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POSTED ON Sunday, 02.2.2014 / 3:16 PM ET
By Chris Ryndak - (@chrisryndak) / BEYOND THE BOARDS

Coming off a tough 7-1 loss Saturday night in Colorado, the Buffalo Sabres shook up some of their lines at practice at First Niagara Center on Sunday.

Drew Stafford is set to return to the lineup Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers from an upper-body injury that’s kept him out for the past four games. He skated on a line with Tyler Ennis at center and Linus Omark on the left wing.

Stafford sustained an upper-body injury on Jan. 2 in Minnesota and missed four games because of it. In his first four games back, he recorded three goals and two assists. He re-aggravated the injury on Jan. 25 in Columbus and has been out ever since.

He’s hoping he can pick up right where he left off.

“I felt as though I was getting going and unfortunately, a little bit of a setback and then another setback as well,” he said after practice. “Dealing with those two setbacks, it’s tough, but at the same time, you just have to keep at it and back now, hopefully, finish strong here before the break. And then it would be nice to get on that break as well and make sure it’s totally 100-percent feeling good.”

He may have been ready to go against Colorado, but the team decided to give him a few more days to make sure he was 100 percent. He took some bumps in practice Sunday afternoon from 6-foot-8, 259-pound forward John Scott.

“You never know what can happen, but at the same time, it helps your mindset a little bit, it puts your mind at ease when you battle against a not exactly small human being like John Scott,” Stafford said. “He was my tester. If I can do well against him – at least somewhat well – he was kind of throwing me around like a rag doll a little bit like that, but it’s feeling pretty well.”

Getting back a player like Stafford who’s capable of producing points should help ease the loss of leading scorer Matt Moulson, who could be out until after the Olympic break after sustaining an upper-body injury Thursday night.

“Right now we haven’t got enough depth to lose a guy like Drew and Matty at the same time. At least we get one of them back,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said.

Omark has been a healthy scratch the past three games and Nolan said the 26-year-old forward will play against his former team on Monday. The Sabres acquired Omark from the Oilers on Dec. 19 for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Omark is feeling a little extra motivation heading into the game.

“I would be lying if I said, ‘No.’ But of course, it’s going to be a fun game,” Omark said. “I know a lot of guys on that team, so hopefully we can win.”

Jhonas Enroth will start in goal against the Oilers. He is 1-10-5 this season, but isn’t thinking much about personal wins and losses.

“I just need to prepare myself and get ready,” he said. “Obviously I can’t score any goals or anything like that so I just need to focus on my job and that’s to try to save as many pucks as possible.”

Nolan also decided to practice with more size at the center ice position. Zemgus Girgensons practiced in the middle on a line with Philip Varone on the left and Brian Flynn on the right. All three have played center this season, but for now it looks like Girgensons will pivot that line.

“He’s almost like a natural center iceman,” Nolan said. “He likes to skate and with our injury count right now, it’s a great time to test him. He’s very comfortable in that position. That’s where he grew up playing so we’ll probably put him in that position and see how he does.”

While Girgensons will likely play center for Team Latvia under Nolan’s watch at the Winter Olympics, his move back there with only three games to go before the break only has to do with putting players in position where they can best help the Sabres succeed.

“We’re thinking about what’s going to make this team better,” Nolan said.

Enroth, who will play for Team Sweden at the Olympics, broke in some new gear at practice Sunday. He wore a new glove, a new blocker, new pads and a new mask that celebrates his native country.

“The pads and the gear are really good these days so it just needs one or two practices and then they’re ready to go so they’re fine,” he said.

Ryan Miller is also breaking in some equipment for Team USA. He’s donned his new Olympic mask and a new red, white and blue blocker for two straight practices.

He and Enroth spent some time at the end of practice comparing equipment at center ice.

Ville Leino and Marcus Foligno worked as the fourth forwards on different lines at practice. In addition to doing their own line work with Cody McCormick – who skated in a red non-contact jersey – Leino was in white with Steve Ott, Cody Hodgson and Matt D’Agostini while Foligno was in gray with Scott, Zenon Konopka and Matt Ellis.

17 Linus Omark – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 19 Cody Hodgson – 27 Matt D’Agostini – Ville Leino
84 Phil Varone – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 65 Brian Flynn
32 John Scott – 24 Zenon Konopka – 37 Matt EllisMarcus Foligno
Red Non-Contact: Cody McCormick

10 Christian Ehrhoff – 5 Chad Ruhwedel
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 4 Jamie McBain
52 Alexander Sulzer

30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth

POSTED ON Friday, 01.31.2014 / 3:05 PM ET
By Chris Ryndak - (@chrisryndak) / BEYOND THE BOARDS

DENVER – The Buffalo Sabres could be without their leading scorer until after the Olympic break.

Left wing Matt Moulson left the team’s game Thursday night in Phoenix with 6:05 to play in the third period after taking a whack with a stick to his upper-body.

At the team hotel in Denver on Friday, Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said that Moulson could be out until the NHL schedule resumes on Feb. 25. Buffalo plays four more games before the Winter Olympic break.

The Sabres are set to play the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday at the Pepsi Center at 9 p.m. EST.

“It doesn’t look like it’s really too, too serious. If he’s a fast mender, you never know,” Nolan said.

The Sabres are not only losing a valuable scorer, but a leader on the team as well.

Moulson is tops on the team in goals (15) and points (33) through 51 games this season. With Christian Ehrhoff out of the lineup due to an illness on Thursday, Moulson served as an alternate captain in his stead.

“He’s really buying into what we’re doing here and he’s leading the team. He wore an ‘A’ on his sweater last night for that reason,” Nolan said. “Right now, it’s going to be a big loss for us, but like every other team, someone has to step up. There will be an opportunity for someone else.”

The team will look to Brian Flynn to fill Moulson’s shoes on a line with Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons. Flynn had been up and down the lineup the past few games, playing with Philip Varone and Marcus Foligno as well as with Zenon Konopka and Matt Ellis.

“He can go from the fourth line up to your top line. He’s very versatile so we could look at the possibility of putting him in there for a game or two,” Nolan said.

Drew Stafford will miss his fourth game in a row Saturday night with an upper-body injury. Ehrhoff might be ready to play against Colroado.

The team did not practice Friday morning, but had a stretching session at the hotel. After a late flight to Denver from Phoenix, Nolan talked with the trainers and medical staff and felt it was best to keep the team off the ice.

“Today was one of those days that if we only had a little more time, I’m quite sure we would’ve practiced. But with the team getting in so late and the games so numerous, rest is a little bit more important right now,” Nolan said. “…It’s a normal day except we didn’t hop on the ice for a half hour.”

POSTED ON Thursday, 01.30.2014 / 3:48 PM ET
By Chris Ryndak - (@chrisryndak) / THE MORNING SKATE

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Matt D’Agostini seemed to be hitting his stride when he found himself forced out of the lineup.

An upper-body injury caused him to leave the Buffalo Sabres’ game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 15 after playing only 2:19.

He’s set to return Thursday night after missing the past six games when the Sabres take on the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena. Sabres fans in Western New York and Southern Ontario can watch the game at 9 p.m. on either MSG or Bell.

In the four games he played before the injury, D’Agostini recorded two goals and two assists while playing on a line with center Cody Hodgson and center Steve Ott.

Although he was happy that the points were finally starting to come for him, he was more pleased with the way his all-around game had started to take shape.

“It’s not the points that I’m concerned about. It’s just skating hard on pucks. My legs were really coming around. I was feeling really good out there,” D’Agostini said after the team’s morning skate. “We had some good games. We established a good forecheck and we got our chances and goals from that. I’m just hoping to get back to the same thing I was doing.”

D’Agostini took the morning skate on Tuesday against the Washington Capitals, but did not play.

“He was almost ready to go last game, but we decided a couple of more days wouldn’t hurt,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. “So he’s ready to go tonight.”

Ville Leino has since moved up to that line and after a strong third period against Washington, Nolan told the media he’ll likely keep Leino there.

The Sabres must make a roster move in order to activate D’Agostini from injured reserve.

Nolan said that the defensive lineup will be made just before the game. He said a few defensemen were feeling under the weather, including alternate captain Christian Ehrhoff, who was the only player not to participate in the morning skate.

Drew Stafford skated with the team and Nolan said he is close to returning from an upper-body injured that’s sidelined him for two games. Cody McCormick also made the trip and practiced in a red non-contact jersey.

Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal. His career numbers against Phoenix are his best against any team. He’s 5-0-0 in his career when facing the Coyotes with a 0.98 goals against average and a .966 save percentage.

John Scott and Linus Omark will be scratched at forward.

The Sabres have won their last three games in Phoenix, with the last loss coming on Jan. 21, 2008. They’re 6-3-1 in their last 10 games against the Coyotes and 6-4-0 on the road.

POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.28.2014 / 2:11 PM ET
By Chris Ryndak - (@chrisryndak) / THE MORNING SKATE

Coming off a 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road Monday night, the Buffalo Sabres are looking for a better result Tuesday at home against the Washington Capitals.

The Sabres host the Capitals at First Niagara Center at 7:30 p.m. The game can be seen nationally on NBCSN.

Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan will make a few lineup changes for the game.

John Scott will be in for Linus Omark on the fourth line and Alexander Sulzer will replace Jamie McBain on defense. Jhonas Enroth will start in goal.

When asked about McBain and his play against Pittsburgh, Nolan spoke about how he wants his team to play the same way every game, regardless of the opponent. To improve in that regard, he’s looking for a more consistent effort from each player.

“I just want to see better. As every player on this team, you’ve got to be better. There are a couple others that were in the same boat but the bottom line is we have to be better,” he said. “There are just no other ways to put it, especially with the team that we have.

“We can’t afford one or two bad blunders and turnovers and not concentrating. This is a 60-minute game and we have to play that way all the time and if we don’t, we’re going to get ourselves in trouble no matter how good our goaltending is.”

The Sabres held a players-only meeting after the loss in Pittsburgh that lasted almost 10 minutes. Captain Steve Ott said after the morning skate Friday that they revered the Penguins a little too much and need to correct that moving forward into the game against the Capitals.

“We had a little talk. Obviously we’re trying to better our team here as well on a daily basis. They’re such a good team in aspect of the players and personnel that they have but you can respect your opponent but you can’t fear them,” he said. “I thought we were a little gun-shy to start that game, almost in awe – a little bit of an awe factor. You can’t have that mindset.”

With that mindset also comes the need to play a more physical, desperate game. Alternate captain Henrik Tallinder addressed that after the morning skate and also said that it’s up to the veteran players to push for more accountability.

“We have to come in with a lot more grit and a lot more determination into a game like last night,” Tallinder said. “To be able to get games going or get the team going, you have to play physical and be a little bit more competitive than we were last night.”

Buffalo is looking to move past the game in Pittsburgh and focus on putting in a good effort against Washington. It’s the second game of five for the Sabres over an eight-day stretch.

“It wasn’t a good game overall for us, so we’re trying to put that behind us and focus on Washington tonight,” Sabres center Cody Hodgson said. “They’re another skilled, top-end team that we need to keep in check and figure out how to generate some offense.”

The Sabres have not allowed a power-play goal in their past four games and are 9-for-9 during that stretch. Ott credited the work assistant coach Joe Sacco has done with the penalty killers both on the ice and during video sessions.

“[Continuing] to keep short, aggressive shifts has been a key to our penalty kill as of late,” Ott said. “I think you’ve seen us all pressuring in certain situations and I think we’re starting to really feel like we’re reading off each other a lot better. If one guy goes to pursue pressure, they’re all going.”

POSTED ON Monday, 01.27.2014 / 2:41 PM ET
By Chris Ryndak - (@chrisryndak) / THE MORNING SKATE

PITTSBURGH – Visiting teams don’t typically have a lot of success at Consol Energy Center.

On home ice, the Pittsburgh Penguins have gone 14-1 in their past 15 games. They’re 39-10 at home over the past two seasons and no team has more wins at home during that stretch.

However, in the past two seasons, only three teams have beaten the Penguins twice at Consol Energy Center: the Boston Bruins, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres won on both April 2 and 23, 2013.

Buffalo hopes to pick up their first victory in Pittsburgh this season Monday night.

“That’s an understatement that tonight will be a challenge,” Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel said after the team's morning skate. “They’re a quality hockey team, a lot of really good players on that side. But we played really well the other night in Columbus and we’re just going to try to keep the ball rolling.”

The game can be seen nationally on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m.

Drew Stafford will not play with an upper-body injury. He missed four games earlier this month with the same injury and Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said after the morning skate that Stafford re-aggravated it Saturday night in Columbus. Nolan doesn't expect Stafford to miss as many games this time around.

Before the game Saturday, Stafford had been on quite a roll. He recorded three goals and two assists in the three previous games.

Linus Omark is back in for the Sabres but Ville Leino will likely take Stafford’s spot on a line with Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis.

Ryan Miller will start in goal for the Sabres. Nolan’s reasoning is simple: Go with your best goaltender against the best team in the Eastern Conference.

“I just know how good he is and you play him as often as you can,” Nolan said. “You look at, especially this year going into the Olympics and monitoring our play time between both goaltenders. If you look at Miller’s numbers lately, it’s been pretty effective. He’s a little bit more well rested and in return, he’s playing much better.”

After taking his usual reps during the team’s morning skate at Consol Energy Level, Miller skated down to the other end of the ice and started working with the forwards. One by one, each forward skated in on a breakaway. The extra work was for a good reason.

The Penguins are 4-0 in the shootout this season. They’ve won nine-straight shootouts and 14 of their last 15. Since Feb. 26, 2011, Pittsburgh has won 22 of 25 shootouts.

The Sabres are 6-4 in the shootout this season.

John Scott and Alexander Sulzer are expected to be the team’s healthy scratches.

Nolan played 18 games for the Penguins during the 1985-86 and shared a story with the media about Mario Lemieux, who was only 20 at the time.

“I remember sitting down next to Mario and they had a poster night. I asked him to sign it and he asked, ‘For who?’ And I said, ‘To me,’” Nolan said laughing. “And I still have it at home. It says, ‘To Teddy.’ That’s it.”

Lemieux finished that season, his second in the NHL,with 48 goals and 93 assists.He finished second in scoring to Wayne Gretzky, who had 215 points – or 74 more than Lemieux.

POSTED ON Saturday, 01.25.2014 / 2:16 PM ET
By Chris Ryndak - (@chrisryndak) / THE MORNING SKATE

COLUMBUS – The last time the Buffalo Sabres called up Chad Ruhwedel, he didn’t play in a game. However, he’ll be in Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets when the two teams face off at Nationwide Arena at 7 p.m.

Ruhwedel was recalled from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League after practice on Friday and made the trip to Columbus with the team. He’s looking forward to the opportunity to show the Sabres front office and coaching staff what he can do and said he received some good advice from Amerks captain Drew Bagnall before he left.

“He actually texted me saying, ‘Make sure you dance with the girl that brought you to the dance,’” Ruhwedel said after the team’s morning skate in Columbus. “So just do what you did that got you here and that’s why I’m here – from what I was doing in the American League and I’m just going to try to keep doing the exact same thing.”

Ruhwedel, 23, leads all Amerks defensemen with four goals and 17 points this season, his first full season as a pro. He played seven games with the Sabres last season and was primarily paired with Mike Weber.

Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan is hoping Ruhwedel’s ability to move the puck up ice quickly with a good first pass will help bolster the team’s defense and set up some offense.

“Today’s his day,” Nolan said. “One thing about him, he can skate and we need good puck-moving defensemen. Everybody looks for them. He’ll have his opportunity tonight.”

Nolan also said it’s possible that Ruhwedel could see some time on the power play.

The Sabres are also hoping to snap the Blue Jackets’ eight-game winning streak. The two teams met on Jan. 18 in Buffalo with Columbus coming out on top 4-3 in the shootout.

“Confidence is a wonderful thing, when you get on that roll and you believe you can win. Right now they’re on a good streak. They believe all stuff they’re doing is working,” Nolan said. “One thing I admired about them the last time playing them is their work ethic. They might be having some breaks and their confidence is good, but you have no confidence if you don’t work.”

Phil Varone will play in his second career game Saturday night. He made his NHL debut Thursday, played 10:36 and recorded an assist while centering a line that featured Marcus Foligno and Brian Flynn on the wings.

He said he’s feeling more comfortable now than he did on Thursday.

“Getting a game under your belt, a couple practices, you kind of get the feel a little bit of what you can do to incorporate your game into the NHL,” he said. “I feel good. I don’t feel the way I did two days ago, so hopefully that’ll translate on the ice.”

Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal. Captain Steve Ott and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff did not skate, but Nolan said they’ll play against Columbus. Center Tyler Ennis, who missed practice on Friday, will also be ready to go, according to Nolan.

Forwards Linus Omark and John Scott and defenseman Alexander Sulzer will be the team’s healthy scratches.

POSTED ON Friday, 01.24.2014 / 3:15 PM ET
By Chris Ryndak - (@chrisryndak) / BEYOND THE BOARDS

After a three-game homestand in which they went 0-2-1, the Buffalo Sabres are looking forward to going on the road. Four of their next five games are away from First Niagara Center.

“Sometimes, you go on the road and it’s good for you when you’re in a little bit of a funk,” forward Matt Moulson said after practice Friday at First Niagara Center. “You can play a lot simpler. There’s no one to impress on the road and you can concentrate on just grinding out wins. We’ll approach it like that, play a simple game and get wins.”

The first game of the road trip takes the Sabres to Columbus, where they’ll take on the red-hot Blue Jackets on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets are currently riding an eight-game winning streak.

“They’ve been great of late,” Sabres center Cody Hodgson said. “They’ve got a lot of firepower and just the way they play the game is fast. We have to eliminate that.”

The Sabres have scored three goals in each of the past five games, but are only 0-3-2 in that span. While the offense has come around, there have been lapses in the defensive zone that have cost the team points. The players and coaching staff are working to find that proper balance of offense and defense.

“It just comes back to working as a five-man unit,” defenseman Jamie McBain said. “I think we’ve kind of gotten away from that a little bit, whether it’s our net-front coverage or sorting things out -- the teams lately have had very active D – so trying to sort things out down low. But I think it just comes back to us working as a five-man unit and getting the puck up the ice together.”

After the game in Columbus, the Sabres travel to Pittsburgh for a Monday night meeting with the Penguins. They’re back at home against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday before heading out West for a pair of games against the Phoenix Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche.

Tyler Ennis and Mark Pysyk were absent from practice.

Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said Ennis was a “little banged up” from the game Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes and was given Friday off as a maintenance day. He’s expected to play Saturday night in Columbus.

As for Pysyk, the team announced after practice that he had been assigned to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. Nolan has said that they would like Pysyk to play in the AHL during the Olympic break.

Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel has been called up from the Amerks.

The Sabres spent the first half of practice focusing on their passing. The coaching staff put an emphasis on crisp outlets in the early drills.

Since the schedule allowed for the team to put in a full practice, Nolan wanted to take that time to get back to basics.

“If you look at golfers, they go to driving ranges; baseball players go to batting cages; basketball players go to free throw lines; in hockey, we don’t do the most fundamental thing that we should be able to do on a natural instant, which is pass the puck,” he said. “Every once in a while, you have to go back to school and just do the basic stuff. Today was one of those days.”

26 Matt Moulson – 17 Linus Omark – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 19 Cody Hodgson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
82 Marcus Foligno – 84 Philip Varone – 65 Brian Flynn
32 John Scott – 24 Zenon Konopka – 37 Matt Ellis – 23 Ville Leino
Red Non-Contact: 8 Cody McCormick

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

30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth

POSTED ON Thursday, 01.23.2014 / 12:49 PM ET
By Chris Ryndak - (@chrisryndak) / THE MORNING SKATE

It’s a special day for Phil Varone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Varone will wear No. 84.

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

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

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

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

Jhonas Enroth is expected to start in goal.

Projected Lineup

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

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

1 Jhonas Enroth
30 Ryan Miller

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

POSTED ON Wednesday, 01.22.2014 / 2:36 PM ET
By Chris Ryndak - (@chrisryndak) / BEYOND THE BOARDS

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth

POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.21.2014 / 12:07 PM ET
By Chris Ryndak - (@chrisryndak) / THE MORNING SKATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal.

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



T. Ennis 78 20 26 -19 46
M. Moulson 77 13 28 -11 41
B. Gionta 69 13 22 -13 35
Z. Girgensons 61 15 15 -16 30
C. Stewart 61 11 14 -30 25
D. Stafford 50 9 15 -18 24
R. Ristolainen 78 8 12 -32 20
M. Foligno 57 8 12 -5 20
B. Flynn 54 5 12 -3 17
J. Larsson 39 6 10 0 16
J. Enroth 13 21 2 .903 3.27
M. Neuvirth 6 17 3 .918 2.99