With another injury to deal with, the Buffalo Sabres looked to the waiver wire for a veteran player to fill the void.
Right wing Drew Stafford is expected to miss some time with an upper-body injury and the Sabres announced Friday afternoon that they had claimed center Zenon Konopka off of waivers from the Minnesota Wild.
Konopka is a 6-foot, 213-pound centerman who has won 65.7 percent of his faceoffs this season (157-82). He’s also not afraid to drop the gloves, having racked up 55 penalty minutes – including seven fighting majors – in 36 games. He has one goal and one assist on the year. He’s recorded 29 points (12+17) through 323 career games in the NHL.
With the move being announced during Buffalo's practice at First Niagara Center, Konopka was obviously not with the team Friday.
Konopka was waived by the Wild because the team needed to make room for a third goaltender on the roster after Josh Harding had to miss the game against the Sabres on Thursday due to illness. Wild coach Mike Yeo explained the team’s reasoning that afternoon after the roster move had been made.
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“We had to make a move to get a goalie up here and that was the decision,” Yeo said “You look at the way our lines are right now, this wasn’t just an impulse thing where we said, ‘OK, let’s construct our lines like this.’ We want to give it a real chance to work and we think it can work with the four centermen that we have and that kind of puts Z on the outside a little bit there.”
Thursday was also Konopka’s 33rd birthday.
“Those types of guys are really good role models for the younger players and they last that long because they have that special ingredient to work and compete,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. “[Matt] Ellis is the same type of guy. You don’t have to be blessed with a lot of skill, but that certain amount of grit and that determination, that goes long ways.”
A native of nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Konopka played hockey at an early age with Sabres center Matt Ellis. Ellis was raised in Welland, Ont.
“I’ve heard Teddy use the term to describe [captain Steve Ott] as a warrior. Well, this guy’s a warrior, too,” Ellis said. “I grew up with him, played minor hockey with him. He’s a guy that lays everything on the line night in and night out.”
WATCH: MATT ELLIS INTERVIEW
He made special note of Konopka’s competitive nature.
“He’s there to compete, loves to win and he’ll be a nice asset to this locker room,” Ellis said said. “I can’t say enough about the type of guy he is. He’s that one guy in our area, even in summer hockey, he hates to lose.”
Matt Moulson was a teammate of Konopka’s when both were on the New York Islanders in 2010-11. Konopka recorded a career-high nine points (2+7) and 307 penalty minutes in 82 games that year.
“He competes hard. He’ll do anything for the team. He’s a great team guy. He always has your back,” Moulson said. “He takes great pride in his faceoffs and I know that’s something he works on all the time. That’s something we could definitely use. He’ll be a welcome addition.”
“It is what it is,” Ellis said. “It was a mad scramble in front. I put it towards the net and [Myers] did a good job getting himself in a good position and it banked in off him.
“I think that’s the way our team needs to score goals. Our team needs to create chaos in front with bodies going to the net. We need to get on the board with a lot more of those workman-like, so-called ugly goals and whatnot.”
On the injury front, Nolan did not have an update on Stafford, who left the game Thursday night in the first period with an upper-body injury.
“It’s going to be a little while,” Nolan said.
Those players and Kevin Porter, who is on injured reserve, aren’t expected to return to the lineup for at least a week. Porter and McCormick could be out longer.
Ville Leino missed the game against the Wild with a lower-body injury but Nolan hopes he’ll be ready to go against the Devils on Saturday.
“Ville’s pretty close. He’s going to be another game-time decision tomorrow,” Nolan said. “Hopefully he’s in.”
The two players, recalled from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, joined the Buffalo Sabres for practice Wednesday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center after flying back from Switzerland.
The Amerks have been competing in the Spengler Cup exhibition tournament overseas, but McNabb and Larsson left early to serve as reinforcements for the Sabres.
Buffalo plays the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.
They took part in a practice in which Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan skated the team pretty hard and focused on net-front presence.
“I was happy that we were actually able to come and skate and get the cobwebs out,” McNabb said. “I’m excited to be back and I’m looking forward to it.”
Rochester went 0-3-0 in the Spengler Cup, but Larsson said it was good for the team to be a part of the tournament. He recorded one assist in those three games.
“It’s different hockey. It’s a bigger ice surface. It took a little time for us to adjust to that," Larsson said. "I think the last two games we played pretty good, but we didn’t win. I think all the boys were really happy to go there and it was a good experience.”
McNabb and Larsson took a two-hour flight from Zurich to Amsterdam. McNabb said it was then another eight hours from Amsterdam to Minnesota.
Larsson will be in the lineup against the Wild as Ville Leino has a lower-body injury that will cause him to miss the game. He took a big hit from Thomas Wilson of the Captials on Sunday and missed practice on Monday. He suited Tuesday night against the Winnipeg Jets but left the game in the first period. He's also been dealing with the flu.
“Ville tried it last night and just wasn’t good enough to go. We’ll give him a little bit more time. Hopefully he’ll get ready soon,” Nolan said. “I think right now it’s day-to-day. He took a pretty big bang there a couple days ago, but it’s getting better and better.”
For now, McNabb will serve as the seventh defenseman. Tyler Myers took a maintenance day and did not skate with the team Wednesday. The Sabres are already without Henrik Tallinder, who will miss at least a week with an injury.
Nolan said that Myers is “semi-questionable” for the game Thursday, but thinks that Myers should be ready to go.
To make room for the two players, the Sabres placed Cody Hodgson on injured reserve. Hodgson has missed four games with an upper-body injury.
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
9 Steve Ott – 65 Brian Flynn – 21 Drew Stafford
32 John Scott – 37 Matt Ellis – 27 Matt D’Agostini
82 Marcus Foligno – 22 Johan Larsson – 17 Linus Omark
Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week after going 2-0-1 with a 1.55 goals against average and a .961 save percentage for the week ending Dec. 29. He stopped a career-high 49 shots Sunday night in Buffalo’s 2-1 shootout win over the Washington Capitals.
The Sabres will stick with their goaltending schedule and give Miller the night off against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. Jhonas Enroth will get the nod in Winnipeg.
“You have to project further out and we need Jhonas to be ready,” Miller said after practice at Riverside Ice Arena on Monday. “And it’s an Olympic year. We’re factoring in the possibility of more travel and playing time for maybe both of us. The idea is to balance it out a little more.”
As far as the Olympics go, Miller reiterated that he has not yet heard from Team USA regarding the Winter Olympic roster. USA Hockey is expected to announce its roster on New Year's Day. Enroth is a candidate to back up Henrik Lundqvist for Team Sweden.
While Enroth has only one win this season, Miller has been impressed with the 25-year-old netminder’s play.
“I think he’s handled it really well in kind of a situation where I thought he’s had some good nights and he just hasn’t gotten the win,” he said. “But I thought he’s played really solid.”
Miller has played as many as 76 games in a season. Since the team can rely on Enroth to give them quality starts, Miller is able receive proper rest to keep his energy levels up to where he feels they need to be.
“Learning over the years, you want to play as much as possible, but you have to know there are moments where you have to build yourself up off the ice,” Miller said. “You have to take a little bit of a mental break and do your work in the gym, do your work on the ice that maybe you don’t do as much if you’re playing.”
The Sabres are clicking at home, having won their past four games at First Niagara Center. But they’ll try to find a way to mimic that success on the road this week.
Buffalo will embark on a two-game road trip that starts on New Year’s Eve in Winnipeg. After the game, they’ll travel to Minnesota to take on the Wild on Thursday. They’ll return home for a date with the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
The Sabres have played both the Jets and Wild already this season at First Niagara Center. While they’ve gotten a look at what those teams are about, Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder said that these next two games will certainly have a different vibe.
“They probably want to set a tone in their home buildings, so they’re going to be tough games,” he said. “We have pretty good confidence in our team. We’re playing decent right now. We can play better. We know that. So we’re going to go into those buildings and play our best.”
With Buffalo’s recent success, Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan is now looking at taking the next step in the team’s development.
“We’ve got a long ways to go. We adjusted [to] the feel-good period part. Now we just have to pay a little bit more attention to details,” he said. “If you look at the goaltending we have, we have pretty good goaltending. So if we play honestly in front of them, we’ll have good chances [to win].”
Brian Flynn, Steve Ott and Ville Leino did not practice. Nolan said it was a rest day for Flynn and Ott while Leino is still dealing with some effects of the flu. The Sabres are carrying 13 forwards at the moment but center Cody Hodgson is unavailable as he recovers from an upper-body injury. Hodgson has not practiced with the team since he sustained the injury on Dec. 19.
Nolan said they would dress seven defensemen if Leino is unable to play.
Coming off a shootout loss on the road Friday night to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Buffalo Sabres were back on the ice Saturday afternoon at Riverside Ice Arena.
The Sabres are 4-0-1 in their past five home games and will look to keep that going when they host the Washington Capitals at 5 p.m. on Sunday at First Niagara Center.
Now that he has the players committed to not letting up in their effort during games, Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan seems to have turned his attention a bit more toward Buffalo plays a more structured game.
“I think we all play within the confines of our ability and the confines of our system which we have to play. If we don’t do it, we’re going to be in trouble,” he said.
The Sabres found themselves in some trouble in the second period against Toronto. The Maple Leafs scored three goals in the period and none of the players after the game were happy with the way that 20 minutes played out.
“That was evident last night. We got away from it totally in the second period and Toronto took it to us pretty good,” Nolan said on Saturday. “We have to play with some kind of structure.”
Captain Steve Ott did not practice. He was given the day off by the coaching staff for maintenance.
The Maple Leafs tried to create some matchup problems against the Sabres by throwing top scorers like Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri against Buffalo’s third and fourth lines. That some Sabres players were still feeling the effects of the flu that caused four of them to miss the game on Monday certainly played a role in Toronto’s strategy.
While the Sabres will have the last change against Washington, it’s likely that the Capitals will try and prey on some of the players trying to regain their strength.
Matt Ellis was one of the players faced with a few tough matchups against Toronto.
“When our line does get matched up against a line like Kessel and Kadri, there are certain things we need to do: get the puck out of our zone as quick as possible, get the puck in and limit the turnovers,” he said. “It’s all about having that awareness and knowing what to do in certain situations.”
Nolan stressed the importance of receiving an honest effort from every player on the team so that, when situations like that arise, anyone on the bench can be counted on to play a role on the ice.
“We have what we have. If you try to shorten our bench down to six or seven players, it’s going to be a long game, it’s going to be a long year,” he said. “That’s exactly what I told the guys today. In order for us to have any kind of success, we need everybody.”
The Sabres defense will also be presented with a big challenge in containing Alexander Ovechkin. The Capitals captain has 30 goals and 11 assists in 36 games this year.
“He’s obviously a big threat with not only his shot, but how many shots he takes in a game,” Tyler Myers said. “It’s the same with any player, really. You want to limit his time and space and try to force him make a play he doesn’t want to make.”
Myers’ partner, Henrik Tallinder, is aware of the problems Ovechkin poses, but is confident that the Sabres can find a way to neutralize him and the Capitals offensive attack.
“That guy, he never sleeps. It seems like he’s awake all the time on the ice,” he said. “It’s tough but we’ve done it before. Let’s do it again.”
Buffalo’s defense was active in the Toronto zone and it’s likely that will continue against Washington.
Ott’s game-tying goal with 24.1 seconds left against the Maple Leafs came as a result of Myers holding onto the puck at the blue line and waiting for the right moment to put the puck on net.
“I’m starting to figure out all this game is about is confidence,” Myers said. “I’ve been feeling really comfortable with my game and where I’ve taken it. It’s just a matter of making sure I keep working towards improving every day.”
|Credit: Bill Wippert/Getty Images|
Buffalo Sabres wing Matt Moulson’s first few weeks in Buffalo were a whirlwind, but he’s now had time to settle in not only with the team, but with the city as well.
Offensively, things are coming are coming around, too. He scored the game-winning goal on the power play early in the third period Tuesday night in the Sabres’ 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. He’s scored in back-to-back games.
The Sabres have been generating more and more offensive chances the past few games and they were finally able to break out with a four-goal performance against Winnipeg. Moulson’s goal came when he parked himself in front of the net and deflected in a point shot by defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.
“Obviously when pucks are going in, you feel pretty good about yourself and when that confidence is there, it feels like they’re going in more and more,” Moulson said. “We just have to keep getting pucks there, keep getting guys there and keep getting those dirty goals and eventually we’ll get that confidence in scoring.”
Moulson's made a big impression on interim coach Ted Nolan, who joined the team on Nov. 13.
“I’ve really come to admire him not only as a player, but as a man. He’s a true pro,” Nolan said. “He comes to work. He has a great demeanor about him. He seems to really enjoy the game. He’s one of those guys you like to have on your team for sure.”
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The Sabres acquired Moulson and two draft picks from the New York Islanders on Oct. 27 for co-captain Thomas Vanek. Moulson scored on his first shot as a Sabre the next night and added a second goal later in the game. He’s currently atop Buffalo’s scoring leaderboard with 12 goals and 22 points through 32 games. He has six goals and seven assists in his 21 games as a Sabre.
A few days after arriving in Buffalo, the Sabres traveled downstate to play the New York Rangers. While they were there, Moulson told reporters he was able to go home to grab some personal items, including a winter jacket.
Since then, he’s brought back most everything he’d need to prepare for the cold months ahead.
“I don’t think I brought too many clothes. I usually wear the same things over and over again,” he said. “But I don’t mind the snow at all. I obviously grew up with a lot of snow so it’s kind of a nice change to see some snow. I have to get my daughter acclimated to the cold weather and snow though.”
Moulson and his wife had their second child just a few weeks before he was traded. Initially, it was difficult for him to be away, but now his family is settled in Western New York.
He credits members of the organization and his teammates’ families for helping with the transition.
“I think everyone here, all the wives and other families here and [owners] Terry and Kim [Pegula] have made my family feel extremely welcome,” he said. “I know they do that with everyone so it definitely makes it a lot easier to concentrate on hockey when you’re treated so well and you enjoy being where you’re being.”
Moulson grew up just over the border in Mississauga, Ont. and said he attended both Bills and Sabres games as a kid. He’s been to one Bills game this year and was able to see a victory.
“I’m 1-0 right now,” he said. “One game, one win.”
WATCH: TED NOLAN'S PRESS CONFERENCE
Through various trips across the border, Moulson was pretty familiar with the area before he started playing for the Sabres. However, there are still a few things he’s learning about.
“I think the one thing I definitely did not know about Buffalo was all the good restaurants. There’s a lot of good food in Buffalo,” he said. “I thought it was all chicken wings – and great wings, obviously – but there are a lot of other great restaurants. It’s been a lot of fun to get around and see all of them.”
His sister attended Niagara University to play hockey, but he says she never told him about Western New York’s wide variety of fine dining options.
“I don’t think she could afford too many restaurants when she was in college,” he said with a smile. “She told me about Chippewa Street, but that’s about it.”
Moulson was drafted in the fourth round of the 2004 National Lacrosse League Entry Draft by the Rochester Knighthawks. Although he ultimately made the decision to play hockey professionally instead, he said he still follows the NLL.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to get to some [Buffalo] Bandits games and Rochester’s not too far by, so who knows? Maybe if we get some time, I’ll make my way up there,” he said.
The Bandits open their season on Dec. 28 at First Niagara Center against the Philadelphia Wings.
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 27 Matt D’Agostini
9 Steve Ott – 23 Ville Leino – 21 Drew Stafford
32 John Scott – 12 Kevin Porter – 65 Brian Flynn – 37 Matt Ellis
While two players closer to returning from injuries, the Buffalo Sabres will have to put another on the shelf.
Center Cody Hodgson was back at practice at First Niagara Center on Monday after missing the past two games with an injury and defenseman Alexander Sulzer, who has missed five games with an upper-body injury, is ready to come off injured reserve, according to interim coach Ted Nolan.
Hodgson took the pregame warmup Saturday afternoon against the Calgary Flames, but he ended up being a scratch.
“I obviously want to play and I want to contribute,” Hodgson said. “I think I can help the team, so I just have to make sure everything’s good. But obviously I want to play.”
Nolan put Hodgson at about 80 percent healthy on Saturday and has said he wants the 23-year-old center as close to 100 percent as possible before putting him back in the lineup. His status for Buffalo’s home game on Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets will depend on how he feels in the morning.
“He looks very good today. Today’s a new day and he looks good,” Nolan said. “Hopefully he feels the same way tomorrow and be in the lineup.”
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On the flip side, Nolan announced after practice that Cody McCormick will be out approximately four to six weeks with an upper-body injury. McCormick left the game on Saturday against Calgary 7:26 into the second period after blocking a Mark Giordano slap shot and did not return.
McCormick missed four games earlier this month with a different upper-body injury. In 25 games this season, he has one goal and four assists.
“He’s fearless,” Nolan said. “He puts himself in front of shots that are coming in 90 miles an hour and sometimes they hit you in the wrong spot. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Cody last game. But he’s a tough guy. He’ll bounce back and be ready to go in time when he’s healed.”
Pending any roster moves, the Sabres will have eight healthy defensemen on the roster when Sulzer is activated from injured reserve. Mark Pysyk, Brayden McNabb and Mike Weber have found themselves in and out of the lineup over the past few games. Nolan wants to see players working hard in both practice and games for the opportunity to see game action.
“We want to make sure it’s a competitive lineup. We want to make that guys who are in it want to stay in it and guys who are out of it want to fight to get in it,” Nolan said. “It’s not really a rotation, just some guys continue to have little rough ones and we have to replace them. Until we find that consistent effort, it’ll stay the same.”
WATCH: TED NOLAN PRESS CONFERENCE
Pysyk was the Sabres’ scratch on Saturday, but Nolan said it wasn’t necessarily the rookie defenseman’s play on Thursday in Ottawa that kept him out of the lineup against the Flames. Pysyk played 16:41 with two shots on net in that game.
“He’s a younger player. Sometimes you like to take him out when he played a great game versus a so-so game,” Nolan said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s just numbers. Mark’s a younger player. We had to get Brayden in at some point instead of just sitting here so it was a numbers game more so than what his play was.”
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
9 Steve Ott – 23 Ville Leino – 21 Drew Stafford
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 27 Matt D’Agostini
32 John Scott – 72 Luke Adam – 37 Matt Ellis – 65 Brian Flynn
Moulson – Hodgson – Ennis
Stafford – Ehrhoff
Foligno – Ott – Leino
McBain – Myers
Buffalo Sabres center Cody Hodgson did not practice with the team Friday morning at First Niagara Center.
He missed Buffalo’s game in Ottawa on Thursday with an injury and interim coach Ted Nolan hopes Hodgson will be ready for the team’s Saturday afternoon tilt against the Calgary Flames at 2 p.m.
“Cody’s still a little sore. He tried to go out for practice today and didn’t feel very well so one more day,” Nolan said after practice.
After the game in Ottawa, the Sabres were pleased with their effort, but still came up short, falling 2-1 in regulation. In the home-and-home series against Ottawa, Buffalo put 36 and then 41 shots on goal.
“We’re not happy with a loss, but I think the feeling here is we want to get right back at it. We know we’re right on the edge of a win,” Sabres center Cody McCormick said. “We want to play today. We want to get right back at it and pick up off the good things from that game.”
Alexander Sulzer has been on injured reserve since sustaining an injury on Nov. 30 in New Jersey and said he’s close to returning. He’s been skating with the team since Monday. He probably wouldn’t be ready for Saturday, according to Nolan.
“It’s more like getting practices in and getting my conditioning back in like game situations and stuff,” Sulzer said.
Forward John Scott was excused from practice after his wife gave birth.
“I’ll let John say all the good news, but he’s a proud man today for sure,” Nolan said.
“We tried Steve Ott there. At center ice, it’s a lot of skating and Steve Ott’s a little bit more effective for us going up and down the wing and being Steve Ott,” Nolan said. “[Putting] him at center ice, we took a little bit away from him.”
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In addition to improving their work ethic, the team has begun to limit the opposition’s shots against and they’ve been receiving solid goaltending from Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth all year. The players feel as if they’re on the cusp of putting it all together.
“We have to finish. That’s something we’ve talked about. We have to find a way to score,” Ott said. “Those opportunities are coming with consistent chances and consistent chances mean goals. I’m not too worried. If we play like we did last night, nine times out of 10, you’re going to win those games.”
On the first day of training camp, Ott said that with a younger club, it might take until around the end of December for a team to really gel and develop chemistry. Now that they’re at about that point, Ott said the team is starting to build on some positives.
“I’ve seen this before. It’s taken around Christmastime or just after to get that productivity together and the cohesiveness,” he said. “We’re all starting to feel it together now and that’s something that will hopefully lead us in the right direction coming up here.”
Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons played a huge role in determining the outcome of Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout win over Ottawa, and later today he’ll be involved in a video that will be watched by Brendan Shanahan at the NHL office in Manhattan.
From the NHL:
Ottawa Senators defenseman Jared Cowen will have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety Wednesday for a hit on Buffalo Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons Tuesday night at First Niagara Center.
At 18:02 of the third period, Cowen came across the ice to hit Girgensons as he entered the Ottawa zone. No penalty was called on the play. Girgensons remained in the game.
The following grounds are being considered for supplemental discipline: illegal check to the head. However, the Department of Player Safety retains the right to make adjustments to the infraction upon review.
Buffalo won the game, 2-1, in a shootout.
Zemgus Girgensons always appears to be on a mission to prove something. The 19-year-old rookie forward scored a highlight-reel goal against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, his first since the season opener, taking two Habs defensemen with him as he drove to the net and beat goaltender Carey Price.
After practice at First Niagara Center on Monday, he tried to downplay the personal significance of that early third-period goal, which put Buffalo back in the game. Ultimately, however, they lost to the Canadiens 3-2.
“Probably the best confidence booster for all of us would be a win,” he said. “[It was] definitely nice to get a goal and the whole team is struggling with them, so it’s definitely nice to get one.”
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan switched up the lines at practice Monday and moved Girgensons up with center Tyler Ennis and left wing Matt Moulson. Girgensons knows that he’s going to have to keep going to the blue paint while playing a hard-nosed style in order to have continued success.
“Every game, I can’t let my work ethic go down because that’s pretty much why I’m here,” Girgensons said. “When I do something like that, it just shows people that I can be here.”
WATCH: ZEMGUS GIRGENSONS INTERVIEW
Nolan has been vocally supportive of Girgensons’ play since he took over behind the bench last month. He also serves at the Latvian national coach and had the opportunity to work with Girgensons during the IIHF World Championship in the spring, so he’s quite familiar with Girgensons and his style.
“One thing you can’t teach him is the ability to work,” Nolan said. “He competes on a daily basis and it’s great to see him getting rewarded for his work lately.”
Nolan completely broke up the Sabres’ top line of Moulson, center Cody Hodgson and right wing Drew Stafford. Hodgson found himself with Luke Adam and Matt D’Agostini. Stafford skated with Steve Ott and Marcus Foligno. Nolan said he would like to try Ott at center.
“Our top line had a little trouble, maybe the chemistry wasn’t quite right so we talked to them and we decided that instead of having one [scoring line], we’ll try to have three,” Nolan said. “We have to get this thing turned around together. It’s not going to be one or two individuals, it’s going to have to be a collective response. Hopefully this works.”
Hodgson said he played with Adam when both were with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League last season. With Adam’s penchant for going to the net, Hodgson thinks he can create a strong connection with him and D’Agostini.
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“Chemistry’s just a huge part of this game. Sometimes it’s instant, sometimes it takes a little while to develop,” Hodgson said. “It doesn’t matter which line you’re playing with, you’ve got to play your game and maybe we’ll adapt or mesh and hopefully it does.”
“We need to get certain people playing better,” Nolan said. “Playing OK is not good enough. We have to play better.”
Defenseman Alexander Sulzer skated with the team for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury against the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 30. He’ been on injured reserve and Nolan said that Sulzer would not be available for the team’s home game against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.
Brayden McNabb will return to the lineup, according to Nolan. McNabb’s been a healthy scratch for the Sabres the past four games. In one game with the Amerks during that stretch, he recorded a goal and two assists.
Amerks defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was named to the selection camp roster of the Finnish National Junior Team on Monday. He would need to get the green light from the Sabres in order to participate.
“I’m quite sure we’ll give [him] permission to play there,” Nolan said.
Granted, he would also need to be healthy enough to go. He’s been out of the Amerks lineup since sustaining what the team is calling an upper-body injury on Nov. 29.
The 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship will take place from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Malmo, Sweden. Sabres center Mikhail Grigorenko is currently in Russia's selection camp with defenseman Nikita Zadorov. J.T. Compher has been named to Team USA’s preliminary roster and Gustav Possler has been named to the preliminary roster for Sweden.
26 Matt Moulson – 63 Tyler Ennis – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
82 Marcus Foligno – 9 Steve Ott – 21 Drew Stafford
72 Luke Adam – 19 Cody Hodgson – 27 Matt D’Agostini
32 John Scott – 8 Cody McCormick – 23 Ville Leino – 65 Brian Flynn
Moulson – Hodgson – Ennis
McBain / Ehrhoff
Foligno – Ott – Stafford
McNabb / Myers
While many things have changed in the Buffalo Sabres front office, goaltender Ryan Miller says that for him, a lot of things remain the same.
He’s still the Sabres’ starting goaltender and, although he’s been the subject of trade talks the past two seasons, his job is still to keep pucks out of the net and give Buffalo a chance to win every night.
Miller looks to rebound from his performance against the New York Rangers on Thursday. He made 28 saves, but in his postgame comments, he wasn’t happy with any of the three goals he let in.
“My job remains the same. I have to respond with a better effort than I had against the Rangers and keep building my game, hopefully in anticipation of putting myself out there for USA Hockey and helping this team get on the right page here,” he said after practice Friday at First Niagara Center. “We’re improving in small areas and our games are becoming hockey games now instead of lopsided kind of events. We’re in games and we gotta find ways to win. Hopefully that’s coming.”
Pat LaFontaine is the new face of the hockey department as he took over as president of hockey operations last month. He’s currently in the process of finding a new general manager for the club and working to forging a new identity for the franchise. One of the decisions he will have to make concerns his goaltending situation. Miller is in the final year of his contract. Jhonas Enroth signed a two-year deal this summer.
Miller said he has had only “exploratory” talks with LaFontaine in terms in an effort to get to know him better.
“My thinking’s always been, wait to see what plan presents itself and it feels like I’ve been saying that for awhile, but things have shifted so much,” Miller said. “Even going back to last year, I said that was the same thing, but nothing happened in regards to my situation and that wasn’t in my control. It’s something where it’s still not completely under my control so I have to kind of wait and see what happens, see what the plan is.”
For the most part, the Sabres have adhered to the goaltending schedule that was in place before interim coach Ted Nolan was hired on Nov 13. Since then, Miller said that he, Nolan, Enroth and goaltender coach Jim Corsi have met to discuss how each goaltender’s energy levels can be maximized through a condensed schedule.
“It’s not all about right here in the moment, it’s projecting forward. We have some busy months ahead of us and a tough finish to the season. You have to think ahead sometimes,” Miller said. “When Ted got in here, we had to sort things out and let him know what we thought as goaltenders and as a group, what Jim Corsi and Jhonas and I are shooting for. I support the schedule moving forward because it’s going to give me a chance to be at my best game in and game out.”
Ted Nolan said earlier this week that he believes that having a great goaltender is a foundation or success.
“You look at all the championship teams and it starts from the goaltending out,” Nolan said Wednesday. “…You build around him versus use him as a pawn to try to get something to make you better. You learn to deal with the now as a coach. We’ve got one of the better goaltenders in the world here. I’d prefer to build around him, myself.”
Miller said he appreciated Nolan’s comments.
“It’s nice to hear. I appreciate that kind of gesture from someone who’s been around hockey for a long time,” he said. “…It’s nice that your coach believes in you, so I’ll take it as a positive, but again, there’s still a lot more to see around here.”
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist signed a new seven-year contract this week that will keep him in New York until he’s 39. Miller, 33, was asked if he thinks he might be able to keep playing that long.
“It’s not far away, so I’d like to think I can play,” he said. “I feel good now, it’s just trying to do some good things with this club and I still enjoy the challenge. I guess I don’t really picture myself stopping until they tell me to so as long as there’s a spot in the NHL, I think I’ll be competing and doing the best I can.
“Obviously I want to win a championship and feel that kind of team success and that would be something to shoot for. I’ll chase it as long as I can.”
The Sabres went 117:54 over two games before Tyler Ennis scored Thursday night with 2:06 remaining in the third period against New York. They’ve been getting opportunities, but have had trouble finishing their chances of late.
“We’re doing some things that we need to keep continuing to do,” Sabres center Cody Hodgson said. “That’s something that we can build off of and make sure we’re still doing that. That’s not something you get away from. You worry when you’re not getting chances, but it’s tough when you go two games without a goal. That’s tough.”
Hodgson also addressed the tripping penalty he took 7:11 into the third period. After being stopped on a partial breakaway by Lundqvist, he tripped Rangers forward Rick Nash in the corner while attempting to maintain possession of the puck. The Rangers scored on the ensuing power play to make it 2-0, making a Buffalo comeback extremely difficult.
“That was bad,” he said. “I have to hold on a little more. I thought I was going to lose it after getting hacked, but I just wanted to get away quick and I should’ve tried to hold on a little bit longer. Once the guy picked up the puck in the corner, I was actually just looking to slash the puck away and I took out his feet. That was a frustrating play and they score on it.”
Center Cody McCormick and defenseman Alexander Sulzer, who is on injured reserve, did not practice Friday. Nolan said that McCormick is “a little banged up” but expects him to be ready for the game Saturday in Montreal.
Rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko will travel to Russia this weekend to take part in the country’s selection camp in preparation of the IIHF World Junior Championship. Sabres management feels that participating in the tournament later this month will be extremely beneficial to his development.
“He has to go down there and be one of their best players. He can’t just go down and be a player. He has to be one of their best players,” Nolan said. “Once you dominate one level, it gets you ready for the next level. You go through the history of all those young stars, they all have to do it.”
26 Matt Moulson – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 23 Ville Leino – 27 Matt D’Agostini
72 Luke Adam – 63 Tyler Ennis – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
32 John Scott – 65 Brian Flynn – 82 Marcus Foligno