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POSTED ON Thursday, 01.23.2014 / 12:49 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com / THE MORNING SKATE

It’s a special day for Phil Varone.

The Rochester Americans’ leading scorer will finally have a chance to prove himself on the NHL stage Thursday night.

The Sabres called up Varone from the American Hockey League on Wednesday and he’s ready to make his NHL debut against the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center.

“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve worked for it. I’ve worked my whole life for it,” Varone said after Buffalo’s optional morning skate Thursday. “When it finally comes, you don’t expect it but I feel extremely fortunate to be in this situation right now. I’m going to try and take advantage of it.

Varone was called into Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy’s office after practice in Rochester on Wednesday and had a feeling that something was about to change, but he wasn’t exactly sure what it might be.

“When Coach Cassidy called me in, a number of things were going through my head. I thought maybe I got traded. They pulled me off the ice right away,” he said Thursday after the team’s optional morning skate. “Then I thought maybe he just wanted to talk about this weekend’s games down in Rochester.”

However, when he was given word that he was headed to Buffalo, he was overwhelmed with emotion.

“When he told me the news, it brought some tears to my eyes,” he said. “I called my parents right away. It’s something I’ll never forget for sure.”

The Vaughan, Ont. native said he’s already reserved a handful of tickets for family and friends and expects more to show up at the door.

Varone was a fifth-round pick by the San Jose Sharks in 2009 but was not signed to a contract. The Sabres invited to their development camp in 2011 and he impressed. He recorded four points during the 2011 Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament and earned a one-year contract with Rochester.

After a 52-point season with the Amerks, he signed a three-year, entry level contract with Buffalo in March 2012.

This season in Rochester, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound center leads the team with eight goals and 25 assists through 38 games.

“He certainly has worked for his opportunity. I’m really happy for him,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. “This thing only happens one time. You only play your first game in the National Hockey League one time. His parents are close by, his family’s close by, so it’s a special day for him.”

Marcus Foligno said he played on a line with Varone in Rochester and is looking forward to playing with him again Thursday night. Varone will center a line with Foligno and Brian Flynn on the wings against Carolina.

“It was great when I played with him in Rochester,” Foligno said. “We had some good connections so hopefully it can relate to here.”

Varone will wear No. 84.

Alexander Sulzer has been a healthy scratch the past three games but will make his return to the lineup against Carolina.

“I felt pretty good about my game. There were a few shifts where I wasn’t really happy with it and I guess the coaches saw it the same way,” he said.

Sulzer said he expects to be paired again with Christian Ehrhoff, but didn’t have a definitive answer after practice.

Mark Pysyk is still day-to-day with an injury and will not play against Carolina. Forwards Linus Omark and John Scott will be healthy scratches for the Sabres. Zenon Konopka will be back in.

Jhonas Enroth is expected to start in goal.

Projected Lineup

26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 19 Cody Hodgson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
82 Marcus Foligno – 84 Phil Varone – 65 Brian Flynn
23 Ville Leino – 24 Zenon Konopka – 37 Matt Ellis

10 Christian Ehrhoff – 52 Alexander Sulzer
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 4 Jamie McBain

1 Jhonas Enroth
30 Ryan Miller

Scratched: 3 Mark Pysyk (injured), 17 Linus Omark (healthy), 32 John Scott (healthy)

POSTED ON Wednesday, 01.22.2014 / 2:36 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com / BEYOND THE BOARDS

When Ted Nolan took over as interim head coach of the Buffalo Sabres in November, one of his first tasks was to get the team playing better defensive hockey.

The coaching staff emphasized improving play in the team’s own zone when the goals weren’t coming and have now shifted their focus to producing offense. Now, the team is scoring goals but the defensive zone play has been slipping.

Nolan compared the problems to the Whac-A-Mole arcade game.

“It’s one of those things you keep popping down and then another one pops up. And then you pop that one down and then another one,” he said after practice Wednesday at First Niagara Center. “That’s why training camps are so important and that’s why you go through all that stuff and you try to get a good foundation.”

The Sabres have increased their offensive production lately. The team has scored three goals in each of the past four games, but is 0-2-2 and has lost each game by a score of 4-3.


“Now we just need to connect them both. We had a good meeting with the team today. We talked about execution,” Nolan said. “We’ve gotta execute a little bit better. We can’t have spurts when we go for the goals and we forget about the defensive zone and vice versa. It’s a combination of executing all facets of our game.”

The players are looking for answers themselves on how to put together a complete game at both ends of the rink.

“That’s what we’re working towards, but right now and the way it’s been, we can’t find a way to play a full 60 minutes, to play a consistent effort on both sides of the puck,” defenseman Mike Weber said. “Right now we just have to find a way internally to figure it out. It’s frustrating right now. Pucks weren’t going in and now pucks are going in, but we can’t keep them out. It’s just a difficult time we’re trying to work through.

Mark Pysyk and Steve Ott did not practice with the team.

Nolan revealed that Pysyk has a nagging injury that caused him to miss practice. That injury also happened to play a role in why he did not play in the team’s game against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

“He was banged up a little bit last game and that’s one of the reasons why we didn’t play him,” Nolan said.

It’s still possible that Pysyk will be sent down to the American Hockey League to play with the Rochester Americans during the Olympic break. Nolan said he, president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine and general manager Tim Murray are having ongoing discussions about that. They could come to a decision as soon as Wednesday afternoon.

Ott was given a maintenance day and is expected to play Thursday night when the Sabres host the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 p.m.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to snowstorms.

They were scheduled to play the Flyers in Philadelphia on Tuesday, but wintry weather conditions forced the NHL to push the game back to Wednesday night.

It’s the second time this month Carolina has had a game postponed due to the weather.

The last game between the Sabres and Hurricanes was supposed to take place on Jan. 7 but had to be rescheduled because of blizzard-like in Buffalo. That game will now be played on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.

The Sabres players know they have an opportunity to jump on the Hurricanes once the puck drops in their next match Thursday night.

“We have to take advantage of it now because they’re going to be playing a back-to-back game,” Sabres forward Marcus Foligno said. “Unfortunately for them, they don’t have good luck with snow storms. It’s something where we had Florida on a back-to-back and we needed to take advantage of that and we didn’t. We have to be ready for Carolina.”

26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 19 Cody Hodgson – 23 Ville Leino
82 Marcus Foligno – 65 Brian Flynn – 12 Kevin Porter
32 John Scott – 24 Zenon Konopka – 37 Matt Ellis – 17 Linus Omark
Red Non-Contact: 8 Cody McCormick

10 Christian Ehrhoff – 6 Mike Weber
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
44 Brayden McNabb – 4 Jamie McBain
52 Alexander Sulzer

30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth

POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.21.2014 / 12:07 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com / THE MORNING SKATE

Henrik Tallinder hasn’t played a game in 2014, but that will change Tuesday night.

After missing eight games with an upper-body injury, the Buffalo Sabres veteran defenseman said after the team's optional morning skate at First Niagara Center that he’s ready to return to action.

“It’s always frustrating when you’re injured so it’s good to be back with the guys in the locker room and everything that comes with it,” he said.

He sustained the injury on Dec. 29 against the Washington Capitals and while the injury occurred on the first shift of the game, he still played 21:05.

Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said that Tallinder will indeed be back in the Sabres lineup against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The coaching staff hasn’t decided what the defensive pairings will be, but it’s likely that they will put Tallinder back with Tyler Myers.

“We just found out this morning that [Tallinder’s] really good to go. From that to here, we haven’t really had a chance to really think about exactly who he’s going to go with,” Nolan said. “Myers seems to be the guy who’s really going right now. It could be a big benefit for him to play with the top guy right at the hop.”

The Sabres will have to make a roster move before the game in order to activate Tallinder from injured reserve.

Mark Pysyk will be a healthy scratch on defense. The Sabres will consider sending him down to play some games during the Olympic break with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. To make sure a young player like him isn’t playing too many games, they’ll sit him down against the Panthers.

“It’s not his play,” Nolan said. “He’s been playing pretty well lately and it’s just he’s younger. There’s a possibility he might go down to the farm team to play during the break, so that’s a lot of games for a young guy to play. It’s more of a precautionary day and rest day.”

It’s possible that Brayden McNabb might also go to Rochester during the Olympics, but Nolan said the front office has yet to make that decision.

Linus Omark will be back for the Sabres as well after sitting out the past two games as a healthy scratch.

Nolan hopes playing Omark on a line with center Cody Hodgson and captain Steve Ott will jumpstart his game.

“If you could watch some of our practices, he’s pretty skilled. He has great vision for the ice, he knows where to go, he knows all the moves, he has everything. But in the games, it just doesn’t transfer,” Nolan said. “We just have to get him to be a little [grittier] and maybe playing with a guy like Steve Ott, that’ll bring it.”

Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal.

Alexander Sulzer and Zenon Konopka are also expected to be healthy scratches against Florida.

POSTED ON Monday, 01.20.2014 / 2:12 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com / BEYOND THE BOARDS

Linus Omark has been waiting for his opportunity to get back into the Buffalo Sabres lineup. It may come Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers.

Omark skated on the second line with center Cody Hodgson and left wing Steve Ott at practice Monday morning at First Niagara Center. He’s been a healthy scratch the past two games and is looking for his first goal of the season. In nine games with the Sabres, he has one assist.

“Both Cody and Ott are really good players, so then I have to produce,” he said. “It’s an opportunity if I’m going to play with those guys.”


He wasn’t sure if he’ll be in the lineup against Panthers but is working with the mindset that he will be.

“Of course you always want to play but we’ll see what happens now if I’m going to play next game or not," he said. "I have tried to work hard in practice and off-ice, so I’m prepared if I play.”

Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said he’ll make a decision on the roster after the team’s morning skate on Tuesday.

“We’ll give it another day to think about but I liked the way [Omark] practiced today,” he said.


Ville Leino, who played with Hodgson and Ott on Saturday, practiced at right wing on the fourth line with John Scott and Matt Ellis.

“We’re looking for people that want to compete and want to work. It doesn’t matter what your skill level [is]. Skill is nothing with no will,” Nolan said. “So we have to get [Leino] competing at a certain level and some days he shows it and some days he doesn’t.”

Henrik Tallinder and Kevin Porter are closer to returning. Tallinder’s been out since New Year’s Eve with an upper-body injury while Porter has missed 11 games with a lower-body injury.

“Tallidner is pretty close so he’ll probably be a game-time decision,” Nolan said.

Porter said he’s feeling better every day and didn’t rule out the possibility of being ready for Florida.

“Hopefully in the next couple days,” he said. “I’m not sure. I still need to talk to the training staff and the coaches and see what they say.”


The practice on Monday marked his first time skating with the team in a regular jersey. He’d been skating in a red jersey, signaling no contact.

Porter practiced with Zenon Konopka as extra forwards. Konopka has committed three minor penalties in the past three games and the opposing power play has scored each time Konopka has been in the box. He’ll likely be a healthy scratch against the Panthers.


“He’s going to have to wait. If you’re going to change things, it can’t just be for a chosen few. It has to be for everybody and those penalties, they could be avoided,” Nolan said. “We can’t afford to take bad penalties. We can’t afford to [make] too many turnovers in a game. They’re going to kill us every time.

So in order for us to show the young guys what it takes to try to win on a consistent basis, those are the types of things we have to do.”

Five Sabres players had their heads shaved after practice in the First Niagara Center atrium as part of the “Goin’ Bald For Bucks” campaign. The players are raising money to support critical research and cancer care programs at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. They were surrounded by students from several schools in the area.

Cody Hodgson, who had his head shaved by goaltender Ryan Miller, will match every dollar donated to the Sabres “Goin’ Bald For Bucks” page. He also grew his hair out for about a month in anticipation of the event.

“I was going to get it cut within that week and then they asked, and I was like, ‘It would be much better if I let it grow a little bit,’” he said afterward. “That’s actually the longest my hair’s ever been. It feels kind of weird, really airy without it. It’ll probably look better though than that big afro.”

Hodgson said that Mike Weber was the first player to commit to shaving his head and he agreed soon after. Mark Pysyk, Brayden McNabb and Alexander Sulzer also had their heads shaved. Miller, Steve Ott, Brian Flynn, Drew Stafford and John Scott played the role of barbers.

Donations can be made at BaldForBucks.org. The Sabres donation page can be found here. Donations will be accepted on the website through Friday.

26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 19 Cody Hodgson – 17 Linus Omark
82 Marcus Foligno – 65 Brian Flynn – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
32 John Scott – 37 Matt Ellis – 23 Ville Leino
12 Kevin Porter – 24 Zenon Konopka
Red Non-Contact: 8 Cody McCormick

10 Christian Ehrhoff – 3 Mark Pysyk
6 Mike Weber – 57 Tyler Myers
44 Brayden McNabb – 4 Jamie McBain
20 Henrik Tallinder – 52 Alexander Sulzer .

30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth

POSTED ON Saturday, 01.18.2014 / 1:14 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com / THE MORNING SKATE

The Buffalo Sabres will hope to cool down the surging Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

The Blue Jackets come into Buffalo after defeating the Washington Capitals 5-1 at home Friday night. Columbus has won its past five games and is 6-1-0 during the month of January.

Buffalo has gotten some positive results on home ice as of late and will look to keep that going against the Blue Jackets at 7 p.m. They’re 6-1-2 in their past eight games at First Niagara Center.

“It’s one of those things where we have to realize this is our building and we have a good club here,” Sabres center Zenon Konopka said after the team's optional morning skate. “It’s about us, not about the opponents coming in here. We have to expect to win every night here in our building and not hope, but expect. It should be a real good game tonight.”

Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno has been having a career year so far. He’s scored and 12 goals and recorded 14 assists in 41 games. His play has impressed his younger brother, the Sabres’ Marcus Foligno.

“He’s improved a lot and this year, the points have come for him and the way he’s played every game, he’s been consistent and he’s been pretty gritty,” Marcus Foligno said. “He’s got a couple fights and he’s putting up good numbers. He’s a guy that does it all and when he’s having a great night, he’s really noticeable and he’s a good player.”

“For myself, I want to relate to that. You want to learn off him. He’s the older brother so you want to take after him sometimes. Not all the time, though. It comes with who we are the background that we have.”

Foligno missed Buffalo’s last game with an injury, but will be ready to go against Columbus.

Wing Linus Omark and defenseman Alexander Sulzer will be the team’s healthy scratches.

John Scott will once again be in for Omark again on the team’s fourth line. With Omark being a more offensive-minded player, Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said Omark will likely have to wait for a spot on the top three lines to open up before he can return to the lineup.

“We just played well last game so we’ll keep the same lineup. There’s not much he can do. He’s just got to continue to work and be patient,” Nolan said.

Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal for Buffalo.

The game will also be Tyler Myers’ 300th in the NHL. He returned from a three-game suspension on Wednesday and recorded an assist in 26:02 of ice time, his second-highest total ice time of the season.


26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 19 Cody Hodgson – 23 Ville Leino
82 Marcus Foligno – 65 Brian Flynn – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
32 John Scott – 24 Zenon Konopka – 37 Matt Ellis

10 Christian Ehrhoff – 3 Mark Pysyk
6 Mike Weber – 57 Tyler Myers
44 Brayden McNabb – 4 Jamie McBain

30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth

POSTED ON Friday, 01.17.2014 / 2:56 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com / BEYOND THE BOARDS

Marcus Foligno missed the Buffalo Sabres’ last game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday due to an injury, but was a full participant in practice Friday with at First Niagara Center.

He said he’ll be ready to go Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets when the two teams meet at 7 p.m.

“[It was] a reoccurring injury that just kind of got pinched in the game against Philly [on Tuesday] and it’s all better now,” he said. “The trainers looked after me and it’s something where you just needed to rest it and I’m looking forward to getting back at it tomorrow.”


Some other familiar faces rejoined the Buffalo Sabres for practice. Henrik Tallinder and Kevin Porter skated with the team.

Tallinder has missed six games with an upper-body injury. He sustained the injury on his first shift of the team’s game against the Washington Capitals on Dec. 29. He ended up playing 21:05 in the game.

“Because you’re so pumped with adrenaline, you don’t really feel it when you’re playing. It’s more a couple hours after the game when everything’s cooling down, that’s when you feel the injury,” he said.

Tallinder practiced with the team the morning they left for their next game in Winnipeg, but ended up not making the trip.

“We thought it was just a bone bruise and I couldn’t even hold my stick,” he said. “So we took a look at the x-ray again and they could spot a little crack in there.”

Tallinder said he won’t be ready for Buffalo’s home game Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets but hopes to play next week.


Porter and Cody McCormick skated in red non-contact jerseys. Nolan said they’re both still at least a week away from playing.

Porter has been out since Dec. 23 with a lower-body injury. McCormick last played 12 games ago, on Dec. 17.

Since Tallinder, Porter and McCormick are on injured reserve, the organization would need to make roster moves in order to activate them for game action with the Sabres.

Drew Stafford had missed four games with an upper-body injury, but played against Toronto. He was put on the top line with Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis to start the game.


Zemgus Girgensons, who had been playing on the right wing with Ennis and Moulson skated with Ville Leino and Brian Flynn on the third line.

“Whatever line Girgensons plays with, I think you’re going to get the same effort. Whether he’s with Ennis or with Flynn or whoever’s he with, he’s going to do the same thing,” Nolan said. “With Drew, we just need a little bit more from him.”

When Matt D’Agostini went down with an upper-body injury, the coaching staff was forced to juggle the lines a bit. Nolan said D’Agostini will miss about a week.


Stafford finished the game with 19:46 of ice time and two shots on goal.

“It was good to get back in. It was a little tough we lost a forward right away, double-shifting a couple times and we were rolling three lines,” Stafford said. “I was kind of thrown right into the fire. They’re a pretty physical team so it was a pretty good test. I felt all right. Nice to have a day to recover and looking forward having a good one tomorrow.”

26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 19 Cody Hodgson – 23 Ville Leino
82 Marcus Foligno – 65 Brian Flynn – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
32 John Scott / 17 Linus Omark – 24 Zenon Konopka – 37 Matt Ellis
Red Non-Contact: 8 Cody McCormick – 12 Kevin Porter

10 Christian Ehrhoff – 3 Mark Pysyk
6 Mike Weber – 57 Tyler Myers
44 Brayden McNabb – 4 Jamie McBain
20 Henrik Tallinder – 52 Alexander Sulzer

30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth

POSTED ON Wednesday, 01.15.2014 / 5:43 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com / THE MORNING SKATE

TORONTO – Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford and John Scott are back in for the Buffalo Sabres. Alexander Sulzer, Linus Omark and Marcus Foligno will not play against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:30 p.m. at Air Canada Centre.

Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan revealed in his pregame press conference this evening that Foligno is day-to-day with an injury and is out for the game on Wednesday. Sulzer and Omark will be healthy scratches.

Myers is back, having served a three-game suspension handed down by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for an illegal check to the head of New Jersey Devils forward Dainius Zubrus on Jan. 4. He’s looking forward to playing again and will try to continue to be a physical presence.

“I don’t think I need to be changing my game. I’m not the type of guy that’s reckless or looking to injure somebody,” the 6-foot-8, 219-pound defenseman said. “I think on that play, I was just trying to be aggressive and I think at my height and with my size, I think it’s going to happen sometimes. You have to be aware of it for sure, but I don’t think I want to change my game.”


The coaching staff doesn’t want him to lose his edge either.

“We really like that mentality and I’m glad he said that. We don’t want him to lose that. We actually want him to be a little bit more aggressive,” Nolan said. “And when I say ‘aggressive,’ it’s aggressive carrying the puck, it’s aggressive shooting, it’s aggressive skating, it’s those type of things. If he play’s aggressively, he’s going to be a great, great player.”

Stafford returns to the lineup after missing four games with an upper-body injury.


John Scott, who scored when the two teams last met on Dec. 27, has been a healthy scratch for Buffalo’s past two games.

“We need a different look here tonight so we thought John would be better suited for a fourth line position versus Linus, putting him down in that position,” Nolan said.

Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal for Buffalo.

POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 1:24 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com / THE MORNING SKATE

Jhonas Enroth is expected to start in goal for the Buffalo Sabres. The team hopes the goals to support him will follow.

Coming into the game Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:30 p.m. at First Niagara Center, Enroth has posted a .916 save percentage and a 2.46 goals against average. He’s looking for his second win of the season and the players in front of him will look to drum up the goal support needed to get him that victory.

“He’s been unlucky and he’s been playing great all year,” Sabres forward Ville Leino said. “Certainly guys are on his side here and want to give him a win here.”

The game can be seen nationally on NBCSN.

In Enroth’s 13 starts this season, Buffalo has scored only 17 goals and has been shut out three times. Enroth has given up three goals or less in each of his past six starts, but has a 0-3-3 record including two shootout losses to show for it.

“We have a lot of trust in both goaltenders and unfortunately for Jhonas, we just haven’t scored too much for him,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. “He’s played some great games so we’re just going to let him do his thing and hopefully we’ll get a couple for him.”

Other than in goal, no lineup changes are expected for the Sabres. On the defensive front, Tyler Myers will serve the final game of a three-game suspension for a high hit on Devils forward Dainius Zubrus on Jan. 4.

Right wing Drew Stafford is not yet ready to return from an upper-body injury that has sidelined him for the past three games. Nolan said it might be possible for Stafford to play Wednesday night in Toronto.

Leino returned to the lineup Sunday afternoon after missing three games with a lower-body injury. He played 15:49 against the Capitals in his return and said that while it took him a little bit to get re-adjusted, he’s felt better in the days since.

“Yesterday’s practice was better and today and the morning skate, I felt really good,” he said. “So hopefully I can continue that today at the game.”

He centered a line that including wings Linus Omark and Brian Flynn.

The Sabres have earned points in eight-straight home games, going 6-0-2 over that stretch. It’s the first time they’ve earned points in eight straight since they went 7-0-2 at home from Feb. 17 to March 24, 2012.

Sabres center Zenon Konopka said that success has stemmed from the team starting to build some chemistry and it’s really starting to show on a consistent basis, especially at First Niagara Center.

“You have to find your identity as a team and I think as a team, and some individuals, we’re starting to find an identity, which is nice to see,” he said. “Now we have to grow off that, which is easier said than done because it’s a real good League to play in.”

In the Sabres-Flyers rivalry, being at home has had its advantages as of late. The home team has won the last six games played between these two teams, with all six games ending in regulation. Philadelphia won its first game of the season against Buffalo 4-1 at Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 21.

The Sabres are looking to win their third consecutive home game against the Flyers for the first time since they won three straight home games against Philadelphia from Oct. 17, 2006 to Dec. 21, 2007.

POSTED ON Monday, 01.13.2014 / 2:29 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com / BEYOND THE BOARDS

After Ville Leino and Cody Hodgson made their returns to the Buffalo Sabres lineup on Sunday, at least one more player is close to making a comeback.

Drew Stafford skated with the team Monday morning at First Niagara Center for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury against the Minnesota Wild on New Year’s Day. He skated in a red non-contact jersey but thinks he might be able to play soon.

“It’s more [of a] day-to-day kind of thing. I’ve been feeling really good the last couple days,” Stafford said. “I had a really long day today, hard working day today. We’ll see how it responds later today and tomorrow morning. That’s pretty much where we’re at.”


Cody McCormick, also in a red non-contact jersey, isn’t as close to coming off injured reserve as Stafford may be, but is happy to be back on the ice as a part of a team practice. He’s missed 11 games with an upper-body injury. He made his return to practice on Saturday.

“There’s still time, but getting back with the guys and being able to participate in practices, it’s a welcome change to what I was doing,” McCormick said. “You want to practice with the guys, you want to be around the guys and when you’re hurt, you’re doing the things on the side and working to get back into practice. It feels good to get out there.”

Henrik Tallinder and Kevin Porter, who are also on injured reserve, have been skating on their own and interim coach Ted Nolan said that they, like McCormick, will still be out for a little while longer.

Steve Ott was given a maintenance day and did not practice. John Scott, a healthy scratch in the team’s 2-1 shootout win in Washington on Sunday, took Ott’s spot on a line with Cody Hodgson and Matt D’Agostini.

The Sabres announced late Sunday night that 19-year-old center Mikhail Grigorenko had decided to accept his assignment to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“We can’t control what people do and what they say, but we certainly can control how we’re going to try to run this organization and what we feel is necessary for the development of young players,” Nolan said. “The tail can’t wag the dog. The dog wags the tail.

“So we feel as an organization, it’s best for him to develop in junior hockey and that’s not taking anything away from him. He’s got some skills and he’s got some ability, but in order for him to play at this level, we just need a little bit more.”

With Tallinder out with an upper-body injury and Tyler Myers serving a three-game suspension, the Sabres coaching staff has been rotating the second “A.” Mike Weber served as an alternate captain on Thursday against Florida and the letter was given to Matt Moulson for the game on Sunday.


“It’s an honor to have a letter on your jersey,” Mouslon said. “I don’t think it changes the way you act or the things I would do. Who knows how long I’ll have it for, but it is always an honor to be looked upon as a leader.”

In his last 10 games, Ryan Miller has a save percentage of .950. That’s the best save percentage he’s posted in any 10-game stretch of his career.

He made a highlight-reel save with the blade of his stick on Mikhail Grabovski with 2:14 to play in the third period that Nolan called “one for the ages.”

After the game, Nolan said he was looking down to see which line to call out next and had to watch the save on replay.

“I was looking down at my papers for the next line combination and the guys said I missed the save of the year,” Nolan said Sunday night.

How would Nolan describe Miller’s play of late?

“Out of this world, maybe,” he said. “I don’t know. His last two starts and every game he’s played here since I’ve been here have been outstanding.”


Miller’s teammates have noticed his strong play all season.

“He’s one of the best goalies in the world and sometimes when you do have breakdowns, he’s obviously there to bail you out much like he’s done all year,” Moulson said. “You have a world-class goalie like that, I think it instills a little more confidence in the team. He’s been playing tremendous.”

The win over the Capitals marked the team’s first win on the road since Nov. 5 in San Jose. They snapped an 11-game losing streak away from First Niagara Center.

“It’s nice to win any time, but I didn’t realize we didn’t win on the road for that long,” Nolan, who was hired on Nov. 13, said. “The guys sure knew. It’s not where we won, but how we won last night.

“I thought it was a real total team effort from the 20th guy to our goaltenders, right through the lineup, everybody contributed. Since I’ve been here, it was probably the best win as a team that we had.”


The Sabres next take on the Philadelphia Flyers at home on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on NBCSN. After the game, Buffalo will travel to Toronto for a Wednesday night match against the Maple Leafs at 7:30 p.m.

26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
32 John Scott – 19 Cody Hodgson – 27 Matt D’Agostini
17 Linus Omark – 23 Ville Leino – 65 Brian Flynn
82 Marcus Foligno – 24 Zenon Konopka – 37 Matt Ellis

10 Christian Ehrhoff – 3 Mark Pysyk
6 Mike Weber – 52 Alexander Sulzer
44 Brayden McNabb – 4 Jamie McBain
57 Tyler Myers

30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth

POSTED ON Sunday, 01.12.2014 / 1:42 PM
By Chris Ryndak - Sabres.com / THE MORNING SKATE

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.