After a few hectic days off the ice, the Buffalo Sabres will be back to work on it Friday night.
They host the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. in the first game of a home-and-home series and it’ll be the first game behind the bench for new interim head coach Ted Nolan.
Nolan took over Wednesday morning and the game against Toronto will be his first coaching the Sabres since the end of the 1996-97 season. As he looks to the matchup, he talked about how he’s tried to get the team ready in a such a short amount of time.
“A few things change, but overall, not too many things really do change,” Nolan said after the skate at First Niagara Center. “It’s game day. We’ve gotta get ready and our preparation and our focus on the process and not worrying about the result. We just want to make sure we go out there and play the way we’re capable of playing and we’ll see what happens at the end of it.”
Sabres center Cody McCormick told Sabres.com that the changes have brought some new excitement to the locker room. He’ll likely skate on a line with John Scott and Corey Tropp that will look to transfer some of that excitement into the game.
“[It’s been] positive, upbeat. We just have a lot of energy is the best way to put it,” McCormick said. “Ted just wants compete and I think that’s what our line can bring first and foremost. We’re on the same page. We’re kind of the same players and we know where we’re going to be on the ice, so we want to work well together and accomplish things on the ice.”
In addition to the news that Nolan had been brought on and former captain Pat LaFontaine had been hired as President of Hockey Operations, the Maple Leafs being in town adds an extra level of intrigue to the game Friday night.
“The city’s buzzing right now,” McCormick said. “The people I’ve talked to around town are excited and they deserve this excitement going into the game. We just have to come out and produce for them.”
With the team’s recent struggles, defenseman Henrik Tallinder said he wasn’t necessarily surprised that changes were made. He likes the direction the franchise is looking to move in.
“Eventually something will happen, it always does. I think history has shown that. You don’t realize when it’s going to happen so when it happens, it’s always going to be a little bit of a shock,” he said. “But when you hear it’s Nolan and LaFontaine, it’s pretty remarkable. Those guys are heroes here and I think they can build this organization the right way.”
The Sabres did not skate line rushes in practice, but Nolan did offer some hints as to what the lineup could look like up top.
“[Ville Leino] was really good at center ice so we’ll probably put him there and see what happens. And [Zemgus] Girgensons always played center his whole life, so we’ll put him there. [Marcus] Foligno hasn’t really played center until he got to pros, so we put him back on the wing,” he said. “We want to put these players in a position where they feel comfortable so there are no excuses.”
With Girgensons staying at center – but on a different line – according to Nolan, he could be between Foligno and Brian Flynn. Leino could then possibly center Steve Ott and Tyler Ennis on Girgensons’ line from practice Thursday.
Nolan said that defenseman Mike Weber will likely not be available to return from his thumb injury until next week.
Ryan Miller was the first goaltender off the ice and is expected to start in goal.
LaFontaine also talked to the media Friday about where the quest for a new general manager stands. After spending the past few days meeting with various people throughout the organization, he said he’ll really dive into the search next week.
“I’ll be traveling and meeting with some candidates and we’ll see how those go. It’s obviously a priority,” LaFontaine said. “It has to be that right person that’s a fit for this organization going forward. I just don’t want to put somebody in there. I want to put somebody in there that’s ready to do a lot of great things for a long time.”
Watch as LaFontaine tells the story of how he offered Nolan the position of interim head coach. It involves the Broadway musical "The Book of Mormon."
Even if they’re at home, the Buffalo Sabres will prepare like they’re on the road.
The Sabres are hoping to secure their first home win of the season Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings and will do so by treating the game as if they’re not playing at First Niagara Center. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.
“You go into a road building and you’re not there to paint a pretty picture or make the prettiest pass or the best play, you’re there to get the job done. And any way you can, you have to do so,” Sabres captain Steve Ott said after the team’s morning skate. “For us to be successful, we need to play that way. We need to go out there, pound at it, pound at it and continue to push forward like a road game and get results that way.”
The Sabres’ three victories this season have all come on the road and they started out strong on their recent three-game road trip. They defeated the Sharks 5-4 in San Jose in the shootout last Tuesday. Then on Thursday in Los Angeles, Buffalo surrendered two power-play goals and ran into strong goaltender in Jonathan Quick. The Kings skated away with a 2-0 victory.
“They have some exceptional players over there that obviously you give them some time and space, they’re going to make things happen,” Sabres forward Drew Stafford said. “For us, the last couple games, our PK has been a little bit at fault so the bottom line is we need to put that behind us and make sure we have a solid effort tonight with urgency and desperation.”
The Kings’ pair of goals on the man advantage proved to be the difference in the last matchup between the two clubs. After that game and looking back on it, the general consensus in the Sabres locker room was that they liked the way they played 5-on-5, especially early in the game.
GREAT SEATS STILL AVAILABLE FOR TONIGHT'S GAME
“I thought we had a good first period against the Kings, but you have to do it for 60 minutes in the League, so it’s being able to do it consistently,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said.
The Sabres penalty kill is clicking at 82.8 percent at home this season (tied for 16th in the NHL). While they’d like to improve on that number, they’ll also look to stay out of the box all together.
“I think the situation we’re in in the League in terms of our record, we’re certainly not going to get the benefit of a lot of calls so we have to be even more disciplined in the way we play,” Rolston said.
The Sabres did not do any line rushes during the morning skate, but based on who partook in extra work afterward, the lines will likely look a lot like they did at practice on Monday. Johan Larsson, John Scott, Mike Weber and Nikita Zadorov skated with the assistant coaches following practice and aren’t expected to be in the lineup tonight.
WATCH: RON ROLSTON PREGAME INTERVIEW
Activating Weber from injured reserve would mean the team would have to make a move to get down to the 23-man roster limit.
That puts Ville Leino will be back in the lineup after being a scratch against Anaheim on Friday. Rolston said Leino will see time on the power play against Los Angeles.
Ryan Miller was the first goaltender off the ice and is expected to start in goal for Buffalo.
Sabres players will be wearing camouflage jerseys during pregame warmups. The jerseys will then be put up for auction on the NHL.com auction site immediately following the game at 10 p.m.
All proceeds from the auction, which runs through Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 9 p.m., will benefit the Buffalo Sabres Foundation.
9 Steve Ott – 19 Cody Hodgson – 26 Matt Moulson
23 Ville Leino – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 82 Marcus Foligno – 65 Brian Flynn
25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 8 Cody McCormick – 78 Corey Tropp
ANAHEIM – The Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks are set to play their second game against each other in a week. Last Saturday, the Ducks claimed a 6-3 victory in Buffalo.
The Ducks and Sabres square off again Friday night at 7 p.m. (10 p.m. in Buffalo) at Honda Center.
The Sabres held an optional morning skate at Honda Center on Friday in which a dozen players took part in. Lineup updates from coach Ron Rolston won’t come until he meets with the media later this afternoon.
"He’s not playing tonight," Rolston said of Leino. "[Mikhail] Grigorenko will be in and that’s all we’re going to talk about."When asked about Leino's play of late, Rolston briefly expanded on the subject.
"We expect, again, our veterans to be a big part of the team and to this point, he hasn’t been," Rolston said. "I think, obviously it’s still there and he’s missed a lot of hockey to his defense. I’m sure he’ll be back."
John Scott is eligible to return from his seven-game suspension. He skated with the defense Friday morning and did some extra work with forward Ville Leino and goaltender Jhonas Enroth after practice.
Since that last game against Anaheim, the young Sabres have held their own against two of the best teams in the NHL during their three-game California road trip. They beat the San Jose Sharks 5-4 in a shootout on Monday and fell to the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 on Thursday with both Kings goals coming on the power play.
Right now, Anaheim has a League-best 27 points. The Sabres are at the bottom of the standings with seven. That said, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau isn’t overlooking Buffalo.
“Any time you think you’re better, when you’re at the top of the League and you’re something, it comes to bite you in the butt,” Boudreau said. “Watching the San Jose game against Buffalo and then the L.A. game, take away the power-play goals and they’re right there. So they’re feeling pretty good about themselves. The team scares me because I think they’re on the way up, trending upward.”
The Ducks are coming off a 5-2 win against the Coyotes on Wednesday. They’re 6-0-0 at home and have earned points in their past seven games overall (6-0-1).
With the way the scheduling works now, each team in the League will visit every arena at least once this season. Each Eastern Conference team will face every Western Conference team twice and in the case of the Sabres and Ducks, those matchups are occurring in a short time span. It gives both players and coaches a chance to game plan rather quickly for two games against a team they don’t see very often.
It’ll happen again in the not-too-distant future as Buffalo will play the Kings a second time on Tuesday in Buffalo. Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons said both teams can benefit from the fast turnaround.
“It’s definitely tougher to win two games in a row because they adjust to us and we try to adjust to them, so it’s just going to come down to who works harder,” he said.
Ryan Miller did not start in goal for the Sabres the last time the two teams met, but Boudreau is well aware of what Miller is capable of when he’s on his game. With Jhonas Enroth getting the game against the Kings on Thursday, Miller is expected to start against Anaheim.
“I think it’s always beneficial once you’ve played a team and you can see some of their tendencies. There are still a lot of unknown names in the Buffalo lineup that we really don’t know too much about. They might have had a bad game against us or not. It’s a small sample size, one game against them,” Boudreau said. “Plus they’ve got Ryan Miller in net tonight. The last time he was in here, he stopped 40-plus shots and they won 2-0 [on Feb. 29, 2012]. We don’t know how they’re going to play against us.”
Sabres rookie defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen will have a chance to line up against one of the players he grew up watching in Finland. Winger Teemu Selanne, who has said he plans to retire at the end of the season, is expected to be in the Anaheim lineup and Ristolainen is looking forward to the opportunity to play against him.
“I watched him when I was a kid and still [do] when he plays,” Ristolainen, 19, said. “He’s one of the best Finnish players ever and it’s very nice to play against him tonight. It might be the last chance to play against him for me.”
LOS ANGELES – Coming off a big win against one of the NHL’s best teams in the San Jose Sharks, the Buffalo Sabres hope to keep the good vibes going.
The Sabres take the ice against the Los Angeles Kings at 7:30 p.m. (10:30 p.m. in Buffalo) at Staples Center on Thursday.
Sabres forward Drew Stafford had a goal and an assist in the Sabres’ 5-4 shootout win against the Sharks and looks to continue rolling.
“The main word is ‘building.’ We want to continue to try and take the positives out of things,” Stafford said. “Obviously winning a game helps. Taking the positives off after losing so many in a row, it gets hard. It’s a challenge. To finally get a big win like that definitely lightens the mood around here. At the same time, it gives us a little bit of a boost to have a good one against a very good team.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston stressed the importance of using that win to propel them into a good start against the Kings.
“I liked a lot of things about last game and now it’s our job to build off of that and try to gain some momentum from that game,” he said. “We’re playing another team tonight that’s similar in terms of their style of play. They’re heavy so our compete’s going to have to be up there right off the bat.”
Defenseman Tyler Myers played 21:36 against the Sharks and said he had one of his most aggressive games of the season, particularly in the offensive zone. He said that strong play from the forwards will allow more opportunities for the defense to jump into the play.
“I think that was by far our best game as a team,” he said. “…I think for me, it’s trying not to force something that’s not there. I think, especially last [game], it’s seeing the opportunity and trying to take advantage of that.
"Last [game], it was probably one of my more aggressive offensive games so far but I think a lot of that had to do with how well our forwards controlled the puck and got after the puck on the forecheck, especially. When they’re doing their job as well as they did last game, it makes the back end’s job a whole lot easier to try and help them offensively."
Rolston said that Myers strong play stems mostly from the confidence he has in his game right now.
“I think he’s building his game and these couple, I think he’s done more offensively for us, which again build off of how he’s feeling about his game,” Rolston said. “I think he feels good about it and from there, from that foundation, I think he’s gaining confidence at the offensive end.”
Rookie Johan Larsson got into his first career fight against the Sharks. He was an aggressor and agitator for most of the night and dropped the gloves with Tyler Kennedy early in the second period. The fight started with a scrum in the corner as he and Kennedy exchanged words and a few crosschecks.
“It’s a part of the game so everything’s good. It happened very very quickly so you just have to be prepared for that,” Larsson said.
The Sabres will stick with the same combination of forwards and defensemen as they did against San Jose. The only change will come in net as Jhonas Enroth will start in goal. Rolston said that the team planned to give Enroth this game all along.
“I would hope they’re disappointed to not be in the lineup, but it is what is. We won a game last time, so we kept the lineup the same,” Rolston said.
Forward John Scott will serve the last game of his seven-game suspension on Thursday. He’s eligible to return on Friday against the Anaheim Ducks.
Rolston said that he and the coaching staff will make lineup decisions on a game-by-game basis but also said that Scott, Grigorenko and Zadorov have been working hard.
26 Matt Moulson – 19 Cody Hodgson – 63 Tyler Ennis
9 Steve Ott – 82 Marcus Foligno – 78 Corey Tropp
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 22 Johan Larsson – 65 Brian Flynn
23 Ville Leino – 8 Cody McCormick – 21 Drew Stafford
SAN JOSE – The Buffalo Sabres are aware that they face a tough test against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.
San Jose is 10-1-3 on the season and 5-0-1 at home. Seven players have 10 or more points, including their top three centers, Joe Thornton (1+13), Joe Pavelski (6+10) and Logan Couture (7+9). The Sabres know they won’t be able to take a shift off and will have to be ready from puck drop, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (10:30 p.m. in Buffalo).
“We have to come out as a team and play like a team for 60 minutes. If we don’t do that, it’s going to be a long night for us,” Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder said after the morning skate at SAP Center.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston said that through 16 games, Buffalo really hasn’t faced a team like the Sharks yet.
“This is the deepest lineup we’ll face. Early on in the season, we’ve played a lot of teams that have had two superstars up the middle, but this team’s got three,” Rolston said. “They’ve got three centers and three lines, really, that could be the first line on any team in the League. Every night is a challenge for a lot of these young players and tonight’ll be another one, especially on the road here.”
Buffalo will look to take some of the lessons they learned after a physical practice on Monday into the game Tuesday. Sabres captain Steve Ott said it starts with hard work.
“They have strong depth and if you’re not showing up and working, challenging their top guys to compete then it can go the other way in a hurry,” he said. For us, we have to play that way, we have to be physical, we have to compete for us to be successful tonight.”
Marcus Foligno might have been on the outside looking in at the lineup. After a few admittedly tough games, he started practice on Monday as the extra skater in line rushes, but did enough throughout the rest of the workout to convince the coaches he should be on the ice against the Sharks.
Foligno will center a line with Ott on the left and Corey Tropp on the right. He’s looking forward to facing off against San Jose’s talented centers.
“It goes with moving the feet. They’ve got big guys. They don’t want to play in their zone, that’s for sure. We need to make sure we’re bringing it right back at them,” he said. “We gotta make sure our big guys are playing like big guys and the smaller guys are moving their feet and making plays on their big guys. For myself, it’s going to be a good test.”
Rolston looks forward to a bounce-back game from Foligno as well.
“He’s got a lot of character. I think he’s a future leader for us and he’s a player that takes a lot of pride in his game,” Rolston said. “He knows where he’s at right now or where his last couple games have been and it is up to him at that point to take advantage of the opportunity he’s been given, which is quite a bit for us. I expect him to bounce back tonight.”
Sabres captain Steve Ott played with the Dallas Stars for nine seasons. While in the Western Conference, he found himself in the Shark Tank often and said that it’s a fun building to play in.
“It starts with the building, the energy. It’s an easy energy boost when you have fan support like they do and you come in and you’re playing a villain role or the spoiler role,” he said. “That’s probably the best part of it. And also, they’ve always had good teams. They’ve had great players and personally, I love competing against good players and trying to play hard against them.”
Ryan Miller was the first goaltender off the ice for the morning skate and is expected to start in goal. Rookies Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov stayed on the ice after practice with suspended forward John Scott, so they are likely the scratches.
26 Matt Moulson – 19 Cody Hodgson – 63 Tyler Ennis
9 Steve Ott – 82 Marcus Foligno – 78 Corey Tropp
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 22 Johan Larsson – 65 Brian Flynn
23 Ville Leino – 8 Cody McCormick – 21 Drew Stafford
The Sabres are expected to activate Tropp from the non-roster injured list prior to their game Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m. To make room for him on the 23-man roster, a move had to be made.
At noon, Buffalo announced that Kaleta had been placed on waivers.
The game against the Ducks would have been Kaleta's first since serving a 10-game suspension by the NHL for an illegal check to the head of Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson on Oct. 10.
He did not participate in the optional morning skate.
“This was a move we thought was necessary to help Pat change his game and preserve his career in this league,” Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said in a statement. “We believe in Pat as a person and we hope he will continue his career in our organization and, if the circumstances are right, with the Buffalo Sabres.”
“We’ve been preaching hard work here and we need to bring it into a game from the opening puck drop. Work hard and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, obviously it’s been a long layoff [for me],” he said. “They’re going to happen. This game’s a game of mistakes. But it’s what you do after you make a mistake. Are you going to sit there and watch it or work your way back and try to get the puck back? It’s just the little stuff for our line. Let’s be one of the hardest working lines on the ice.”
It will be the third time this season that Grigorenko has been scratched. Sabres coach Ron Rolston has moved some of the younger players in and out of the lineup over the past few weeks. Rookie defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov have also watched a few games from the press box.
With McBain out, Zadorov would be back on the ice against Anaheim.
“I think you’re going to see that from a lot of our younger guys. They’ll probably be in at times and out at times, just like Risto was and Big Z was,” Rolston said. “I think you’re going to see that where they come out, get some perspective, go back in. It’s a part of the development process for some of those younger players.”
Jhonas Enroth was the first goaltender off the ice and is expected to start in goal.
John Scott said he does not plan to appeal the seven-game suspension handed down on him by the League for an illegal hit to the head of Boston’s Loui Eriksson on Oct. 23.
“I’m just going to kind of stick with what the League gave me and move on from there,” Scott said. “Hopefully the issue will die and we can move on from it.”
Scott said that he understands the League wants to get those types of hits out of the game and said he had a good, frank conversation with Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s Senior Vice President of Player Safety.
“I just have to be, I guess, a little more responsible with my approach on hits and err on the side of caution from now on,” Scott said. “I just gotta be a little more responsible and really pay attention to how the other player’s head lines up and if he’s vulnerable in any way.”
Since he’s 6-foot-8, Scott realizes that most times, the players he hits could be in dangerous positions. It’s something he said he’ll be mindful of from now on.
“Being a big guy, you always kind of worry about it, but it’s not something I go out there and pay attention to,” he said. “I’m just playing my game. I don’t think I’m a dirty hitter, so it’s something I’ve dealt with in my career, but obviously going forward, it’s something I’ll think about.”
The Ducks are set to play their seventh game of an eight-game road trip. They’re 3-2-1 when playing out east so far. This will be their first game in Buffalo since Dec. 21, 2010.
Rolston doesn’t expect to see a fatigued team lining up against his squad on Saturday.
“It’s part of the League I think in terms of the road trips and we’re going on one starting tomorrow. We expect them to be very good,” Rolston said. “They’re a good team, a real good team. Got a lot of dynamics to them. They’re big, they’re fast. They have a lot of talent. They’ve been playing well so they’ll be good.”
NEW YORK – After practice on Wednesday in Buffalo, Sabres coach Rolston talked about how the younger players on the team, including the four teenagers, will need to work harder to become more consistent both in practice and in games.
Part of learning how to deal with playing a full season in the NHL – and playing well – means occasionally taking a night to watch the game from the press box as a healthy scratch.
That’ll be the case for 18-year-old rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov for the team’s game against the New York Rangers on Thursday at 7 p.m. Jamie McBain will take his place in the lineup and will likely play the left side on a pairing with Rasmus Ristolainen.
Zadorov is in a different position than the other six rookies on the team. The Sabres can return him to his junior club, the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, without using up a year on his contract as long as he does not play in more than nine games with Buffalo.
“He needs to better. A lot of aspects. A lot of his details right now [in] practice and game situations,” Rolston said after practice Thursday at Madison Square Garden. “He needs to get some perspective. With all our players, especially our young guys, we don’t want guys getting comfortable.”
Ristolainen, Buffalo’s other 2013 first-round pick, has been a healthy scratch in two games this season and did not dress for a third as he was assigned to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League at the time. Rolston said that he’s seen improvement from Ristolainen in the three games since he was last scratched.
“I thought when Rasmus was out of the lineup, he came back and played well. He was refocused on what he needed to do and wasn’t taking things for granted. I think it’ll be the same with Nikita,” Rolston said.
In Ristolainen’s first game back in the lineup, he scored his first NHL goal.
“I think for him, it was good to get out and watch things from upstairs and just understand his position a little better and understand how he can keep thing simple, where he needed to improve defensively but just keeping the game simpler,” Rolston said. “I think he’s done a better job with that and he’s been better in some of the areas that we’ve been working with him on with his defensive stick and net-front situations that he’s been in. But we like where he’s going.”
The coaching staff has a few decisions to make in the next few days regarding the roster.
Right wing Patrick Kaleta is set to come back on Saturday against Anaheim, having served his 10-game suspension by the League. Rolston also said that forward Corey Tropp will likely be ready Saturday as well. He’s been on the non-roster injured reserve since breaking his jaw in a fight during the preseason. Tropp skated with the team at MSG.
Putting Tropp in the lineup would require the team to make a move to satisfy the 23-man roster limit.
“It should push everybody because we’ve got some decisions to make here coming up,” Rolston said. “You’ve got players like Corey [Tropp] coming back and Patty Kaleta’s suspension’s up on Saturday. Everybody should feel that.”
The Sabres did not do any line rushes during the morning skate but the forward combinations will likely look similar to what they have been in practice this week. Rolston confirmed that Mikhail Grigorenko will be back in the middle, centering Zemgus Girgensons and right wing Brian Flynn.
That would put Johan Larsson on the fourth line with center Cody McCormick and right wing Drew Stafford. Ville Leino had been practicing on the right side with center Marcus Foligno and left wing Steve Ott. New addition Matt Moulson would then again be on the top line with center Cody Hodgson and right wing Tyler Ennis.
Ryan Miller was the first goaltender off the ice and is expected to start in goal.
John Scott did not skate with the team. He was set to have an in-person hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety for a hit he made on Loui Eriksson of the Boston Bruins on Oct. 23. The in-person hearing allows the League to suspend him for at least five games. He’s missed three already.
Lindy Ruff is used to setting up shop inside the Buffalo Sabres locker room. However, he’ll be across the hall Monday night, preparing for the game with his new team, the visiting Dallas Stars.
Ruff earned 571 wins in 1,165 games behind the Sabres bench before being relieved of his duties 17 games into the 2012-13 season. He signed on with Dallas over the summer and added former Sabres assistant coach James Patrick to his staff.
The Sabres host the Stars at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m. in Ruff’s first game back in Buffalo since being replaced by Ron Rolston. The game can be seen on MSG in the U.S. and on Bell TV in Canada. It can also be heard live on WGR 550.
Ruff said he still wants to see Buffalo succeed – on most nights, that is.
“Not tonight, I can’t root,” he said with a laugh. “I can root in-between games and they’re in the East. I root for the city and I root for the team. I want to see them do well.”
The Sabres are going with a youth movement and have dressed four teenagers, all first-round picks, the past four games. The Sabres have seven rookies in the lineup at the moment and at 2-10-1, sit in last place in the Atlantic Division.
“It’s tough to see where the team is at in the standings, but I watch how these players play and how some of the young players play and I think there’s a lot of promise there,” Ruff said. “I know it is really tough, but I understand where they’re at.”
As to how he thinks he’ll received by fans during the game?
“I have nothing but good memories. I think it’ll be a warm reception and I know we need to win a game,” he said. “We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs this year, too, as a team.”
“I traded texts with Thomas last night and wished him well. Again, it’s a funny feeling when you’re seeing your ex-players that you’ve been around a long time and seeing Ryan for a long time,” he said. “It’s great to see, and in some ways, it just feels awkward.”
The Sabres are adjusting to the sudden trade of Vanek, their co-captain, and the arrival of Matt Moulson from the New York Islanders.
Rolston said that Ruff, like Vanek, was a dedicated member of the organization. Ruff also played for the Sabres from 1979 to 1989 and served as captain.
“[He] put a lot into the organization, had great success here and we certainly welcome him back and it’ll be good to see him,” Rolston said. “[I] saw him a little bit in the hallway, but I’m glad they’re doing well in Dallas and he found a spot. [He] and James are terrific people and we wish them all the success.”
The Sabres did not do any line rushes in their morning skate, but Rolston said the only change in the lineup will be Moulson in for Vanek. That would mean defenseman Jamie McBain would be the team’s only healthy scratch for the second straight game.
SUNRISE, FLA. -- A lingering injury combined with a pair of suspensions will force the Buffalo Sabres to dress only 11 forwards and seven defensemen for tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers.
Henrik Tallinder will be the lone scratch on the blueline, and Jamie McBain will return after being a healthy scratch in Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to Boston. Following a two-game absence with a leg injury, forward Cody McCormick has been activated from Injured Reserve and is expected to start the game as part of Buffalo’s two-man fourth line along with Drew Stafford.
Sabres head coach Ron Rolston understands the challenge of juggling an extra defenseman, but also realizes he’s in a tough spot with the 23-man roster.
“We’ll rotate seven guys back there. But that’s kind of where we’re at with the roster,” explained Rolston following today’s morning skate at the BB&T Center. “We’ll have seven back there, and if anything happens up front, then we can move a guy up there.”
Ville Leino has been skating for the past few days and had hoped to come off IR this weekend, but he’ll remain out while nursing a rib injury that has sidelined him for the past 10 games. Rolston categorized Leino as a possibility for Monday’s home game against Dallas.
“It’s basically about him getting back in shape now, and being comfortable doing what he’s gotta do when he’s playing,” said Rolston. “That’s taking hits and getting hit. And if he’s gonna have the puck he’s gonna get hit. So he’s gotta be ready for that and comfortable with that, so it’s probably going to be next week.”
Forwards Patrick Kaleta (seventh game missed) and John Scott (first game) are both out of the Buffalo lineup due to their respective suspensions. Kaleta traveled with the Sabres and took part in today’s skate, while Scott remained in Buffalo.
Jhonas Enroth will get the start in goal for Buffalo tonight, and it will be the first time he’s ever faced the Panthers. Enroth’s counterpart in the Florida cage will be fellow Swede Jacob Markstrom.
Forward Kevin Porter was placed on waivers Thursday, and was assigned to Rochester today after officially clearing as of 12 Noon. Rolston thinks very highly of Porter, and said the decision to waive him was a difficult one.
“It’s always the toughest thing you have to do, to cut somebody or waive somebody, whatever the case may be. I have a lot of respect for [Kevin]. He came here last year when I got here, and worked really hard for us and played really well. He’s a guy that brings it every day and battles, and he’s a real good teammate.
“It’s a difficult thing, but it’s kind of where we’re at. Especially with the amount of young guys that are getting opportunity here. It’s a tough thing and I know he’ll land on his feet and have a good attitude about it and keep working.”
The Panthers are midway through a season-high six-game homestand at BB&T Center, going 1-1-1 through the first three. Their last game was a 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago on Tuesday, after having battled back from a two-goal deficit in the third period. Rookie Aleksander Barkov is second on the Panthers in scoring with seven points (3+4) in 10 games, numbers that rank him third among NHL freshmen.
The Sabres have swept nine of their 30 Florida/Tampa Bay road trips in franchise history, including six of the last 14 since 2005. Buffalo has a record of 19-8-1 in the Sunshine State during this time, and they are 6-3-1 in the last 10 on the road against the Panthers.
Tonight’s game opens Buffalo’s third of 13 sets of back-to-back games this season. The Sabres are 0-2-0 in the first game of back-to-back sets and 1-1-0 in the second game this season. Buffalo’s point breakdown in back-to-back sets this season is: four points (0), three points (0), two points (1), one point (0) and zero points (1).
The Buffalo Sabres wrap up their three-game home stand Wednesday night and open up a stretch where they’re set to take on three divisional opponents.
The Boston Bruins come to First Niagara Center on Wednesday and Sabres co-captain Steve Ott hopes the rivalry between the two teams brings out the best of his club.
“The only way we’re going to be able to match Boston is [with] our compete [level] and work ethic,” Ott said after the morning skate. “They’re a great hockey team out there and a great measuring stick. For ourselves, if we stick in there with them and play hard hockey and end up on the right end of things, it’s going to give a lot of confidence to a lot of guys in this dressing room.”
The game can be seen nationally on NBCSN and heard locally on WGR 550.
WATCH: RON ROLSTON PRESS CONFERENCE
Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder was with the New Jersey Devils the past three seasons and is just now getting re-acquainted to the Bruins-Sabres rivalry.
“I wasn’t really here when big things happened, but from what I’ve heard, it’s getting there. It’s getting nastier and nastier,” he said. “But you kind of have to focus on what you’re going to do out there and hopefully we can get two points out of this game.”
The Sabres hope to climb back in the standings and rebound from their 1-8-1 start. In those first 10 games, they’ve played strong teams like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Colorado. According to Sabres coach Ron Rolston, the Bruins are another tough opponent.
“We’ve seen some of the best come through already and this is another one of those teams,” he said. “Guys have to be prepared no matter who we’re playing but this is a team that offers a lot of challenges because of the depth they have and their competitive nature and the continuity that they’ve had over the years.”
After the game against Boston, the Sabres travel to meet the Florida Panthers and then the Tampa Bay Lightning, two Atlantic Division opponents currently ahead of them in the standings.
Rookie Nikita Zadorov will be in the lineup again for Buffalo. Rolston said he’d like to give the 18-year-old defenseman more minutes. He skated 11:01 in his professional debut on Saturday against Colorado.
GREAT SEATS STILL AVAILABLE FOR TONIGHT'S GAME
Zadorov likes to play a physical game and had three hits against the Avalanche. Rolston said that making sure Zadorov doesn’t go out of his way to land a check is an area they’re concentrating on.
“He needs to focus on that. He can be physical but he needs to make sure that he’s putting himself in good position all the time and not giving up a lot,” Rolston said.
Ryan Miller was the first goaltender off the ice and is expected to start. Defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Jamie McBain took on extra work at the end of the skate and are likely going to be healthy scratches against Boston.