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
Leino and Konopka will be healthy scratches while Sabres coach Ted Nolan hopes Stafford will be recovered from injury in time for Buffalo’s game against the New York Rangers on Thursday.
It’s unlikely that either Ruhwedel or Lieuwen will be ready for any of Buffalo’s final four games of the season. They sustained concussions on separate plays in the third period of Buffalo’s loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.
The NHL Department of Player Safety announced on Monday that Zac Rinaldo has been suspended four games for his illegal check to the head of Ruhwedel.
Lieuwen was hit in the head by Flyers forward Jay Rosehill as Rosehill cut across the goal crease late in the game. Lieuwen was not feeling well after the game and Nolan announced Monday morning he had also been diagnosed with a concussion.
Both players have been instructed by doctors to stay home and get plenty of rest.
An explanation of Rinaldo’s suspension decision can be found here:
Nolan said he would’ve liked to have seen a longer sentence handed out.
“Those types of hits have to be out of our game. You’re not talking about injuries knocking a guy out for a week or two weeks. You can knock his career right off the tracks and we all see what concussions do to some of our athletes after the fact,” he said after the team's morning skate on Tuesday. “So it’s a very, very serious thing and I think we have to take it a lot more seriously than just four games.”
Mark Pysyk has been recalled from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League to take Ruhwedel’s place in the lineup.
Pysyk joins the Sabres for his second recall of the year and third stint in Buffalo this season after beginning the 2013-14 season with the team.
He has appeared in 42 games with the Sabres this season, recording six points (1+5). While playing with the Amerks in 2013-14, Pysyk has notched 12 points (1+11) through 27 games played. He recently missed about two weeks due to injury, but said he’s feeling fine now.
He’s going to look to keep things simple and continue to develop his game.
“I didn’t think I would get another look. I think the injuries, obviously, there’s been a ton up here and I got the call last night – definitely excited for the opportunity,” he said. “It’ll be fun to play here again. That’s what I’m going to do: just have fun and make the most of the exposure I’m going to get here.”
Nolan said he can tell the time in Rochester has helped Pysyk grow as a player. He also compared his development to the way the Red Wings try to keep their prospects in the minors until they’re ready for the NHL.
“I think with his development, he’s just getting more mature. We get back to the question about Detroit and how they develop. That’s how they develop,” Nolan said. “They put those kids on the farm team and let them mature, let them grow and that’s exactly what Mark is doing. And he’s going to be a great player for us down the road.”
Makarov will back up Hackett against Detroit and in New York when the Sabres play the Rangers on Thursday. However, Rochester plays on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so Makarov will rejoin the Amerks and general manager Tim Murray will have to find another backup goaltender.
“That’s where Tim has to work his magic,” Nolan said. “I’m not quite too sure what we’re going to do.”
After tonight’s game, Makarov will have dressed in games in the ECHL, AHL and NHL.He'll become the 45th player and eigth goaltender to dress in a game for the Sabres this season.
Stewart will play in his first game since March 6 when he sustained a lower-body injury after colliding with Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback. His injury was originally thought to be season-ending, but he’s worked hard with the training staff to get back on the ice ahead of schedule.
Nolan is looking forward to seeing what Stewart can bring to the lineup.
“I’m really excited about him. Last time he played with Marcus, that was probably Marcus’ best game he played for us since I’ve been here,” Nolan said. “He’s probably going to be a little bit rusty, but it’s good to get him back in the lineup for sure.”
The team acquired Stewart as part of the trade that sent Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues and at 6-foot-2, 231-pounds, he brings a big, physical element the Sabres don’t have in abundance.
“Stewart’s a power forward in the real sense of the word. He’s a big man,” Nolan said. “He can play any way you want to play so for us to get him in that trade deadline, it’s exactly what we need.”
Ehrhoff will be in the lineup after taking a puck to the ear late in the game on Sunday. His right ear was cut as a result and required approximately 40 stitches to repair it. Naturally, he’s been given some new nicknames by his teammates.
“It’s ‘Ear-off.’ That’s the most common one I think,” he said. “But I guess when I have a situation like that, the jokers, they always come out pretty quick, too.”
Ehrhoff said he experienced a similar situation when he was with the Vancouver Canucks. A dump-in caught him in the other ear. He said that wasn’t as serious an injury as the one he’s now recovering from.
As part of Fan Appreciation Month, there will be a guaranteed $30,000 50/50 pot during the game with a second chance lottery winner for $1,000 pulled at www.sabresraffles.org.
Fans attending the game will also be able to save 40 percent off at the Sabres Store Powered by Reebok and save on select concession stand items ($3 peanuts, $3 candy and $3 nachos). Also, 26 season-ticket holders will be randomly selected to win autographed Sabres jerseys throughout the game.
Fan Appreciation Night presented by ADPRO Sports is set for the season finale on Sunday. A Party in the Plaza presented by Tops Friendly Markets will be held from 2:30-4:30 p.m. outside First Niagara Center. The Sabres, along with their Gold Ring Partners, will present the annual team awards for MVP, Rookie of the Year and Unsung Hero as well as the 7th Man Award.
Fans attending that game will also be treated to a pregame handout, a 40 percent off discount at the Sabres Store, as well as discounted concession prices including hot dogs ($2), pizza slices ($4) and souvenir sodas ($3).
More information on Fan Appreciation Month can be found here.
82 Marcus Foligno – 63 Tyler Ennis – 80 Chris Stewart
19 Cody Hodgson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 17 Torrey Mitchell
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 22 Johan Larsson – 27 Matt D’Agostini
88 Cory Conacher – 37 Matt Ellis – 65 Brian Flynn
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.
PHILADELPHIA – The Buffalo Sabres wrap up their three-game road trip Sunday night in Philadelphia and will field the same lines and defensive pairings as they did against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.
However, changes could be coming soon because as many as four injured players could return to the lineup in the next few days.
Marcus Foligno skated with the team Sunday morning at Wells Fargo Center after sustaining a lower-body injury on Thursday. He fell hard in front of the St. Louis Blues net on his first shift and had to be helped off the ice. It was an injury that Sabres coach Ted Nolan thought might end Foligno's season.
“I was very shocked and quite surprised that he was able to walk around yesterday and all of a sudden to see him on the ice today, so it’s very encouraging news,” Nolan said.
Chris Stewart was also on the ice and Nolan said he wanted to play tonight, but the training staff thought it would be best to hold him out of game action for at least a few more days. He’s been out since March 6 with a lower-body injury that occurred in a collision with Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback.
Initially, Stewart was considered out for the rest of the regular season.
Neither will play against Philadelphia, but and said there’s a good chance that both Foligno and Stewart could play Tuesday night when the Sabres host Detroit
Nolan credited the training staff for helping with their speedy recoveries.
Foligno and Stewart might not be the only ones back Tuesday night, either.Tyler Myers could return from his injury before the regular comes to a close on April 13, according to Nolan, but injured goaltenders Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth are likely be done for the year.
Nathan Lieuwen will start for the Sabres as they seek to earn their first win in Philadelphia since March 5, 2011.
Faceoff between the Sabres and the Flyers is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and can be seen nationally in the United States on NBCSN and on TSN2 in Canada.
Mike Weber did not participate in the morning skate, but he’ll suit up against the Flyers. He’s fighting through a lower-body injury as well.
“He’s a trooper,” Nolan said. “You can question certain parts of his game, but you can never question his heart. He’s been playing extremely banged up the last couple games. He had another day off today, but he’ll play tonight.”
With the potential influx of healthy bodies, some young players currently up on emergency recall like Luke Adam, Johan Larsson, Nicolas Deslauriers could be sent back to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.
Nolan said that the work they do in the offseason will be just as important as their level of play now when it comes to how the team evaluates them.
“How you continue to grow is really important and how you finish off. Lasting impressions are very important,” Nolan said. “You want to make sure you leave a good lasting impression because you have all summer to think about it… The future bodes well, but they have to continue to do that on a regular basis.”
The Amerks are fighting to secure a playoff berth. They currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference with six games remaining. Rochester rallied back from a 3-0 deficit on Saturday to beat the Toronto Marlies 4-3. Tim Schaller recorded a hat trick and Phil Varone scored the game-winner with 43 seconds left in regulation.
88 Cory Conacher – 63 Tyler Ennis – 23 Ville Leino
19 Cody Hodgson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 27 Matt D’Agostini
72 Luke Adam – 22 Johan Larsson – 44 Nicolas Deslauriers
32 John Scott – 65 Brian Flynn – 37 Matt Ellis
ST. LOUIS – The Buffalo Sabres are facing more injuries to their defensive corps and it looks like the situation will lead to Jake McCabe making his NHL debut Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan declared all three as game-time decisions, but made it sound like Tallinder is the least likely of the three to play. With McCabe and Nicolas Deslauriers available and John Scott able to play both forward and defense, they should be able to field a full squad.
The Sabres announced Wednesday that McCabe, 20, had signed a three-year, entry-level contract and he joined the team for its three-game road trip that starts at 8 p.m. EST in St. Louis on Thursday.
“Yeah, I think I’ll have some nerves, that’s for sure. Even out in the pregame skate, I’m sure my heart rate was getting up there,” McCabe said after the morning skate. “This is a whole new level than anything obviously I’ve ever been to so it’s exciting. The guys have been great so far. I can’t wait to get out there tonight.”
McCabe, at 6-feet, 195 pounds, just wrapped up his junior season with the University of Wisconsin. He by registering a career-high 25 points (8+17) through 33 games and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors.
His point total was fifth-best for the Badgers, who captured the Big Ten conference tournament championship, and fourth-best among defensemen in the Big Ten. In 2013, he served as captain of Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, where the United States took home the gold medal.
“He’s going to be full of energy and full of enthusiasm, but especially against the first team he plays against, St. Louis Blues, they’re the cream of the crop of the National Hockey League right now,” Nolan said. “So he can’t be admiring his passes and he can’t be going back on a normal college speed. He has to jump right in with them with the best in the League.
Forgoing his senior season at Wisconsin was not one McCabe took lightly. He had discussions with both his family and the Badgers coaching staff, including coach Mike Eaves. All supported his decision to go pro.
“I think giving away that senior year was a big, big decision. I can’t talk enough about Coach Eaves and the coaching staff there,” he said. “It was an all-around awesome experience and I would suggest anyone to go the college route.”
Injuries to Tyler Myers and Alexander Sulzer have required Buffalo to field a young crop of defensemen on the blue line. Rookies Rasmus Ristolainen and Chad Ruhwedel are already up with the team on an emergency basis.
“There’s quite a few young guys up right now so it’s fun just talking to them, seeing how things work,” McCabe said. “The veteran guys have been great as well, kind of showing me the ropes. It’s been a welcoming experience so far.”
Buffalo’s schedule down the stretch isn’t an easy one. Following the game against St. Louis, they’ll face Detroit twice, Philadelphia, the Rangers, Boston and the Islanders to close out the season. McCabe said he checked out the schedule almost immediately.
“I looked there right way. The only way I’m looking at it is, it’s exciting to get my feet wet a little bit and see what it takes to play up here at this level and work my butt off over the summer to try to stay up at this level,” he said.
McCabe will wear No. 29.
Lieuwen earned his first career in a shootout against the Devils on Tuesday.
“He has to try to do the extraordinary thing again and that’s how you make a name for yourself,” Nolan said. “We’re putting a kid in a real tough situation, but we’ll see how he responds.”
The Sabres received an unexpected early-morning wakeup call on Thursday. At around 5:30 a.m., a tornado warning was issued for the St. Louis area. Everyone at the team’s hotel was then instructed to head down to the basement until the warning expired. By 6 a.m., everyone was back in their rooms.
“You usually get fire alarms at that time in the morning, never a tornado warning,” Nolan said. “It was something different but I think everybody went to bed, I hope half-decently.”
Chris Stewart made the trip and skated with the team for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury on March 6 against Tampa Bay. It was thought that he could miss the rest of the season, but he’s progressing ahead of schedule and there’s a chance he could see some game action before the season ends on April 13.
He said he’s been skating for the past five or six days and looks forward to pushing harder every day. What he didn’t realize was how much he missed being around his teammates.
“You get traded and then you get hurt and then they’re on a two-week road trip so you’re sitting there in Buffalo by yourself for a little bit,” he said. “You’re kind of down and this is the stuff you miss – just the locker room camaraderie and joking around with the boys and the chirps here and there and just having fun. It’s the little things that you miss and you don’t think about.”
He was also able to meet up with some old friends on the Blues. Kevin Shattenkirk invited Stewart over for dinner, but things didn’t go accordingly to plan.
“You can tell he’s a bachelor; He was out of propane five minutes into the barbecue,” Stewart said. “[So] he put it in the oven. He said that’s what they used to do in the college days so it must have been a [Boston University] thing.”
Nathan Lieuwen will be back between the pipes for the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday when they host the New Jersey Devils at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m.
It will be Lieuewen’s third career start and fifth appearance with Buffalo this season. He’s seeking his NHL victory and Sabres coach Ted Nolan would like to see him play with a little bit more of an edge.
“I think he needs to be a little bit more aggressive. He’s got the tactical aspect down, but the one thing we always say with forward, you want to see how competitive you are,” Nolan said after the team’s morning skate. “And it’s the same thing with goaltenders. You have to be competitive. You have to come out, you have to challenge. You have to get out like you want to stop the puck no matter where it’s at. We want to see a little more of that.”
Nicolas Deslauriers will not play. He missed practice on Monday because his wife gave birth to their daughter. He skated with the team on Tuesday, but Nolan decided to give him a little bit more rest.
“Nic’s a proud poppa and he didn’t have too much sleep the last day or so,” Nolan said. “So he’ll spend some time with his newborn and his wife and he’ll be back and ready to go tomorrow.”
Ville Leino, who missed Buffalo’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning while being treated for a migraine, will be ready to play.
After dropping a 6-1 decision in Nashville on Thursday, the Sabres put together a pretty strong effort against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday at home. Alternate captain Christian Ehrhoff thinks the team took Nolan’s message from that Predators game to heart.
“Obviously that was a game that all of us didn’t like and I think we bounced back pretty good,” he said. “Tonight it’s up to us to continue that effort.”
Rookie defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen logged a career-high 24:45 of ice time Saturday night. Ristolainen is currently on emergency recall from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League because Tyler Myers is out due to injury.
He played 19 games with the Sabres to start the season, but was sent down to Rochester in November.
“You see his maturity. Some people mature really quick but you don’t want to put them in a position too quickly, either. I thought maybe the start of the season was a little too quick for the guy.”
In that time, he’s logged big minutes with the Amerks and participated in the World Junior Championships, where he scored the gold medal-winning goal for Team Finland. Nolan thinks that Ristolainen has really benefited from that extra development.
“Those are the types of things that are really crucial to your development and playing in good environments and winning,” he said.
Nolan said he had a good chat with Ristolainen on Monday. The talk focused on some of the things the 19-year-old defenseman should focus on over the summer, including lots of work improving his strength and conditioning.
“If he gets a good summer under his belt, hopefully he’ll never see the minors again,” Nolan said.
Myers crashed into a goal post on March 25 in Montreal, a game after returning from missing time with an elbow injury.
Neuvirth made his last start on March 13 in Carolina and woke up unusually sore the next morning. He backed Enroth up on March 15, but has not dressed since.
Enroth was run into by Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher on March 16 and sustained a lower-body injury. Nolan said Enroth stepped onto the ice Tuesday morning, but is still “a long ways away.”
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
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
The Buffalo Sabres should get a big boost to their lineup Saturday night with Zemgus Girgensons set to return from injury.
The rookie forward has missed the past 11 games. He is expected to center a line with Cody Hodgson on the left wing and Brian Flynn on the right against the Tampa Bay Lighting at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan is really looking forward to having Girgensons back on the ice.
“Zemgus, he’s a life changer. Even his demeanor on the ice, it just lifts up the whole team. Those are the special people, special players do for your team. Especially being so young, he’s only 20 years old so he adds that much already. So we’re looking forward to him.”
Girgensons hopes he’ll be able to shake any potential rust off right away and create some offensive opportunities.
“There’s been a lot of mix and matches with the lines. I think it’s good for the guys to see all the guys. It’s a good experience to play all the positions and stuff,” he said. “It’s just playing the game I play and helping them to create some offense for Cody and do the stuff I do.”
Moving Hodgson to the wing is part of an evaluation process that is being overseen by the Sabres front office, including general manager Tim Murray.
“Tim and I had some really good discussions on going forward with the team and some of the pieces that we have,” Nolan said. “Cody’s certainly one of those pieces and we want to see where he best fits with the team going forward. Maybe he’s a better wing. But then you also have to play him with the right people to get him the puck.
“Because once Cody has the puck, within a certain footage of that net, he has a good chance of putting it in. He’s not known for his great defense and we don’t want him to play great defense. We want him to score offensively but you have to be reliable defensively. One thing with the wing position, it’s not as complicated as playing center is.”
Nolan foresees Hodgson and Girgensons becoming a pretty formidable duo down the road. Hodgson is looking forward to playing on a line with both him and Flynn.
“There’s lots of room to improve everywhere. I’m still learning wing and learning center as well,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of speed playing with those two guys so let’s hope I can keep up.”
Matt Hackett is expected to start in goal for Buffalo. It will be his fourth start for the Sabres since he was called up on an emergency basis on March 17.
Ville Leino will miss the game after feeling lightheaded in the first period against the Nashville Predators on Thursday. He skated only two shifts in that game and has undergone more testing back in Buffalo.
“He got evaluated. He came to practice today. He was doing OK and then just before he went on the ice, he didn’t feel very well again,” Nolan said. “He’s going to get back to the doctors and see what exactly what’s going on. But he’s still not ready to go.”
Nolan said that it’s possible that they could shut Leino down for the rest of the season as a precautionary measure.
“When you talk about the head, it’s not like an elbow or a knee or something, but your head. So we’re going to be very, very cautious on this one,” he said.
The team will honor former goaltender Dominik Hasek before the game by inducting him into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame. Hasek will become to 42 nd member of the Sabres Hall of Fame.
“The Dominator” appeared in 491 games for Buffalo from 1992-2001.
During his time with the Sabres, he won the Hart Trophy as the League’s Most Valuable Player twice (1997 and 1998) and the Vezina Trophy as the League’s most outstanding goaltender six time (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001).
He also was awarded the William M. Jennings Trophy as a part of a goaltending tandem that allowed the fewest goals in a season by playing at least 25 games (1993-94 with Grant Fuhr and in 2001) and the Lester B. Pearson Award (now the Ted Lindsay Award) as the players’ choice for Most Valuable Player twice (1997 and 1998).
Hasek holds the five best single-season save percentage totals from the 1990s. In that decade, no other goaltender’s best season was as good as Hasek’s fifth-best in terms of save percentage.
His No. 39 will be raised to the rafters of First Niagara Center sometime next season.
Fans attending the game should be in their seats by 6:50 p.m. The ceremony will also be carried live on the Tops Sabres Game Night pregame show, which begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG.
Nolan once again addressed his contract situation and the negotiations that have been ongoing.
“Like I said last week, Tim and I are real close on getting something done,” he said. “As I’ve mentioned all along, I’m very excited about the possibility of staying here and now it’s coming to a point where it’s really close. And I’m going to be really excited when we get it officially done.”
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 – 44 Nicolas Deslauriers
NASHVILLE – Rasmus Ristolainen is racking up some extensive frequent flyer miles.
The 19-year-old rookie defenseman was called up on an emergency basis on March 15 and was returned to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League on Monday.
Now, with Tyler Myers out again due to injury, Ristolainen was back on a plane this morning so he can play Thursday night when the Buffalo Sabres take on the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
“It’s been a long day. I woke up early, the plane boarded at 6 a.m., but it’s fun. I’m ready to play tonight,” Ristolainen said after the team’s optional morning skate. “I’m exciting. I don’t have very many NHL games yet and it’s really nice to play here with good guys and battle hard. ”
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said that Myers is day-to-day and hopes to have him back for the team’s game Saturday night at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Myers was tripped in the offensive zone in the third period on Tuesday in Montreal and slid hard into the goal post, knocking the net off its moorings. He took only three shifts after that play.
Torrey Mitchell will also miss the game due to injury. Rookie forward Johan Larsson was recalled to take his spot in the lineup. Matt Hackett will start in goal. Zenon Konopka will miss his second-straight game with a back injury.
Nolan said Mitchell’s injury could keep him out of the lineup a little longer than Myers’.
Marcus Foligno was back on the ice for the team’s optional skate after taking a maintenance day on Wednesday. He blocked a Brendan Gallagher slap shot from the point on Tuesday.
“It feels good,” Foligno said. “It was just a little bit of bone bruise there and obviously taking a pretty hard shot in the kneepad just felt tough to kind of put pressure on it yesterday, therapy and back at it today, I felt better.”
The Sabres are wrapping up an 11-day, five-game road trip that saw them play in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Montreal. Being the visiting team against Nashville might play into the team’s favor on Thursday.
The road team has won the last five games between the Sabres and the Predators. The home team hasn’t won since the Sabres won 8-4, on Feb. 27, 2008. The home team has only won three of the 16 games in the all-time series.
The Sabres haven’t lost a road game to the Predators since Nov. 29, 2003, having won their last three games in Nashville.
Buffalo has had to deal with both injuries and costly penalties the past few games. The Sabres will look to stay out of the box, especially with key penalty killers like Myers and Mitchell out of the lineup.
“We’re a beat-up team again, new faces again in this locker room. We need a simple road game here, get our confidence going,” defenseman Mike Weber said. “A gritty road win would be awesome. That’s what we need to focus in on here and head back home.”
82 Marcus Foligno – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
88 Cory Conacher – 19 Cody Hodgson – 23 Ville Leino
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 65 Brian Flynn – 27 Matt D’Agostini
32 John Scott – 22 Johan Larsson – 37 Matt Ellis
NASHVILLE – It seems as if every day, Buffalo Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan has to provide an update on another player that has sustained an injury.
Tyler Myers, Marcus Foligno, Torrey Mitchell and Zenon Konopka missed practice Wednesday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena. Myers, Foligno and Mitchell got hurt in Buffalo’s game against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
Myers was tripped going in on goal midway through the third period and slid into the goal post. He took only three shifts after that.
Foligno blocked a shot by Brendan Gallagher while on the penalty kill in the second period and made his way to the bench after that. He ended up finishing the game with 16:19 of ice time.
Mitchell played virtually the entire game, his last shift ending with 1:01 remaining in regulation. He logged 15:42 of ice time, including 5:42 on the penalty kill.
Nolan said that Tuesday was more of a maintenance day for both Myers and Foligno. He expects Foligno to be ready to play against the Nashville Predators on Thursday.
WATCH: TED NOLAN ADDRESSES THE MEDIA
The team will examine Myers and Mitchell and decide later in the evening whether or not they’ll be able to play. Mitchell’s injury might be “a little more serious” than the others, according to Nolan.
Konopka missed the game in Montreal due to a back injury. Nolan said it doesn’t look like he’ll be ready Thursday night.
There’s a chance players will have to be called up from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League to fill the holes in the lineup. The Amerks – on the second half of a back-to-back – host the Milwaukee Admirals on Wednesday.
“Almost every game somebody goes down. It’s one of those things, when things go bad, I guess they go bad,” Nolan said. “Now it gives a chance for some more kids from Rochester who’ve been playing well, maybe have a chance to play here the last six, seven games.”
Michal Neuvirth, who has not skated with the team the past few days, went back to Buffalo for further evaluations on his lower-body injury. He made his last appearance in net on March 13.
Jhonas Enroth did not travel with the team for their five-game road trip due to a lower-body injury he sustained on March 16. Nolan said he’s also being re-evaluated and that there’s a chance he could return before the season ends on April 13.
Hackett picked up his first win with the Sabres on Thursday in Edmonton, where he made 35 saves. On Monday, he stopped 33 shots in a 2-0 loss in Montreal.
“Hackett definitely earned it. That’s one thing about now, it’s audition time. You audition and you do a couple good auditions, you should get another one,” Nolan said.
Before practice on Tuesday, Hackett sat on the bench with goaltending coach Jim Corsi as the two went over some video. Corsi and the defense then did some drills with Hackett toward the end of practice.
With the team’s busy travel schedule lately, there hasn’t been much time for on-ice work and Hackett said he’s glad they got the chance to go over some things in Nashville.
"It’s nice to get out there and can actually feel the puck, kind of work on a few things with him,” he said. “He wants me to keep my hands forward. They’ve been creeping back a bit in my stance so that’s one thing we’ve tried to focus on a bit. Just being sticky, like he says. Try and make saves look easy and keep them in my chest.”
Hackett said he felt calmer in his second start than he did in Edmonton.
“I felt maybe a little more relaxed, with the puck handling, especially,” he said. “I had a few good touches out there, maybe a couple mishandles, but I felt more comfortable going back there and I thought I was just seeing the puck pretty well.”
Hackett’s performance against the Canadiens is the one that made Nolan lean toward starting him against the Predators.
“He played well the last two games, particularly last game in Montreal,” Nolan said. “I thought he was the difference maker. It could’ve been a lot worse, but he kept us in the game.””
Nolan was asked if the players realize they’re being evaluated every day to see if they fit into the team’s plans moving forward.
“I had a great conversation with [Sabres broadcasters and alumni] Brad May and Rob Ray on the airplane last night,” Nolan said. “They played as they had because they’re very competitive people and the one thing they both said to me was, ‘Do these guys realize that they’re auditioning? Do they realize some of them, their contracts are up? Do they realize?’ So I’m hoping they do.”