RALEIGH, NC – The Buffalo Sabres lineup will get a boost tonight as leading scorer Thomas Vanek returns after missing the past two games with an upper body injury suffered last Thursday in Florida.
Vanek confirmed after today’s morning skate at PNC Arena that he’ll be available in all situations when the Sabres take on the Carolina Hurricanes for the third time this season.
“I’ll be a full go, as long as he plays me,” joked Vanek.
Vanek’s return will coincide with the addition of defenseman TJ Brennan, as interim head coach Ron Rolston looks for ways to jump start a power play that is currently sputtering at a league-low 10.7 percent (9/84) through 23 games, including just two goals in 40 opportunities (5%) on the road.
Rolston knows what he’s getting from Brennan, after coaching him for the past two seasons in Rochester. But despite scoring 35 points (14+21) in 34 games with the Amerks before his recall, that success hasn’t translated at the NHL level for Brennan. He’s yet to collect a point in seven games with the Sabres this season.
“Most importantly we want to make sure that his five-on-five game is good, and he’s playing good strong defense,” said Rolston. “From there he has an opportunity on our power play to use his gift of offense and his shot. He’ll get that down. He’s a big shooter and he’ll put pucks on net and that’s why he’s out there.”
At today’s skate, Brennan was playing the point on the number one power play unit along with Jason Pominville. The forwards were Vanek, Tyler Ennis and Steve Ott. Buffalo’s second power play group consisted of forwards Nathan Gerbe, Cody Hodgson and Drew Stafford, with defensemen Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff.
Ryan Miller will make his 14th straight start for Buffalo tonight. He currently leads all NHL netminders in saves (637), shots faced (695) and minutes played (1,254), and is tied for first in games played (21) with Ilya Bryzgalov and Pekka Rinne.
UPDATE (5:30 p.m.) – Following a phone hearing this afternoon, Patrick Kaleta has been handed a five-game suspension by the NHL for his hit on Brad Richards during the third period of Sunday’s game in New York. Because the hearing took place via the phone, five games was the maximum number of games that Kaleta could have received.
From the NHL:
Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta has been suspended for five games, without pay, for boarding New York Rangers forward Brad Richards during NHL Game No. 317 in New York on Sunday, March 3, the National Hockey League's Department of Player Safety announced today.
Kaleta is considered a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Based on his average annual salary, he will forfeit $76,219.25. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
The incident occurred at 3:28 of the third period. Kaleta was assessed a major penalty for checking from behind and game misconduct.
For a full explanation of the Department of Player Safety's decision, complete with video, please click on the following link:-- http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=60&id=212619
UPDATE (1 p.m.) -- The Sabres are off today, but both Patrick Kaleta and interim head coach Ron Rolston met with reporters this afternoon at the team hotel in Raleigh.
Not surprisingly, Kaleta wouldn't comment specifically on the hit on Brad Richards that landed him a disciplinary hearing with the league at 3 p.m. Kaleta did say how upset he was for what his actions immediately resulted in, and that was two power play goals by the Rangers to pull ahead 2-1 at the time.
"I'm sorry for the position I put the team in trying to kill that penalty ... makes me feel like a bag of garbage after seeing that."
With the Sabres already having to deal with the absence of an injured Thomas Vanek for the past two games, Rolston said the team will just have to continue on with another lineup change if Kaleta is forced out for any period of time.
"Obviously we've had some adversity already since I've been here with Vanek being out a couple of games, and other guys stepping into roles. We have players that will go in and their opportunity will be there for them to help our team be successful. We'll do with whatever we have."
RALEIGH, NC (9:45 a.m.) – The NHL announced this morning that Patrick Kaleta will have a hearing with the league at 3 p.m. today for the game misconduct he received during Sunday’s game in New York.
Below via the NHL:
Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta faces a hearing with the Department of Player Safety on Monday afternoon for an incident in a game Sunday night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Kaleta received a five-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct for a hit he delivered against Brad Richards at the 3:28 mark of the third period.
The Sabres are off today, but Kaleta is scheduled to meet with the media around Noon at the team hotel in Raleigh. Stay tuned to Sabres.com and @BuffaloSabres for updates and reaction.
SUNRISE, FLA. – If the Buffalo Sabres hope to win consecutive road games for the first time since last March, their offense will need to get on track tonight against the Florida Panthers. (7:30 p.m., MSG)
The Sabres are 2-6-0 in their last eight games, and have scored just 12 goals – an average of just 1.5 per game. As good as Ryan Miller has been this season, you won’t win too many games averaging less than two goals a night.
Thomas Vanek (0+2) and Cody Hodgson (1+1) combined for four points in Tuesday’s 2-1 win in Tampa, but interim head coach Ron Rolston is well aware of the need for production from his team’s other three lines.
“Right now we’re looking for that secondary scoring. For a lot of teams that are that struggling, that’s been one of the issues,” Rolston said following today’s morning skate at the BB&T Center. “Obviously our first line and the power play have to be good because of that. Secondary scoring for us right now, we’re still trying to find the right chemistry and combinations to get that going.
“We’ve gotta be better offensively. We’re in a situation now where we are getting more puck possession, or at least quicker. And we’ve had some situations where we’re getting man advantages where we’re not executing the way we need to be offensively. We have to find more ways to create offense; we can’t afford to just be a rush team, and just rely on our power play, especially when we’re getting just one a game. We have to have more bullets to our gun, and right now we’re working on that.”
Jordan Leopold took part in today's morning skate, but Rolston said he’s still not fully recovered from an upper body injury that has kept him out of the past three games… Rolston also said they are still waiting for final test results on Alexander Sulzer before he can give a timetable for his return. Sulzer suffered an undisclosed lower body injury against the Islanders last Saturday, but a significant amount of swelling in the area of the injury has prevented proper evaluation.
TAMPA – Ryan Miller will get the start in goal tonight against the Lightning as the Buffalo Sabres look to snap a four-game losing streak that has dropped them to 29th overall in the NHL standings. Miller is 18-7-0 in his career against Tampa Bay, with a 2.75 GAA and .905 save%.
Interim head coach Ron Rolston said there won’t be any lineup changes tonight, which means that forward John Scott and defenseman TJ Brennan are expected to be healthy scratches. Defenseman Jordan Leopold did not take part in today’s morning skate, and Rolston says he is still day-to-day with an upper body injury.
Adam Pardy will be in the lineup after being recalled from Rochester on Monday to replace the injured Alexander Sulzer. In one previous recall this season, Pardy had an assist and two penalty minutes against Ottawa on February 5.
This is the first of three meetings this season between the Sabres and Lightning, and the first of two here in Tampa. The Sabres are 5-5-0 in their last 10 against the Lightning; 7-3-0 on the road.
In their last trip to Tampa on March 19, 2012, the Sabres walked all over the Lightning by a 7-3 count. Marcus Foligno and Jason Pominville both scored twice that night, and Drew Stafford had one goal and two assists.
With his NHL coaching debut now in the rearview mirror, Ron Rolston took to the practice ice with the Buffalo Sabres for the first time on Friday as the team skated at the Northtown Center in Amherst.
Following last night’s 3-1 loss in Toronto, Rolston and his assistants put their players through their paces, while also focusing on some areas of detail that he says need to be cleaned up quickly in order for the Sabres to get back on the winning track.
“There’s things in the hockey game where we don’t take care of situations in games. Last night, what happens when you’re on the road like that, you want to be able to go into the third period at 1-1. What happens right now with our hockey team is we’re the team that blinks first when you have a staredown,” explains Rolston. “In other words, the faceoff’s in the zone and we make a mistake in execution. The next thing you know it’s a 2-1 game going into the third.
“That’s part of the reason why things aren’t going the way they way we want them to go. It’s because there are times in a game when we execute for a very long period of time. But in this league, when you have a short span of a couple of shifts where you don’t execute, that can be the difference in a game. A lot of times it’s been the case here, and it was last night for us.”
It was a different style of practice that Jason Pominville has been used to for the past eight season, mainly because of the new voice in charge.
“We had to be focused on what he was saying. You’re used to be doing some drills, and obviously he’s bringing some new things that he wants to work on. Again, he doesn’t have much time; we don’t have that much practice time. But he’s trying to get as much as he can to us as quick as possible. Whether it’s by video or one the ice, I think that some adjustments are made.
There was a lot of emphasis on speed in today’s practice, and Pominville said that will be a key in executing Rolston’s plans for making the Sabres a faster team to play against on many levels.
“Not a quicker team speed wise, but a quicker team with our execution going north-south, and getting pucks deep behind their d-man and making them turn. I think from what I’ve seen so far that’s the biggest thing,” said Pominville. “I think sometimes we’re taking our time a little too much, and he’s really put the emphasis on get it going up ice quick and not hang on to it too long, creating more speed in our game.”
Ryan Miller was given the day off for rest after making his eighth straight start last night in Toronto… Jordan Leopold did not take part in practice, and Rolston said he’s still nursing an upper body injury… Rolston also said that defenseman Andrej Sekera is very close to a return to full health after suffering a charley horse against Boston last Friday.
Former head coach Lindy Ruff addressed the media briefly on Friday morning at First Niagara Center, following his dismissal on Wednesday. Click here to watch a replay of Ruff’s press conference.
TORONTO -- When Buffalo Sabres interim head coach Ron Rolston met with his new team for the first time last night, he said the message was simple and to the point.
“We were pretty brief. We understand at this point that the talking part of things is over,” explained Rolston this morning in Toronto before a post-morning skate media throng at the Air Canada Centre. “As Michael Jordan says, ‘I want to see it done and I want to hear it done.’
“We just talked about the situation. For a lot of players, that was there first time involved in a situation like that where a coach was let go and a new one was coming in to talk to them. We briefly talked about what we wanted to focus on; not worry about where we’re at, but what direction we’re moving in at this point.”
It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for Rolston, who woke up yesterday morning as the head coach of the Rochester Americans, getting ready to prepare for a home game against the Texas Stars. He realizes that with 31 games left in the regular season, it’s just a matter of jumpstarting a Sabres team that has struggled to not only score goals, but defend them as well.
“There’s not going to be major changes in terms of systems and things like that. Certainly, I think the players know what needs to be done at this point. The responsibility at this point falls on us to make sure we’re moving in that direction. And most importantly for the players as individuals, they have to make sure they’re accountable, and when they come to the rink tonight they’re ready to roll.”
For a handful of Sabres, this isn’t their first experience having Rolston behind the bench. Youngsters Marcus Foligno and TJ Brennan have spent parts of the last two seasons under Rolston in Rochester. The newest member of the Sabres, Kevin Porter, who joined the Sabres today, has served as the Amerks’ captain this season after being signed as a free agent in the summer.
This trio of players gave us some of their thoughts about Rolston, the 16th head coach in Sabres’ franchise history:
Foligno on how Rolston helped him in his rookie season with Rochester
"We did a lot of video. He brought me in to explain what he expected from me, and that he wanted me to be an important player. He just explained the facts. We started with the little things, and from there it moved on to bigger things. Ron is just very good at developing young guys, and I’m very fortunate to have been coached by him."
Foligno talks about what Rolston will bring to the Sabres
"Ron’s definitely a good developer and a good teacher, and he’s going to bring a lot of good things here. He’s familiar with my play, and he’s familiar with my style, so I think it’ll be a pretty easy transition."
Brennan describes Rolston’s coaching style
"He’s very positive; he’s an energy guy. I feel lucky that he’s coming in. He’s a familiar face that I know, and it’ll make me a little more comfortable. Hopefully it can be a positive turnaround for the team having Ron come in."
Porter’s thoughts on Rolston’s coaching philosphies
"He’s a great coach, really knows what he’s doing. He’s good with defensive play and he lets you play offense. I think it’s a good mixture and he’s going to be a good fit here"
Porter talks about Rolston’s future in the NHL
"He really has the tendencies of an NHL coach, and he definitely has the qualities. I think he’s going to be a good fit here for this team."
Cody McCormick cleared waivers today, and was replaced on the roster by Porter. The Detroit, Mich., native has played in 48 games this season with Rochester, amassing 44 points (15+29) and 38 penalty minutes.
Jordan Leopold did not take part in today’s skate, and will miss tonight’s game with an upper body injury. Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will be a healthy scratch for the third straight game, and fourth time this season.
The Buffalo Sabres will look decidedly different tonight when they host the Winnipeg Jets at First Niagara Center. Defenseman Jordan Leopold will find himself scratched for the first time this season, and Drew Stafford has been dropped to the fourth line with John Scott and Cody McCormick. TJ Brennan will replace Leopold alongside Mike Weber, and will also man the point on the first power play unit. Patrick Kaleta moves up to the second line alongside Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno.
Buffalo’s forward lines at today’s morning skate:
Power play unit #1: Vanek/Ennis/Foligno; Pominville/Brennan
Power play unit #2: Gerbe/Hodgson/Ott; Myers/Ehrhoff
Mikhail Grigorenko skated as the extra forward during today’s skate, and is expected to be a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game.
Ruff on the decision to scratch Leopold:
“I’ve talked to Jordan recently, probably three or four games ago, about improved play. I thought we got a couple of pretty strong games. But in the last game, I expect more out of him, out of a veteran defenseman. He’s gonna have to work hard to get back in now.”
Ruff on the decision to move Stafford off the second line:
“There’s an inside part to his game that is getting a little better. When he’s going well, you notice his skating. You notice the one-on-one battles; winning the majority of the one-on-one battles. When it isn’t going well, we’re not winning those battles.
“I didn’t think he was quite up to speed with his skating again the other night, and he lost some battles that I thought were key battles inside the game. It’s something that we’ve talked about. He needs to take a little bit more ownership on some of those battles to make a better play that turns into something better for us.”
CLICK TO HEAR THE FULL AUDIO FROM LINDY RUFF
KANATA, ONT. -- After being banished to the press box as a healthy scratch for the past two games, Tyler Myers will be back in the lineup tonight when the Buffalo Sabres face the Ottawa Senators for the second time in a week at Scotiabank Place. Ottawa won last Tuesday’s game by a 4-3 score.
Just being back in the lineup isn’t good enough for Myers. He knows there is still plenty of work to be done with his game.
“It feels good to be back in, but I don’t know if it’s a relief,” Myers said this morning. “I don’t come here just to get in the lineup. I need to put together a solid defensive game and just build it from there.”
Myers will be paired with Robyn Regehr on the blueline tonight, and he says the veteran defenseman has been a sounding board for him since he arrived in Buffalo.
“Ever since he came to the team, you really notice how much leadership he has. He’s helped me through a lot. We’ve had a bunch of conversations these past few days. He’s a guy I like to go to and look up to.”
Based on the morning skate, Buffalo’s other two defensive pairings tonight will be: Leopold/Weber, Ehrhoff/Sekera. With eight healthy defensemen, TJ Brennan and Alexander Sulzer are expected to be scratched.
Buffalo’s forward lines today were as follows:
John Scott also skated on the fourth line today, but is expected to be a healthy scratch.
Robyn Regehr has seen it all throughout his 14-year NHL career, experiencing all the highs and lows that go along with being a professional athlete. That’s why he’ll be the first to admit he knows exactly what Tyler Myers is going through right now.
Myers was a healthy scratch in Saturday’s 3-2 win on Long Island, and head coach Lindy Ruff categorized him as a “game-time decision” for tonight’s game against Boston at First Niagara Center. Regehr has gone through similar rough patches in his career, and has spoken at length with Myers about them. In times like this, Regehr says the key is getting back to basics.
“It’s just a matter of focusing on his game. When things aren’t going as well as you’d hope as a player, there are stretches like that when you go through some rough times and your confidence is down, and you just don’t feel that you can do things you want to out there,” explains the 32-year-old Regehr. “You just have to bring it down a level or two just to the basics and say, ‘I’m gonna do these four or five things out there tonight. That’s what I’m gonna focus on and that’s it.’ Once you do that, you start gaining a little bit of momentum and confidence in yourself, and you start building your game back up again.
“It sounds simple, but it’s hard when you’ve got some mistakes that are running through your mind that you’ve made in the past couple of games. You just have to try to learn from that and move on. Sometimes a guy’s worst enemy is himself. It’s happened to me where you get down on yourself for making a mistake, and that doesn’t do you any good. What you have to do is learn from it and move on, and go back and try to make up for it. I think that’s kind of where (Myers) is right now.”
Regehr is expected to be back in the lineup tonight after missing the last six games with a lower body injury sustained in Washington on January 27. His physical presence will be a much-needed addition against a rested Bruins team that hasn’t played since Wednesday, thanks to a game cancellation yesterday due to blizzard conditions that dumped two feet of snow in the Boston area from Winter Storm Nemo.
“They were sitting here waiting for us, and we have to make sure that we’re ready. If we play the way that we know we can, and that we’re supposed to, we’ll be fine. Matching the intensity in the start - because I’m expecting a very big start from them - will be very important.”
LISTEN TO FULL AUDIO OF REGEHR INTERVIEW
Patrick Kaleta and Andrej Sekera are both expected to return to the Buffalo lineup tonight, but the big news is who won’t be on the ice when the Sabres face the Islanders on Long Island. Struggling defenseman Tyler Myers will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season, following a stretch of games that have left many shaking their heads.
Myers is a league-worst minus-nine through 11 games, and has recorded just one point – the game-winning goal in Buffalo’s season opener against Philadelphia.
“I’m embarrassed, and I should be,” said Myers after today’s optional morning skate at the Nassau Coliseum. “Two years in a row now, it doesn’t feel very good. But the silver lining, I responded the way I needed to last time and that’s what I have to do this time.”
Last season, Myers was a healthy scratch when the Sabres played in Montreal on November 14. At the time he had recorded just four assists and was minus-three in Buffalo’s first 16 games. Myers was back in the lineup for the team’s next game at home on November 16 against New Jersey, and scored his first two goals of the season.
The 23-year-old Myers is hoping for a similar rebound this time around, but knows he has to clear his head first after what has been a tough start to the season.
“It’s just all mental for me. I make a mistake, I’m too hard on myself and put too much pressure on myself in the long run,” explains the 2010 NHL Rookie of the Year. “I think I just need to relax and take a step back and start enjoying myself instead of working my way out of my own game.”
With Myers taking a seat, Andrej Sekera will return to the ice after being out for the past three games with a deep bone bruise on his foot. Sekera blocked an Alexei Emelin shot just 54 seconds into Buffalo’s 6-1 loss in Montreal last Saturday. Sekera struggled to the bench, and went to the dressing room briefly, but returned to play 3:37 of ice time in four additional shifts. The 26-year-old Slovakian had three points (1+2) in eight games prior to the injury.
Kaleta is back after missing five games with a neck injury following a nasty hit-from-behind by Toronto’s Mike Brown on January 29. The injury forced Kaleta to be stretchered out of First Niagara Center to a local hospital where he ended up spending the night.
With Kaleta’s history of neck problems, head coach Lindy Ruff said he’s had ongoing talks with the rugged winger about being more careful of his surroundings on the ice.
“We’ve had discussions, and I’ll have another one with him today. In his case, he can’t put himself in that position,” Ruff said. “I still think there’s a little bit of the onus on the player that’s attacking, but there’s an onus on the player that’s gonna receive that hit too. Especially in Patty’s case, to not put your head in that position.”