WASHINGTON – Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan’s career is rooted in junior hockey. His head coaching career started when he took over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League during the 1988-89 season. There, he ended up winning two OHL Championships and the Memorial Cup in 1993-94.
Between NHL coaching stints, he was also been behind the bench for the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and won a QMJHL championship in 2005-06.
So when he, Sabres president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine and new general manager Tim Murray made the decision to loan 19-year-old rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko to the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, they saw it as being the move that would be most beneficial to Grigorenko's development and future success.
However, multiple media outlets have reported that Grigorenko has refused to report to Quebec and his status with the Sabres remains unclear.
Before the Sabres’ afternoon game against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center, Nolan spoke with the media and addressed the situation.
“We knew obviously players would be disappointed when things like that happen, but [we had] no indication that he wouldn’t report,” Nolan said. “It’s one thing that you learn what you can control, what you can’t control. Tim and Pat will take care of that. I’ve got this group of guys to worry about that are here.”
Nolan stressed the importance he places on development, particularly at the junior level and cited Norris Trophy-winning defenseman P.K. Subban as a great example of patience with development paying off.
“I come from the junior background. P.K. Subban played four years in Belleville [of the Ontario Hockey League] and he turned out pretty good,” he said. “There are different leagues for different players. Some guys turn out better playing college hockey. Some guys turn out better playing junior hockey. It’s just one of those situations that whatever’s a good fit but junior hockey’s a good place to develop.”
Neither LaFontaine nor Murray traveled with the team to Washington, so they were unavailable to comment on what they plan to do next in regards to Grigorenko.
The last time the Sabres and Capitals met, Ryan Miller made a career-high 49 saves in a 2-1 shootout win at First Niagara Center.
Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin had 12 shots, but didn’t record a point in 21:40 of ice time.
Nolan said that while he was pleased his team was able to keep most of Washington’s 50 shots to the outside, they likely won’t be able to come out of the game Sunday afternoon with two points if they once again surrender that many shot attempts.
“He’s too dynamic,” Nolan said. “You eventually give that much, something’s going to go in eventually. We’re going to hopefully limit his shots to maybe half of that today.”
Cody Hodgson and Ville Leino are expected to return to the lineup after missing time with injuries. John Scott will be the team’s healthy scratch. Ryan Miller, who hasn’t played since Jan. 4 due to scheduling changes, is expected to start in goal for the Sabres.
Coming off a bronze-medal performance with Team Russia in the IIHF World Junior Championship, Mikhail Grigorenko was back on the ice with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday at First Niagara Center.
He won’t play Thursday night against the Florida Panthers at 7 p.m., but the 19-year-old rookie center was excited to return. He led Team Russia with five goals and three assists in seven games in the tournament.
“I think this year, I was more of a leader on the team,” Grigorenko said after Buffalo’s optional morning skate. “I was leading by example and pretty much all the players on the team knew that I was from the NHL and they were just looking up to me. I was really happy about my experience there. ”
This was Grigorenko’s third time playing in the World Junior Championship. While he would have liked to win gold, he believes he gained a lot more experience this year. He was put in situations that he believes have helped his all-around game.
“Maybe previously, I was playing more offensively. I didn’t really think about defense or little details like faceoffs or winning battles,” he said. “This year, I played a really good two-way game. I thought I played good defensively and I also played on the penalty kill. I thought I was more of a complete player. I was doing a lot of good stuff for the team offensively and defensively.”
WATCH: MIKHAIL GRIGORENKO INTERVIEW
Grigorenko hopes to stick with the Sabres, but it’s uncertain how long he will be in Buffalo, however. He could be returned to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Sabres management will meet as soon as after the game on Thursday to discuss his future.
Making a decision is a priority for new general manager Tim Murray.
“He just came back from Europe,” Murray said. “And in all honesty, I got here last night and started talking about scenarios and we’re past the point of having four different scenarios. There are two scenarios and we’ll decide one of those two here very quickly.”
The team announced that Murray had been named the new GM in a press conference Thursday after practice.
Jhonas Enroth is expected to start in goal.
He’ll make up for his missed start Tuesday night when the team’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes was postponed due to inclement weather. That game has since been rescheduled for Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.
Hodgson wore a red non-contact jersey for the second day in a row. He’s been out since Dec. 21 with an upper-body injury.
GREAT SEATS STILL AVAILABLE FOR TONIGHT'S GAME
Leino, in a normal yellow jersey the forwards wear on game days, worked with the assistant coaches after the skate. Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said they were going to push him pretty hard and then see how he responds.
Leino has missed two games with a lower-body injury.
The Sabres will be without two of their top defensemen. Alternate captain Henrik Tallinder is out due to an upper-body injury and Tyler Myers will serve the first game of a three-game suspension handed down by the NHL Department of Player Safety.
In the team’s last game, Myers hit New Jersey Devils forward Dainius Zubrus in the head and received a two-minute minor. After a phone hearing Monday, the League decided to suspend Myers for three games.
WATCH: MIKE WEBER INTERVIEW
Tallinder has missed three games and Myers has worn an “A” in his place. Now with Myers out, Nolan announced that Mike Weber will serve as an alternate captain.
“It’s a huge honor and it kind of makes you a little bit speechless. I’ve tried to be a leader without it for a long time,” Weber said. “I’ve always tried to play the same way, play a hard game and be hard to play against. The most important thing is be a good teammate in the locker room.”
Zenon Konopka said he should’ve listened to his pet rabbit.
After being claimed off of waivers by the Buffalo Sabres on Friday, Konopka set out to make the trip from Minnesota by plane. Hoppy will opt for a car ride later this week.
Konopka’s connecting flight was at LaGuardia Airport in New York but once he got there, there was a chance he might not make it to Buffalo in time for the Sabres’ game Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center.
“The flight got delayed four hours and then canceled,” Konopka said. “But the tough part was they said they could get me in on Sunday, and I said, ‘That’s not going to work.’ So we found another flight at JFK, the other airport in New York. And then they lost my bags.”
By 3 a.m., he had his bags, and made it to JFK later that morning. However, he still wasn’t quite in the clear.
“We were on the tarmac for almost two hours this morning but finally got in here,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”
Konopka took the ice just before 11 a.m. on Saturday as the Sabres optional morning skate was wrapping up. He made it in the end, but he figures he maybe should’ve taken Hoppy’s method of transportation.
“Hoppy’s not a huge flyer,” Konopka said, laughing. “He wanted to drive so my buddy was down in Minnesota. He’s going to chauffer Hoppy up to Buffalo in the next couple days and he’s pretty excited as well.”
Known for his toughness and faceoff prowess, Nolan hopes that Konopka’s attitude and work ethic will leave a lasting impression on some of the younger players on the team.
“The one thing we really want to do is change the culture a little bit here, getting some guys that play with a little sandpaper to rub off on the other players,” Nolan said. “…You learn from your peers probably more so than you learn from coaches sometimes. Guys talk all the time in the locker room. So hopefully some traits that make him successful like the draws, a Tyler Ennis could learn from down the road.”
Konopka, who celebrated his 33rd birthday on Thursday, grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. and remembers going to Sabres games at the Aud with his father to cheer on players like Gilbert Perreault, Lindy Ruff, Mike Foligno, Dave Andreychuk and Donald Audette.
WATCH: KONOPKA MEETS THE BUFFALO MEDIA
He’ll have some family and friends in attendance on Saturday and likely more for games in the future.
“One of my buddies said, ‘You’re going to be playing for free here by the time you’re done paying for tickets,’” Konopka said. “It’s something that I want my friends and family to enjoy too. They’ve been there the whole way for me and now to come back home and play in front of them is pretty special.”
Ville Leino, who missed the team’s last game with a lower-body injury, skated Saturday morning but will not play against New Jersey. Leino is hoping to be ready for Tuesday night when the Sabres take on the Hurricanes at home.
“I thought he looked good today, but the injury he had was pretty serious so we’re going to give him a little more time,” Nolan said.
WATCH: TED NOLAN'S PREGAME PRESS CONFERENCE
Defenseman Brayden McNabb will return to the lineup. He was a healthy scratch against the Wild on Thursday. He will take Alexander Sulzer’s spot in the lineup and Nolan said that McNabb will see some time on special teams.
“We have to be more conservative, more consistent and be aware,” McNabb said of the defensive corps. “When we’re going, you have to be 100 percent sure when you’re going to pinch and when you’re going to take those chances. It’s something where you have to read the situation and make sure you jump at the right spots.”
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal.
With Henrik Tallinder out with an upper-body injury, his regular defensive partner Tyler Myers has been serving as an alternate captain in his place. Nolan made the decision based on Myers’ recent stretch of strong play.
“The way he’s transformed his game over the last month, he’s getting better and better,” Nolan said. “He’s getting more competitive. He’s getting more engaged with the play. He’s getting louder in practice. It really looks like he’s maturing into that type of defenseman, type of leader that we need on this team.”
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers was back on the ice at Xcel Energy Center for the team’s morning skate on Thursday after taking a maintenance day on Wednesday.
He said he’s feeling great and is ready to go against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. The game is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. in Buffalo.
With his normal defensive partner Henrik Tallinder out for at least a week with an injury, Myers was paired with Mike Weber on Tuesday against Winnipeg. Myers said that Weber’s ability to communicate well has made it easy for the two to find some chemistry.
“I thought we went really well last game together,” he said. “I thought a big thing for us we were talking to each other really well and making sure we knew the other was supporting. I thought the communication we had the way we moved the puck to each other was a great start for us here.”
Captain Steve Ott did not partake in the morning skate. He practiced with the team Wednesday, but was given a maintenance day by the coaching staff on Thursday.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said that Ott will play against the Wild.
“He’s a competitive guy and once in a while you have to pull him back and give him some rest to makes sure he’s good for games,” Nolan said.
Ryan Miller, coming off the announcement that he had made Team USA’s roster for the Olympic Games in Sochi, is expected to start in goal.
The line of center Matt Ellis, left wing John Scott and right wing Matt D’Agostini could be considered the fourth line, but that’s not how they’re approaching it. Scott scored his first goal of the season on Friday and they’ve promoted themselves since then.
“Johnny doesn’t think we’re a fourth line. Since he scored, we’ve been calling ourselves the second line,” D’Agostini said with a grin. “Our job is just to provide energy, go out there and forecheck. That’s where we’ve been getting our chances, so the second line’s got to be good again tonight.”
Johan Larsson was drafted by the Wild in 2010 and played one year in Minnesota’s system before being traded to the Sabres at the NHL Trade Deadline last year. He made his NHL debut with the Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 17, 2013.
He’ll be in Buffalo's lineup Thursday night for the injured Ville Leino.
“I played one game here so it’s going to be fun,” he said. “I know a lot of people over on the team and I know the staff so it’s nice to be back here in the building and hopefully we get a win here”
The Wild are have lost six in a row and have only two wins in their past 10 games. Minnesota’s power play is currently 13th in the NHL. They’ve converted on 18.9 percent of their opportunities with the man advantage.
“We want to stay out of the box,” Nolan said. “They’ve been having a little bit of trouble 5-on-5, but the majority of their goals have been coming on the power play so we want to stay out of the box.”
The Sabres tried to create a lot of traffic in front of the net against the Jets and that will be a continued point of emphasis from the coaching staff.
“The majority of our play, we want to make sure we have a net-front presence. The last few games, we’ve been skating by like a fly-by,” Nolan said. “We want to stop by and see If there are any rebounds for us to collect.”
TORONTO – The Buffalo Sabres played shorthanded in their last game. It looks like they’ll have a full crew ready to go Friday night.
Four players – Ville Leino, Marcus Foligno, Linus Omark and Alexander Sulzer – missed Buffalo’s game on Monday with the flu. Buffalo played the game with 16 skaters and won 2-1 in overtime after the puck fell into goaltender Mike Smith’s pants and he inadvertently backed up across the goal line.
Coming off the three-day holiday break, the team has had some much-needed time to recuperate. All of the sick players were back on the ice for the team’s morning skate at Air Canada Centre as the Sabres prepare for their matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:30 p.m.
Omark, whom the team acquired in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 19, finally got his first practice in with Buffalo.
“It was good to be back on the ice,” he said. “I had a couple days off now and I’ve been sick so I’m excited to play tonight.”
In his Sabres debut against Boston on Saturday, he played 12:57 and was a minus-1. He also committed a penalty early in the game that led to a Bruins power-play goal. Omark said he’s hoping to rebound from that game.
“I have to work hard. When the chances come, you have to take it. I guess [I can] work harder,” he said. “I had a bad start and now I’ve been sick. That’s better, so keep going from there.”
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan will also be looking for a better effort from Omark.
“Not too times you get too many chances. He’s a young guy but he’s got to play with a lot more energy than he did,” Nolan said. “But we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt the first time with jet lag and getting to a new team and having the flu, but after this, he’s got to play with a lot more energy.”
Nolan said he’ll likely start Omark on a line with Leino and Foligno.
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal for Buffalo. He is 31-15-1 all-time against Toronto with a 2.44 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. Miller has more wins (31) and shutouts (4) against the Maple Leafs than any other team.
Sulzer and center Cody Hodgson are expected to be scratched. Hodgson, according to Nolan, is still “a ways away” from playing after sustaining an upper-body injury on Dec. 19. He skated on his own at the end of practice.
John Scott is expected to play in his 200th NHL game and he may continue to see an increased role on special teams. With the Sabres short-staffed last game, the coaching staff had him park in front of the net on the power play to try and drum up some chances. Nolan said Scott might be in that spot again against Toronto.
“You look at a lot of power-play goals, it’s a lot of just shooting at the net and creating screens,” Nolan said. “There’s no bigger guy that we have on this team outside of [Tyler] Myers who can make a big screen in front of the goaltender.”
Drew Stafford left the game Monday night midway through the second period after he was called for a high elbow on defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Stafford said he has not heard from the League regarding any sort of hearing. Stafford received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the infraction.
“That was tough. I felt [worse] because of the short bench,” Stafford said. “It was tough enough as it is having the three lines and we were playing a certain kind of game. And then a call like that happens, it was tough. Fortunately, the win trumps it all so that felt good with the boys battling back. That was a gutsy win so that was fun to watch.”
In that win, the Sabres played the game with only three forward lines. They utilized a defensive scheme that Nolan may have borrowed from his other coaching job with the Latvian national team.
“We had nine forwards and we wanted to try and save our legs a bit,” Sabres forward Matt Moulson said. “So that was our version of the Latvian Wall.”
This will be the fourth of five meetings between the Sabres and Maple Leafs this season. The home team has won the last five games played between the two clubs.
Overall, Buffalo is 4-0-1 in their last five home games, but hasn’t picked up on a victory on the road since Nov. 8 when they defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-4 in the shootout. Moulson hopes that’ll change Friday night.
“For some reason, we’ve been playing well at home and not getting as many victories on the road. I think we just have to play that smart game, not turning pucks over, making sure we’re limiting quality chances and continue to work.”
The Sabres had a pretty lively morning skate that at times resembled a more traditional practice. Coming off the break, Stafford said that keeping things “extra simple” and not turning the puck over against Toronto should help them earn two points.
“I think if we do that and worry about how we’re playing, that’ll translate into a good effort. We’ve had good efforts, but we’re looking for a solid game on the road," he said. "Hopefully guys are rested up. We had a good morning skate to get the rust off a little bit and get ready to go.”
In addition to their opponents on the ice, the Buffalo Sabres are battling the flu.
Four or five members of the Buffalo Sabres are ill according to interim coach Ted Nolan, including recently acquired forward Linus Omark.
Nolan wouldn’t confirm who else might be sick. Omark, Marcus Foligno, Ville Leino, Alexander Sulzer and Henrik Tallinder were among the players absent from the team’s optional morning skate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the ones under the weather.
The Sabres are scheduled to host the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center and it’s possible that some of the sick players could miss the game. It could take some real feats of strength for the sick players to be well enough to play.
“We’re hoping that they’re ready to go. Four or five of them called in this morning, couldn’t make it out of bed,” Nolan said. “So we’re hoping by gametime they’ll feel a little bit better.”
TED NOLAN PRESS CONFERENCE
Nolan said he noticed the team seemed a little sluggish in their 4-1 loss to the Bruins on Saturday. By Sunday, it was apparent that the flu was spreading.
“I kind of felt something was up with the team because we weren’t as strong. We’re not the strongest team, but at least we’re battling for the pucks. But I thought we were knocked off them pretty easy,” Nolan said. “They didn’t have that certain jump. We had it for certain periods of time, but we didn’t have it as consistently as we have the last three or four games. I kind of felt something was up. Yesterday was an indicator of that for sure.”
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal for Buffalo.
Pysyk re-joins the Sabres after being assigned to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League on Dec. 17. He played in three games for the Amerks during his time in Rochester, recording one assist.
Larsson returns to Buffalo after being assigned to Rochester on Nov. 20. He played in 13 games for the Amerks, notching nine points (2+7). He started the season with the Sabres and had one assist in 17 games.
Larsson did not participate in the morning skate, but Pysyk did take the ice.
JOHAN LARSSON INTERVIEW
Both players said they tried to remain optimistic when they were told they were being sent down.
“I played a lot, so that’s the most important [thing] for me. It’s been a little up and down playing, but I feel good,” Larsson said. “You always want to be here. But sometimes it’s good to get your confidence back, go down there and play a lot and in every situation.”
Nolan looks for Larsson to bring a solid work ethic with him to the Sabres lineup.
“We talked to the coach down in Rochester and one thing we heard and one of the reasons we brought him up is he’s competing hard,” Nolan said. “We all know his skills set. Skill is something, but if you don’t work, if skill doesn’t work, it’s no good. He’s working. He’s competing a little harder so that was a good sign.”
MARK PYSYK INTERVIEW
Pysyk has averaged 19:55 of ice time in 31 NHL games this season. He’s been on the top pairing and has also found himself as a healthy scratch. He said he spent his brief time in Rochester to work on bringing more consistency to his game.
“I don’t think you can ever be surprised. Obviously I’m in a position here where I can be down or up at any moment,” he said. “I just took the opportunity. It was fun to get down there, see all the guys from last year again. Played three games down there. They challenged us to be the best guys down there and that’s how we all took it. Just went down there and did the best we could.”
Buffalo sent defenseman Chad Ruhwedel back to Rochester.
Kevin Porter was placed on injured reserve after sustaining an injury Saturday. Nolan did not provide a timetable for how long Porter may be out.
Nolan said Cody Hodgson, who is out with an upper-body injury, is still “a ways away” from returning. None of them were on the ice with the team Monday morning.
Morning Skate Participants
BOSTON – Linus Omark joined the Buffalo Sabres in Boston on Friday after being traded from the Edmonton Oilers organization on Thursday.
Indeed, he’ll be in the lineup Saturday night when the Sabres take on the Bruins at 7 p.m. at TD Garden.
“You can say that from the beginning when I signed there, I wanted to play in the NHL and it was pretty tough,” he said. “They have some really good forwards, top six there and I never really got the chance this year. So I’m glad I ended up here.”
Omark had 29 points in 29 games with the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League. He’s excited for the chance to play in the NHL again.
“It’s been going pretty good this season. They gave me a lot of ice time down there and there are good coaches down there. They helped me a lot,” he said. “I got some confidence from playing down there and hopefully I can bring it here, too.”
He said he prefers playing on the wing and says he’s usually on the left side. He’ll start with Kevin Porter and Matt Ellis. Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said that because the team is playing well and coming off back-to-back wins, he doesn’t want to tinker with the lineup too much.
“Right now, we’re playing much better so to break up some combinations just to squeeze him in would be difficult,” Nolan said. “We’ll keep him on the so-called fourth line right now and we’ll see how we goes, give him some minutes. As we go forward here, we’ll see how it all adjusts.”
The lineup spot opens up because Cody Hodgson is expected to be out for a few weeks with an upper-body injury. Brian Flynn will remain at center between Marcus Foligno and Matt D’Agostini. Flynn moved up to that line after Hodgson left the game on Thursday.
The other change to the lineup will be in goal. Nolan said Jhonas Enroth will get the start for Buffalo.
Over the past two seasons, whenever the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres have played each other, John Scott has been in Buffalo’s lineup.
That might be the case again Thursday night when the two clubs meet at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said the 6-foot-8 left wing will be a game-time decision. Buffalo is coming off a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday and received quality minutes from all four lines. Scott was a healthy scratch for that game.
Since the coaching staff may not want to disrupt the chemistry the forwards are developing, they may try Scott on defense.
“This will be a real game-time decision whether we put him in. We’ve been working with him the last couple games,” Nolan said after the team’s optional skate Thursday morning. “Everybody played well last [game] so it depends on the mood before the game, I guess.”
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Scott did some defensive work with Chad Ruhwedel at practice Wednesday, but since the team has 13 forwards and seven defensemen, that wasn’t unusual. Scott’s practiced on defense at various points in time this season to give the team an even number on the blue line. He did some additional one-on-one skating drills Wednesday with assistant coach Joe Sacco as well.
He skated with the defensemen during the morning skate Thursday and it’s actually a pretty familiar spot for him. He played a lot of defense in his career before he signed with Buffalo in July 2012.
“I think he looks good,” Nolan said. “Defense, you just have to move the puck up or if you’re in trouble, ring it around the boards. He’s a big man that can cover a lot of ice and he’s an intelligent guy too, so he should be able to pick it up.”
Nolan did not give any clues as to which player may sit if Scott dresses, but he did say that no other lineup changes are expected. Chad Ruhwedel will be the team’s healthy scratch on defense. Ryan Miller will get the start between the pipes.
Miller is 25-9-7 against the Bruins in his career with a 2.57 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. He hasn’t lost consecutive starts to Boston since the 2008-09 season, posting a 13-4-3 record in his 20 games against the Bruins since those losses. The Bruins defeated Miller and the Sabres 5-2 in their first meeting this season on Oct. 23.
Against the Jets, the Sabres rolled four lines and scored four goals in regulation, which tied a season-high. Nolan shook up the lines a few games ago and it appears as if the new combinations are starting to click.
“We wanted a balanced attack and then all of a sudden, you needed some more minutes from the fourth line last time. They gave us that,” Nolan said. “So if you’re going to play with some energy, you have to have four lines going.”
The Sabres are hoping that they can build off that effort going into a game against an Atlantic Division rival in the Bruins. Sabres forward Marcus Foligno, who scored against Winnipeg, sees the matchup as a good measuring stick for his club.
“It’s fun playing that team. They’ve got some really talented players that you can compare yourself to,” he said. “At the same time, to beat Boston, it would be really good for our team confidence-wise. It’s going to be a tough task tonight, but I’m sure all the guys are on board for that.”
Since president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine and interim coach Ted Nolan took over last month, they’ve made moves to stock the Buffalo Sabres roster with more veteran players. Younger players have been sent to either the American Hockey League or back to juniors to gain more experience.
On Saturday, they called up Matt Ellis from the Rochester Americans of the AHL. Tuesday morning, the Sabres made room on the roster for center Kevin Porter and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel. Forward Luke Adam and defensemen Brayden McNabb and Mark Pysyk were sent down to Rochester.
While Ruhwedel has less experience than the other two call-ups, Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said all three have at least one important trait in common.
“They’re character type of guys,” Nolan said after the team’s optional morning skate at First Niagara Center. “When you’re turning around an organization like this, you need good character guys to help some of the younger guys mature and play better and also fill in those gaps so the guys in Rochester get some really quality minutes without missing too much here.”
Porter started the season with the Sabres, but was sent down to the AHL in late October when the team found itself in a numbers crunch. When the front office put LaFontaine in charge and started putting a more experienced lineup on the ice, Porter saw it as an opportunity to earn another call-up.
“I know they were going to give guys shots and they wanted to give some other young guys a shot,” he said. “I thought there might be a chance if I played well. That’s what I was focusing on was trying to play well and just work hard.”
Porter said he was in the meeting with the Sabres penalty killers, so it’s likely that he’ll see some time on special teams if Buffalo goes down a man. The 27-year-old center recorded six goals and four assists in 13 games in Rochester.
“Confidence is a huge thing for a lot of guys, especially for me. So to go down there and score some goals and get in some different situations, some penalty kill, some power play, that was good,” he said. “That was good for my confidence and to come back up here.”
WATCH: KEVIN PORTER INTERVIEW
Ruhwedel, 23, joins the Sabres for his first call-up of the season after being assigned to Rochester at the close of training camp. In his first full professional season, he doesn’t have quite the same amount of experience as the other recent call-ups, but has been grooming his game in the AHL. In 26 games with the Amerks this season, he’s racked up 14 points (4+10) and 12 penalty minutes.
He’s expected to be a healthy scratch against the Jets along with forward John Scott. When Ruhwedel does get the chance to play, he’ll look to make the most of it.
“Just prove myself, show what I have to give. I’m just going to work hard, play hard, play simple,” he said. “The rest is up to them. I’m just going to control what I can.”
An undrafted free agent out of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Ruhwedel played seven games with the Sabres at the end of the 2012-13 season to start his professional career. He signed a two-year, entry-level contract with Buffalo in April.
Nolan said that center Cody Hodgson, who has missed the past two games, will be ready to go against the Jets. Hodgson did not take part in the optional morning skate. He worked in practice Monday with wings Marcus Foligno and Matt D’Agostini.
Jamie McBain has had expanded role beside Christian Ehrhoff while Alexander Sulzer has been on injured reserve. However, with Sulzer set to return Tuesday night, Nolan said he’ll mix up the defensive pairings. That likely means Sulzer will move back with Ehrhoff and McBain will skate with Mike Weber. Henrik Tallinder and Tyler Myers would make up the other pair.
The Americans will participate in the Spengler Cup, a six-team tournament in Davos, Switzerland from Dec. 26-31. The tournament, hosted by HC Davos of Switzerland’s elite National League A, will also feature CSKA Moscow of the KHL, a team representing Canada, Czech Extraliga’s HC Vitkovice Steel and Geneve-Servette, also of National League A.
Nolan said that Pysyk, McNabb and Adam will be given the chance to compete in that tournament and hopefully help the Amerks win it.
“There’s nothing like winning,” Nolan said. “And winning breeds winning.”
WATCH: TED NOLAN'S PRESS CONFERENCE
Ellis sees them joining Rochester as a great opportunity that will help their development. He’s played with each of them over the past few seasons.
“For those guys, it’s going to be huge,” he said. “They’re going to be counted upon. They’re going to become a big piece of that hockey club and real heartbeat of that team. They all have bright futures ahead of them. I think for them, it’s just about going down, playing, enjoying the game and keep building themselves to get back and stay at this level.”
The plan is for Pysyk to be back with the Sabres once the Amerks return to North America.
“He’s going to be a different send-down. He’s not going down for a long time. He’s just going down for a few days and then they’re going over to the Spengler Cup and he’ll join us right after that,” Nolan said. “But we’re going to try to find the best way to get him some quality minutes and develop him maturity wise. He’s not a big guy yet. As we go into the season, the games are going to tougher and tougher so we want to make sure he’s in a good position.”
OTTAWA – The Buffalo Sabres enter the second half of their home-and-home series against the Ottawa Senators after winning the first game in the shootout Tuesday night in Buffalo. When the two clubs take the ice again Thursday night at Canadian Tire Centre at 7:30 p.m., the Sabres will be without one of their top offensive players.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said after the team’s morning skate that center Cody Hodgson will likely miss the game due to injury. Ville Leino, a healthy scratch Tuesday, will take his spot in the lineup.
“Cody Hodgson took a little bit of a banging last game, so he probably won’t go tonight,” Nolan said.
Nolan hopes the injury will only keep Hodgson out for one game. Hodgson was on the ice with the team during the morning skate.
Hodgson is second on the team in scoring with 18 points (8+10). Matt Moulson leads the team with 10 goals and 10 assists this season and has four goals and seven assists since being acquired from the New York Islanders 18 games ago.
The only other expected change to the Sabres roster will take place on the blueline. Defenseman Mike Weber will be back in. Brayden McNabb will sit.
Weber has three points (1+2) in his last three games against the Senators. His seven points (1+6) in 18 career games against the Senators are his highest total against any team.
Defenseman Alexander Sulzer skated with the team, but remains on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. He's missed the past three games.
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal against Ottawa’s Craig Anderson. Miller is 7-3-1 in his last 11 road games at Ottawa with a .939 save percentage and a 1.85 goals against average.
One thing Nolan liked about his club’s game in the 2-1 shootout win was the effort the players showed.
“The one I think is the way we competed. It seemed like the guys were having fun,” he said. “They were battling. They were playing hockey versus just sitting down and hoping and waiting for things to happen. They were actually playing and it was a good game. Whether the result was the way it was, it was just to watch the process and how guys are starting to work.”
Sabres left wing Luke Adam knows that Buffalo will have to stay on its toes as soon as the puck drops. The Sabres are looking for consecutive wins against the Senators for the first time since they won four in a row from Feb. 25, to Nov. 11, 2011.
“It’s not a bad thing to play a team back-to-back, especially with us coming out on top the first night. We know they’re going to be real hungry,” he said. “You never want to lose two in a row, especially two in a row to the same team. We’re going to be ready right off the start here.”
This home-and-home series is the seventh between these two teams and the first since Feb.7 and Feb. 11, 2009.
On Thursday, 19-year-old rookie forward Zemgus Girgensons scored both Buffalo’s goal in regulation and the goal that decided the shootout. He enters the game on Thursday on a career-best three-game point streak (2+1).
He played on the top line with Tyler Ennis at center and Moulson on the left wing. Both Girgensons and Moulson have enjoyed playing with Ennis in the middle.
“It’s awesome. I love it. He hangs onto the puck and he makes ridiculous moves throughout the whole game,” Girgensons said. “It’s fun to play with him.”
Moulson said he thinks they’ll continue to develop chemistry moving forward. He liked the line’s offensive opportunities and looks forward to turning more than a few passes from Ennis into goals.
“I thought we played pretty well. We had a lot of chances to put the puck in the back of the net. There were some good stops, some defensive plays that kept us from that. But [Girgensons] got the one big goal for us so it was a lot of fun to play with those guys,” Moulson said. “Tyler likes to pass it more often than not so I always enjoy playing with a guy like that. And [Girgensons has] got great speed and gets in on the forecheck, plays aggressive. I think the more we play together, the better we’ll get.”
Girgensons was also involved in a play Tuesday night that resulted in a suspension. The NHL Department of Player Safety announced Wednesday that Senators defenseman Jared Cowen has been suspended two games for illegally hitting Girgensons in the head with 1:53 remaining in regulation.
The fact that Girgensons was not injured on the play and later scored the shootout winner factored in to NHL vice-president of player safety Brendan Shanahan's decision, as did Cowen's lack of a disciplinary history.
No penalty was called on the play.
Girgensons said he does not hold a grudge against Cowen.
“It’s hockey. We played a game where it happens,” Girgensons said. “I definitely have made dirty hits in my life too, so it’s just how it is and he got suspended two games. That’s just how it is.”
Right after the hit, Girgensons chased Cowen down around the Ottawa net and appeared as if he wanted to fight Cowen. However, he changed his mind and skated back down the ice.
“I think everyone should get mad if you get hit right in the head because I could feel the force all the way in my head so I got a little mad,” he said. “I could’ve gotten an instigator if something happened so I think it was just better to leave it there.”