coffin screaming his lungs out.  Nice job, Craig!

Photo: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
-The Penguins’ new building is a beauty down in Pittsburgh.   They thought of nearly everything, including room for the telecasts to operate without interference.  That’s not usually the case.  And the Penguins’ dressing room is downright spectacular.  

-I agree with my 6-year-old son who thinks there are way too many commercials before they even kick off the Super Bowl. 

-Christina Aguilera proved once again that the Star Spangled Banner is one of the most difficult songs to perform well.  However, it does help to use all of the lyrics. 

-Now, what you’ve all probably been waiting to read, my thoughts on ownership.  As of right now, there’s not much I can tell you about incoming owner Terry Pegula.  I did meet him before the game in Pittsburgh and he seems like a Buffalo kind of guy.  Along with all of you, I look forward to hearing from him soon.  What I will offer is some thoughts on outgoing owners Tom Golisano and Larry Quinn (I am excluding Dan DiPofi on purpose since he’s staying on board for a while and because not one reporter asked him a question during an hour-long press conference.  They missed out). 

I’ll start with Tom Golisano, who from the day I first met him insisted I call him Tom.  That was not unique to me.  He insisted everybody call him Tom and not Mr. Golisano.  You might think ‘so what’, but I found it to make him more accessible.  So did the occasional bubble hockey battle with him either before or after a game.  I believe I told this story on MSG one night, but it’s worth repeating.  Larry came to my office about an hour-and-a-half before a game and asked, “What are you doing right now?”  Trying to look like the hardest-working employee on the planet I responded, “Nothing, why?”    He then said “I need you to go play bubble hockey with Tom.”  Tom won the best-of-five series, easily I might add.  In recent years, there were some big-time friends he would have as guests in his suite.  Former President Bill Clinton, actor James Woods and tennis great Monica Seles come to mind.  That was cool.  In the end, he made an investment that saved the franchise from relocation or worse, almost won the sport’s top prize, had a few laughs along the way, and was rewarded with a profit upon selling it. 

Larry Quinn deserves a lot more credit that he gets from media and fans.  Rob Ray made an excellent comment about him on a recent radio show.  Razor described Larry this way: “Unless you know the man, you don’t know what he’s really all about.  He’s always thinking, creating ideas.”  I paraphrased as I don’t remember it verbatim, but it’s appropriate.  He loves Buffalo and the Sabres .  He does things differently because he thinks differently. I learned to embrace it and learn from it as best I could.  There were at least a handful of occasions that I came away from a conversation with him thinking that I hadn’t considered the point of view he presented.  He also has given me and other co-workers tremendous creative freedom over the years.  He never told me what to say on the show or that we went too far in criticism after a loss. I would hear from others that he didn’t like this or that from time to time, but there was never a conversation on what not to do.  It was always about what to do or what could be done.  Larry also trusted us.  That was appreciated, especially when you needed accurate information for background on a story or angle for the show.   The Winter Classic wouldn’t be what it is today without his vision for it.  The Blue and Gold colors and logo are back because of him.  Lindy Ruff is here because of him.  And the team is still here because he convinced Tom Golisano to save it.  

-Speaking of teams for sale, what is the deal this year in the league?  The Coyotes have yet to close, the Dallas Stars are still seeking an owner, the Atlanta owners are reportedly suing over a failed sale, the Devils minority shares are being marketed, and there were rumors that the Maple Leafs may change hands.  Each case is unique, but it just seems weird with the timing all coming together.

-I hope to see you all at Aces & Blades this Friday at HSBC Arena.  It’s a great time to mingle at the Sabres “Casino” while benefitting the Buffalo Sabres Foundation
POSTED ON Thursday, 01.27.2011 / 12:05 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES
- I say or write this every year, but I can’t believe it’s the All Star Break already!  It’s a desperately needed one, too, for both the players and staff of the Sabres.  With the World Junior Championship and whirlwind schedule for the team, everyone needs time to recharge.  It also gives everyone a chance to take down the holiday decorations, pay months of bills that have been neglected, clean off messy desks, and learn our kids’ names again.  Ok, that last sentence was just for me.

Drew Stafford (Photo: Bill Wippert)
- The Sabres are 9-4-1 since Christmas, and now sit six points back of Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with three games in hand.  That stretch doesn’t make up for the horrible start to the season, but it’s close.  The only complaint that any fan should have during those 14 games is losing twice to the New York Islanders.  You could see losing one of the three, but not two of the three.  However, winning all three games in Ottawa this season makes up for it a little.  The BIG question for GM Darcy Regier is what to do on or near February 28?  That’s the NHL trade deadline, which increasingly has become the most interesting day in the league.  Teams do one of three things that day: 1.) Acquire player(s) for a playoff push; 2.) Trade away players for prospects and draft picks because they are not going to make the playoffs; or 3.) Stand pat because there aren’t deals suitable to make.  In my opinion, and this goes for any team in any league, teams should try to make the playoffs because you never know what may happen.  Now, that doesn’t apply to the Islanders and Devils, but it does to the Sabres, Hurricanes, Avalanche, Wild, etc.  The Sabres also have a great chance to improve their position with an advantageous schedule in February.  The team has a total of 12 games next month, with half of them against current playoff teams and eight of them on home ice.  It’s not unreasonable to think the team can make up those six points before the deadline and put Regier in position to make suitable deal(s) if they are presented. 

- On the eve of the NHL All Star Fantasy Draft, I have to admit I’m more intrigued by the idea of it.  I think every fan that tunes in to watch Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom select their squads schoolyard-style will say more than once “No, he should have chosen_______”.  Should be fun, and I hope the game is, too.

- I am rooting for the Coyotes deal to be completed for the fans in Arizona, but how many people am I talking about?  We were there for our game on January 8, and if not for the legion of Sabres fans that showed, it would have been empty.  And that was a Saturday night.  I just don’t know how the team can and will survive there.  It’s a great building with an awesome entertainment complex attached for pre and post game activities.  But it’s on the wrong side of the Valley, making it a hassle of a drive from the more heavily populated areas.  That’s not my opinion, but the thoughts of several ex-Buffalonians that moved to the Phoenix area and would attend more games if it were more convenient.  It will be a shame if it doesn’t work out for all of the people that have gone to great lengths to make hockey work in the desert, and for all the kids that started playing because of the Coyotes.  Plus, it’s a great road trip for all of the teams from cold weather cities to hit the heat during the grind of the season.

- Finally, thank you for all of your positive feedback on my recent stint filling in for R.J. in his play-by-play chair.  It’s an honor to call games for the Buffalo Sabres, and in the NHL.   It’s been the fourth year I’ve filled in and I’ve had goose bumps each time.  Kudos also goes out to Mark Jeanneret and Dan Dunleavy.  It’s not easy jumping into any broadcast for a game or two, but even tougher when filling in for a legend like Rick.  They were both very good and handled it with professionalism and class. 
POSTED ON Thursday, 01.13.2011 / 1:24 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES
I’m back by popular demand.  That really means Scott out web guru said, “Hey Sylvester, it’s been forever since you’ve done a blog.”  He’s right, but I have the World Jr’s, Christmas, and the West Coast trip as good excuses. Anyway, here we go…..

The best hockey game I’ve witnessed in person in 2010 was Canada vs. Sweden on New Year’s Eve during the IIHF World Jr. Championship.  Sweden won in a shootout.  The game was end to end with excitement and the crowd was awesome.  What added to it was watching the shootout from the penalty box with Lindy Ruff waiting to present the Player of the Game awards.  It was fun to see his enjoyment of the game and comments during the shootout (sorry, they won’t be shared).

Major kudos to Marcus Foligno of team Canada.  The Sabres draft pick and son of Buffalo Sabres Hall of Famer Mike Foligno was a beast down low and along the wall.  I couldn’t be happier for him considering what he’s been through in the past year with the passing of his mother, and the fact that he carries himself extremely well.  He’s the kind of kid you want your kids to root for. 

It was tough to see Team USA lose to Canada, but not as tough as it was hearing about from Rob Ray for the rest of the trip out west.  By the way Rob, what the heck happened against Russia?

Speaking of out West, could the trip have gone any better?  When you throw in the Alberta portion before New Year’s, the Sabres took 7 of a possible 10 points.  That’s exactly what this team needs to do the rest of the way.  It would have been 8 of 10 if not for the unlucky break of Tyler Ennis’ stick making the save on Luke Adam.  File that under, just when you thought you’ve seen everything.

If you haven’t seen it by now and need a good laugh, check out me in net for Niagara University.  It was done during the fall and maybe the most humbling thing I’ve done, but it was also a lot of fun.  I did make a few decent saves on a radio guy and a weatherman, but also let in some horrible goals.  All in all it was a great experience and gave me a greater perspective and appreciation for what Miller, Lalime and NHL goaltenders are capable of.  A quick shout out to my trainer Andy, whose flexibility work saved me from ripping every muscle in my legs off the bone.

The All-Star rosters have been announced and the only Sabres player to make it is Tyler Ennis for the rookie skills competition.  I’m wasn’t completely surprised, but then I saw a couple of names on the roster that can be questioned.  Thomas Vanek is certainly having a better season than Patrick Elias of New Jersey, and Alex Hemsky of Edmonton.  Elias has 9 goals 21 assists, while Hemsky has 9 goals and 15 helpers.  Vanek has 16 goals and 15 assists through the midpoint of the season.  The argument for Hemsky is that he has played just 27 games due to injury, and whom else is the league going to take from Edmonton?  Oh wait, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall also made the rookie skills competition.   Joe Thornton is a glaring omission in San Jose.  Jumbo has 10 goals and 25 assists, but somehow didn’t make the cut.  I’m sure both Vanek and he don’t mind, as it means the weekend off at the end of the month.  I’m not sure if Jordan Leopold would mind having the weekend off, but you can make a good case for his inclusion too.  Leopold is 4th in the NHL in goals scored by defensemen behind Dustin Byfuglien, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Brent Burns.  The latter three will all be in Raleigh at the end of the month.  Erick Karlsson of the Sens is going, as is Marc Staal of the Rangers.  Karlsson has one more point than Leopold, but is a –11.  Staal has just 6 goals and 11 assists, but does have a plus 9 to Leopold’s –5.  Leopold is in good company, as Keith Yandle of the Coyotes, and John Michael Liles of the Avalanche were also snubbed.

Does anybody else think they figured out the movie Inception half way through
POSTED ON Thursday, 12.2.2010 / 1:22 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES
It feels like the All Star break with all the time between games.  Five days off between games feels like an eternity in today’s NHL, but Sabres need the break.  November saw the Sabres play 13 games in 25 days.  You won’t hear the team complain about it, and rightfully so since most teams face similar stretches, but that’s a grind.  I’m sure the players are sick of practice, and Lindy Ruff chuckled today when I asked if they have “embraced” the time to work on their game, but it certainly can’t hurt a team that has lost three close ones in the last week.

Drew Stafford is heading towards a return this weekend from an upper body injury.  I’m anxious to see if can jump back in and go to the net as he did to start the season.  The interesting thing will be to see where Lindy Ruff puts him in the lineup. 

The same can be said for Nathan Gerbe.  Where does Lindy put him?  I love his effort and work ethic.  He has a great shot.  He was a goal scorer in the AHL and has had some great looks at the net recently.  He’s been on the first power play unit, yet no goals on the season.  It’s somewhat puzzling, but I have a feeling when he breaks through and gets his first, many more will follow.

At the risk of sounding shameless, the new book Sabres at Forty is a must for the diehard Sabres fan.  The coffee table book is really well done.  It has photos from some of the great moments in team history and moments candid in nature.  Two of my favorite things from the book are a quote from longtime employee Christine Ivansitz (still working here today with a smile) on the office dress code in the original days, and a photo of the French Connection on a tarmac.  The book also comes with a 40th anniversary DVD with commentary and interviews from key players in the team’s history.  I’m sure some of you think management asked me to plug the book in my blog, but that’s not the case.  I don’t even know what the price is, but am pretty sure it’s worth it.

Finally, I was saddened to hear that hockey writer Jim Kelley lost his battle with cancer.  Many of you know that he was the Sabres beat writer and columnist for The Buffalo News for a good portion of his 32 years at the paper.  I had the pleasure of working with him and against him during my days on radio with WBEN and WGR.  I was just a 24-year-old kid when I first met him and co-hosted a show with him on occasion on WBEN.  Admirably, he didn’t treat me like a kid.  He treated me with respect, and that followed suit outside of the station.  He would beat me to “hello” before a press conference, or stop a conversation with a writer from another team to give acknowledgement.  It was classy.  I recall the first time I traveled to cover the Sabres in the playoffs, the 1998 first round series in Montreal.  Jim organized a dinner outing for the Buffalo media, and made sure I was a part of it (he probably even paid).  He had story after story, and I felt like somebody being part of his circle that night.  I also won’t forget that he was one of the first to reach out to me when I was going through some adversity.  He offered words of encouragement and advice.  I tried my best to reciprocate the few times I saw him at the rink to cover the Sabres during his battle with cancer, knowing that the prognosis wasn’t promising.   It doesn’t seem fair that he was taken one month before his induction into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame on January 1st.  I can’t say Jim Kelley and I were friends, but friendly acquaintance seems appropriate.  I can say I’m a better person and hockey broadcaster for knowing him. 
POSTED ON Thursday, 11.11.2010 / 1:12 PM ET
By Kevin Sylvester - Sabres Hockey Hotline Host (@kevsylvester) / SLY NOTES
-The sun is out and the team has won two in a row.  What a difference a week makes!

-You have to be impressed with Jhonas Enroth.  After a disastrous start against Boston last week, the kid came through with two big shootout wins.  He was borderline excellent in Toronto, including a tremendous glove save on Phil Kessel in the shootout.  I liked his game in New Jersey, too.  He even intimidated Ilya Kovalchuk, as “The Contract” failed to even shoot the puck to keep the game alive.  I know that wasn’t it for Kovalchuk, but what a horrible play for the goal scorer and another fine moment for Enroth. 

-Congratulations to Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier for 1,000 games with the Buffalo Sabres.  It’s truly an amazing feat in today’s world of professional sports.  Buffalo is a different place and there were some extenuating circumstances that added to their longevity (bankruptcy and the lockout come to mind).  For those that think it’s been too long, you obviously don’t talk to those in the know in the NHL.  The duo has the respect of most around the league, and as any good business person knows, you don’t get rid of good people. 

-A friend asked me why Ryan Miller can practice, but not play?  Goaltenders are different.  They have to be right physically and trust that their knee (or other injured area) won’t give out when forced to make a sudden move to make a save.  A skater can restrict his stride a bit and deal with an injury differently than a goaltender.  The training staff and Lindy Ruff are right to trust Miller to let them know when things are right and he can play. 

-The NHL GM’s decided against a coaches challenge similar to the system used in football.  It sounded like a good idea to me until Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson made a great argument last Saturday before the game against the Sabres.  Wilson said that if he challenged a referee and embarrassed him with a reversal, then his team would pay for it the rest of the game.  He’s right.  Referees are human and certainly have bias toward certain coaches and players.  If you doubt that, just look at some of the penalties and misconducts Patrick Kaleta has been assessed so far this season.

Official NHL All-Star Website
-Glad to see the GMs and the league are trying to spice up the All-Star Game to peak interest.   They will have two teams with captains that will select players in alternating fashion just like a pick-up pond game.   That sounds cool, and will add some intrigue, but you still have to play the game and have it be more than a matador festival.  Of course, like every other skeptic, I have no other original idea at the moment to spice up the game either.

-Finally, thank you to all the men and women of our military that have served and are serving our country.   The gratitude that we all share should not be minimized in any way.  My favorite moment during games in most arenas in the league is when a soldier or serviceman is recognized on the video board.  The ovation is appropriate and never gets old.  Neither does the look of pride from the serviceman being honored.  Many of us have no idea what  it’s like to go through what our grandfathers did in WWII, our fathers in Vietnam, or our friends and family currently in the Middle East.  They did it, or do it, for little pay, but for the pride of our country.  Nothing could be more honorable.  A simple thank you doesn’t seem like enough.


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