Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray and 2014 first-round draft pick Samson Reinhart met with the media Monday morning in Buffalo.
On his first day in Buffalo, first-round draft pick Samson Reinhart speaks exclusively with SabresTV's Brian Duff.
The 2014-15 regular-season schedule is out.
Here are some dates to keep an eye on:
- Buffalo has 25 home games on weekends – including Fridays – and holidays. Last season, Buffalo hosted only 16 weekend and holiday games.
- The Sabres open their season at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, Oct. 9 and then head out to Chicago for the Blackhawks’ home opener on Oct. 11.
- Buffalo will play Anaheim in a 3 p.m. home game on Columbus Day (Oct. 13).
- The Toronto Maple Leafs come to First Niagara Center on Nov. 15 and April 1.
- Before Thanksgiving, check out the Sabres and Jets on Wednesday, Nov. 26.
- Buffalo will face the defending Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings at home on Dec. 9.
- Celebrate New Year’s Eve with a match between Buffalo and Tampa Bay at 6 p.m.
- All-Star Weekend will be held on Jan. 24-25 in Columbus this season.
- Right after the break, Buffalo will head West for games in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. They then go right to Montreal before a five-game homestand from Feb. 7-15.
- The Sabres will then have five road games in a row from Feb. 28-March 11 with stops in Florida, Tampa, Ottawa, Washington and Toronto.
- Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks return to town on April 3.
- The home portion of the regular-season schedule ends on April 11 when the Penguins come to town.
- On Saturday, the NHL will announce the date of each club’s home opener.
- The full NHL schedule is set to be released Sunday afternoon.
- On Monday, the Hockey Hall of Fame will announce its Class of 2014. Former Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek is eligible for induction this year. Hasek was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in April and will have his No. 39 retired during the 2014-15 season.
- On Thursday, the NHL Board of Governors will meet in New York City.
- On Friday, June 27, the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft will begin at 7 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
- Round 2 will begin on Saturday, June 28 at 10 a.m.
Stay tuned to Sabres.com for developments on all fronts.
The Buffalo Sabres are looking for new assistant coaches and general manager Tim Murray and coach Ted Nolan are getting closer to narrowing down their list of candidates.
“We compared names – guys that have called him, guys that have called me,” Murray said on Thursday. “He’s talked to a lot of potential assistants in the last couple weeks so he’ll talk to them. He’ll tell me what he thinks of them and then we have to come to a decision together – who the right guys are. So it’s in the process.”
Murray confirmed that Joe Sacco has accepted a job within the organization as a professional scout. Sacco was relieved of his assistant coaching duties at the end of the season but was then offered this new role.
He’s already been given the team’s list of unrestricted free agent targets and has been familiarizing himself with the software that the scouts use.
“I think as an assistant coach and a head coach the last few years that he has some insight on some of those players – not every player on that list – but some players on that list,” Murray said. “He’s excited and he’s ready to go.”
Murray is responsible for the management of the Rochester Americans as well. Chadd Cassidy has been retained as head coach and – for now – his entire staff is returning as well. That, however, doesn’t mean that circumstances could change.
“Today, yes. Things happen every day, right? I met with Chadd yesterday. We had a great meeting. The staff was back today,” Murray said. “That’s not to say if Jacques Lemaire called and said he’d love to be the third assistant in Rochester that we wouldn’t hire him, right? But the staff is back as is, yes.”
Murray also said he's offered Randy Cunneyworth a new job within the organization but is waiting to hear back from him. Cunneyworth served as a special assistant and player development coach last season, with a focus on the Amerks.
While the 2014 NHL Draft is a week away, Sabres general manager Tim Murray also has free agency on his mind.
He told reporters on Thursday that he’s fielded calls from agents around the League to find out what areas the team would like to address come July 1.
“We have needs everywhere and when I talk to GMs or agents – more agents – [about] their potential free agent list, they ask, ‘What are your needs?’ And we have needs everywhere,” Murray said. “On this team and in Rochester, probably goaltending is what I say is not a pressing need. But everywhere else, we can use help throughout the lineup. ”
“…And when you get those calls, I assume that they have people in their stable that they feel this is the right spot. I don’t think they’re just calling all 30 GMs and asking that question.”
Murray is also exploring trade routes, not just for another first-round pick in this year’s draft, but for players that can help the team next season as well. He also said he’s looking at “late bloomers” – players hitting free agency that are 27 or 28 and feel they will have better opportunities with another club.
“What’s attractive to some players may not be attractive to other players. I think we’re attractive to a certain type of player,” he said.
He also didn't agree with the idea that the team would overpay for players with limited talent and upside.
“I don’t think they necessarily all have to be bad players,” he said. “I think they can be guys that need an opportunity that certainly see opportunity here.”
The salary cap is expected to go up, so that means it will also cost more to reach the floor. Murray doesn’t think hitting that number is going to be much of a problem for his club. The challenge is spending that money on the right players.
The cap floor is something he really doesn’t like talking about.
“I hear about it all the time. It’s a distraction. You get into the middle of a meeting and then someone walks in the door and talks about the floor,” he said. “It’s easy to spend money. I don’t like spending money but it’s easy to spend money. People want your money so it’s not hard to give away. It’s just, are the right players or are the guys we like, are they going to approach us to take our money?”
Murray then went on to address the front office’s decision to use a compliance buyout on forward Ville Leino’s contract. Leino signed a six-year deal with the team in 2011. He finished his three-year tenure with the Sabres with 10 goals and 36 assists in 137 games.
“If you’re talking in Ville’s instance, the alternative, to buy him out and keep him on the cap is six years. That’s not interesting to us,” he said.
If the Sabres had used a standard buyout on Leino’s contract, the payout would count against the cap for double the length of the term remaining. Murray expects the team to be increasingly competitive each year and he would rather be able to allocate that money elsewhere.
“Six years down the road is not suitable to have that cap hit. And to keep [Leino] on the team – after we had our internal meetings and decided that he didn’t fit going forward – that was not an option either,” he said. “So this was the only option and I don’t think that’s going to affect our ability to get to the floor.”
Two restricted free agents are going to have Tim Murray’s attention this summer. The Buffalo Sabres general manager said that he’s talked with Tyler Ennis’ agent and has had discussions this week with Marcus Foligno’s agent as well.
Ennis, in his fourth full NHL season, scored a career-high 21 goals in 2013-14 and he became more confident as the season wore on.
On Thursday, Murray shot down the notion that the term and value of Ennis' new contract will be tied to the necessity of reaching the salary cap floor.
“I like his approach to the game. I like his compete level. I like his speed,” Murray said of Ennis. “There’s a lot of things I like about him and if we can do a long-term deal with him then obviously the decision we’ve made is we’d go forward with him.”
The Sabres selected Ennis in the first round of the 2008 NHL Draft (26th overall).
ENNIS: "I'M GLAD I GOT 21 BUT I WANT TO GET 30. I WANT TO GET 40."
At his year-end press conference, Murray said that Foligno was contemplating surgery on his shoulder and he confirmed on Thursday that Foligno did in fact go through with a procedure. According to Murray, the injury affected the 22-year-old wing’s play last season.
Foligno finished the year with 19 points and 82 penalty minutes in 74 games.
“He had shoulder surgery which I think hindered his year a little bit this year. So there might be a philosophical difference on what they think he could’ve achieved versus what he did achieve,” Murray told SabresTV’s Brian Duff.
Because of that potential, Murray sees Foligno as a vital piece moving forward.
FOLIGNO STRIVES FOR CONSISTENCY
“I think that Marcus is somebody that we want to go forward with here. He’s a big body with skill,” Murray said. “When we’re looking at the draft or we’re looking at free agency, that’s the type of player we’re trying to acquire. We have him in the organization. We have to work with him.”
Buffalo’s other restricted free agents include forwards Cory Conacher, Luke Adam and Shawn Szydlowski, defensemen Jamie McBain, Chad Ruhwedel, Nick Crawford and Matt MacKenzie and goaltenders Matt Hackett and Connor Knapp.
At forward, the Buffalo Sabres are close to full strength.
Drew Stafford is set to return to the lineup when the Sabres take on the New York Rangers on Thursday at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m. He’s missed the past four games due to injury, but practiced with the team at First Niagara Center on Wednesday and said he feels like he’s ready to go.
Stafford has battled injuries in the second half of the season, but when he’s been on the ice, he’s been productive.
Stafford has averaged 20:04 of ice time and posted 20 points (11+9) in 26 games since the season’s halfway mark. In the 41 games prior to the midway point, Stafford had 13 points (4+9) in and averaged 17:36 per game.
He’s hoping to finish the last three games of the season off strong.
“It’s been like that for a while. With us being out of the playoffs, we’re playing for pride, playing to just get a little bit of respect and hopefully finish the year strong,” he said. “Have a healthy, productive summer and just get ready for next year. It all starts with just trying to have a good finish.”
On defense, the Sabres are without Tyler Myers, Alexander Sulzer and Chad Ruhwedel. Henrik Tallinder has also missed the past four games, but hopes to play on Thursday as well. He and Sabres coach Ted Nolan have deemed him a gametime decision.
“You can still feel it a little bit, but it’s not pain so that’s good,” Tallinder said. “…If it’s going to be worse tomorrow then I’m not going to play, but we’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”
Once Tallinder is ready, the team will send Mark Pysyk back to the Amerks. Nolan said they haven’t decided if Rasmus Ristolainen will play out the season in Buffalo because it depends on the number of healthy bodies they have available.
Nolan also said that with only three games remaining and with Myers not practicing with the team, that it’s likely the defenseman’s season is over. Myers got hurt on March 25 when he crashed into the goal post after getting tripped up on an offensive rush.
The team would rather see him condition in the offseason than rehab.
“We’re going on the road for two games and we come back for one and he hasn’t stepped on the ice for a week so, I’m a betting man, he’s not going to see any more game action until next season,” Nolan said.
In goal, Nolan plans to start Matt Hackett the rest of the way out.
Andrey Makarov has been recalled to back him up, but he’ll return to the Amerks to play Friday night. The Amerks play games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week as they try to clinch a playoff berth.
Makarov has been solid for the Amerks since he was called up from the ECHL on March 17. In six games with Rochester, he’s posted a 3-3-0 record and registered a 2.70 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.
“I’ll just enjoy my moment right now and be on the bench and help my teammates and just support my teammates,” Makarov said. “I think it’s a great feeling.”
The Sabres will have to find another back-up goaltender for their games on Saturday and Sunday once they send Makarov back to Rochester.
80 Chris Stewart – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford – 88 Cory Conacher
19 Cody Hodgson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 17 Torrey Mitchell
82 Marcus Foligno – 65 Brian Flynn – 27 Matt D’Agostini
37 Matt Ellis - 24 Zenon Konopka – 23 Ville Leino
Even with some healthy bodies on the way, the Buffalo Sabres have added a few more names to their injury report.
Marcus Foligno will be back in the lineup Tuesday night when Buffalo hosts the Detroit Red Wings at First Niagara Center. Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell and Christian Ehrhoff will be gametime decisions.
Two Sabres sustained concussions in their game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.
Chad Ruhwedel was hit in the head by Philadelphia Flyers wing Zac Rinaldo early in the third period and was forced to leave the game. Rinaldo was given a match penalty for hitting Ruhwedel, was ejected by the game and faces a hearing with the NHL on Monday.
“The League will take care of that,” Nolan said after practice on Monday at First Niagara Center. “They’ve seen the same thing we’ve all seen so I’m quite sure they’ll do what’s required.”
Goaltender Nathan Lieuwen took a shot to the head from Flyers forward Jay Rosehill late in the game as Rosehill cut across the crease. He finished the game, but did not feel well enough to speak with the media afterward.
Lieuwen has a history of concussions that nearly derailed his career back when he played junior hockey.
The Sabres medical staff will treat both cases with extreme care and caution.
“Whether it’s your first or your second, concussions are very serious,” Nolan said. “And that hit to Chad’s head last night, there’s no place for them in the game. You’re not just talking about knocking a player out for a couple weeks or maybe six months, you’re talking about altering his lifestyle. It’s a very serious thing so we’ll be very cautious with it for sure.”
The Sabres have dressed seven different goaltenders already this season with five different netminders making starts.
Ehrhoff was hit in the right ear with the puck as the Flyers game wrapped up and immediately skated to the dressing room. It took about 40 stitches to piece the ear back together and Nolan said it doesn’t appear he sustained any other head injury.
Ehrhoff will be a gametime decision against Detroit.
Nolan said that Foligno will be back in on Tuesday, which is somewhat surprising considering the original prognosis had him missing the rest of the season. Foligno fell in front of the net on his first shift in St. Louis on Thursday and was in noticeable discomfort. He had to be helped off the ice and did not return to the game.
However, Sunday morning, he was skating with the team in Philadelphia.
“It feels really good,” Foligno said on Monday. “It’s kind of almost back to normal. It feels good enough to play so hopefully I’ll be able to play tomorrow. Just somewhat more of a bone bruise. I think I just jammed it up pretty good. It was a scary incident and even in that moment, you want to take caution and make sure that the knee’s good.”
He said the way he fell and allowing his body to take most of the impact helped lessen the potential damage that could’ve been done.
“If I would’ve fallen on my knee, it would’ve been a lot worse,” he said. “I’m lucky that I dodged a bullet.”
Mitchell told the media after practice that he feels like he’s ready to play after missing 10 games with an injury. He said something didn’t feel right in midway through the game on March 16 but played through it. He’s skated in Buffalo the past few days.
He’s been on the injured list twice since Buffalo acquired him from the Minnesota Wild on March 5. He got hurt blocking a shot in his first game with the Sabres and missed six games.
Mitchell is looking forward to finishing the season off on a positive note.
“You want to come in and make an impression right away and I wasn’t able to do that because I got hurt,” he said. “But there’s an opportunity with four games left to try and show my stuff.”
Stewart met with doctors after practice and the results of that medical visit will play a big role in whether or not he’ll be ready for Tuesday.
Zenon Konopka was on the ice with the team for practice. He said he sustained a lower-body injury in the team’s game on March 23 in Vancouver and that the five-and-a-half-hour flight to Montreal the next day didn’t help his situation. As a native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., he’d like to be back in the lineup before the season ends.
“Obviously playing in Buffalo’s a dream come true, so you don’t want to finish the year not playing. So it’s pretty important for me,” he said.
Nolan said that Drew Stafford skated on his own on Tuesday, but he probably wouldn’t be ready until at least Thursday when the Sabres play the Rangers in New York.
Defenseman Tyler Myers has been out of the lineup since the March 16 game against Montreal when he collided with the goalpost after being tripped in front of the net.
“He hasn’t skated in a while, his injury’s pretty significant, so we’ll go week-by-week with him,” Nolan said.
But with only one week and four games left, time may not be on Myers’ side to get back in.
Mike Weber did not skate on Monday, but he is expected to play against the Red Wings.
The players in the Buffalo Sabres dressing room were happy to hear that coach Ted Nolan had signed a contract extension and that the interim label had been removed from his title.
Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford are two players that have played well since Nolan took over. They combined for four goals and seven assists in the 20 games prior to Nolan’s arrival but have been Buffalo’s most consistent offensive weapons, especially since the start of the new calendar year.
During an 11-game stretch from March 3 to March 23, they combined for 15 points (10+5).
“I obviously feel like I’ve flourished playing under him,” Stafford said after practice at First Niagara Center. “I love playing under him and he’s a guy that I think is perfect for this type of rebuild.
"He understands what guys are going through and the right buttons to push, whether or not to be hard or soft on certain guys. There’s not a lot of complicated things that he brings up. It’s very, very straightforward, very simple. He wants you to compete and show up and not take this for granted, any opportunity that you’re up here."
Ennis started the season on the wing but has developed into the team’s top center under Nolan’s watch. Nolan has helped him get back on his game.
“I think he’s just brought back a little bit more competitiveness and a little bit more confidence that I had in the past years,” he said. “I kind of was slumping there a little bit before he came in and he’s helped me out a lot.”
Ennis currently leads the team in goals and points. He has 19 goals – just on the cusp of his second-career 20-goal season – and 38 points.
“He gave me confidence and told me, ‘Don’t be a robot out there. Go out and play your game. You’re creative but play hard,’” Ennis said. “It’s kind of my game right there is to be offensive and creative but at the same time kind of play with a little edge. He’s kind of let me do that. ”
Nolan has tried to instill a message that everything on the ice must be earned and that includes not only goals and wins, but ice time as well.
Ville Leino was pulled from the team’s game in Nashville on Thursday after feeling light-headed during his first shift. He underwent further testing and did not play Saturday night at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He was back on the ice for practice on Monday and said afterward that he was diagnosed with a type of migraine.
“Your eyes have a delay so it took me a couple of days. I couldn’t really focus much,” Leino said. “Your eyes are delayed, so you talk to someone and you don’t realize you’re talking to him because your eyes fall away. It’s a weird feeling but I’m feeling better now.”
Leino said he didn’t feel well before the game, but when it didn’t pass during his first shift, he was taken into the dressing room for testing.
“I knew it just a couple minutes before the game but sometimes you have feeling like that and they just go away. But this time, they stuck through during the game and it’s a little worrying,” he said. “I wanted to go back to try one more shift but the trainers said not to go because you’re going delayed. So if somebody hits you, you might not even feel it. Something bad might happen so it was better to stay out.”
Leino said he doesn’t anticipate any further issues and that he should be ready to play Tuesday night when the Sabres host the New Jersey Devils at 7 p.m.
Goaltenders Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth, defensemen Tyler Myers and Alexander Sulzer and forwards Chris Stewart, Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell all did not practice as they are recovering from various injuries.
Rookie forward Nicolas Deslauriers did not practice for unspecified reasons.
88 Cory Conacher – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
19 Cody Hodgson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 65 Brian Flynn
82 Marcus Foligno – 22 Johan Larsson – 27 Matt D’Agostini
32 John Scott – 37 Matt Ellis – 23 Ville Leino