With another injury to deal with, the Buffalo Sabres looked to the waiver wire for a veteran player to fill the void.
Right wing Drew Stafford is expected to miss some time with an upper-body injury and the Sabres announced Friday afternoon that they had claimed center Zenon Konopka off of waivers from the Minnesota Wild.
Konopka is a 6-foot, 213-pound centerman who has won 65.7 percent of his faceoffs this season (157-82). He’s also not afraid to drop the gloves, having racked up 55 penalty minutes – including seven fighting majors – in 36 games. He has one goal and one assist on the year. He’s recorded 29 points (12+17) through 323 career games in the NHL.
With the move being announced during Buffalo's practice at First Niagara Center, Konopka was obviously not with the team Friday.
Konopka was waived by the Wild because the team needed to make room for a third goaltender on the roster after Josh Harding had to miss the game against the Sabres on Thursday due to illness. Wild coach Mike Yeo explained the team’s reasoning that afternoon after the roster move had been made.
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“We had to make a move to get a goalie up here and that was the decision,” Yeo said “You look at the way our lines are right now, this wasn’t just an impulse thing where we said, ‘OK, let’s construct our lines like this.’ We want to give it a real chance to work and we think it can work with the four centermen that we have and that kind of puts Z on the outside a little bit there.”
Thursday was also Konopka’s 33rd birthday.
“Those types of guys are really good role models for the younger players and they last that long because they have that special ingredient to work and compete,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. “[Matt] Ellis is the same type of guy. You don’t have to be blessed with a lot of skill, but that certain amount of grit and that determination, that goes long ways.”
A native of nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Konopka played hockey at an early age with Sabres center Matt Ellis. Ellis was raised in Welland, Ont.
“I’ve heard Teddy use the term to describe [captain Steve Ott] as a warrior. Well, this guy’s a warrior, too,” Ellis said. “I grew up with him, played minor hockey with him. He’s a guy that lays everything on the line night in and night out.”
WATCH: MATT ELLIS INTERVIEW
He made special note of Konopka’s competitive nature.
“He’s there to compete, loves to win and he’ll be a nice asset to this locker room,” Ellis said said. “I can’t say enough about the type of guy he is. He’s that one guy in our area, even in summer hockey, he hates to lose.”
Matt Moulson was a teammate of Konopka’s when both were on the New York Islanders in 2010-11. Konopka recorded a career-high nine points (2+7) and 307 penalty minutes in 82 games that year.
“He competes hard. He’ll do anything for the team. He’s a great team guy. He always has your back,” Moulson said. “He takes great pride in his faceoffs and I know that’s something he works on all the time. That’s something we could definitely use. He’ll be a welcome addition.”
“It is what it is,” Ellis said. “It was a mad scramble in front. I put it towards the net and [Myers] did a good job getting himself in a good position and it banked in off him.
“I think that’s the way our team needs to score goals. Our team needs to create chaos in front with bodies going to the net. We need to get on the board with a lot more of those workman-like, so-called ugly goals and whatnot.”
On the injury front, Nolan did not have an update on Stafford, who left the game Thursday night in the first period with an upper-body injury.
“It’s going to be a little while,” Nolan said.
Those players and Kevin Porter, who is on injured reserve, aren’t expected to return to the lineup for at least a week. Porter and McCormick could be out longer.
Ville Leino missed the game against the Wild with a lower-body injury but Nolan hopes he’ll be ready to go against the Devils on Saturday.
“Ville’s pretty close. He’s going to be another game-time decision tomorrow,” Nolan said. “Hopefully he’s in.”
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers was back on the ice at Xcel Energy Center for the team’s morning skate on Thursday after taking a maintenance day on Wednesday.
He said he’s feeling great and is ready to go against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. The game is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. in Buffalo.
With his normal defensive partner Henrik Tallinder out for at least a week with an injury, Myers was paired with Mike Weber on Tuesday against Winnipeg. Myers said that Weber’s ability to communicate well has made it easy for the two to find some chemistry.
“I thought we went really well last game together,” he said. “I thought a big thing for us we were talking to each other really well and making sure we knew the other was supporting. I thought the communication we had the way we moved the puck to each other was a great start for us here.”
Captain Steve Ott did not partake in the morning skate. He practiced with the team Wednesday, but was given a maintenance day by the coaching staff on Thursday.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said that Ott will play against the Wild.
“He’s a competitive guy and once in a while you have to pull him back and give him some rest to makes sure he’s good for games,” Nolan said.
Ryan Miller, coming off the announcement that he had made Team USA’s roster for the Olympic Games in Sochi, is expected to start in goal.
The line of center Matt Ellis, left wing John Scott and right wing Matt D’Agostini could be considered the fourth line, but that’s not how they’re approaching it. Scott scored his first goal of the season on Friday and they’ve promoted themselves since then.
“Johnny doesn’t think we’re a fourth line. Since he scored, we’ve been calling ourselves the second line,” D’Agostini said with a grin. “Our job is just to provide energy, go out there and forecheck. That’s where we’ve been getting our chances, so the second line’s got to be good again tonight.”
Johan Larsson was drafted by the Wild in 2010 and played one year in Minnesota’s system before being traded to the Sabres at the NHL Trade Deadline last year. He made his NHL debut with the Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 17, 2013.
He’ll be in Buffalo's lineup Thursday night for the injured Ville Leino.
“I played one game here so it’s going to be fun,” he said. “I know a lot of people over on the team and I know the staff so it’s nice to be back here in the building and hopefully we get a win here”
The Wild are have lost six in a row and have only two wins in their past 10 games. Minnesota’s power play is currently 13th in the NHL. They’ve converted on 18.9 percent of their opportunities with the man advantage.
“We want to stay out of the box,” Nolan said. “They’ve been having a little bit of trouble 5-on-5, but the majority of their goals have been coming on the power play so we want to stay out of the box.”
The Sabres tried to create a lot of traffic in front of the net against the Jets and that will be a continued point of emphasis from the coaching staff.
“The majority of our play, we want to make sure we have a net-front presence. The last few games, we’ve been skating by like a fly-by,” Nolan said. “We want to stop by and see If there are any rebounds for us to collect.”
The two players, recalled from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, joined the Buffalo Sabres for practice Wednesday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center after flying back from Switzerland.
The Amerks have been competing in the Spengler Cup exhibition tournament overseas, but McNabb and Larsson left early to serve as reinforcements for the Sabres.
Buffalo plays the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.
They took part in a practice in which Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan skated the team pretty hard and focused on net-front presence.
“I was happy that we were actually able to come and skate and get the cobwebs out,” McNabb said. “I’m excited to be back and I’m looking forward to it.”
Rochester went 0-3-0 in the Spengler Cup, but Larsson said it was good for the team to be a part of the tournament. He recorded one assist in those three games.
“It’s different hockey. It’s a bigger ice surface. It took a little time for us to adjust to that," Larsson said. "I think the last two games we played pretty good, but we didn’t win. I think all the boys were really happy to go there and it was a good experience.”
McNabb and Larsson took a two-hour flight from Zurich to Amsterdam. McNabb said it was then another eight hours from Amsterdam to Minnesota.
Larsson will be in the lineup against the Wild as Ville Leino has a lower-body injury that will cause him to miss the game. He took a big hit from Thomas Wilson of the Captials on Sunday and missed practice on Monday. He suited Tuesday night against the Winnipeg Jets but left the game in the first period. He's also been dealing with the flu.
“Ville tried it last night and just wasn’t good enough to go. We’ll give him a little bit more time. Hopefully he’ll get ready soon,” Nolan said. “I think right now it’s day-to-day. He took a pretty big bang there a couple days ago, but it’s getting better and better.”
For now, McNabb will serve as the seventh defenseman. Tyler Myers took a maintenance day and did not skate with the team Wednesday. The Sabres are already without Henrik Tallinder, who will miss at least a week with an injury.
Nolan said that Myers is “semi-questionable” for the game Thursday, but thinks that Myers should be ready to go.
To make room for the two players, the Sabres placed Cody Hodgson on injured reserve. Hodgson has missed four games with an upper-body injury.
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
9 Steve Ott – 65 Brian Flynn – 21 Drew Stafford
32 John Scott – 37 Matt Ellis – 27 Matt D’Agostini
82 Marcus Foligno – 22 Johan Larsson – 17 Linus Omark
Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week after going 2-0-1 with a 1.55 goals against average and a .961 save percentage for the week ending Dec. 29. He stopped a career-high 49 shots Sunday night in Buffalo’s 2-1 shootout win over the Washington Capitals.
The Sabres will stick with their goaltending schedule and give Miller the night off against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. Jhonas Enroth will get the nod in Winnipeg.
“You have to project further out and we need Jhonas to be ready,” Miller said after practice at Riverside Ice Arena on Monday. “And it’s an Olympic year. We’re factoring in the possibility of more travel and playing time for maybe both of us. The idea is to balance it out a little more.”
As far as the Olympics go, Miller reiterated that he has not yet heard from Team USA regarding the Winter Olympic roster. USA Hockey is expected to announce its roster on New Year's Day. Enroth is a candidate to back up Henrik Lundqvist for Team Sweden.
While Enroth has only one win this season, Miller has been impressed with the 25-year-old netminder’s play.
“I think he’s handled it really well in kind of a situation where I thought he’s had some good nights and he just hasn’t gotten the win,” he said. “But I thought he’s played really solid.”
Miller has played as many as 76 games in a season. Since the team can rely on Enroth to give them quality starts, Miller is able receive proper rest to keep his energy levels up to where he feels they need to be.
“Learning over the years, you want to play as much as possible, but you have to know there are moments where you have to build yourself up off the ice,” Miller said. “You have to take a little bit of a mental break and do your work in the gym, do your work on the ice that maybe you don’t do as much if you’re playing.”
The Sabres are clicking at home, having won their past four games at First Niagara Center. But they’ll try to find a way to mimic that success on the road this week.
Buffalo will embark on a two-game road trip that starts on New Year’s Eve in Winnipeg. After the game, they’ll travel to Minnesota to take on the Wild on Thursday. They’ll return home for a date with the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
The Sabres have played both the Jets and Wild already this season at First Niagara Center. While they’ve gotten a look at what those teams are about, Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder said that these next two games will certainly have a different vibe.
“They probably want to set a tone in their home buildings, so they’re going to be tough games,” he said. “We have pretty good confidence in our team. We’re playing decent right now. We can play better. We know that. So we’re going to go into those buildings and play our best.”
With Buffalo’s recent success, Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan is now looking at taking the next step in the team’s development.
“We’ve got a long ways to go. We adjusted [to] the feel-good period part. Now we just have to pay a little bit more attention to details,” he said. “If you look at the goaltending we have, we have pretty good goaltending. So if we play honestly in front of them, we’ll have good chances [to win].”
Brian Flynn, Steve Ott and Ville Leino did not practice. Nolan said it was a rest day for Flynn and Ott while Leino is still dealing with some effects of the flu. The Sabres are carrying 13 forwards at the moment but center Cody Hodgson is unavailable as he recovers from an upper-body injury. Hodgson has not practiced with the team since he sustained the injury on Dec. 19.
Nolan said they would dress seven defensemen if Leino is unable to play.
Coming off a shootout loss on the road Friday night to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Buffalo Sabres were back on the ice Saturday afternoon at Riverside Ice Arena.
The Sabres are 4-0-1 in their past five home games and will look to keep that going when they host the Washington Capitals at 5 p.m. on Sunday at First Niagara Center.
Now that he has the players committed to not letting up in their effort during games, Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan seems to have turned his attention a bit more toward Buffalo plays a more structured game.
“I think we all play within the confines of our ability and the confines of our system which we have to play. If we don’t do it, we’re going to be in trouble,” he said.
The Sabres found themselves in some trouble in the second period against Toronto. The Maple Leafs scored three goals in the period and none of the players after the game were happy with the way that 20 minutes played out.
“That was evident last night. We got away from it totally in the second period and Toronto took it to us pretty good,” Nolan said on Saturday. “We have to play with some kind of structure.”
Captain Steve Ott did not practice. He was given the day off by the coaching staff for maintenance.
The Maple Leafs tried to create some matchup problems against the Sabres by throwing top scorers like Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri against Buffalo’s third and fourth lines. That some Sabres players were still feeling the effects of the flu that caused four of them to miss the game on Monday certainly played a role in Toronto’s strategy.
While the Sabres will have the last change against Washington, it’s likely that the Capitals will try and prey on some of the players trying to regain their strength.
Matt Ellis was one of the players faced with a few tough matchups against Toronto.
“When our line does get matched up against a line like Kessel and Kadri, there are certain things we need to do: get the puck out of our zone as quick as possible, get the puck in and limit the turnovers,” he said. “It’s all about having that awareness and knowing what to do in certain situations.”
Nolan stressed the importance of receiving an honest effort from every player on the team so that, when situations like that arise, anyone on the bench can be counted on to play a role on the ice.
“We have what we have. If you try to shorten our bench down to six or seven players, it’s going to be a long game, it’s going to be a long year,” he said. “That’s exactly what I told the guys today. In order for us to have any kind of success, we need everybody.”
The Sabres defense will also be presented with a big challenge in containing Alexander Ovechkin. The Capitals captain has 30 goals and 11 assists in 36 games this year.
“He’s obviously a big threat with not only his shot, but how many shots he takes in a game,” Tyler Myers said. “It’s the same with any player, really. You want to limit his time and space and try to force him make a play he doesn’t want to make.”
Myers’ partner, Henrik Tallinder, is aware of the problems Ovechkin poses, but is confident that the Sabres can find a way to neutralize him and the Capitals offensive attack.
“That guy, he never sleeps. It seems like he’s awake all the time on the ice,” he said. “It’s tough but we’ve done it before. Let’s do it again.”
Buffalo’s defense was active in the Toronto zone and it’s likely that will continue against Washington.
Ott’s game-tying goal with 24.1 seconds left against the Maple Leafs came as a result of Myers holding onto the puck at the blue line and waiting for the right moment to put the puck on net.
“I’m starting to figure out all this game is about is confidence,” Myers said. “I’ve been feeling really comfortable with my game and where I’ve taken it. It’s just a matter of making sure I keep working towards improving every day.”
TORONTO – The Buffalo Sabres played shorthanded in their last game. It looks like they’ll have a full crew ready to go Friday night.
Four players – Ville Leino, Marcus Foligno, Linus Omark and Alexander Sulzer – missed Buffalo’s game on Monday with the flu. Buffalo played the game with 16 skaters and won 2-1 in overtime after the puck fell into goaltender Mike Smith’s pants and he inadvertently backed up across the goal line.
Coming off the three-day holiday break, the team has had some much-needed time to recuperate. All of the sick players were back on the ice for the team’s morning skate at Air Canada Centre as the Sabres prepare for their matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:30 p.m.
Omark, whom the team acquired in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 19, finally got his first practice in with Buffalo.
“It was good to be back on the ice,” he said. “I had a couple days off now and I’ve been sick so I’m excited to play tonight.”
In his Sabres debut against Boston on Saturday, he played 12:57 and was a minus-1. He also committed a penalty early in the game that led to a Bruins power-play goal. Omark said he’s hoping to rebound from that game.
“I have to work hard. When the chances come, you have to take it. I guess [I can] work harder,” he said. “I had a bad start and now I’ve been sick. That’s better, so keep going from there.”
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan will also be looking for a better effort from Omark.
“Not too times you get too many chances. He’s a young guy but he’s got to play with a lot more energy than he did,” Nolan said. “But we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt the first time with jet lag and getting to a new team and having the flu, but after this, he’s got to play with a lot more energy.”
Nolan said he’ll likely start Omark on a line with Leino and Foligno.
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal for Buffalo. He is 31-15-1 all-time against Toronto with a 2.44 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. Miller has more wins (31) and shutouts (4) against the Maple Leafs than any other team.
Sulzer and center Cody Hodgson are expected to be scratched. Hodgson, according to Nolan, is still “a ways away” from playing after sustaining an upper-body injury on Dec. 19. He skated on his own at the end of practice.
John Scott is expected to play in his 200th NHL game and he may continue to see an increased role on special teams. With the Sabres short-staffed last game, the coaching staff had him park in front of the net on the power play to try and drum up some chances. Nolan said Scott might be in that spot again against Toronto.
“You look at a lot of power-play goals, it’s a lot of just shooting at the net and creating screens,” Nolan said. “There’s no bigger guy that we have on this team outside of [Tyler] Myers who can make a big screen in front of the goaltender.”
Drew Stafford left the game Monday night midway through the second period after he was called for a high elbow on defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Stafford said he has not heard from the League regarding any sort of hearing. Stafford received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the infraction.
“That was tough. I felt [worse] because of the short bench,” Stafford said. “It was tough enough as it is having the three lines and we were playing a certain kind of game. And then a call like that happens, it was tough. Fortunately, the win trumps it all so that felt good with the boys battling back. That was a gutsy win so that was fun to watch.”
In that win, the Sabres played the game with only three forward lines. They utilized a defensive scheme that Nolan may have borrowed from his other coaching job with the Latvian national team.
“We had nine forwards and we wanted to try and save our legs a bit,” Sabres forward Matt Moulson said. “So that was our version of the Latvian Wall.”
This will be the fourth of five meetings between the Sabres and Maple Leafs this season. The home team has won the last five games played between the two clubs.
Overall, Buffalo is 4-0-1 in their last five home games, but hasn’t picked up on a victory on the road since Nov. 8 when they defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-4 in the shootout. Moulson hopes that’ll change Friday night.
“For some reason, we’ve been playing well at home and not getting as many victories on the road. I think we just have to play that smart game, not turning pucks over, making sure we’re limiting quality chances and continue to work.”
The Sabres had a pretty lively morning skate that at times resembled a more traditional practice. Coming off the break, Stafford said that keeping things “extra simple” and not turning the puck over against Toronto should help them earn two points.
“I think if we do that and worry about how we’re playing, that’ll translate into a good effort. We’ve had good efforts, but we’re looking for a solid game on the road," he said. "Hopefully guys are rested up. We had a good morning skate to get the rust off a little bit and get ready to go.”
In addition to their opponents on the ice, the Buffalo Sabres are battling the flu.
Four or five members of the Buffalo Sabres are ill according to interim coach Ted Nolan, including recently acquired forward Linus Omark.
Nolan wouldn’t confirm who else might be sick. Omark, Marcus Foligno, Ville Leino, Alexander Sulzer and Henrik Tallinder were among the players absent from the team’s optional morning skate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the ones under the weather.
The Sabres are scheduled to host the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center and it’s possible that some of the sick players could miss the game. It could take some real feats of strength for the sick players to be well enough to play.
“We’re hoping that they’re ready to go. Four or five of them called in this morning, couldn’t make it out of bed,” Nolan said. “So we’re hoping by gametime they’ll feel a little bit better.”
TED NOLAN PRESS CONFERENCE
Nolan said he noticed the team seemed a little sluggish in their 4-1 loss to the Bruins on Saturday. By Sunday, it was apparent that the flu was spreading.
“I kind of felt something was up with the team because we weren’t as strong. We’re not the strongest team, but at least we’re battling for the pucks. But I thought we were knocked off them pretty easy,” Nolan said. “They didn’t have that certain jump. We had it for certain periods of time, but we didn’t have it as consistently as we have the last three or four games. I kind of felt something was up. Yesterday was an indicator of that for sure.”
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal for Buffalo.
Pysyk re-joins the Sabres after being assigned to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League on Dec. 17. He played in three games for the Amerks during his time in Rochester, recording one assist.
Larsson returns to Buffalo after being assigned to Rochester on Nov. 20. He played in 13 games for the Amerks, notching nine points (2+7). He started the season with the Sabres and had one assist in 17 games.
Larsson did not participate in the morning skate, but Pysyk did take the ice.
JOHAN LARSSON INTERVIEW
Both players said they tried to remain optimistic when they were told they were being sent down.
“I played a lot, so that’s the most important [thing] for me. It’s been a little up and down playing, but I feel good,” Larsson said. “You always want to be here. But sometimes it’s good to get your confidence back, go down there and play a lot and in every situation.”
Nolan looks for Larsson to bring a solid work ethic with him to the Sabres lineup.
“We talked to the coach down in Rochester and one thing we heard and one of the reasons we brought him up is he’s competing hard,” Nolan said. “We all know his skills set. Skill is something, but if you don’t work, if skill doesn’t work, it’s no good. He’s working. He’s competing a little harder so that was a good sign.”
MARK PYSYK INTERVIEW
Pysyk has averaged 19:55 of ice time in 31 NHL games this season. He’s been on the top pairing and has also found himself as a healthy scratch. He said he spent his brief time in Rochester to work on bringing more consistency to his game.
“I don’t think you can ever be surprised. Obviously I’m in a position here where I can be down or up at any moment,” he said. “I just took the opportunity. It was fun to get down there, see all the guys from last year again. Played three games down there. They challenged us to be the best guys down there and that’s how we all took it. Just went down there and did the best we could.”
Buffalo sent defenseman Chad Ruhwedel back to Rochester.
Kevin Porter was placed on injured reserve after sustaining an injury Saturday. Nolan did not provide a timetable for how long Porter may be out.
Nolan said Cody Hodgson, who is out with an upper-body injury, is still “a ways away” from returning. None of them were on the ice with the team Monday morning.
Morning Skate Participants
BOSTON – Linus Omark joined the Buffalo Sabres in Boston on Friday after being traded from the Edmonton Oilers organization on Thursday.
Indeed, he’ll be in the lineup Saturday night when the Sabres take on the Bruins at 7 p.m. at TD Garden.
“You can say that from the beginning when I signed there, I wanted to play in the NHL and it was pretty tough,” he said. “They have some really good forwards, top six there and I never really got the chance this year. So I’m glad I ended up here.”
Omark had 29 points in 29 games with the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League. He’s excited for the chance to play in the NHL again.
“It’s been going pretty good this season. They gave me a lot of ice time down there and there are good coaches down there. They helped me a lot,” he said. “I got some confidence from playing down there and hopefully I can bring it here, too.”
He said he prefers playing on the wing and says he’s usually on the left side. He’ll start with Kevin Porter and Matt Ellis. Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said that because the team is playing well and coming off back-to-back wins, he doesn’t want to tinker with the lineup too much.
“Right now, we’re playing much better so to break up some combinations just to squeeze him in would be difficult,” Nolan said. “We’ll keep him on the so-called fourth line right now and we’ll see how we goes, give him some minutes. As we go forward here, we’ll see how it all adjusts.”
The lineup spot opens up because Cody Hodgson is expected to be out for a few weeks with an upper-body injury. Brian Flynn will remain at center between Marcus Foligno and Matt D’Agostini. Flynn moved up to that line after Hodgson left the game on Thursday.
The other change to the lineup will be in goal. Nolan said Jhonas Enroth will get the start for Buffalo.
Over the past two seasons, whenever the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres have played each other, John Scott has been in Buffalo’s lineup.
That might be the case again Thursday night when the two clubs meet at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said the 6-foot-8 left wing will be a game-time decision. Buffalo is coming off a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday and received quality minutes from all four lines. Scott was a healthy scratch for that game.
Since the coaching staff may not want to disrupt the chemistry the forwards are developing, they may try Scott on defense.
“This will be a real game-time decision whether we put him in. We’ve been working with him the last couple games,” Nolan said after the team’s optional skate Thursday morning. “Everybody played well last [game] so it depends on the mood before the game, I guess.”
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Scott did some defensive work with Chad Ruhwedel at practice Wednesday, but since the team has 13 forwards and seven defensemen, that wasn’t unusual. Scott’s practiced on defense at various points in time this season to give the team an even number on the blue line. He did some additional one-on-one skating drills Wednesday with assistant coach Joe Sacco as well.
He skated with the defensemen during the morning skate Thursday and it’s actually a pretty familiar spot for him. He played a lot of defense in his career before he signed with Buffalo in July 2012.
“I think he looks good,” Nolan said. “Defense, you just have to move the puck up or if you’re in trouble, ring it around the boards. He’s a big man that can cover a lot of ice and he’s an intelligent guy too, so he should be able to pick it up.”
Nolan did not give any clues as to which player may sit if Scott dresses, but he did say that no other lineup changes are expected. Chad Ruhwedel will be the team’s healthy scratch on defense. Ryan Miller will get the start between the pipes.
Miller is 25-9-7 against the Bruins in his career with a 2.57 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. He hasn’t lost consecutive starts to Boston since the 2008-09 season, posting a 13-4-3 record in his 20 games against the Bruins since those losses. The Bruins defeated Miller and the Sabres 5-2 in their first meeting this season on Oct. 23.
Against the Jets, the Sabres rolled four lines and scored four goals in regulation, which tied a season-high. Nolan shook up the lines a few games ago and it appears as if the new combinations are starting to click.
“We wanted a balanced attack and then all of a sudden, you needed some more minutes from the fourth line last time. They gave us that,” Nolan said. “So if you’re going to play with some energy, you have to have four lines going.”
The Sabres are hoping that they can build off that effort going into a game against an Atlantic Division rival in the Bruins. Sabres forward Marcus Foligno, who scored against Winnipeg, sees the matchup as a good measuring stick for his club.
“It’s fun playing that team. They’ve got some really talented players that you can compare yourself to,” he said. “At the same time, to beat Boston, it would be really good for our team confidence-wise. It’s going to be a tough task tonight, but I’m sure all the guys are on board for that.”
|Credit: Bill Wippert/Getty Images|
Buffalo Sabres wing Matt Moulson’s first few weeks in Buffalo were a whirlwind, but he’s now had time to settle in not only with the team, but with the city as well.
Offensively, things are coming are coming around, too. He scored the game-winning goal on the power play early in the third period Tuesday night in the Sabres’ 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. He’s scored in back-to-back games.
The Sabres have been generating more and more offensive chances the past few games and they were finally able to break out with a four-goal performance against Winnipeg. Moulson’s goal came when he parked himself in front of the net and deflected in a point shot by defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.
“Obviously when pucks are going in, you feel pretty good about yourself and when that confidence is there, it feels like they’re going in more and more,” Moulson said. “We just have to keep getting pucks there, keep getting guys there and keep getting those dirty goals and eventually we’ll get that confidence in scoring.”
Moulson's made a big impression on interim coach Ted Nolan, who joined the team on Nov. 13.
“I’ve really come to admire him not only as a player, but as a man. He’s a true pro,” Nolan said. “He comes to work. He has a great demeanor about him. He seems to really enjoy the game. He’s one of those guys you like to have on your team for sure.”
GREAT SEATS STILL AVAILABLE FOR THURSDAY VS. BOSTON
The Sabres acquired Moulson and two draft picks from the New York Islanders on Oct. 27 for co-captain Thomas Vanek. Moulson scored on his first shot as a Sabre the next night and added a second goal later in the game. He’s currently atop Buffalo’s scoring leaderboard with 12 goals and 22 points through 32 games. He has six goals and seven assists in his 21 games as a Sabre.
A few days after arriving in Buffalo, the Sabres traveled downstate to play the New York Rangers. While they were there, Moulson told reporters he was able to go home to grab some personal items, including a winter jacket.
Since then, he’s brought back most everything he’d need to prepare for the cold months ahead.
“I don’t think I brought too many clothes. I usually wear the same things over and over again,” he said. “But I don’t mind the snow at all. I obviously grew up with a lot of snow so it’s kind of a nice change to see some snow. I have to get my daughter acclimated to the cold weather and snow though.”
Moulson and his wife had their second child just a few weeks before he was traded. Initially, it was difficult for him to be away, but now his family is settled in Western New York.
He credits members of the organization and his teammates’ families for helping with the transition.
“I think everyone here, all the wives and other families here and [owners] Terry and Kim [Pegula] have made my family feel extremely welcome,” he said. “I know they do that with everyone so it definitely makes it a lot easier to concentrate on hockey when you’re treated so well and you enjoy being where you’re being.”
Moulson grew up just over the border in Mississauga, Ont. and said he attended both Bills and Sabres games as a kid. He’s been to one Bills game this year and was able to see a victory.
“I’m 1-0 right now,” he said. “One game, one win.”
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Through various trips across the border, Moulson was pretty familiar with the area before he started playing for the Sabres. However, there are still a few things he’s learning about.
“I think the one thing I definitely did not know about Buffalo was all the good restaurants. There’s a lot of good food in Buffalo,” he said. “I thought it was all chicken wings – and great wings, obviously – but there are a lot of other great restaurants. It’s been a lot of fun to get around and see all of them.”
His sister attended Niagara University to play hockey, but he says she never told him about Western New York’s wide variety of fine dining options.
“I don’t think she could afford too many restaurants when she was in college,” he said with a smile. “She told me about Chippewa Street, but that’s about it.”
Moulson was drafted in the fourth round of the 2004 National Lacrosse League Entry Draft by the Rochester Knighthawks. Although he ultimately made the decision to play hockey professionally instead, he said he still follows the NLL.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to get to some [Buffalo] Bandits games and Rochester’s not too far by, so who knows? Maybe if we get some time, I’ll make my way up there,” he said.
The Bandits open their season on Dec. 28 at First Niagara Center against the Philadelphia Wings.
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 27 Matt D’Agostini
9 Steve Ott – 23 Ville Leino – 21 Drew Stafford
32 John Scott – 12 Kevin Porter – 65 Brian Flynn – 37 Matt Ellis