“I’m hoping to, we’ll see how it reacts today,” he explained. “But that’s my goal. We’ll see.”
CLICK TO HEAR FULL VANEK AUDIO
Lindy Ruff will be more than happy to write Vanek’s name on the lineup sheet again, but he’ll leave the final decision on his return up to Vanek himself.
“We put him through a battery of extra tests after practice. We’ll see how he’s feeling in the morning,” said Ruff. “He’s the only one who knows whether he can go or not. If he says he’s ready to go, and doesn’t have any ill effects from what happened today, then he’ll be back in.”
CLICK TO HEAR FULL RUFF AUDIO
But figuring out exactly who Vanek will play with when he returns is the $64,000 question. Vanek practiced on a line with Brad Boyes and Patrick Kaleta today, but that was only due to Paul Gaustad’s “maintenance day” off.
And with Ville Leino quickly developing a chemistry over the last few games with Jason Pominville and Derek Roy, it’s not a given at this point that Vanek will be slotted in his usual spot on the left side of the top team’s top line.
Vanek understands that could be the case.
“Life goes on,” Vanek said with a smile. “The line’s been playing well. In the three games I missed, the team’s played great. For me, it’s try to find a spot in the lineup and work myself up again … I know what I have to do to produce. To me it doesn’t matter. I’m just hoping to be back in, contribute and play well.”
Ruff said Jochen Hecht is starting to feel better, after suffering post-concussion symptoms two weeks ago in New Jersey following a hit from TJ Oshie in St. Louis on January 21.
“They’ve done some further examination. I think right now they’re going to do a (non-surgical) procedure on his neck, where maybe some of that pain has been coming from. So a little bit of a different evaluation with him.”
If the procedure is successful, Ruff wouldn’t rule out Hecht returning to the lineup this season.
POSTED ON Monday, 02.06.2012 / 2:54 PM
The Sabres have dealt with numerous injuries this season and they got another scare when head coach Lindy Ruff went down in practice this morning at First Niagara Center.
UPDATE (4:07 p.m.): Ruff has three broken ribs; he is expected to be at practice on Tuesday.
Towards the end of the practice during one-on-one battle drills, defenseman Jordan Leopold lost an edge coming up the ice on Ruff’s blindside and ended up taking the Sabres bench boss down. Ruff hit the ice hard and took a minute or two before skating off for treatment.
“I lost my breath. I was looking back and right when it happened and I kind of yelled, ‘Are you all right? Are you all right?’ And right away, ‘No,’ so that wasn’t a good thing,” Leopold said. “I know Lindy’s a tough guy, he’s played a lot of games in the NHL and played through a lot of injuries. Your body ends up hurting more and more, I think, every day the older you get. That was one of those unexpected ones. Those ones are dangerous.”
Ruff was not available to the media after practice and his status will be updated later today.
Ryan Miller became the Sabres’ all-time career wins leader with a shootout victory over the Islanders on Saturday. In last four starts, Miller is 3-0-1 with a 1.17 goals against average and .962 save percentage.
“To own a piece of history here with a great organization is a source of pride for me,” Miller said after today’s practice. “Try and enjoy it as much as I can, riding this brief little break we have and then get back to work.”
Miller’s 235th win was also his 33rd career shootout victory. The goalie he passed, Dominik Hasek, played in a time when there were no game-deciding shootouts. Miller explained that he understands the difference in eras and that he’s fortunate to playing in a period with the shootout, where he’s been able to accelerate some of those wins.
“I’m not trying to draw any comparisons. I know there’s an asterisk next to it because Dom would have had his fair share of shootout wins,” Miller said. “But for me right now, the way it’s written up, I’m trying to enjoy it and take something positive, something nice from it.”
Lines from today’s practice:
Ville Leino-Derek Roy-Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe-Tyler Ennis-Drew Stafford
Paul Gaustad-Cody McCormick-Patrick Kaleta
Cody McCormick-Matt Ellis-Luke Adam
Thomas Vanek did not practice and because Ruff was unavailable afterwards, no update was provided on his condition.
Rochester Americans center Paul Szczechura has been selected as the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Feb. 5, 2012. In three games last week, Szczechura tallied four goals and two assists for six points as the Americans went 2-0-1-0. Szczechura notched an assist in Rochester’s 3-0 win over Abbotsford on Feb. 2, and scored the game-tying goal in the third period as the Amerks earned a point in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Heat the next night. Finally, Szczechura scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals in a 5-4 overtime win at Syracuse on Feb. 4, capping a four-point night and his first career hat trick. A fifth-year pro in his first season with the Buffalo Sabres organization, Szczechura has recorded 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) and a plus-10 rating in 28 games for Rochester this season, while adding one goal and three assists in nine NHL games with Buffalo. For his career, the native of Brantford, Ont., has appeared in 242 career AHL contests, registering 71 goals and 101 assists for 172 points. He also has 10 goals and 10 assists in 92 NHL games with Buffalo and Tampa Bay.
The biggest news was that both of the team’s latest flu bug casualties were back in uniform and going full speed. Tyler Ennis returned after missing yesterday with the flu. He was joined on a line by Drew Stafford, who was hit hard enough by the bug that it kept him out of Wednesday’s shootout loss to the New York Rangers. This was Stafford’s second straight practice, and Ruff said both players should be good to go tomorrow night.
Zack Kassian, recalled Wednesday when Stafford went down, is still with the big club and will travel with the team today.
“I think right now the plan would be to take him with,” said Ruff. “You never know what’s gonna pop up with us.”
TJ Brennan watched practice from the sidelines again today, as he recovers from a concussion that came as a result of a hit delivered by Winnipeg’s Nik Antropov on January 19. Antropov received a minor penalty for boarding on the play, and was subsequently fined $2,500 by the league.
“He’s still not good,” said Ruff. “He’s getting some treatment. He’s had some further x-rays and stuff, but he’s still not good.”
Today’s lines at practice: 23-9-29; 21-63-42; 22-28-36; 54/8-72-37
The Sabres will be facing a tired club on Saturday, as the Islanders are in Ottawa tonight for a 7:30 p.m. faceoff with the Sens. Since they’ll have to clear Canadian Customs before flying home, the Islanders likely won’t be in their own beds until sometime after 2 a.m.
Following Saturday’s game, Buffalo doesn’t play again until they host Boston on Wednesday at FNC. It’s the first of a pair of three-day breaks they’ll get this month, the other coming on February 26-28.
“I’ve seen a lot worse games. I’ve seen a lot worse games when it comes to work ethic and skating,” Ruff said today, adding that he has to temper his frustration during games like last night. “I’ve gotta guard against that when I’m standing behind that bench, to let my frustration show. It’s not a time to yell and scream, to rant and rave. We’ve had some discussions in the room. But my frustration can’t show. I’ve gotta be the guy that leads them through this.”
Ruff also agreed with last night’s passionate post-game comments made by Ryan Miller, where he refuted the notion that a trade of any kind is just what the Sabres need now to reverse their struggles.
“I’m under the premise that a one player trade deal can work at times. I’ve seen a lot of them where it doesn’t have any impact. The only way you’re going to succeed is by uniting as a team and getting through this.”
Ruff continued: “One player isn’t going to make a difference. A lot of times that one player leaving is a good player, and you’re getting a player from another team that had been having a tough time over there. It can work in situations. There are other times when it doesn’t make any difference at all.”
The Sabres skated today at Johnny’s Ice House on Madison St. in Chicago, just a Bobby Hull slapshot down the street from the United Center. Patrick Kaleta was the only skater missing from the ice at today’s practice. Ruff said Kaleta was still trying to shake the remnants a bug that limited his ice time on Monday in Detroit, so they gave him the day off to rest at the team hotel.
Brian Duff of SabresTV had a chance to talk with Christian Ehrhoff today about his injury rehab, and what it's like to go into the wild atmosphere that is the United Center in Chicago. Click here to watch the full video.
|VIDEO: SABRES PRACTICE #2|
|VIDEO: SABRES PRACTICE #3|
|VIDEO: SABRES PRACTICE #4|
The All-Star Game takes place on Sunday, January 29 (4 p.m.), while the Skills Compeition is January 28 at 7 p.m. Scotiabank Place will host both events.
“It’s a pretty cool opportunity, should be a fun weekend,” Pominville said today following practice. “I’m obviously excited. I’ve been used to having a little bit of a break, but I guess this year will be a little different.”
The All-Star Game selection continues a whirlwind season for Pominville, who was named Buffalo’s captain during the team’s trip to Europe in October. He leads the Sabres in scoring with 14 goals and 43 points in 42 games, which is also good for 11th in league scoring.
Adam was on the ice taking part in a photo shoot when the rosters were announced this afternoon. He was unaware of his selection until being greeted by reporters on his way into the locker room.
“I’m pretty excited, that’s pretty neat,” said a beaming Adam. “To play in the NHL, and now go to the All-Star Game and meet those guys … it’s going to be an honor.”
Adam will only take part in Saturday’s skills event, and already has an idea of which competition he might want to avoid.
“Last year in the AHL All-Star Game I did Accuracy Shooting -- but only went three-for-eight. Maybe I’ll do that, but I’m going to have to get into the shooter tutor before I go.”
Thomas Vanek returned to the ice today after missing Wednesday’s practice with a bout of food poisoning he contracted in Toronto on Monday. He still wasn’t feeling 100 percent today.
“It felt good to be out there and get a sweat. I’m just a little weak from not eating. Hopefully get some food and electrolytes and feel better tomorrow.”
Vanek tried to play through his illness, but only lasted six shifts during the opening period of Buffalo’s 2-0 loss to the Maple Leafs.
“To be honest, after the first period I don’t even remember my shifts. I felt weak and dizzy, and just got to the point where I couldn’t help out my team anymore.”
Today’s practice was streamed live on sabres.com, and head coach Lindy Ruff was mic’d up throughout the entire 40 minutes. He tried not to let it affect his normal approach on the ice.
“I don’t think you completely forget about it. A little different obviously,” Ruff explained. “We really wanted to get an up-tempo practice and really get the legs driving today. I thought with the special teams practice mixed into the middle of it, we got what we wanted.”
The Sabres are coming off a rare two-day break between games, and play just three times in the next seven days. But then they hit a stretch of six games in nine days, including two sets of back-to-back games.
Head coach Lindy Ruff was emphatic today when asked about his goaltending plans for the next few weeks.
“I haven’t got a set rotation right now. I think my main focus was to have both goaltenders contribute,” Ruff explained. “I really want to get Ryan going. If he’s feeling comfortable playing well, and not tired, I’m gonna try to lean on him a little more and see if that helps him. It was good to see that both guys could help us put points on the board. But really my main focus would be to try to get Ryan on a run, and let him run with it.”
Miller has posted relatively pedestrian numbers so far this season, going 10-10-2 with a 3.05 goals against average and .900 save percentage. They are a far cry from his Vezina Trophy winning season of 2009-10 when he finished 41-18-8, with a 2.22 GAA and .929 save %.
Ruff said he isn’t bothered by Miller’s numbers, and thinks a good finishing stretch isn’t out of the question.
“I think you worry about numbers in short periods of time. Don’t worry about the global number,” Ruff said. “Worry about your next game; make sure that those numbers are good. Put a good three game stretch together. Then if there’s a bad one in there, worry about your next three games. I think short term goals, smaller goals. What’s behind him is behind him. He’s gotta put together the best 40 games he’s ever put together.”
The road to recovery for Tyler Ennis has hit a bump, and it looks like the speedy forward will be on the sideline for a little longer than expected.
“Tyler got a little stinger yesterday late in practice which we didn’t think was much. But he came in today and he was sore again so we decided just to hold him off.”
Ruff said this new development has changed his timetable for return.
“He’s probably more than day-to-day now. He didn’t skate today, and he’s not going to skate tomorrow. We’ll give him probably two days and get him back on the ice again.”
Tyler Myers had another good day of practice, and declared himself ready to play in Carolina tomorrow. Ville Leino continues to improve, but Ruff thinks his estimate of a Saturday return against Winnipeg might be a bit optimistic.
POSTED ON Monday, 01.02.2012 / 4:03 PM
Both defenseman Tyler Myers and winger Tyler Ennis participated in today’s practice and while they aren’t ready for action quite yet, both said they’re feeling better and getting closer.
Myers, who has been out since Nov. 23 with a broken wrist, worked out as the extra defenseman but took regular repetitions in 5-on-5 drills with the rest of the team.
“I take another CAT scan tomorrow morning,” Myers said. “We’ll know a little bit more there, if I can start leaning on my stick a lot more, start engaging in physical play. I think today was its best day.”
Although the initial diagnosis was four-to-six weeks, Myers said he expected it to take extra time to heal.
“In my experiences in the past with broken bones, I’ve always taken a little bit longer,” Myers said. “It’s always frustrating not being able to get out there, but at the same time I’m staying positive. I feel good on the ice so I’m close.”
Ennis has been out for the last six games after injuring his ankle. He missed 17 games earlier in the season with the same injury. He says now that while there is some concern that it could become a nagging problem, pain is normal and he’s feeling better every day.
“It’s kind of tough to balance the cautiousness and the anxiousness to get back in the lineup,” Ennis said. “I’m feeling good, but last time I was feeling pretty good, too. It’s just kind of a weird thing. I just need to keep doing the same thing. Ice it, work on it, skate on it. Just do everything I can to push myself, too. You don’t want to take any extra time off that you could be playing.”
Ruff said that it’s going to be up to Ennis to decide when he will return to the lineup.
“He’s close. I talked to him today. That’s one of the ones where only the player knows and he doesn’t feel he’s quite ready yet,” Ruff said.
Forward Brad Boyes, who missed 13 games earlier this year with an ankle injury of his own, fell near the half-wall during a drill towards the end of this morning’s practice. He got up in some discomfort and skated to the bench where he sat for a few minutes before heading off to the dressing room. Ruff said he hopes that it isn’t serious.
“Boyes just tweaked his ankle for a second and it’s one of those where it could just be a stinger but we’ll have to wait and see,” Ruff said.
Jason Pominville also left practice early with an illness but Ruff expects him to be fine for tomorrow night’s home game against the Edmonton Oilers.
“It was great. You felt nervous and in a lot of NHL games, you just go in and you don’t feel nervous because it’s just pretty much the same thing. But to see 70,000 people and to play outdoors and to know it’s nationally televised is great,” Roy said. “It was a great experience. I had butterflies in the stomach going to [Ralph Wilson Stadium] that day and it was snowing. It was a great experience and it was fun.”
Defenseman Robyn Regehr participated in the second Heritage Classic last season in Calgary when he was a member of the Flames. Initially, he says, he wasn’t looking forward to it.
“When I first heard about it, I thought, you know what, I’m not too excited because as a kid I played outside and there were some really cold days out there,” Regehr said. “They were enjoyable, but your hands and your feet were freezing and things like that. But you still had a smile on your face. I wasn’t sure what the ice conditions were going to be like and all that. For me, I was kind of lukewarm with the idea.”
However, as the game approached and he was able to get out to McMahon Stadium the day before the game, his feelings changed.
“The stadium was right near where we lived and I got really excited. It was a great event and I highly recommend it for anyone whether it was a player or a fan or anything. The experience is fantastic,” Regehr said. “For me, it brought back all those memories of as a kid playing outside, playing on the road, playing in outdoor rinks and things. It was a great experience.”
TODAY'S FORWARD LINES AT PRACTICE:
Thomas Vanek-Jochen Hecht-Pominville. Nathan Gerbe-Roy-Drew Stafford. Matt Ellis-Paul Gaustad-Patrick Kaleta. Cody McCormick-Boyes-Luke Adam. Ennis and Zack Kassian skated as the extra forwards.
Myers, Regehr, Jordan Leopold, Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani, T.J. Brennan and Brayden McNabb participated on defense. Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth manned the nets.
The defenseman was knocked out of the game in the second period with an upper body injury when he was hit from behind along the boards by Eric Boulton. A two-minute roughing penalty was handed out to Boulton, but it looks like Sekera will missing for a matter of weeks.
“I didn’t really see the hit,” Sekera explained today. “I just kind of hit the boards and I was struggling from there … I saw him coming but I didn’t expect him to hit me that way. I was turning to the boards, going to pinch the puck. He came and smoked me, and that was the end of the story.”
Ruff said that Marc-Andre Gragnani will be inserted back in the lineup to replace Sekera, and doesn’t expect to make any recalls from Rochester.
LISTEN TO LINDY RUFF'S COMPLETE AUDIO FROM TODAY
Nathan Gerbe skated today as the fourth member of a line that also included Luke Adam, Matt Ellis and Zack Kassian. Ruff thinks it’s only a matter of time before Gerbe is back in the lineup.
“Nathan is getting real close. He could possibly be an option for one of these two (weekend) games maybe.”
Tyler Ennis practiced in the non-contact red jersey today, and Ruff has been encouraged by his progress.
“Tyler looked pretty good today overall. Obviously in a little more of a limited sense. But I thought he really skated well.”
Ryan Miller has started seven straight games, and 10 of Buffalo’s last 11. But that streak may be coming to an end this weekend. Jhonas Enroth hasn’t started since a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers on December 10, and Ruff says he is likely going to see some action against Washington or Ottawa.
“It’s a discussion we’ve had. I think we may go that route. We’re going to need Jhonas obviously. With four games in six nights, it’s been a fairly heavy load.”
“It’s definitely a different view from up there; it’s a lot slower than it is on the ice,” he explains. “You can kind of see things open up and develop a little bit, and where the empty spaces are. And just kind of the way the team plays, whether we’re down low or guys are getting pucks to the net or wherever. You read off that, and once you’re back in you have a sense of where guys are gonna go.”
Buffalo heads into New Jersey on Wednesday in search of their first two-game winning streak in almost seven weeks. The Sabres last won back-to-back games as part of a four-game run from November 5-11. With the Eastern Conference so clustered up, going on a streak right now could propel the Sabres into as high as fifth spot by the time the clock runs out on 2011 this Saturday night. Jason Pominville knows how important the team’s next three games are.
“These are four-point games. You either want to catch them or push them back. Our next few are going to be big for us, three games in four nights. It’s going to be important for us to take care of ourselves and be ready to play.”
It may be cliché to say that the league-mandated two-day Christmas break played a part in last night’s win over Washington. But Pominville is one player who believes that the break came at a perfect time for the struggling – and hobbled – Sabres.
“You get to spend time with your family. Not think about hockey, do other things. Not watch the news or the internet. Just focus on your family. Get refreshed and reenergized, and come back to the rink with a smile and start from zero. I think it benefited us, and a lot of guys looked and felt good last night.”
TORONTO – At this time last year, Drew Stafford had nine goals in 20 games, his playing time limited due to a pair of injuries that kept him out of a combined 15 games. This season he has only scored six times in 32 games, and his frustration level has gone from a simmer to a slow boil. It was never more evident than last night in Ottawa when he passed to Derek Roy during a two-on-one, instead of taking the wide open shot from the slot.
“He said to me ‘I don’t know why I didn’t shoot it,’” Ruff said afterwards. “He lacks some confidence when it comes to scoring, and he’s passed up some good opportunities. His frustration level is pretty high. I said ‘those are situations you wouldn’t normally pass up; you know you’re a shooter.’ I think when things go well, it’s automatic. When things aren’t going well, you second-guess yourself.”
Stafford knows exactly what it feels like when things are going well. After his slow start last season, he exploded for 22 goals in the final 42 games, including a four-game run that saw him light the lamp eight times on just 13 shots. Plays like the one he made last night are the things he’d like to eliminate from his game right now.
“I’m kind of searching for some goals here, and it’s one of the plays that you’d like to have back,” he explained. “I can’t do anything about it now, but next time I’d like to put it in the back of the net.
“It’s one of those things where I thought I could maybe make a little pass to Derek, instead of just going straight down, driving and finding a hole to put it in. I can’t do anything about it now, but I’ll work to get in that position again and pull the trigger.”
Thomas Vanek and Paul Szczechura were given today off to rest their bumps and bruises, but Ruff expects both to be ready for Thursday’s game here against the Maple Leafs. Ruff also said Patrick Kaleta is a go for Thursday, but likely not Brad Boyes. In the case of Boyes, Ruff said “it’s a gamble” because he hasn’t had enough time to prepare himself with the down-low battle drills that will really put his injured ankle to the test. It seems more likely that Boyes will take the Christmas break to ready himself for Monday’s home game against Washington.
In other injury updates: Tyler Myers (wrist) is skating with the team but not in a full-contact role … Nathan Gerbe (concussion) has been skating on his own the last two days back in Buffalo … Tyler Ennis (ankle) is traveling with the team, but was kept off the ice again today as a precautionary measure … Corey Tropp (concussion) is still not feeling well, and hasn’t skated since being injured against Florida on December 9.