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Beyond The Boards

BEYOND THE BOARDS: NUMMINEN PRACTICES WITH THE TEAM

Thursday, 12.13.2007 / 12:13 PM / Blogs - Beyond the Boards
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BEYOND THE BOARDS: NUMMINEN PRACTICES WITH THE TEAM
Beyond the Boards is written by the Buffalo Sabres Website Manager, Brian Wheeler. Joining the Sabres prior to the 2003-04 season, Wheeler is the main contact and content editor for Sabres.com. He has worked in the NHL, NFL, AHL and NLL over the past 11 years.  Click here to send him an email.


12.13.07, 12:10 p.m. :::: NUMMINEN PRACTICES WITH THE TEAM

updated 12:33 p.m.

It's a good day in HSBC Arena.

Defenseman Teppo Numminen practiced during an optional skate this morning with the team and looked good.

Numminen's return to the lineup could come in a matter of weeks.

General manager Darcy Regier, head coach Lindy Ruff and Numminen each addressed the media. 

Here's a snippet of Regier's press conference.

 WANT MORE CONTENT?

Listen to the full interviews of Darcy Regier and Teppo Numminen below.

Regier Interview 
Numminen Interview
On Numminen's status:

"He's cleared to practice with the team.  Based on what I watched out there, he looked pretty good, so it's a good start.  We're excited and I think he's excited."

Has he made the decision whether or not to continue his career?

"I think it's something that will progress and is personal to him.  Certainly, we're moving forward at this point. "

From a team standpoint, does he stay suspended until he can return to the lineup on a full-time basis?

"We will reinstate him at a time when he's cleared to play in NHL games.  I don't know what that time frame will be.  He'll have a lot to say about it.  The doctors will obviously have the most to say about it. We'll go with that time line."
 
When you say he's cleared, is it your doctors or is it the Cleveland Clinic's doctors?

"Ultimately, it's our doctors that make that decision.  But certainly, the Cleveland Clinic doctors will have the bulk of the say as it relates to his condition."

Do you have a general idea of how many months the recovery process could take?

"I don't think it's months.  I think we're talking in terms of weeks. As far as his conditioning, I spoke with Doug McKenny, who is our strength and conditioning coach, and Teppo is in good shape.  He's never been a muscle man.  He's about smarts, intelligence, good feet, good hands and good head."

Read Regier's full interview here

More coverage to come on Sabres.com throughout the day.



12.12.07, 10:49 a.m. :::: MILLER, "I FELT FINE.  I'M GOING TONIGHT."
Updated 12.12.07, 11:12 a.m.

Goaltender Ryan Miller's injuried ankle will not hold him out of tonight's game.

Miller following this morning's skate  said,  "I felt fine.  I'll go tonight."

Miller this morning:

"It's just really on one spot.  In the case of ankle sprains, I'm not an expert, but it's really low and I don't feel it on the ice so I want to play.  I want to get back in net and help the team get a win."

 RELATED MULTIMEDIA

Ryan Miller talks about his ankle injury and tonight's match-up with the Islanders.

Miller Pre-Game
Do you feel fortunate that it didn't turn into a high-ankle sprain?

"It could have been a lot of things the way the guy came in kind of out of control and swept my toe.  I just wanted to finish that game.  I started it and wanted to finish it.  That's pretty much my attitude most nights, and I hope, every night.  I felt it was important to stay in there as long as it felt alright.  I don't think it was a risk.  I knew what I was doing.  I went out yesterday and it felt alright, and felt good today."



12.12.07, 9:28 a.m. :::: KALININ, TALLINDER, MILLER UPDATES

Erin Pollina wrote a story yesterday outlining the specifics concerning Dmitri Kalinin's, Henrik Tallinder's and Ryan Miller's injuries.

Take a read here if you're interested.



12.10.07, 4:16 p.m. :::: HEALTHY BLUELINE?


After a week away, it's time to get reacquainted with the squad... and their injured players.

The blueline will still rely on Andrej Sekera for the near future.  Head coach Lindy Ruff said Monday morning that Dmitri Kalinin (knee) and Henrik Tallinder (shoulder) are not quite ready for game action.

"Dmitri has been cleared for physical contact; Henrik hasn't yet," Ruff said.  "We'll know in the next couple of days where they are both at."

Neither is expected to play in ether of Buffalo "first couple of games" this week, according to Ruff. 

"We just go day-by-day and see how it feels," said Tallinder.  "It feels pretty good and I can do just about anything, we just have to see if I can handle the body contact.  I have to see how it feels if I try to deliver a hit or take a hit. 

"I'm not quite there yet and I'll see the doctor [Monday].  We'll see where we go from there."

Tallinder said "it's possible" that he could return to the ice this week depending on the results of the examination.

Kalinin has missed the last 19 games, while Tallinder has been out six.



12.01.07, 11:01 a.m. :::: ALPHABET SOUP
updated 1:49 p.m.

Defenseman Brian Campbell has been named captain for the month of December.  Head coach Lindy Ruff cited Campbell's drive, constant determination and the willingness to take on any responsibility as reasons for the honor.

"Brian's play warrants it," said Ruff.  "Game in and game out, whether we've asked 30 minutes, 20 minutes or any situation, he's been there.  He's been in the system a long time and with the team a long time."

 VIDEO INTERVIEWS

Brian Campbell on the honor

Lindy Ruff names Campbell captain

Adam Mair on his game readiness
The six-foot, 190-pound defenseman has traveled a long road to get to this point.  Buffalo's sixth-round selection (156th overall) in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, Campbell  had to fight though some difficult seasons where he was in the press box as a healthy scratch more times than he was in the lineup.

He's grown up as a Sabre and now feels the pride of wearing the "C" for the only NHL team for which he has played. 

"I said last year when I got voted to and played in an All-Star Game, my parents looked at each other and said that they never expected this to be happening or to see their son doing that," said Campbell.  "They won't expect this to be happening either."

Campbell  was an alternate captain last month.

After becoming the third Sabres captain this season - joining Jochen Hecht (Oct.) and Toni Lydman (Nov.) - Campbell gave a breif speech to the team.

"I just basically told them that we were at .500 right now and that we want to get a good push here headed forward," Campbell said.  "We want to reestablish ourselves in a playoff position."

Hecht and Jaroslav Spacek were named alternate captains for December.

History of the Captaincy

OTHER NOTES FROM THIS MORNING'S SKATE

-- Adam Mair (ankle) will play tonight, marking the first time he'll be active since Nov. 5.   He missed the team's last 10 games.

"This is pretty much when I've been ready to play," said Mair.  "I don't think I could have played before this.

"I personally didn't [think he would be out for four weeks].  But when I saw the doctor the next day after the injury he said these things tend to take four to six weeks.  It's about 3 1/2 weeks right now.  I personally didn't think it would be this long, but it was one of those injuries that just nagged."

-- Clarke MacArthur has been reassigned to the Rochester Americans. View transation log

"I want to continue to see him grow," said Ruff.  "I think he had a very good couple of weeks with us, offensively, scoring three goals and four points in 10 games.  We had him in a situation where we thought he could succeed, playing with Jochen [Hecht] and Jason Pominville

"At the same time, I don't want to see any dip in his play and I would like to see him continue that growth.

"He sends a pretty strong message coming here and playing the way he did."


11.29.07, 1:50 p.m. :::: ROY SITS OUT PRACTICE

Center Derek Roy was absent from practice Thursday morning.  Roy sustained a bruise on his foot when struck with a shot in the third period of Buffalo's 4-3 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday night.  He was held off the ice after being unable to put a skate on due to the soreness.

"There are always concerns when you miss," said head coach Lindy Ruff.  "We're hoping he'll be better tomorrow than he was today."

No official designation for the injury was announced and no timeline was given.

The smallish center was replaced by Paul Gaustad on a line with Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek.

Even though the two centers are poller opposites in certain areas of their games (size, style of play, etc.), Stafford indicated the success of the line would come from utilizing everyone's strengths and not trying to conform to a predetermined style.

"He's [Gaustad] a big body and he forchecks really hard," said Stafford.  "He finishes checks and creates space.  I think that's the biggest thing.  He knows how to use his body to create space for his linemates.

"Depending who's in on the forecheck, he's definitely good at making room for Vanek and myself.  That's how I like to play as well. 

"Playing with Roy and Vanek, I try to create space for them."

Other Notes:

-- Feeling better from his bout of the flu, Andrew Peters returned to practice on Thursday.

-- Adam Mair skated on the fourth line alongside Peters, Danile Paille and Mike Ryan.   Like the rest of his linemates, Mair sported a white jersey which generally indicates game readiness.  Mair has missed the last 10 games with an ankle injury.

"Adam is getting very close," said Ruff.  "If he doesn't play this weekend, he'll definitely play on the west coast trip."



11.27.07, 1:09 p.m. ::::INJURY UPDATE AGAIN

Once again, here's an injury update on the Sabres hurting players from head coach Lindy Ruff...

Drew Stafford:

"I think Drew is able to play. We will just make a decision on whether we are going to play him or not. Shoulder injuries are tough.  He’s chomping at the bit. The more time we can get him the stronger we are going to be."
 
Because you are winning do you maybe not want to switch anything and leave him out of the lineup for a few extra days?

"That can be part of it, but at the same time we can afford to give him a few extra days, which will make him stronger."
 
Adam Mair:

"Adam obviously is getting better. [He] still feels it on occasion ... which an ankle is probably one of the toughest for playing. We will get him a little bit more time and we will see after tomorrow how he feels. But [if] you are looking at the schedule we have some time, even if it’s one or two more games it will give him enough time to probably get it even stronger where he doesn’t re-injure it."

Henrik Tallinder:


"Henrik, I still feel is going to be in that one to two week range. He got a little skate in today, kind of a controlled, where we didn’t want to aggravate his shoulder at all. That can just vary on how it comes around for him."

Was it a separation?

"No."

Dmitri Kalinin:


"Dmitri has kind of hit a stalemate with his [injury]. It hasn’t got a lot better. It hasn’t got any worse. We are just kind of waiting for it to hit that moment where he says ‘boy it feels good now.’ We thought we would be there. I think we’re probably three or four days, maybe five days behind. We thought when we came back from this trip he may be skating so I think there is a little disappointment with that."
 


11.23.07, 1:30 p.m. ::::INJURY UPDATE


Head coach Lindy Ruff gave a few injury updates during this morning's pre-game skate.  He addressed the current status of Adam Mair, Dmitri Kalinin and Drew Stafford.

Here are the finer points:

Drew Stafford (shoulder) --

"Right now, we're just looking at day-to-day.  So he could be available [Saturday at Montreal] or possibly Monday."

Adam Mair (ankle) --


"He's still progressing but is still not in full contact."

Dmitri Kalinin (knee) -- 


"He's kind of stuck at that point where he's ready to skate but his knee is still a little tender.  He may need a couple days away from the off-ice stuff to get him over the hump. 

"We feel he's almost right where he supposed to be at this stage of rehab."

Going into Friday night's match-up with Montreal the Sabres have 36 total man-games lost.  See chart below for full details. 

Player Injury Dates Out Missed Games
Ales Kotalik Knee 10/5-10/6 2
Jaroslav Spacek  Shoulder  10/19-10/27; 11/02-11/07 8
Dmitri Kalinin Knee 10/26-present 11
Nolan Pratt Groin 11/05-11/10 4
Tim Connolly Abdominal Strain 11/07-11/16 5
Adam Mair Abdominal Strain 11/07-present 6
Drew Stafford Shoulder --- ---
Total man-games lost:    36

Man-games lost is calculated by adding each individual game a player missed together.  So under that definition, one game will/can be counted multiple times if more than one player is absent due to injury.  That's why the total (36) is greater than the actual number of games played (19).



11.16.07, 2:23 p.m. :::: BORN IN THE USA


Ever since Mike Modano became the Creme de la Creme of American snipers after passing Joe Mullen's total of 502 goals and former Sabres great Phil Housley's 1,232. points, an argument has begun.

Who is the best player to ever lace up a pair of skates from the good old USA?

ESPN's David Amber tackled that question and gave his "Top 10 List of American Born Players." The list goes from tenth to first and is....

10.  Former Sabres netminder, Tom Barrasso
9. The aforementioned Housley
8. 1980 Olympic Icon, Mike Eruzione (if you don't know who this is please rent "Miracle" immediately and then chastise yourself)
7. The bold and brash, Jeremy Roenick
6. Ranger great, Mike Richter
5. Immortal, Chris Chelios
4. The aforementioned Mullen
3. Ranger/Maple Leaf/Bruin, Brian Leetch
2. Modano

And the top US player, according to Amber, is....

1. Pat LaFontaine

It's hard to disagree with the LaFontaine vote.  More than 1,000 career points and a Hall of Fame induction earned by the time concussions forced him out in 1999.  Not to take anything away from Modano - he's a great talent - but had LaFontaine not had the injury issues, he would have broken Housley record long ago.

LaFontaine's number was raised to the rafters of HSBC Arena on Mar. 3, 2006.

I do feel that Housley should have been ahead of Eruzione and Roenick.  Housley was so versatile and was overshadowed by other defensemen in his era (i.e. Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Chelios and Leetch).  Maybe I'm biased, but I think he should have been bumped a few notches.

Agree or disagree, feel free to email me.



10.30.07, 3:00 p.m. :::: BERGERON, SPACEK AND CAMPBELL


With the Sabres impending trip to Boston this Thursday, head coach Lindy Ruff talked briefly about  Randy Jones' hit on the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron last Saturday.

Jones received a two-game suspension for driving the six-foot, 197-pound pivot head-first into the end boards in a ghastly looking altercation.  According to TSN, Bergeron suffered a broken nose and a concussion.





Here are Ruff's thoughts:

"I didn't think it was in the category of overly aggressive.  The point I tried to make this morning was probably that the defenseman has to wait until Bergeron is tighter to the wall before he makes that initial push.

"It wasn't that it wasn't one of those [hits] where he came running from a long distance away to hit somebody.  It was just that Bergeron was defenseless at the time.  Forwards, in today's game, put themselves in that position to protect the puck, and I think to play it as a defenseman, you almost have to wait until the forward removes that gap between himself and the wall before you use any physical force. 

"Otherwise, you put yourself in a situation where you could harm the opposing player."

Personally, I agree with Lindy.  I don't put Jones in the same category as Jesse Boulerice or Steve Downie (ironically, two other Flyers).  There didn't appear to be intent on Jones' hit. 

Irresponsibility, maybe. 

But no intent to harm.

If you're looking for more information on the this, John Bishop (my counterpart in Boston) wrote a nice article on the Bruins attempting to turn their focus to Thursday night.  Read that story here.

******************************************

Jaroslav Spacek wants to play Thursday night.  Spacek stated on Tuesday that he'll be ready to go and wants the chance to get back in the lineup.  With Mike Weber's reassignment on Sunday, I'm putting my money on him getting his wish.  Watch Spacek's interview on Sabres TV.

******************************************

Good article on defenseman Brian Campbell by Dan Rosen of NHL.com.  Here's a quick snippet. 

Rosen writes...

"He didn’t think he was big enough, strong enough, or good enough to play major junior hockey.

“What saved us is his mom and dad saying; ‘Try it out, and if you don’t like it you can always come home,’ ” longtime 67s coach Brian Kilrea said.

Campbell never did go home, and 12 years later, the decision to give it the old college try may be his best ever as he’s now an All-Star defenseman with the Buffalo Sabres."


You can read the rest of the piece by clicking here.


10.12.07, 4:07 p.m. :::: LINE 'EM UP

"The one good thing about hockey lines is that you're going to put them together and you're going to take them apart."

That was Lindy Ruff's quote this morning talking about his new lines from Thursday night, which were:

Jason Pominville, Tim Connolly and Jochen Hecht
Ales Kotalik, Paul Gaustad and Maxim Afinogenov
Drew Stafford, Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek
Mike Ryan, Adam Mair and Daniel Paille

Ruff's comment was directed more towards Roy's and Gaustad's lines.  Certain pairs of players will almost always be together in the lineup:  Pominville and Hecht, Roy and Vanek.

Aside from those four, and even those four in certain cases, players are interchangeable from time to time to create a spark.

Pomminville and Hecht have been able to stay productive for good period of time playing alongside each other.  Same goes for Vanek and Roy.  If those pairs are playing well, it might be detrimental to separate them.

Afinogenov's move to Gaustad's line is simple.

Ruff wanted a goal scorer combined with a playmaker.  Add to that thinking the fact that Stafford thrived in the playoffs skating with Roy and Vanek, and Pominville/Hecht thrive with an offensively gifted center (i.e. Daniel Briere, now Tim Connolly), and you've got your lines.

The common stigma in hockey is fix it when it's broken. 

If you're winning, keep the lines the same.  If you lose, it may be time to switch things up.

These lines are here to stay for at least another game after Buffalo's 6-0 win over Atlanta.


10.2.07, 12:36 p.m. :::: CAPTAIN UPDATE (PART DEUX)


By a player vote, your captain for the month of October is Jochen Hecht.

Head coach Lindy Ruff just disclosed that the captaincy would indeed rotate and that Hecht will be wearing the "C" for at least the opening month of the season.

Ruff said that the players decided to rotate the captaincy as it creates a competition that everyone can strive for. 

No word on the alternate captains.

Sabres Television:
Lindy Ruff names Jochen Hecht as captain for October
Jochen Hecht's press conference

History of the Captaincy



10.1.07, 4:51 p.m. :::: CAPTAIN UPDATE


Still no captain on board.  But fear not, there is an end in sight.

Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff today indicated that the captain blueprint for this season would be released either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Following a morning meeting among the coaching staff, it was decided that the players will probably have a say in the matter.  Basically, the team will hold a voting session with secret ballots.

How much that vote will count towards the overall decision, we don't know.  But they will be involved.

"We know we've got good leadership around here," said Ruff.  "We've had good leadership the past couple of years and I've really felt that leadership was everywhere.  Danny [Briere] and [Chris Drury] represented strong leadership in that room and they had tremendous support from all the guys in the room.

"When a captain is named, he needs that type of support.

"There are different types of captains.  If you wanted to compare Danny [Briere] and Dru ... Dru was a more on-the-ice example. Not a real rah-rah guy, but a very businesslike off-ice [personality] where his on-ice spoke for itself.  

"Danny was more vocal and an offensive type of leader for us. 

"So there are a lot of types, but we need leadership from a lot of different areas."

Ruff wouldn't say whether or not the "C" would rotate and he won't until the captain/s are named.  

Check back later this week for more coverage.

9.29.07, 7:32 p.m. :::: CONNOLLY ROLE CALL

Sabres fans have been waiting for Tim Connolly.  That's never been more apparent than prior to Buffalo's final preseason match-up against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

As is normal NHL protocol, the scratches and roster additions were announced over the in-house PA system following the pre-game skate.

Dave Miller spoke nine magic words that made the crowd in HSBC Arena erupt, "Please add to your roster number 19, Tim Connolly."

It's a clear sign that Buffalo fans are steadfastly hoping and praying that the Syracuse, N.Y. native will - at the very least - help fill the offensive void that was left with the departures of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere.

And if the "A" stitched on Connolly's sweater during Saturday's game is any indication, the Sabres are looking for him to become another leader in a locker room filled with youth.

Speaking of leadership, there hasn't been any sort of announcement yet on whether or not the captaincy will rotate this season like it did in 2003-2004. 

Five players have worn the "C" during preseason:  Jochen Hecht; Brian Campbell; Toni Lydman; Derek Roy; and Henrik Tallinder.  Hecht is the only player that has sported the letter more than once, taking the role in the first and third exhibition contests.

For those of you that have forgotten, your captains during the 03-04 season were:

Miroslav Satan (October 2003)
Chris Drury (November 2003)
James Patrick (December 2003)
JP Dumont (January 2004)
Daniel Briere (February 2004)
Chris Drury (March 2004)

Also, Sidney Crosby addressed the media during the first intermission in the press box (about five minutes ago).  Here's the audio in case you want to hear his thoughts on the Winter Classic, wearing the "C" or handling pressure.

 9/29 - Sidney Crosby Interview  

9.13.07, 4:32 p.m. :::: CALLING ALL CAPTAINS

You're going to have to wait a little bit longer to find out who the Sabres captain or captains will be this season.  Head coach Lindy Ruff stated on Thursday - the day that the veterans returned to HSBC Arena - the coaching staff is still weighing their options in regards to the "C".  He also indicated that a decision wouldn't be made until the later part of the pre-season.

"We've had a lot of thoughts of what we've done in the past from rotating to a couple of captains," said Ruff.  "We're going to go through camp and still look at several options."

Ruff said his original thoughts were to create an element of competition in the locker room through a rotating system.  Remember, the same thing was done during 2003-04.  That was the first season Buffalo has ever had more than one captain.  They actually had five:  Miroslav Satan; James Patrick; JP Dumont; Daniel Briere; and Chris Drury.

"We've got a pretty sound group of guys that fall into that same category," said Ruff.  "It's that three to four to eight year player."

The leading candidates among the group that Ruff described in my mind would be (in alphabetical order) Brian Campbell, Paul Gaustad, Jochen Hecht and Adam Mair.

Teppo Numminen's condition has taken away one of the front runners for the captaincy in my opinion.

More on this as camp progresses.

8.28.07, 9:00 a.m. :::: GREATEST GOAL (UPDATED)

The submissions are in and the Top 10 greatest goals, according to you, have been picked.

Making honorable mention are the fog goal by Rene Robert, Max's 360 score versus Tampa Bay and "No Goal" by Bret Hull.

Yes, more than one Buffalo fan actually submitted Hull's shocker.  "No goal" has been talked about and disputed so much that I had to include it as an alternate.  I couldn't fight that one.

But without further rambling, here are the Top 10, according to the readers.  Dislike the list, feel free to email me.  

(As always, these are real emails submitted by Sabres fans.)

The Goal: Derek Plante's goal past Ron Tugnutt vs. Ottawa in 1997

Reason Behind Nomination: I remember exactly where I was when he scored that goal.  All I remember is Jeanneret's voice raising and making the perfect call as the crowd bombed out of their seats and were roraing as the goal horn was emptied out of gas.  There is no other goal in any game that gives me more goosebumps.  The significance of their first game 7 playoff victory much less, in overtime makes it that much more incredible.  We miss you Ted Nolan.

Submitted by Steve Benson form Jupiter, FL



The Goal: 1994 Dave Hannan Game 6 OT Winner vs. New Jersey Devils

Reason Behind Nomination: One of the greatest games in Sabres history finishes with one of the most clutch goals in Sabres history. Two goaltenders fighting tooth and nail for over 6+ periods of hockey and ending in the wee hours of the evening. And let's not forget it was in the Aud!

Submitted by Pete from Dayton, OH


The Goal: Tim Connolly  (19:49 in 3rd) in game 1 against Ottawa 2005/06

Reason Behind Nomination: What a great game! The whole game, Ottawa lead with one goal but the Sabres tied it every time! But nobody expected the Sabres to tie the score 10 seconds before the game is over...!  Connolly scored and the Sabres took the power  to overtime. There, they scored again and so they had a great start in the series.

Submitted by Martin from Munich, Germany


The Goal: Drury's goal with 7.7 seconds left in Game 5 against the Rangers

Reason Behind Nomination: I was at this game, way up in the 300s with my uncle who was in from Virginia just to see this particular game. (He said he had a good feeling...) I sat there with fingers and toes crossed, squeezing ever so tightly, praying to God that there was some way, some how that we could come back. I'm not even that religious,I just knew it was possible, I've seen it happen before, ya know? I had this feeling inside of me that just kept saying "Believe." So I did. Now, that last minute of the game was the longest minute of my life. It went so unbelievably slow and when it came down to right before the puck went in, I remember the whole arena just being silent and still. No one daring to yell "Shoot the puck!" or advertise a drink or snack. No one daring to move out of their seat, in fear of missing something truly amazing, or of what the others might say if they were caught leaving the game before it was "all over" like they normally would. It was extreme, really. The quietest quiet to the loudest loud. The arena went nuts, and somehow again I lost all sense of hearing, speaking and moving. It was single handedly the most amazing moment I have ever had at the arena. How could I forget it?

Submitted by Brittany Dolyk form Buffalo, NY


The Goal: Jason Woolley Stanley Cup Game 1 OT

Reason Behind Nomination: Jason Woolley scored the game winner in during the overtime of the only series that matter in the NHL season.  He gave a spark and a hope to a hockey city that they could win the Stanley Cup by taking Game 1 in Dallas.  We would eventually lose with Brett hull’s NO GOAL but without the win in Game 1 the hope may not have been as strong and we would have went down in 4. 

Submitted by Matt from Buffalo, NY

The Goal: Lafontaine's "Goal" to say good-bye to the Aud

Reason Behind Nomination: So it wasn't an actual goal, but it still deserves to be mentioned as one of the greatest in Sabres history. It marked the ending of an era, and the beginning of a new. We said good-bye to an old friend and thinking about it gives chills to most Sabres fans. Having so many Sabres Alumni take their final skate around The Aud before Brad May passed the puck to Patty to do the final honors and then hearing The Aud horn that last time followed by  one of the most powerful "LET'S GO BUFF-A-LO" chants ever. Truly, one of the greatest goals, in Buffalo Sabres history.

Submitted by Justin Montois from Rochester, NY


The Goal: Daniel Briere OT Winner: 05-06 Game 6 Sabres vs. Hurricanes

Reason Behind Nomination: I was at this game in person and to this point still cannot fully describe what the feeling was like that night... even now it takes my breath away.  There was something in the air... the team could not lose... we would not lose.  As a fan you only have so much influence on a game, but I believe that game was won on the sheer will of both the players and the fans. I am a season ticket holder and have never been to a louder, more emotional game. That was not our year for the cup, but I will never forget that moment as long as I live.

Submitted by Bob Henry from East Aurora, NY


The Goal: Jason Pominville's shorthanded, overtime winner against Ottawa

Reason Behind Nomination:  The Sabres were huge underdogs going into the season.  they were even bigger underdogs dogs going into the playoffs.  they weren't even given a chance facing Ottawa.  a relatively unheard of around the NHL, Jason Pominville, shorthanded none the less, picks up the puck and first blows by Alfredsson, love him or hate him, one of the leagues best, and then dekes around Emery like he's an amateur.  No question, Pominville's goal was the best I've seen.  And what made this goal even better, was Rick's call.  I think the half the reason a memorable Sabres goal is remembered is the goal itself, the other half is the call by Rick. 

Submitted by Travis Bruzzese from St. Catharines, Ontario


The Goal: JP Dumont's OT goal vs. OTT Game 3 Round 2 of the 2006 Playoffs

Reason Behind Nomination: Going into this game it was great that the Sabres were up two games to none and were coming home to us fans. OTT had tie it up late in the game but when Dumont's floater hit the back of the net.  I, along with every other Sabres fans knew that the Sabres had prove critics that they could defeat OTT.  Plus, I was screaming my head off. That night gave me and proved to me that there was hope for this city. And besides, going up 3-0? You'd probably grab your broom and demand a sweep as well. Don't get me wrong, Pommer's shortie was great too, but Dumont's goal made me believe the Sabres had the will to do anything that night.

Submitted by Shaye Le from Buffalo, NY


The Goal: May Day

Reason Behind Nomination: Only the greatest goal and the greatest call by Rick Jeanneret.  Enough said.

Submitted by Derek  from Kenmore, NY




6.28.07, 10:30 a.m. :::: SOUTHEAST DIVISION UFAs

At first glance, the Southeast Division looked to have a plethora of UFAs.  The Atlanta Thrashers find themselves with just six players under contract (and two RFAs) for next season.  But then the well done run dry. 

Apparently, hockey players love that southern hospitality because Carolina (3), Florida (3), Tampa Bay (6) and Washington (1) have the fewest UFAs off all the teams we've looked at so far.

Former disgruntled Sabre, Vyacheslav Kozlov (who was a must start on my fantasy team last year) headlines the group of available players from the third Eastern division.

ATLANTA THRASHERS
Forwards
Eric Belanger
Eric Boulton
Vyacheslav Kozlov
Brad Larsen
Scott Mellanby
Jon Sim
J.P. Vigier

Defense
Greg De Vries
Shane Hnidy
Andy Sutton
 
CAROLINA HURRICANES
Forward
Anson Carter
Josef Vasicek

Defense
David Tanabe
FLORIDA PANTHERS
Forward
Martin Gelinas
Jozef Stumpel

Goaltender
Ed Belfour
TAMPA BAY LIGHTING
Forward
Rob DiMaio
Ruslan Fedotenko
Eric Perrin

Defense
Cory Sarich
Nolan Pratt
Luke Richardson
WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Defense
Bryan Muir
 


6.27.07, 11:00 a.m. :::: ATLANTIC DIVISION UFAs

In contrast to the Northeast Division, teams in the Atlantic Division could see much more turnover with their rosters.  The Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers and Penguins average approximately 10 UFAs per team.

Arguably the biggest two names out of this group are  New Jersey's Scott Gomez and New York's Ryan Smyth.  Gomez has been circled by rumors of being pursued by the Broad Street Bullies, while it wouldn't shock me if "Captain Canada" hopped on a WestJet flight back to Edmonton.

(I had no idea there was a cartoon Captain Canada until I googled it.  While his sidekick, Beaver Boy, is pretty spectacular, I don't think his outfit is as cool as Stallion Canuck's.   I can't make this stuff up.)

Alexei Yashin's name is on the Islanders list since they bought out the remainder of his contract, giving him UFA status.  (Rumor has him playing in Europe next year if he doesn't get a monster offer).

So without further adieu, I give you the Atlantic Division UFAs.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Forwards
Scott Gomez
Erik Rasmussen
Jim Dowd
Alexander Mogilny
Jason Wiemer

Defense
Brian Rafalski
Brad Lukowich
Alex Brooks
Jim Fahey
Dan McGillis

Goaltender
Scott Clemmensen
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Forwards
Arron Asham
Jason Blake
Eric Boguinecki
Viktor Kozlov
Randy Robitaille
Chris Simon
Ryan Smyth
Alexei Yashin
Richard Zednik

Defense
Joel Bouchard
Sean Hill
Tom Poti

Goaltender
Mike Dunham
NEW YORK RANGERS
Forwards
Brad Isbister
Jed Ortmeyer
Brendan Shanahan

Defense
Sandis Ozolinsh
Jason Strudwick

Goaltender
Kevin Weekes

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Forwards
Mark Cullen
Niko Dimitrakos
Todd Fedoruk
Denis Hamel
Boyd Kane
Eric Meloche
Brad Tapper
Mike York

Defense
Martin Grenier
David Printz

Goaltender
Robert Esche
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Forwards
Nils Ekman
Ronad Petrovicky

Defense
Eric Cairns
Micki Dupont
Joel Kwiatkowski
Josef Melichar
Alain Nasreddine
Robert Scuderi

Goaltender
Jocelyn Thibault
 



6.26.07, 11:30 a.m. :::: NORTHEAST FREE AGENTS

A lot has been made about restricted free agents that could possibly be lured away by other teams with a high offer sheet come a week from Sunday.  Unquestionably, there is a lot of talent available in the RFA pool:  Thomas Vanek; New York's Henrik Lundqvist; Montreal's Michael Ryder; and Los Angeles' Mike Cammalleri.

(By the way, I was shocked to hear Pittsburgh decided not to qualify Michel Ouellet.  He's scored 35 goals in his opening two NHL seasons.  I guess that just shows that too much depth at one position can be a problem.

And is it me or has Lundqvist flown under the radar.  Everybody talks about Vanek and Zach Parise when the term RFA is mentioned, but nobody is mentioning the Swedish netminder.  He'd be one of the top two guys on my RFA list.)

But the more interesting aspect of this time of year is always free agency, which opens July 1.  So to get in the festive, UFA mood and help get your wish list ready, here's a rundown of players from around the league who will become available next week.

I'll add a division or two each day this week, starting right here at home with the Northeast Division.

NORTHEAST DIVISION UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

BOSTON BRUINS
Forwards
Petr Tenkrat
Jeff Hoggan
Jeremy Reich

Defensemen
Bobby Allen
Jason York
MONTREAL CANADIENS
Forwards
Radek Bonk
Aaron Downey
Mike Johnson

Defense
Janne Niinimaa
Sheldon Souray

Goaltender
David Aebischer
 
OTTAWA SENATORS
Forwards
Mike Comrie
Dean McAmmond
Serge Payer

Defense
Lawrence Nycholat
Tom Preissing
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Forwards
Bates Battaglia
Travis Green
Jeff O'Neill
Michael Peca
Yanic Perreault

Goaltender
J.S. Aubin



6.21.07, 12:00 p.m. :::: DRAFT POSITIONS

For just the third time in franchise history - the first since 1993 - the Buffalo Sabres will enter the NHL Entry Draft without a first-round selection. The team's first pick (28th overall) was traded to Washington in exchange for productive winger Dainius Zubrus.

The Sabres didn't have a first-round pick in the 1976 draft either.

Here's a run down on the Sabres seven selections in this year's draft starting this Friday (Versus, 6:30 p.m.) and the franchise's all-time selections at those positions.

2nd Round (31st Overall) - Acquired in exchange for Martin Biron

YEAR PLAYER POSITION TEAM
1983 John Tucker Center Kitchener Rangers

2nd Round (59th Overall)

YEAR PLAYER POSITION TEAM
1981 Jim Aldred Left Wing Kingston Canadiens
1992 Ondrej Steiner Center Plzen (Czech)

3rd Round (89th Overall)

YEAR PLAYER POSITION TEAM
1975 Don Edwards Goaltender Kitchener Rangers
1986 Larry Rooney Defenseman Thayer
1989 Alexander Mogilny Right Wing ZSKA Moscow

4th Round (116th Overall) - Acquired in exchange for Taylor Pyatt

YEAR PLAYER POSITION TEAM
1978 Dan Eastman Center London Knights
1979 Rick Knickle Goaltender Brandon Wheat Kings

6th Round (179 Overall)

YEAR PLAYER POSITION TEAM
1992 Dean Tiltgen Center Tri-City (WHL)

7th Round (187th Overall) - Acquired in exchange for Jan Hejda

YEAR PLAYER POSITION TEAM
1990 Jason Winch Left Wing Niagara Falls Thunder

7th Round (209th Overall)

YEAR PLAYER POSITION TEAM
1980 John Bader Left Wing Irondale (Minn.) H.S.



6.7.07, 8:44 a.m. :::: CONGRATS

Congratulations to the Anaheim Ducks (almost threw a "Mighty" in there) on winning Lord Stanley's Cup.

Anaheim becomes the first cup winner from the great state of California.

Will the cup get a ride on a surf board?  Could be interesting...

Here's a few other quick, fun facts about the Stanley Cup.  The Montreal Canadiens have the most finals appearances with 34.  Well above second place Detroit (22).

Only six teams have never been to the finals:  Atlanta; Columbus; Minnesota; Nashville; San Jose and Phoenix (Winnipeg). 

Ottawa was removed from that list when they defeated Buffalo in the Eastern Conference Finals.



6.6.07, 9:44 a.m. :::: NAMES ON THE CUP?


Who gets their names engraved on the Stanley Cup?

It seems an easy question to answer before you really think about it.  In the modern era with call-up after call-up making appearances on any given team's roster during the regular season, and sometimes post-season, how many names are the teams allowed?

Well, there isn't a fixed number in this very unique tradition. 

(In case you didn't know, no other professional sports team engraves the names of its winners on its trophy.)

Prior to 1977, only players who competed in the Stanley Cup playoffs were eligible to be immortalized.  Today, the standard is a little wider, allowing any player that appears in 41 regular-season games (half the season) or in the Stanley Cup Finals get their names engraved.  The coaches and staff (those guys you see floating around the benches and in the locker room) of the winning team also get to see their names on the cup.

STANLEY CUP FINALS SCHEDULE
GAME DATE/TIME LOCATION/RESULT
 
1
5/28 at 8 p.m.
ANA 3, OTT 2
 
2
5/30 at 8 p.m.
ANA 1, OTT 0
 
3
6/2 at 8 p.m.
OTT 5, ANA 3

 

4
6/4 at 8 p.m.
ANA 3, OTT 2
 
5
6/6 at 8 p.m.
ANA 6, OTT 2
6
6/9 at 8 p.m.
Ottawa / NBC
7
6/11 at 8 p.m.
Anaheim / NBC
If necessary  
Exceptions are sometimes made for players who suffer long term injuries, etc.  Petitions for this bending of the rules is submitted to the commissioner's office.

So with the possibility of the Stanley Cup being hoisted by the Anaheim Ducks tonight (NBC, 9 p.m.), let's take a look at a couple of examples.  

Ryan Miller's brother, Andrew, would get his name on Lord Stanley's hardware because he played at least one game in the finals, even though he was at Michigan State for the entirety of the regular season.

On the flip side, if Ottawa were to come back, Brian McGratton's name would be engraved, even though he has never appeared in an NHL playoff game.  He skated in 45 regular season contests.

Let's just say the Sabres had made it past the Sens to face the Ducks (I know it's still a painful memory).  Everyone on Buffalo's lineup would have been eligible except: Daniel Paille; Clarke MacArthur; Michael Ryan; Patrick Kaleta; Michael Funk; Mark Mancari; Andrej Sekera; and Mike Card.

All of those players would need to appear in one game during the finals because they didn't see enough action during the regular season. 

Andrew Peters had 58 games played and Drew Stafford had 41.

I'm assuming that Tim Connolly would be eligible because of his long-term injury and the high probability that he would have been in the line-up against Anaheim.

Only one name has ever been slipped by the NHL.  In 1984, Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington included his father's name, Basil Pocklington, among the names that were to be engraved.  The elder Pocklington had no affiliation with the team. 

The tomfoolery was discovered and the name is now covered with 16 "Xs".

Several names have been spelled incorrectly, including Manny Legace (Lagace) in 2001-02, Adam Deadmarsh (Deadmarch) in 1995-96,  Islanders (Ilanders) in 1980-81, Bob Gainey (Gainy) in 1974-75, and a few others.

The most names to be added in one year was 55 by the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings.  There are a grand total of 2008 names on the cup.



5.30.07, 11:30 a.m. :::: MAY DAY IN THE SUN?

Ok, so I haven't blogged in a while.  I figured you'd understand.  Look around.  Had just a little bit of work to do with Sabres.com's relaunch during the Eastern Conference Finals.

Anyway, what better time to pick up the torch than during the Stanley Cup Finals.  Yes, I'm watching this series, as compared to last year when I shunned the finals Amish style.  It was all about spite at that point.

But I digress...

To get to the point, I really enjoy watching Brad May get a chance at the cup.  I realize he only played six minutes in Game One, so I'm not going to go overboard, but his hit on Dean McAmmond (300K|700K ) was classic May.  He lined him up, sized him up and laid him out.

Being a Western New York native, May was always one of my favorite 90's Sabres.  Gritty, tough and arguably the best fighter in league history before injury.

I'll say that again. 

You ask anyone who saw May fight in his prime and they'll back me up.  May would have been the best had it not been for his shoulder issues.  Better than Probert.  Better than Dave "The Hammer" Schultz.

Trust me.

Rick Jeanneret was just strolling past my desk as I was writing, so I posed the question to him.  He agreed.  Not only was the guy fierce but he was merciless.  Now I'm not saying that actions like his sucker punch on Kim Johnsson are acceptable, but in the Old West days of hockey, you couldn't have found a better gunslinger to protect your bench.

If you want proof of May's status as a fighter, just look at his penalty minute number in the OHL:  304 his rookie year followed by 223 and then 93. 

SABRES FREE AGENTS
UNRESTRICTED
Briere, Daniel
Conklin, Ty
Drury, Chris
Helbing, Timo
Lehtonen, Mikko
Mair, Adam
Numminen, Teppo
Ryan, Michael
Zubrus, Dainius

RESTRICTED
Berkhoel, Adam
Paille, Dan
Paetsch, Nathan
Peters, Andrew
Roy, Derek
Vanek, Thomas
Why the severe drop in his final season?  Nobody would fight him.  Everyone was scared.  Period.

There's a story about May's first game against his boyhood idol, Shayne Corson.  Could be a hockey urban legend, but I'll pass it along anyway. 

May had gone through three years in the OHL and had built quite a reputation for himself with his fists.  As I already said, he couldn't pick a fight in his final season with Niagara Falls.  But 90 points (32+58) and 223 PMs in just 61 games his second year earned him the 14th overall spot in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, so he was headed to the show.

His very first game against the Montreal Canadiens, May lined up against Corson.  May wondered to himself, as he skated up to the line, "Should I introduce myself to Mr. Corson?"  There was a certain reverence there for the elder player.

As the two came face-to-face, Corson looked over the rookie and spat, "So you're Brad May." 

No introductions were needed.  May's reputation as a fighter had already permeated the league.

So like I said, I'm enjoying the fact that May, after all these years, could get his day in the sun with Lord Stanley's Cup if Anaheim can hold off Ottawa.

A COUPLE MAY FIGHTS OFF YOUTUBE

Brad May vs. Terry Carkener on May 26, 1996

Brad May vs Ken Baumgartner on February 10, 1996



5.11.07, 13:53:56 :::: INJURY UPDATE

Center Tim Connolly, winger Dainius Zubrus and defenseman Dmitri Kalinin each were absent from practice today. Head coach Lindy Ruff gave the trio the day off to work out some bumps and bruises.

"Some are upper body bruises, some are lower body bruises," joked Ruff. "But they will all be ok."



5.10.07, 18:03:24 :::: FORGET THE GOOSE, WE NOW HAVE THE SQUIRREL

The Buffalo Sabres really are the hottest team in town.

Not only are Western New York residents trying to find a way into HSBC Arena, but its wildlife is as well.

An hour and a half before the puck drop on Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals, a squirrel was running laps around the ice. The Sabres furry little friend crossed the blueline (onsides), and like any fan, sprinted down the hallway leading to the locker room.

Seeing that the door was closed, he/she made a hard right and slipped into the media room.

The squirrel was corralled by four people - led by Assistant Equipment Manager George Babcock - in a cardboard box after about 15 minutes and was released outside, completely healthy.

Good or bad omen? We'll know in a couple of hours. And no, Jim Lorentz was not called in (for those who remember/know about the bat).



5.10.07, 12:29:33 :::: SCORING SPREE?


The Eastern Conference Finals may not be as wide open as most people expect. That was the message from the morning skate on Thursday. Although this is a match-up of the top two scoring teams in the league during both the regular season and the playoffs, there are no illusions about what wins games.

Here comes the cliche.

Offense wins games, defense wins champions. Or cups for that matter.

Clubs who have survived into the Conference Finals tend to employee a much more stingy defensive system and take fewer risks. This we know.

We also know that both teams, Buffalo and Ottawa, have experienced a slight dip in playoff scoring as compared to the regular season. Those numbers are below.

Regular Season (goals per game)
1) BUF - 3.63
2) OTT - 3.49

Playoffs (goals per game)
1) OTT - 3.30
2) BUF - 3.09

But how good have these two scoring juggernauts been in their own end?

Take away Game One in Ottawa and the Senators held New Jersey to just two scores during regulation in each game of their second-round series, including a shutout in Game Three.

If you exclude Game Six of their series against the Rangers, you can say the same thing about the Sabres, minus the shutout.

"They've been playing a lot better defensively and they can play with the lead as well," said Jason Pominville. "The first goal should be something that is important. I don't think you'll see a 7-6 game like you saw last year in the first game. "

Next question, how important is the first goal for Buffalo?

When Buffalo has won the race to light the lamp first, they are 4-0 and average 4.0 goals per game. Unfortunately, the Sabres have taken the initial lead just four times in 11 games, posting a record of 4-2-1 in the other seven games and averaging just over 2.50 goals.

"[This series] may not be as predictable as everybody seems to be thinking it would be," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "The series last year took some strange turns. There were a couple of overtime games and a couple offensive games in there, and I don't know if you really could have anticipated that.

"Both teams are very capable of being very good offensively, and both teams are very capable of shutting the other team down defensively."



5.8.07, 14:39:04 :::: HECHT LEAVES PRACTICE EARLY

Jochen Hecht left practice early today for precautionary reasons. Hecht has been bothered by a tight groin and head coach Lindy Ruff didn't want to take any chances with Game One two days away.

"The ice was getting pretty bad," said Ruff. "On good ice, it's one thing. On bad ice, it's even worse."

Hecht should be fine for Thursday.



5.7.07, 13:44:09 :::: DAY ONE OF THE EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS


It was a very light day today on Day One of the hype for the ECF. Just one press conference, Lindy Ruff. All players had the day off.

"Today is just total rest," said Ruff. "Enjoy yesterday. Go for a walk, go outside or spend your day at home. Enjoy it because it was hard work."

More hard work is in Buffalo's future.

This series is going to be interesting. Lindy said it; this match-up really is a meeting of the two top teams in the East and a heated rivalry at that.

According to a few of the media, a few Ottawa players have already said that they feel Buffalo is the biggest adversary. I was a little shocked by that. Just assumed they would pick Toronto or Montreal.

One thing is for certain, neither team will need any additional motivation in this series. Besides the simple fact that a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals is on the line, you've got more twists to this series than any other. Some examples: Pominville's shorthanded, overtime game winner last year; Peter Schaefer's hit on Connolly; Chris Neil blindsiding Drury; or "the incident."

"There's lots of history," said Ruff. "Whether that has any effect on it... I can't tell you that right now. They've got all the motivation they need and we've got lots of motivation."

Buffalo was 3-5 (shootout win on Feb. 22) against Ottawa this season, but the Sabres did take two of the final three meetings. My biggest area of concern is once again the penalty kill. Not so much what we do, but what Ottawa has done against us, scoring on 30.0 percent of their chances during the regular season.

We're going to need our killers doing everything they can.

*******************

Think you're wasting your time making signs, think again. Lindy mentioned today that the team will often use pictures or video of sign-holders as motivation for the team.

"You use that and you use that sometimes when you're doing your video clips," said Ruff. "It's something that helps motivate the players."



5.4.07, 6:41 p.m. :::: LINES FOR TONIGHT'S GAME

Off the three-on-two drill, here are Buffalo's lines for Game Five. Drew Stafford and Daniel Paille are scratched, Paul Gaustad and Max Afinogenov are in. Jason Pominville will be skating on a line with Gaustad and Adam Mair.

Lines
Ales Kotalik -- Tim Connolly -- Daniel Briere
Dainius Zubrus -- Chris Drury -- Jochen Hecht
Maxim Afinogenov -- Derek Roy -- Thomas Vanek
Adam Mair -- Paul Gaustad -- Jason Pominville



5.4.07, 11:26 a.m. :::: THE GOOSE IS LOOSE

According to Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff, center Paul Gaustad has been cleared to play in tonight's game. After Ruff comments yesterday, you can expect the six-foot-five, 222-pounder to be in the lineup tonight.

"I don't think it would be a difficult decision," said Ruff on Thursday regarding Gaustad. "He's worked extremely hard and he's been a big part of this team.

"If he gets cleared to play and I don't put him in, I think he'll bust down my office door."

From this morning's press conference; Ruff talks about Gaustad's strength's as a player.

"His strength down low, and in and around the net, and his ability physically because of his size to garner some control on a few plays would be nice."


5.3.07, 1:51 p.m. :::: PLAYING UGLY, THE EQUATION


A lot has been made about Lindy Ruff's comments that the Sabres need to play "uglier." If you're wondering what playing "ugly" means, here's a simple equation.

Bad Angle Shots (aka low percentage scoring chances) + Crashing the Net = Playing Ugly

This equation also can be used for the phrases like "simplifying our game", "cleaning up the trash", or "more activity on the power play" (at least in a basic sense).

As Ruff said today in his morning press conference, "playing ugly" has nothing to do with eliminating creativity or limiting skilled players.

*******************

Tim Connolly had his standard day of rest from practice today. This has become the norm with the center since he returned at the end of the regular season.

*******************

The mood at practice was much lighter today. Lindy was pretty animated when talking to media and is taking a similar approach to Game Five as a coach of a squirt team might before a big game.

Today's message was for the team to have fun and enjoy the moment. I highly recommend watching the video of Ruff's press conference.

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