Both Girgensons and Kaleta played Saturday night in the Sabres 3-2 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Rolston said Girgensons is dealing with some swelling in his hand while Kaleta was “just a little dinged up from the game – nothing major.”
The Sabres take on the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in the second half of the home-and-home series at 7p.m. The game can be heard live on ESPN 1520 AM.
Defenseman Jamie McBain played a game-high 27:02 against Toronto on Saturday in his first home game as a Sabre. He’ll have another go around to eat up minutes on Sunday when he steps back into the lineup at Air Canada Centre.
“I love that opportunity to play those minutes, to show my skill set and to show that I’m capable of playing those big minutes,” he said after practice at First Niagara Center. “It’s always a fun time when you’re playing a lot of minutes and I’m just trying to make the most of my opportunity.”
He’s one of a number of defensemen fighting for a spot in the Sabres opening night lineup in Detroit on Oct. 2. The Sabres traded for McBain at the NHL Draft in June (giving Andrej Sekera to the Hurricanes) after drafting two defensemen – Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov – that are still in training camp.
The team also re-signed Alexander Sulzer and acquired veteran defenseman Henrik Tallinder over the summer. Prospects like Mark Pysyk, Brayden McNabb and Chad Ruhwedel are gunning for positions as well.
McBain is taking the competition in stride and hopes he can prove himself to a new coaching staff.
“It’s kind of the same thing that it’s been every year. There are no for-sure spots,” McBain said. “You have to fight your spot, especially coming into a new organization where the coaches don’t know me; I’m not familiar with the coaches. You just have to go out there and prove yourself, showcase what I’m capable of doing and hopefully it’s good enough that the coaches appreciate it.”
MORNING SKATE - 10:30 a.m.
SESSION TWO - 11:30 a.m.
MORNING SKATE 10:30 a.m.
As the Buffalo Sabres experiment with different line combinations throughout the preseason, one line that’s had success in the past is being put back together.
For the first time at training camp this season, Tyler Ennis was playing center. He skated between left wing Marcus Foligno and right wing Drew Stafford and will take the ice with them when the Sabres host the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The trio was arguably Buffalo’s best line at the end of the 2011-12 season, but wasn’t able to click last year.
“I’ve been on the wing. I’ve been working hard. I felt comfortable [at left wing] and I’m going to test out center tonight,” Ennis said after practice. “I’m going to work hard at it and hopefully we can rekindle some of that chemistry tonight and see how it goes from there.”
While he hasn’t scored a point yet this preseason, Ennis has had a noticeable jump in his step in the two preseason games he’s played in so far.
He’s also played with different linemates in each game. He played left wing in Columbus on Tuesday with rookies Johan Larsson and Joel Armia. On Thursday against Carolina, he was with center Mikhail Grigorenko and right wing Brian Flynn.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston said part of the reason for the switch is that Ennis hasn’t had the puck enough in those first two games. He indicated that playing Ennis with two left-handed centers may have played a role as well.
“The thing with [Ennis] is he’s gotta have the puck. If he’s going to be the player that we want him to be and we know he can be, he’s gotta have the puck on his tape,” Rolston said. “We’re just trying to find that right combination so he can do that.”
Ennis started last season at center before moving to the wing as the year wore on. Ennis said that it’s important to have that versatility.
“I think it’s good to be able to play both positions. The first two games, I felt good on the wing. Hopefully I can pick up where I left off in the middle at some points last year and play well tonight,” he said.
82 Marcus Foligno – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott –25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 23 Ville Leino
28 Zemgus GIrgensons –12 Kevin Porter – 65 Brian Flynn
37 Matt Ellis – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 3 Mark Pysyk
6 Mike Weber – 4 Jamie McBain
52 Alexander Sulzer – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
1 Jhonas Enroth
31 Matt Hackett
MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP (via MapleLeafs.com)
SESSION TWO 12:30 p.m.
Forwards: Luke Adam, Joel Armia, Daniel Catenacci, Colton Gillies, Cody Hodgson, Johan Larsson, Tim Schaller, John Scott, Corey Tropp, Philip Varone, Thomas Vanek, Mike Zigomanis
Johan Larsson will see action in his third straight preseason game for the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. Buffalo takes on the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center and Larsson, who’s played both games on the road so far, is ready for his first game in front of a home crowd.
“I’m really excited to be here in front of these fans. I heard it’s very exciting here,” he said after practice.
Larsson, 21, was acquired from the Wild with Matt Hackett in the trade that sent Jason Pominville to Minnesota at the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline. Larsson has been playing center throughout camp and has pivoted a variety of wings including Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis, Joel Armia and Drew Stafford. Thursday night, he’ll be between Corey Tropp and Ville Leino. The game can be heard live on WGR 550.
Larsson said he hopes to play in as many preseason games as he can and that his effort will lead to landing with the Sabres for their season opener on Oct. 2 in Detroit.
“If I play very well here and do everything I can, I have a chance I think and I’m going for that of course,” he said.
FOR THOSE ATTENDING THE GAME, CLICK HERE FOR TRAFFIC UPDATES
Sabres coach Ron Rolston has been impressed with Larsson’s play so far and has said he’s interested to see how the young forward adjusts from game to game in the exhibition portion of the schedule.
“I like his competitive nature. He’s hard to play against,” Rolston said. “He’s got really good hands, vision. He’s a very smart player. So again, those guys are going to get a lot of time here in the exhibition to see where they fit into the big picture.”
Ryan Miller will play the full game against Carolina. In each preseason game up to this point, the goaltenders have split time. It’s still possible at some point that Matt Hackett, Miller’s backup on Thursday, will get a complete game in as well.
“We’ve really liked how he’s played in the first two games,” Rolston said of Hackett. “He’s played exceptional for us so we’re just going to continue to get a feel for how things are going and then go from there.”
The Sabres will roll out a lineup against the Hurricanes that has some size on the blue line. Tyler Myers, Nikita Zadorov, Henrik Tallinder, Rasmus Ristolainen and Brayden McNabb are all at least 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. Mark Pysyk, at 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, will be the smallest defenseman to dress.
Rolston said, however, that size isn’t everything.
“You still have to have the potential of going back to being able to move the puck, get around, end plays, all those things that are going to help us be a different hockey team in the future,” he said.
Zadorov is a player that could return to juniors, but Rolston continues to give him looks in the preseason and said he has a legitimate chance to make the squad.
“He’s got a shot. He certainly has a shot,” Rolston said. “He plays well and he can be somebody that makes the team. He’s got an opportunity, the same with Rasmus.”
26 Thomas Vanek – 19 Cody Hodgson – 33 Joel Armia
63 Tyler Ennis – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 65 Brian Flynn
78 Corey Tropp – 22 Johan Larsson – 23 Ville Leino
70 Colton Gillies – 12 Kevin Porter – 72 Luke Adam
Hurricanes Lineup (via Hurricanes.com)
19 Jiri Tlusty – 11 Jordan Staal – 22 Zac Dalpe
53 Jeff Skinner – 23 Jeremy Welsh – 14 Nathan Gerbe
58 Chris Terry – 39 Patrick Dwyer – 18 Radek Dvorak
13 Jared Staal – 42 Brett Sutter – 32 Zach Boychuk
4 Andrej Sekera – 27 Justin Faulk
7 Ryan Murphy – 65 Ron Hainsey
47 Michal Jordan – 73 Brett Bellemore
31 Anton Khudobin
70 Mike Murphy
Corey Tropp will put on a Sabres sweater for the first time since the 2011-12 season when he finished the season in Buffalo.
He played with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League at the start of 2012-13 due to the NHL lockout. In the Amerks first game, he scored two goals before injuring his knee and missed 72 games as a result. He returned to play five games at the end of the season and finished the year with two goals and two assists.
Tropp will be in the lineup on Tuesday when the Sabres travel to Columbus to play in their second preseason game at 7 p.m. at Nationwide Arena. The game can be heard live on WGR 550.
“I’d be lying to you if I told you two years ago when I finished the season that it would take this long to get back into another [NHL game],” Tropp said after practice Tuesday at First Niagara Center.
Tropp believes that playing in those five games in the spring really helped him heading into the offseason.
“That’s one of the real reasons I tried to make the comeback there. So you’re not sitting around all summer thinking, ‘How’s it going to hold up in that first exhibition game or intra-squad scrimmage game?’” he said. “[From] the mental side of it, playing those games helped a lot, I believe.”
Outside of participating in a prospect tournament for the Sabres two weeks ago in Traverse City, Mich., he’s yet to partake in an NHL game on North American ice.
“I’m not nervous today. It’s just exciting,” Armia, Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2011 (16th overall), said. “[Training camp] been a good experience to play with NHL guys here and get used to this place.”
“Tonight will be a good test with all our young players,” Rolston said. “We’re trying to get a gauge on just the game situations. For him, it puts him just like Rasmus the other night, into a North American building and just to see the pace of the game. You have to play a lot of hockey in your shift and so those are the things we’ll be looking for.”
Morning Skate 10:30 a.m.
Marcus Foligno – Cody Hodgson – Thomas Vanek
Zemgus Girgensons – Mikhail Grigorenko – Corey Tropp
Tyler Ennis – Johan Larsson – Joel Armia
John Scott – Matt Ellis – Jamie Tardif
Blue Jackets Roster (via BlueJackets.com)
Forwards: Anderson, Anisimov, Bjorkstrand, Boll, Foligno, Jenner, Joudrey, Machacek, MacKenzie, Marchessault, Moutrey, Umberger
Defensemen: Erixon, Johnson, McNeill, Savard, St. Denis, Tyutin
The future is coming on for the Buffalo Sabres.
The Sabres take on the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday at the Bell Centre for their first preseason game at 7:30 p.m. and the Buffalo lineup is filled with young players striving to make the NHL this season.
Among those players are five first-round picks from the past four years. Mark Pysyk (23rd overall, 2010), Mikhail Grigorenko (12th overall, 2012), Zemgus Girgensons (14th overall, 2012), Rasmus Ristolainen (eighth overall, 2013) and Nikita Zadorov (16th overall, 2013) will all be on the ice for Buffalo. The game can be heard live on WGR 550.
For Ristolainen, 18, it’ll be his first game on North American ice against NHL-ready players. The 6-foot-4, 224-pound Finnish defenseman played with Zadorov and Girgensons in a prospect tournament in Traverse City, Mich. last week, but being in an NHL training camp for just a few days has already made him aware of some key differences.
“There is more tempo than in Traverse and in the Finnish league,” Ristolainen said after the morning skate at First Niagara Center. “I think I’m [big enough where I] can play the plays, take a couple hits and win the battles.”
Ristolainen is ready for his first real professional experience in a building that will likely be very rowdy. The Habs had over 21,000 fans show up for a scrimmage on Saturday.
“I’ve been waiting a lot to play a game,” Ristolainen said. “It’s nice to play in Montreal. I’ve heard it’s one of the best rinks in this league and all the fans there so I’m so excited.”
Sabres coach Ron Rolston said after practice that the preseason lineups will have a younger flair. The coaching staff is looking to give younger players an opportunity to showcase their talents while making sure the veteran players, while getting the necessary reps in, are well rested for the start of the season.
“There’s going to be a lot of opportunity for those [younger] players and they’re going to get a lot of time here in the exhibition,” Rolston said. “They’re important to where we’re headed. We have a lot of faith in all those guys so it’s going to be exciting to watch them grow even through this exhibition schedule.”
“We talked a little bit about combinations and we’re just trying to find the right chemistry, but also give guys opportunities like Zemgus playing with a guy like [Stafford] who’s a veteran offensively," Rolston said. "As far as [Larsson] goes, he’s a gritty, two-way center but he can make plays, so there are three guys there that can all make a play but we’ve got a lot of compete on that line, too.”
As the Buffalo Sabres prepare to face the New York Islanders in their final game of the regular season tonight at First Niagara Center, Ryan Miler is set to become the 62nd goaltender in NHL history to play in 500 games. Here’s a look back at some of the numbers Miller has accumulated during his outstanding 11-year NHL career in the Nickel City.
Born: July 17, 1980 (East Lansing, MI)
Drafted: 1999 Entry Draft, 5th round (138th overall)
Did You Know?
Ryan Miller has played more NHL games than the combined total of the 29 other players drafted in the fifth round of the 1999 Draft. (Leaders: Derek MacKenzie, 234; Niko Dimitrakos, 158).
Games played leaders from goaltenders drafted in 1999
Ryan Miller, 499 (Buffalo, 5th round)
Craig Anderson, 316 (Calgary, 3rd round)
Alex Auld, 237 (Florida, 2nd round)
Michael Leighton, 105 (Chicago, 6th round)
LISTEN TO MILLER TALK ABOUT THE 500-GAME MILESTONE
First NHL game: November 19, 2002 @ New Jersey (4-3 OTL)
First NHL win: November 22, 2002 vs. Columbus (5-4)
First NHL shutout: January 14, 2003 @ Minnesota (1-0)
SINGLE SEASON RECORDS:
Most wins: 41, 2009-10
Most shutouts: 6, 2011-12
Lowest GAA: 2.22, 2009-10
- Vezina Trophy, First All-Star Team, NHL Foundation Award: 2009-10
- won Silver Medal with Team USA
- Tournament MVP, Best Goalie & All-Star Team
- Miller will become the 62nd goaltender in NHL history to play 500 games. The last was Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who reached the milestone on April 5 at Pittsburgh. The last before Lundqvist was former Sabres goaltender Martin Biron, who also appeared in his 500th NHL game as a member of the Rangers in a road game against the Penguins, exactly one year prior to Lundqvist.
- When added to the list of 61 goaltenders who have played 500 NHL games, Miller currently ranks fifth with a .915 career save percentage. Dominik Hasek (.922, 1st) is the only retired goaltender to rank in the top 10 in save percentage among this group. Miller also ranks 14th among this elite group with a 2.59 GAA. In addition to topping the list in save%, Hasek also leads the “500 Club” with a GAA of 2.20.
- Miller, who has spent his entire career with the Sabres, will become the 20th goaltender in NHL history to play at least 500 games with one team, and the 12th to play his first 500 with the same team.
- Of the 19 goaltenders with 500 NHL games played with the same team, 12 of them played in the NHL Entry Draft era. Of these 12, half were drafted in the fifth round or later: Billy Smith, Miika Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov, Kirk McLean, Henrik Lundqvist and Marty Turco. Only two (Martin Brodeur and Olaf Kolzig) were selected in the first round.
- Despite being ranked 62nd on the all-time games played list, Miller ranks 40th in wins (268). His record ranks him second among these goaltenders in win percentage (.549), seventh in points percentage (.607) and 19th in adjusted points percentage (.564), a measure in which all ties, overtime losses, and shootout wins/losses are counted as regulation ties to better compare goaltenders from different eras.
PITTSBURGH -- It was an optional morning skate for the Buffalo Sabres at the Consol Energy Center, with seven skaters and both goalies taking part in advance of tonight’s tilt with the red-hot-but-hobbled Pittsburgh Penguins. In addition to expected starting goaltender Ryan Miller, the following players were on the ice for the 30-minute workout: Jhonas Enroth, Brian Flynn, Marcus Foligno, Nathan Gerbe, Chad Ruhwedel, Mark Pysyk, Mikhail Grigorenko and Adam Pardy.
No lineup changes are expected as forward Patrick Kaleta remained in Buffalo with a hand injury. Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will be in the lineup for a second straight game, after skating 15:18 last night against Winnipeg, his first NHL action since March 12 after being recalled from junior last week.
The last time the Sabres came to Pittsburgh on April 2, they brought an end to the Penguins’ 15-game winning streak, the second-longest such streak in NHL history. Tonight they’ll look to snap another successful run, as the Penguins come into the game as winners of seven in a row following a 3-1 victory in Ottawa on Monday. A second win in Pittsburgh this year would be the first time since 2005-06 that the Sabres will have won two consecutive regular-season road games in the Steel City. It would also be just the fifth time in franchise history the Sabres have won two or more consecutive games in Pittsburgh.
Tonight’s game also wraps up Buffalo’s ninth and final set of back-to-back games this season. Following last night’s 2-1 loss to Winnipeg at First Niagara Center, the Sabres dropped to 4-3-2 in the first game. Entering tonight’s game they are just 2-5-1 in the second of back-to-back games. Buffalo’s point breakdown in previous back-to-back sets is as follows: four points (2), three points (1), two points (1), one point (2) and zero points (2).
If the Buffalo Sabres want to play spoilers tonight against the Winnipeg Jets at First Niagara Center, they’ll have to accomplish two things they haven’t been able to do in the last five meetings between these two clubs: 1) win, and 2) score more than one goal.
Winnipeg defeated Buffalo 4-1 at the MTS Centre on April 9, and that was preceded by a 2-1 Jets win in Buffalo on February 19. The Sabres are 1-5-0 against the Jets since they relocated from Atlanta prior to the 2011-12 season, with Buffalo’s only win being a 6-5 OT decision on November 8, 2011. In their last six games, the Jets have outscored Buffalo by a 20-11 margin.
The Jets come into tonight’s game sitting in ninth spot in the Eastern Conference at 49 points with three games left to play. They are three points behind the eighth-place New York Rangers, while also trailing the Washington Capitals by three points for the lead in the Southeast Division.
Tyler Ennis knows the Sabres are in for a dogfight tonight facing a Jets team that is 5-0-1 in their last six games.
“They’re a good team, and they’re fighting for their lives. We know they are going to come out with everything. It’s do or die for them, and it should be intense.”
Jhonas Enroth will start in goal for the Sabres, following his 39 minutes of mop-up work in Friday’s 8-4 loss to the Rangers that eliminated Buffalo from playoff contention. In his last five starts, Enroth is 4-0-1 and has posted a .958 save% during this stretch. Enroth’s only previous start against the Jets was a 2-1 loss in Buffalo on January 7, 2012.
Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will return to the Sabres lineup for the first time since being recalled from his junior team last Tuesday. Grigorenko has five points (1+4) in 22 games for Buffalo this season, with his last game action coming on March 12 versus the Rangers.
Interim head coach Ron Rolston is interested to see how Grigorenko handles his role tonight against a gritty team like Winnipeg.
“We’re gonna put him in game situations, and see the compete and just his overall game against a team like Jets who are going to be desperate. We’ll find out.”
Patrick Kaleta will miss tonight's game after blocking a shot with his right hand in Friday's loss to New York. His status for the final two games is questionable at this point.
LISTEN TO ROLSTON'S' FULL AUDIO
“We have to take care of our destiny.”
Those were the simple words of Sabres interim head coach Ron Rolston this morning, as the Sabres prepared to face the New York Rangers at First Niagara Center tonight. With just four games left on their schedule, a regulation loss tonight would eliminate the Sabres from playoff contention. If the Sabres have any hopes of securing a spot in the postseason, a regulation win would be their most favorable result. Giving away points in any other form are basically unacceptable at this point.
“You want to play in these games, especially when you’re trying to develop the kind of mentality that you need in this league,” explained Rolston. “With the close games we’ve been in (the Sabres have played 17 one-goal games under Rolston), you want to test your teams in those situations. Tonight’s another test of a really high caliber opponent in a situation where you need to be successful.”
LISTEN TO ROLSTON'S FULL AUDIO
Ryan Miller will be back between the pipes tonight, one game after locking down a 3-2 shootout win in Boston on Wednesday with 41 saves and stops on all three Bruins’ shootout attempts. In his last 14 games against the Rangers, Miller is 8-2-4 with a 1.71 GAA and .943 save%.
Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will be Buffalo’s only healthy scratch.
- Buffalo comes into tonight’s game on a three-game winning streak, and will be looking to win four straight for the first time since a five-game run from March 19-27, 2012.
- The Sabres have allowed 40 or more shots in two of their last four games, and have averaged 36.1 shots against in the last seven games.
- The Rangers have averaged 33.4 shots for in their last 10 games, including five games of 35 or more shots. Rick Nash leads the Rangers with 158 shots on goal, which is good for fifth in the NHL.
BOSTON -- Ryan Miller will be back in goal tonight in Boston as the Sabres look to extend their winning streak to three games in what should be an emotionally-charged TD Garden. Tonight’s game will be the first professional sporting event in Boston following Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon that left three people dead and more than 170 others injured.
Miller’s last game was a 5-1 loss to Montreal last Thursday, before giving way to Jhonas Enroth for Buffalo’s consecutive weekend wins over Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. Miller has played in all four games against Boston this season, posting a 2-2-0 record, 2.53 GAA and .930 save%.
Luke Adam was returned to Rochester today, after scoring one goal during a four-game recall. The Sabres have just one extra skater, and recently-recalled rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will be the team’s only healthy scratch tonight. Ville Leino (upper body injury) is out indefinitely and did not travel with the team to Boston.
Patrick Kaleta will play in his 300th career NHL game tonight, becoming the 67th Sabres player in franchise history sto reach this milestone. The 26-year-old native of Angola, NY, played his first game in Buffalo on February 22, 2007, against the Ottawa Senators. Kaleta has 51 points (27+24) and 501 penalty minutes in his previous 299 games.
This is the fifth and final meeting between the Sabres and Bruins this season, with the teams splitting the previous four games. In the only game at Boston’s TD Garden on January 31, Thomas Vanek collected five points (3+2) as the Sabres came-from-behind to defeat the Bruins 7-4. Vanek’s five points are tied with Boston’s David Krejci (2+3) to lead both teams this season.