Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Perils of Losing the Winter/Heritage Classic

There have been two outdoor games in the history of the NHL.  The first was in 2003 featuring the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens.  The second, obviously, was last year’s Winter Classic.  What happens to teams that lose the outdoor game. 

The Edmonton Oilers lost the Heritage Classic on home ice 4-3 to the Canadiens.  They then turned around and lost their next four games of the season and missed the playoffs that season.  They finished 9th in the conference with a total of 89 points.  The Montreal Canadiens on the other hand won three of their next four and made the playoffs in 7th place with 93 points.

The Buffalo Sabres lost the Winter Classic on home ice in a shootout.  They then lost their next six games on their way to a total of a 10 game losing streak.  As we all know, they missed the playoffs finishing 10th in the conference with 90 points.  The Pittsburgh Penguins won four straight and won the Atlantic Division on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

I think there are two major notes about the outdoor game.  The home team has a major weight on their shoulder that they have to win the game and then they ultimately succumb to the pressure and lose.  The second is that a team can gain a lot of confidence and momentum after winning the outdoor game.  Playing on the national stage and winning gives a team enough confidence and they then parlay that into a playoff experience. 

So what does this mean for this year’s Winter Classic.  The Red Wings should beat the Blackhawks because they are a veteran team and they should be able to handle the exposure and pressure of playing on the big stage.  If history rings true as well, it would mean that the Red Wings should make the playoffs while the Blackhawks will miss it again. 

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gaustad Close to Being Ready

The Buffalo News is reporting that Paul Gaustad could possibly play tommorrow.  Gaustad has missed the past five games and was centering a line with Ales Kotalik and Adam Mair today in practice.

While Gaustad doesn’t bring a lot to the scoresheet, he does bring the toughness this teams doesn’t show.  With Mair and Gaustad, they bring a good grinding fourth line that does its job. Gaustad can be a defensive liabilty at times and doesn’t score all that often, but can put up the dukes when needed. 

Can the Sabres Pick up the Pace

Two games after the holiday break, the Sabres sit in eighth place in the conference tied with the Carolina Hurricanes and three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Here is the Sabres schedule in the next month:

December 29th – vs. Washington

January 1st – at Toronto

January 3rd – at Boston

January 6th – vs. Ottawa

January 9th – vs. Rangers

January 10th – at Detroit

January 14th – at Chicago

January 15th – at Dallas

January 17th – vs. Carolina

January 19th – at Florida

January 21st – at Tampa Bay

January 27th – at Edmonton

January 28th – at Calgary

January 31st – at Phoenix

In the month of January, the Sabres play 10 of 14 on the road.  The first thing that stands out is the long road trip at the end of January.  The Sabres have not fared so well on the road this season, with an underwhelming record of 7-6-3.  They have two road trips,  the first being a three game road trip to the Midwest to play Detroit, Chicago, and Dallas.  The second comes at the end of the month with a Florida road trip followed by a West Coast swing.  The Sabres have allowed 43 goals and scored 46 away from home.  While that is not great, it is better than the 54 scored/59 allowed split they have at home.  This road trip could give the Sabres a chance to get away from the hype and expectations at home.  It could also give them a chance to get back to basics that they really need to do if they are going to stay in the playoff hunt. 

Using the Pythagorean expectation formula, the Sabres’ opponents winning percentage is barely over .500.  Therefore, the Sabres are expected to win about half of the games in the month of January.  This should get them a record of 7-5-2, due to the fact that about 14% of the games the Sabres have played this season have been overtime losses.  7-5-2 is a total of 16 points.  The Sabres only play the top three seeds of the conference and none of the rest of the top eight this month.  Therefore, making ground on the teams above them in the January could be difficult.   However, they play the 9-13 seeds though.  This means they need to win just to be able to separate themselves from the rest of the pack on the bottom. 

The Sabres lost their chance to make the playoffs last season in the month of January.  They lost their first seven games in the month, completing what was a 10 game losing streak.  They never were able to recover from the losing and eventually became the ninth seed in the conference.  This year the Sabres need to gain some momentum on the road and build a string of wins to make up some ground. 

Friday, December 26, 2008

Paul Gait Named Knighthawk Coach

Now there are two.  Paul Gait was named the Knighthawks coach today after coach Paul Suggate resigned from the team on Wednesday. 

This could actually work for the Knighthawks because of the relationship of the Gait brothers.  Gary Gait was a coach for the Colorado Mammoth when they won the title against the Bandits in 2006.  Now Paul Gait has the chance to match his brother in Championship coaching wins, while coaching his brother. 

For the this season of the Knighthawks, it probably will still be ugly.  A new coach coming trying to adapt a to a system or implement his own two weeks before the season starts can cause issues.  With a rough start in a tough Eastern Conference, a slow start could kill their playoff chances for the second year in a row. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Everyone

I figured while I was working today, I would check in and say Merry Christmas.  And wonder why are you reading this post to begin with. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Knighthawks Coach Resigns Two Weeks Before Season Starts

Knighthawks coach, Paul Suggate, has resigned from the head coaching position.  This is two weeks before the Knighthawks start the season. 

In losing their two top scorers and their head coach just before the season starts, the Knighthawks are heading into a tailspin and fast.  It will be interesting to see how the Knighthawks react to start the season.  With all the change and a new coach only having two weeks to install a game plan and for the players to learn it, it could be very very ugly.  The schedule for the Knighthawks is not going to be very forgiving either:  Home vs. Philly, Away at Buffalo, Away at San Jose.  This team could very quickly go down 0-3 in a very competitive Eastern Conference.   It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Glory of the Schedule

Heading into tonight’s game against the Penguins got me thinking about something.  Is there a real reason as to why the schedulers lump certain sets of teams together?  The Sabres have played the Penguins four times in the last seven weeks.  They have also played the Devils three times in the last seven weeks. This will be the last game of season against the Penguins and we won’t play the Devils again until April 4th.

On the flip side, the Sabres haven’t the Hurricanes at all this season.  They played Toronto once, the Rangers once, the Capitals once, and Philly once.  It really makes no sense to not be able to spread out the games and for us to wait and see certain teams.  Also, it really is not fair for teams like ourselves to have a certain advantage that we could have over other teams with situations like the Devils.  The Sabres have played three games against the Devils at the advantage of not having to play against Brodeur.  This won’t be the case with other teams in the Eastern Conference. 

Game time to finish the series against the Pens is 7pm at the Bank.  Game is on Versus tonight.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sabres/Canadiens Preview

The Sabres travel to Montreal tonight winners of five of their last seven.  The Sabres beat the Kings last night 5-0 behind the strong play of Ryan Miller and the weak play of the Kings goaltenders.  The Canadiens beat the Flyers on Thursday night and have that critical extra day of rest.

For the Sabres, it would not surprise me to see Patrick Lalime in net tonight.  With the back to back games this weekend and the Penguins coming back to town on Monday, this would not be a bad option.  For the Canadiens, it will be Jaroslav Halek in net.  Carey Price has been battling a lower body injury that has been kept him out of the last six games.  The Canadiens are battling injuries as well also missing Andrej Kostitsyn who was injured in the Flyers game.  For the Sabres, would not be surprised to see Kaleta out for this game due to the concussion that he suffered on the sucker punch last night.

The Sabres seem to up their game for a tougher opponent and nothing is going to be tougher than the Montreal Canadiens tonight.  I would not be surprised though to see this team lay an egg tonight.  Game time is 7 pm at the Bell Center. 

Beating the Kings didn’t Show How Good the Sabres Were…

but really how bad the Kings are.  The Sabres pulled out a 5-0 victory against the Kings on Friday night.  This puts them at 3-0 in the third jerseys this season.  Screw the schedule they are on and just make them the home jersey this season.  Jason LaBarbera allowed 4 goals on 15 shots before he was pulled for Jonathan Quick. 

The Sabres had a total of 23 shots on goal and put 5 of those in the net while Ryan Miller was pretty dang good stopping all 40 shots he faced from the Kings on route to his third shutout of the season. 

One major concern coming from this game is the status of Patrick Kaleta.  After taking a questionable run at a Kings player, Kings defenseman Denis Gauthier took a cheap shot and punched an unaware Kaleta in the face.  Kaleta left the game with a concussion and the punch will most likely be reviewed by the league.  A Sabres fan had to see this coming though.  Kaleta has a banging style of play which at times is on the edge of being dirty.  In this play, Kaleta appears to leave his feet when he missed his check and apparently Gauthier took offense to that.  Kaleta was turned to watch the play and that is when Gauthier took the punch.  It is very reminiscent of the incident that occurred in Nashville two years ago with Scott Nichol and Jaroslav Spacek. 

Sabres take on the Canadiens tonight in Montreal.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Game 31: Sabres/Devils Preview

The Sabres are coming off a hard fought win against the Devils in New Jersey on Saturday in which they played for a full 6o minutes and was able to put home the win 4-2.

The Devils are coming off a bad shootout loss to Jason Blake and the Maple Leafs last night in Toronto. Scott Clemmensen was in net for the Devils facing 27 shots and stopping 25. Clemmensen should be in net for the Devils again tonight. This really makes sense for the Devils because of the fact that the Sabres have beaten Weekes already twice this season. Weekes career line against Buffalo is 1-8 with a 4.07 GAA and .872 SV%.

For the Sabres, Patrick Kaleta will return tonight from his neck injury. He is going to replace Nathan Gerbe who suffered an UPI against the Devils on Saturday. Along with Gerbe, Rivet will be out of this game with his shoulder injury. He will be evaluated on a two-week basis to make sure it heals properly and that he will be ready for game action. Rivet is a gamer, he played with the shoulder injury for the past three games before shutting it down. Considering how weak the blue line has been the past few games, Sekera in most part, a healthy Rivet will be needed.

Game time is 7pm at the Bank.

Can the Devils recover from the Spin-a-rama?

The Devils head into Buffalo tonight after losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs last night in a shootout.  To make matters worse, they lost to a spin-a-rama by Jason Blake.  Watch the mastery:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jersey Bill Of Rights

No this is not something that has to do with New Jersey, though ironically they are the next opponent. This has to do with the Pittsburgh Post Gazettes Hockey Jersey Bill of Rights.

This is probably the perfect list that I won't actually list here because a lot of the headings won't make sense unless you actually read the article. But this list does need to exist because a lot of these things that happen are absolutely ridiculous. It really makes no sense to wear a jersey to a game of a team that isn't actually playing in the game. Plus it serves as a what not to do for the rookie jersey shopper.

Hat tip to Puck Daddy for the link.

Sabres Practice Update

John Vogl of the News has updated us on the status of the Sabres' practice today. He finished off with this little nugget:

Defenseman Teppo Numminen skipped today's practice for a routine checkup on his heart, which had a valve replaced last year.

Nothing makes me laugh more than routine checkup on the heart. Can we please give this guy a break at some point of the season? Or just run him into the ground, either way.

The Knighthawks lose Scott Evans for Season

Not only have the Knighthawks lost John Grant Jr. for the season but they announced yesterday that they have also lost Scott Evans for the season as well. Evans will be out for the season with an ACL injury.

This hurts the Knighthawks in the way that their first and second ranked goal scorers are going to be on the bench for the 2009 season. Of the 197 goals that the Knighthawks scored, 91 were scored by Grant and Evans. That accounts for 46% of the total goals scored. With the signing of Gait, it may help in the scoring department, but after being out of the league and not playing full time for the past three years how much production can you get out Gait.

In what is going to be a competitive Eastern Conference, the Knighthawks just might miss the playoffs again.

Monday, December 15, 2008

News Reporting Rivet Out for At Least Two Weeks

Mike Harrington at the Buffalo News is reporting that Craig Rivet will be out for at least two weeks with an injured shoulder that he injured during the Montreal game on the 29th.

Paestch should be able to fill in for a while but don't be surprised to see Weber called up from Portland because at some point Numminen will need a break. He has played in every game so far this season and at the age of 43 he deserves a game off every once in a while.

Have the Sabres Learned From Last Year's Mistakes

At roughly this time last year, the Sabres had just come off a home and home sweep against the hated Flyers. They were rooted in fifth place in the Conference and the whole area was riding high with the Winter Classic coming to town. The Sabres were 19-14-1 at this point in the season last year. The wheels came off the bus after that. The Sabres went on a 10 game winless streak and could never recover to make the playoffs.

This year the Sabres are 15-12-3 and holding the eighth place in the conference. They don't have the distraction of the Winter Classic that sent them into the tailspin last year, hear that Chicago? But have they learned from their mistakes last year to overcome what happened and not send themselves into a tailspin. This team is another year older than they were last year and have much better leadership than they did last year. That is not a knock on Spacek, but a stable captain in Rivet has made this team much better. This team needs to focus heading into the second half of the season and be able to overcome the issues that plagued them last year. January and February are going to be more difficult because the level of opponent will be greater.

If this team can learn from its mistakes they should be able to make the playoffs. They at least have the talent to do that.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sabres Take the Back End for the First Time This Season

The Sabres win the second game of a back to back series for the first time last night, beating the Devils 4-2. It was the battle of the backups with Lalime in net for the Sabres and Kevin Weekes in net for the Devils. Thomas Vanek was the player of the game again, as he has been all season for the Sabres, scoring his 23rd and 24th on the season.

Lalime played a much better game than he had during his last five game streak. This might have been a saving grace for him because he may have found the bench at some point had he continued to play this badly. Andrej Sekera is one player on the other hand who should find some time on the bench just because he has been playing so bad as of late. He is a -10 on the season and has been making his fair share of mistakes on the season. The only saving grace for him is that the injuries on the blue line to Rivet who will probably miss a few weeks is keeping him the lineup. Mike Weber is a good hockey player but I don't see them calling him up to let Sekera sit in the penalty box.

Drew Stafford also redeemed himself by hitting the wide open net he missed on Friday night. Stafford has been a streaky player this season, missing at least three wide open nets but making some spectacular plays to find the back of the net. After having a terrible sophomore season, Stafford is starting to show that he is a marginal player at best. Come the trade deadline, if he could be packaged to get value out of Max, I wouldn't be so heartbroken to see him go.

Sabres play again against the Devils on Wednesday night here in Buffalo. This will be the third game against the Devils in a month and a half. They won't meet again until April 4th.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Shamrox "Suspend" Operations for 2009 Season and Resulting

The Chicago Shamrox announced Friday that they have "suspended" operations for the 2009 season. This means that the NLL will again have 12 teams this season, 6 in the East and 6 in the West. The players for the Shamrox have been dispersed with goaltender Anthony Cosmo being taken first overall to the Boston Blazers. I'll have more later on the Bandits selections.

With the dispersal draft, the players that were drafted are permanent. This has occured due to the fact that the Shamrox have not said that they will be coming back next season like the Sting had alluded to last year. Therefore, we may have 12 teams again next season.

The Shamrox have been looking for a new buyer for this team because current ownership had stated that it was just too hard for them to run the team from afar. Unless this team actually plays at the United Center as opposed to the Sears Center, any team that is in Chicago is not going to work. Unlike the Titans in NY, who are having arena issues with MSG, the Shamrox need a more central location rather than the outskirt arena that the Sears Center provides.

Sabres Can't Capitalize Against Leafs

They can't be the Laffs if they actually win the game.

The Sabres played a good first period and a half and then let the game slip away from them at the end of the game. Ian White's game winner in the third period set off what was another disappointing effort by the Sabres. There were too many chances that the Sabres passed up including a wide open net that Stafford missed to give the game away.

Toni Lydman scored the Sabres only goal of the game in the first period. Hometown boy Lee Stempniak played his first game in Buffalo as a Maple Leaf. He had an assist and was a plus 2 in the game. Next game for the Sabres is tonight against the Devils. The last game against the Devils was a hard fought 2-0 win. Times have changed though with the Devils playing much better and the Sabres struggling. The Devils beat the Rangers last night 8-5 at MSG.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tavares Signs New Three Year

The Bandits announced yesterday that Tavares has signed a new three year deal. This will take Tavares through the year 2011. He will be 43 when the contract finishes.

Tavares has been a staple for the Bandits since starting with the team in 1992. He is the all time leading scorer for the NLL and still has the scoring touch with 87 points on the season. That led the Bandits.

Honestly, it just wont be the same when Tavares finally puts the stick away. Since he will most likely end his career as a Bandit, he will probably continue with the organization in some fashion after lacrosse.

Sabres Win Third Straight Against Lightning

After what was a dismal November, the Sabres had to come out and feast on what was going to be an easy December. They are doing just that. The Sabres came back from two down in the first to beat the Lightning 4-2. Thomas Vanek was the star of the show again with two goals, one on the power play. Drew Stafford started the scoring on the power play late in the first period and Pominville put in the empty netter to seal the game.

The Sabres have shown something in the last few games that they haven't shown before. Spunk. They have an energy that has been missing in their slump. When the Sabres play with that energy, they can outmatch anyone on the ice. That was shown last night. The Sabres play again Friday night against the Leafs. It will be the first matchup against the Leafs this season.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NHL Is Considering Singing at This Year's Winter Classics

Puck Daddy yesterday had a good interview with Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of Marketing for the NHL. In this part of the interview, they brought up the good point of honoring Wrigley with the singing tradition. As most of you probably know, during the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley, they sing Take Me Out To the Ballgame. The NHL sounds like they are going to replicate this tradition with some sort of song during some period.

The easiest way to do this would to start the singing at the end of the second period. It is roughly the two-thirds portion of the game which is about the seventh inning baseball game. The main question is what to sing. You can't sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame, it would make no sense. You could sing The Hockey Song but that seems a little hokey. So I leave this question to you guys, what would you sing at Wrigley for the Winter Classic? Comments are always cool and if we get enough suggestions, I'll put them up to poll later this week.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

NLL Franchise News

The NLL is an ever changing league with many small franchises either ready to collapse or to start up. We find this is always the case and apparent today.

The Chicago Shamrox have stated a deadline of Wednesday to find a buyer of the team or the team will fold. If the team folds, the schedule will obviously have to be revised and the players will be dispersed in a disperal draft. The dispersal draft could happen as soon as Friday with the order of the draft being the same as the order for the Sting dispersal draft. Goaltender Anthony Cosmo could most likely be the first pick.

In good news, the former Vancouver Ravens looks like it may resurrect after court issues are cleared up. As soon as court issues are cleared up, new owners could bring back the franchise with a start date as soon as the 2010 season.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Are the Sabres for Sale?

WGR is reporting today that the Sabres are possibly for sale and that there are a couple of interested parties but no names were released.

Does this concern me, sort of. I would like to see the Sabres stay in Buffalo just as I would like to see the Bills stay here as well. They were one of the main reasons why I stayed in the area. I won't hit the panic button until names are confirmed yet.

Hat tip to Shots off the Crossbar for the article.

EDIT: Just as I posted this, another article just popped up with Quinn's response:

"We are not in negotiations to sell the team and as we have stated in the past, we will never entertain discussions to move the team out of Buffalo, NY."

Can I take him for his word, most likely. I don't see any reason why the Sabres would move out of Buffalo.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lack of Inspiration

This isn't necessarily a post about the Sabres but more of a post about me. For the last week, the way the Sabres have played haven't really gotten the creative juices flowing. The Sabres put together to rather uninspiring games against the Predators and the Panthers. But last night, the spark of Gerbe at least found something as they beat the Lightning 4-3.

By no means is Gerbe the answer for the problems that the Sabres are facing. Those are numerous. But it is inspiring to see a player that really has nothing to lose by playing terribly because it is his NHL debut, playing like his hair is on fire. Gerbe added a much needed kick in the pants that the Sabres showed against the Lightning. So much so that Hecht actually fought Lecavalier. Players played out of their element and played a much better game.

Hopefully the spark continues on tomorrow against the Penguins.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sabres Call Up Gerbe for NHL Debut

In what is going to probably be another terrible game played by a terrible team, there is a bright spot. Nathan Gerbe will make his NHL debut in Tampa tonight. I'm very sorry that we may waste talent like Gerbe on a team like this.

Enjoy another loss to a crappy team. Can you tell I'm a little bitter.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Canes at 12-11-2, fire Laviolette

The Carolina Hurricanes have scheduled a press conference at 11:30 am today to presumably announce that they are firing head coach Peter Laviolette. Laviolette, the winningest American born coach, will be replaced by former Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice.

Today is just a day of stupidity. The Avery situation first and now this. The Hurricanes have been looking for a reason to fire Laviolette for the last couple of years. This five game losing streak was reason enough. Laviolette should be picked up by a team soon seeing as he really is a good coach. Laviolette led the Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup, which is a sore subject around here.

Sean Avery Suspended Indefinitely for his Sloppy Seconds

Sean Avery was quickly suspended before the Calgary game last night because of a comment he made during the morning skate. Here it is:

Its a good way to stir up more emotions from the Flames because it was obviously directed at Dion Phaneuf. The league stepped in though and suspended Avery indefinitely for "content detrimental to the league." Good god boys, I think the man can backup his own comments and handle his own. Granted the league didnt want another Steve Moore situation to happen but I think that was a once in a lifetime incident. The referees could have policed the game and the situation could have been handled better than what it was. The only thing that this situation does is make the league look more like a second rate league. It gives the league a black eye and makes Avery look like a martyr.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Another Preseason, Another Bandit Player Out for Season

NLL Insider announced today that forward Brett Bucktooth is going to be out for the season after suffering a complete tear in the rotator cuff during summer ball. This is the second preseason that we have found that a player will be out for the season before he even starts to play. Last year it was Sean Greenhalgh that tore his ACL during training camp and was out for the season.

It will be interesting to see how Greenhalgh will fit into this squad after not playing with them all of last season. It wil be interesting to see how much Bucktooth will be missed this season as well. Bucktooth did not have a spectacular season last season, he only played in four regular season games. But he did a pretty good playoffs with 5 goals in three games.

Here is the article from NLL Insider.

Sabres Lose An Ugly Game

This game was far from entertaining and so much so that I quit watching it at the second period mark. So I missed all the goals in the game during the third period. From what I saw though, the Sabres were just skating to hit their spots and not so much trying to do much. They really had no energy and just tried not to lose the game. Which always loses games. Not much else to say on this one.

Monday, December 1, 2008

2009 Winter Classic Commercial

The NHL has released the 2009 Winter Classic commercial and it isn't half bad. It debuted last night on Football Night in America and should be running from now until Jan. 1st. The CBC will use the same commercial and it will start on December 15th.

Being a huge Harry Carey fan, I really like the look of the spot and the classic feel it has. The NHL may have something here.

Sabres/Predators Game Preview

The Sabres are finishing up a rough little stretch with four games in six days with tonight's game against the Nashville Predators. The Sabres need to finish off this stretch with a win against a fairly similar Nashville Predator team. Both teams are hovering around .500 at this point in the season and both are looking to start December off strong. The Sabres have won two of their last three but lost against the Canadiens on Saturday. The Predators have won 4 of their last 5, but lost to the Wild 6-2 on Saturday.

The Sabres have a fairly light and easy schedule coming up this month. Right now the Sabres expected winnining percentage is .470 which is close to their .478 they have right now. The month of December is going to be the easiest month for the Sabres. This means to make up any ground, they need to start putting together a streak.

Here are the stats for the game:


Stat Leaders
Goals - Vanek (18)
Assists - Roy, Spacek (11)
Points - Vanek (23)
Plus/Minus - Lydman (+3)
Penalty Minutes - Peters (64)
Shots - Vanek (94)

Special Teams
Power Play - 19.1% (13th in League)
Penalty Kill - 86.9% (3rd in League)

Miller: 10-5-2, 2.56 GAA, .910 SV%
Lalime: 1-4-1, 3.27 GAA, .885 SV%


Stat Leaders
Goals - Arnott (12)
Assists - Dumont (18)
Points - Weber, Dumont (22)
Plus/Minus - Weber (+11)
Penalty Minutes - Tootoo (52)
Shots - Weber (82)

Special Teams
Power Play - 14.0% (25th in League)
Penalty Kill - 79.8% (24th in League)

Ellis: 8-10-2, 3.06 GAA, .893 SV%
Renna: 3-0-0, 3.53 GAA, .866 SV%

One other thing to remember this series by:

Last minute note, Kaleta and Afinogenov are going to be out while Peters and Kotalik will take their places.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sabres/Canadiens Live Blog

I haven't done one of these in a very long time so here goes nothing. Keep checking in for constant updates throughout the game.

7:09 - Nothing is better than going through the Four Habs Fans blog to read up on the Montreal side of things. If you have never checked out that blog, be sure to do so, just don't do it at work.

7:10 - Patrick Lalime starts in net. This should be an interesting game against a pissed off Canadiens team.

7:14 - Have to love playing a game in Montreal with the duel language anthem. And here goes the faceoff.

7:16 - Early opinions say that this is going to be a very, very, very long game.

7:20 - A noneventful first three minutes to start. A couple back and forth chances but nothing major of note.

7:22 - Lalime makes his first good save of the game. Knowing that he can be hit or miss means that we may see another good effort from Lalime. Kaleta has a good effort on the other end and then meets the goalpost. Good to see that there is still some spunk from this team. After I write that, Kaleta blocks a shot with his shoulder and leaves the ice. Painful shift from Kaleta.

7:28 - The AT&T commercial with the gingerbread probably has to be the most entertaining Christmas commercial ever. Nothing is more entertaining than watching a gingerbread man complain about people eating his house.

7:31 - Sadly enough, O'Byrne's name hasn't come up in this game yet. Would be nice if he could make another mistake for us as well.

7:32 - Montreal heading on the power play. The Sabres have killed the last nine and this would be their first opportunity in this game.

7:33 - Good to see that the penalty kill is back in the top five of the league.

7:35 - In saying the O'Byrne comment, I just realized that he has been scratched for this game. No wonder he isnt going to make mistakes for us. Sabres kill the first penalty of the game and now go on the power play themselves.

7:38 - Komisarek behind the bench filling in for an assistant coach. Honestly, good place for him.

7:40 - Atlas gets his 16th of the season on the powerplay. Sabres up 1-0.

7:46 - Rivet getting booed at the Bell Center. Rivet played for 12 seasons with the Canadiens before he was traded to the Sharks.

7:49 - Sabres kill another powerplay, make that 11 in a row.

7:51 - End of 1 at the Bell Center, Sabres up 1-0.

8:09 - Time to start the second. Good to see that Don Cherry is in ripe form this season. Glad to see that his tailor is still blind as well.

8:12 - Montreal ties the game at 1 with Kostitsyn goal on the rebound.

8:17 - Mancari has been playing like a beast ever since he has been called up and it will be sad to see him go. Made a great play to keep that puck in on the powerplay.

8:20 - Kevin Sylvester looks dedicated to make sure that he hits his cue. Either that or really, really annoyed he has to do what he's doing.

8:22 - Atlas still has a passing issue during certain times of the game but makes up for it by scoring his 2nd of the night, and his league leading 17th of the season. Sabres up 2-1.

8:27 - Sabres kill another penalty, 12 in a row.

8:30 - Sabres on the powerplay again on the Kostitsyn tripping penalty.

8:33 - Canadiens kill the penalty and quickly tie the score up at 2. Begin scores on a five hole shot on a moving Lalime.

8:34 - Lydman shows his soccer skills by kicking the puck over the glass. Maybe the Red Bulls could sign him as well.

8:36 - Sylvester's dedicated look is back again. Talking about surface temperature on the ice. Good to see that the Canadiens ice crew is anal.

8:42 - Canadiens take the lead during 4 on 4 hockey. Markov scores on a great feed from Koivu. Lalime really had no chance with that.

8:45 - Canadiens starting to play the press which completely throws the Sabres off. Sabres look all discombobulated to end the period. Canadiens lead after 2, 3-2.

8:48 - Sylvester reminds us that the Sabres were in the same situation last night against the Penguins. Maybe things will turn around as the Canadiens may run out of energy due to the fact that they traveled farther last night as compared to the Sabres.

8:55 - I still think that Paul Hamilton should head to the studio when Kevin Sylvester heads to booth. He really comes across as knowledgeable and can hold his own on TV.

9:06 - Three minutes into the second period and still no change in the score or the play of the game. Still a back and forth game.

9:07 - Kostitsyn gets a charging call on Kaleta who has just been beat up all game. Canadiens get the first shot of the Sabres powerplay.

9:10 - Heading out for the rest of the game. Enjoy what hopefully becomes a Sabres comeback.

The Edmonton Rush Are Going To Be Dangerous This Year

Bob Hamley came to the Edmonton Rush last year with one goal, to win championships. He has done some major retooling to the lineup last year. Hamley added Lindsey Plunkett, Mike Hominuck, Dan Teat, Ian Crashley, Matt King, Andy Secore, Chris Seller, Andrew Biers, Spencer Martin, Tim O'Brien, Greg Hinman, Steve Dietrich, Chris Levis, and Ryan McNish since he has gotten to Edmonton. He has basically retooled the lineup to his liking and now Hamley is going to contend in the Western Conference.

Two articles have come out in the last couple of days with Hamley's guarantee that the Rush will work hard and most likely make the playoffs for the first time in team history. The article from the Sun and the Journal are here. I tend to agree with Hamley's outlook and that the Rush are going to be a very dangerous team to beat this season. With the Swarm moving to the Western Conference, it is going to be harder for a 5-11 team to make the playoffs this season. I think that the Lumberjax and the Roughnecks are going to be the teams to miss the playoffs.

Sabres Take Second In a Row Against Penguins

The Sabres put together another well played 60 minutes against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night. Paul Gaustad and Drew Stafford becomes the heroes of the game with two goals from each. Gaustad scored each, including the game winner, from his knees. On the Penguins side, Crosby had two goals against Miller with Malkin getting an assist on each of those goals.

The Sabres put together another inspired effort that shows that they can actually play some decent hockey that they didn't show during their five game losing streak. After beating two solid teams in the Bruins and the Penguins, the Sabres have another tough test against the Canadiens tonight. I would expect to see Lalime in net for the Sabres. Montreal is coming off losing two of their last three, including losing 3-0 to the Capitals last night in Washington. Defenseman Ryan O'Byrne has not been having the best of weeks, shooting the game-tying goal into his own net and then getting deked out of his skates by Johan Franzen and then being a -2 against the Capitals.

The key for the Sabres is to be able to keep up this effort again against the Canadiens. A Hockey Night in Canada game should be able to get some inspiration for these guys. Both teams are traveling from playing last night due to the fact that the game is in Montreal and both should have the same energy level. As long as they continued to play the same type of inspired hockey, this team should be better off.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Leafs Finally Sign Brian Burke, The World Keeps Spinning

In news that shouldn't surprise anyone that pays attention to hockey news every day, the Leafs have signed Brian Burke as their General Manager, replacing interim GM Cliff Fletcher. Ever since Burke left the Ducks, the speculation by the Toronto media has been that Burke would take over for Fletcher.

Burke has a couple of Stanley Cups with the Anaheim Ducks and has been credited with turning that organization around. Burke should do wonders for the Leafs roster which should not need a lot of retooling that Fletcher already didn't do. Fletcher did a lot of work rehauling this roster and Burke will come in and fill in the pieces. The Leafs should be more competitive than they have for the last few years and will make the playoffs in the next few years.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hope You All Had a Good Thanksgiving

As we are recovering from hopefully good food and terrible afternoon games I just have one note that Honk if you love justice beat me to. I am thankful that Macy's and Rick Astley have a good sense of humor to Rick Roll THE ENTIRE COUNTRY. Here is the Youtube to prove it. And honestly, I somewhat actually enjoy the song.

Some Thoughts Before Stuffing My Face Today

The Sabres played a really inspired game last night against the surging Bruins. After the debacle that happened last week, its good to see that the team played for a full sixty minutes in front of the home crowd. It is also good to see that Derek Roy has found his scoring touch again. Granted those goals were more of the garbage type, with the first one being a gifted turnover and the second being the over the shoulder I have no clue how you got that in the goal sort of goal. At the official quarter pole of the season and Roy has 6 goals while Pominville has 8 can prove good things for this team. If both can keep their pace along with Vanek, this team could make a run for it.

Those original jerseys should be able to inspire anyone. Those things are absolutely gorgeous and when the recreate the white version of it in a few years that will be even prettier.

The blog will be rather light for the holiday season. Every one enjoy their holiday and stay classy out there.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

As a Change of Pace

Some NLL news:

The NLL has officially announced that they will use instant replay this season. The only reviewable things are going to be whether goals have crossed the goal line and whether a player is in the crease. Coaches will have a chance to force a replay once a half by throwing a challenge flag. If the coach is incorrect, they will lose a timeout.

Rochester GM Regy Thorpe has signed a playing contract for the Knighthawks as well. With the lack of defense that the Knighthawks are having, Thorpe has decided to suit up again. Thorpe never officially retired from the NLL when he signed on with the Knighthawks but it was implied. Now that Thorpe may play for the Knighthawks, it will create a very peculiar situation because most often, the GM is never on the field with the players. It will be interesting to see how many games Thorpe plays and how the players react to him on the field.

More Sabres stuff midday with the Bruins game tonight.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Leafs Trade for Stempniak

The Maple Leafs have sent Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Steen to the St. Louis Blues for Lee Stempniak. Stempniak has 3 goals and 13 points in 14 games while Steen has 2 goals and 4 points in 20 games and Colaiacovo has one assist in 10 games.

The Blues got fleeced on this one just due to the fact that Colaiacovo is always injured and Stempniak is a much better player than he probably played in St. Louis. Good going JD. Here is his thinking on this trade.

"We looked at our club and we're trying to improve it a step at a time here. Lee was good for us, without question, but we're in a position to add what we think will be upside for us," Blues President John Davidson said. "We also looked at what we had with our organization now, particularly T.J. Oshie.

"With Steen, he's a forward who has upside. He can play center or wing. He's young. We're trying to develop our center ice position. There's just a lot there. It's really hard to say, 'Is he a fourth liner, third liner, second liner?' I don't know. He's got upside. He wasn't used a lot recently in Toronto for whatever reason, and we think a change of scenery will help his scenario.

"And with Colaiacova to help us back there, he's a big body. He's got a good shot from the point. He has had some injuries, but we're banking on him being healthy, and when he's healthy, he's a good player."

Does he realize that Colaiacovo will never be healthy ever. He was the Leafs version of Connolly.

Another Disappointing Sabres Weekend

Comment From Zach]
Looking forward to this weekend, the Sabres could pick themselves up with two good home stompings. The Flyers are going to be without Briere on Friday and the Islanders could be interesting after the beatdown we gave them on the Island. There could be hope for this team after this weekend.

This was the comment I made Thursday during the Inside the NHL chat with Bucky Gleason. Remind me never to do that again.

The Sabres have now come out and laid a home egg losing by a combined score of 7-2 to the Flyers and the Islanders. Having attended the game on Friday against the Flyers, I can say that the Sabres basically quit halfway through that game. There were many, many, many missed opportunities during that game including four missed open nets. The effort that was put forth on Saturday was still a little better but not enough that they could get a win against the lowly Isles. This team has fallen hard and fast from their 6-0-1 start to their 9-8-3 record currently. The road ahead is not going to get better for this team with the back half of the schedule being progressively harder. Coming up this week for the Sabres are the Bruins on Wednesday, which is the first game of the new third jersey, Pittsburgh on Friday and Montreal on Saturday. They are on a five game losing streak and could easily make it eight games by Sunday. This team needs a change in attitude quick to turn this season around.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Game 18: Sabres/Flyers Preview

The Sabres coughed up another beauty of a game on Wednesday night against the Bruins. The Sabres scored four goals in the first period and subsequently lost the game 7-4. Tonight, they take on the much hated Flyers at 7:30 at the Bank. Good news about tonight is the benching of Maxim Afinogenov and the bringing up of Mark Mancari. Mancari is second in the AHL this season in total points with 25. He has 11 goals and 14 assists on the year. Max has just been plain awful and most Sabres fans would like to see him on the first train out of town. Unfortunately, not a lot of teams are looking for a turnover a game winger that is more of a me first player.

The Flyers are going to be without hometown goat Danny Briere with a groin injury and defenseman Ossi Vaananen who will be out with a finger injury. Jon Kalinski has been called up from the Phantoms and will be making his NHL debut tonight. Kalinski has 5 points on the season in 16 games (2 goals, 3 assists). Screw the stats today, we need something to rally the troops. Not sure if the Sabres need any Flyer inspiration though. Thanks to tgetman of First Time Long Time for the idea:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tom Borelli Passed Away From Injuries Suffered Due to Fall

It is with a heavy heart that I write this. Tom Borelli passed away today due to the injuries he suffered during the fall at All-High Stadium. He was the Bandits beat reporter and the first sportswriter inducted into the National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame. The League honored him in 2007 and the best media reporter award is named after Borelli. We send our best regards to Borelli's family on this very sad day.

:LSDKfh a;sldgfkj a'sdkl;gf a;slkd

That about sums it up. I'm glad to see that all of the Buffalo sports teams can play defense. Im heading to the Flyers game on Friday and for the first time in a while, I am just not looking forward to it.

The Blue Footed Booby of the game goes to Hank Tallinder, who just played marvelosly on that first Boston goal. He could have put it in the net for them too.

Go Bulls.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Game 17: Sabres/Bruins Preview

Since the blog has been dark for the last few days now seems like the best time to bring out the preview column. The Sabres have struggled as of late losing two heartbreaking games this weekend, 6-1 to the Blue Jackets and 5-2 to the Penguins. The Sabres can try and get back on track tonight on the road against a Bruins team that has been red hot as of late. The Bruins have gone 6-0-1 in their last seven games, their last loss coming against the Rangers on Saturday in overtime.

The Sabres are starting to see the injury list start to mount again. Kotalik is going to be out for a few weeks with a hamstring injury he suffered against the Blue Jackets. Connolly is going to be week to week with an upper body musculoskeletal injury. Thanks for being specific on that one. The Bruins are starting to get their fair share of injuries themselves with Andrew Ference hitting the injury list with a broken leg. He will be out until at least January.

The Bruins are 1-0-1 against the Sabres this season. Expect more of the same against a very bipolar Sabres. Here are the stats:


Stat Leaders
Goals - Kessel (8)
Assists - Savard (15)
Points - Savard (21)
Plus/Minus - Savard (+11)
Penalty Minutes - Thornton (45)
Shots - Kessel (59)

Special Teams
Powerplay - 20.3% (7th in League)
Penalty Kill - 81.8% (15th in League)

Thomas: 7-2-3, 1.78 GAA, .944 SV%
Fernandez: 4-1-1, 2.31 GAA, .919 SV%


Stat Leaders
Goals - Vanek (13)
Assists - Sekera (9)
Points - Vanek (16)
Plus/Minus - Lydman (+5)
Penalty Minutes - Peters (43)
Shots - Vanek (73)

Special Teams
Power Play - 20.0% (Tied 9th in League)
Penalty Kill - 87.3% (3rd in League)

Miller: 8-3-2, 2.22 GAA, .922 SV%
Lalime: 1-2-1, 3.65 GAA, .875 SV%

Monday, November 17, 2008

Kotalik Could Miss Some Time

Bucky is reporting today that Ales Kotalik could spend some time on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury that he suffered against the Jackets on Friday. This could put him out for two weeks.

In saying that, the Sabres could bring someone up from Portland to fill in for Kotalik and the lucky winner just may be Mark Mancari. Mancari is tied for second in the league in points with 26 in 13 games. An amazing two points per game. Mancari is being helped by some good talent in Portland and hopefully has rounded out his game for this go around in the NHL. Mancari played 3 games in 2006-07 and had only 1 assist in those three games.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More on Melrose's Firing From the Lightning on Friday

Barry Melrose was on CBC during Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday explaning his side of the story in the whole situation. He had some interesting things to say on the whole situation.

"I think the players didn't want to play for me," he said." You don't have to be Kreskin to figure that out. I demand players play hard and play with passion and courage. If you don't do that, I let you know. I'm not a guy that sings Kumbaya around the fire. I let you know if I'm not happy with you.

I think that Melrose is probably right about that. Melrose had a style that was having his assistants run the bench more than he did. This culminated in Melrose skipping practice on Tuesday to let his assistants run the show so the players could have a different voice. Other knocks against Melrose was that he never really had a plan to begin with starting camp. This can be seen in how the Lightning play. They are very chaotic and very disorganized in how the play. They looked so good in Buffalo just because the Sabres were that terrible that night.

Melrose is a coach that felt that a player would have to earn ice time rather than have it be handed to them. This makes sense in the eyes of a fan because we would rather see players that are playing well get more ice time than the struggling player who is trying to work out the kinks or is just plain bad. See Max for this scenario. Lecavalier and Stamkos were the two players that were scrutinized by their ice time. Lecavalier had the lowest ice time that he had in the past few seasons and he was taken off the penalty kill during Melrose's reign. The major reason for this was that the Lightning seemed to have less energy during last season and saving Lecavalier for more of the third period may help this situation. Stamkos is still an 18 year old rookie but for the Lightning, he is their overhyped rookie. Because of that, more people wanted to see what he could do and have him basically help turn around the club.

All in all, Melrose was a terrible fit for this club just for the fact that he has been out of the game for so long. Rich Tocchet will take over the bench and as long as he can stay out of those tempting Florida casinos he has a chance to turn around this club. Tocchet seems to be a better fit for the Lightning and the players will probably respond better to him than they did to Melrose.

Another Sabres Game, Another Blown Opportunity

The Sabres have gone 3-5-1 in their last nine games after going 6-0-2 in their first eight games. Last night was probably the hardest game to swallow after giving up 4 goals in the last ten minutes of the game to lost to the Penguins 5-2. Malkin scored one goal and had three assists while Jordan Staal had two goals on the night.

The Sabres were playing a really good game going into the third period last night. Then the wheels completely fell off the bus. For a team that started so strong and was playing really good defense in those first eight games the team cannot seem to follow anything right now. Considering that November is one of the easier months for the Sabres, they need to gain all of the points they can heading into January, February, and March where the road is going to get much tougher. With a game against the Bruins on Wednesday and the Flyers on Friday the road isnt going to get easier.

This team needs to play two-way hockey like they used to be able to. They played well to start and seemed to have lost their step. Now they need to find it back again.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Well Glad I Missed that One

Watched half of the first period and saw everything that I needed to see. This game was not going to get any better. They hung on to beat the Blues after posting a three goal lead in the first five minutes of the games. Tonight, they looked like almost every game they played last season. Really, really uninspired. They were looking to pass first shoot later and Patrick Lalime is starting to turn into the second coming of Jocelyn Thibault. If this stays like this, it is going to be a long season. The Sabres have a chance to make it back up against the Penguins

In other news, the Lightning have canned Barry Melrose 16 games into the season. While this is not a shocking proposition because there were rumors that he never really had the team in the first place. What Melrose does from here is a mystery because his job at ESPN has been filled by Matthew Barnaby.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

All-Star Update for 11/13

The perks of having real time information on the all-star game voting is that I can do this post every week instead of having to wait for Versus to release the numbers every week. Here is what the starting lineups look like if voting ended today.

Western Conference

Brendan Morrow (42524 votes)
Mike Ribero (42422 votes)
Mike Modano (27862 votes)

Nicolas Lidstrom (38858 votes)
Stephane Robidas (36330 votes)

Marty Turco (36449 votes)

Eastern Conference

Saku Koivu (76725 votes)
Alex Kovalev (74950 votes)
Alex Tanguay (74726 votes)

Andrei Markov (82101 votes)
Mike Komisarek (76906 votes)

Carey Price (84844 votes)

Right now there are two patterns emerging. In the Western Conference, the Stars players are starting to take over the starting spots, including Marty Turco who is off to the worst start of his career. In the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Canadiens are taking all of the starting positions there. This makes the most sense due to the fact that the all-star game is going to be in Montreal for their 100th anniversary. In terms of Sabres players, defenseman Teppo Numminen has dropped out of the Top 10 in Eastern Conference defensemen but goalie Ryan Miller has shown up in the Top 5 for goaltenders. Right now though in the East, the Canadiens players are running away with the votes though.

Always remember that it is still early because there is another month and a half of voting left. Many things could change from now.

Sabres/Blues Recap

That game actually left me more underwhelmed than anything else. When a team puts up 3 goals in the first five minutes of the game and slowly lets the opponent back in to a one-goal game that is the sign of a so-so team. The first period of that game looked really good. Mair, Connolly, and Pominville all scored, Peters looked alright in his two fights and Miller let in a goal that really could not have been stopped.

Then the wheels started falling off the bus. By the end of the second, the Blues had made it a one goal game and could have brought themselves back in it with Chris Mason in goal. But Hank Tallinder scored the game winner for the Sabres to make it 4-2 and just put the game out of reach for the Blues. Hometown boy Lee Stempniak scored one in the third to make it again a one-goal game.

Miller looked alright in this game letting in a few eh goals that he usually has against him. The defense looked much better with Tallinder scoring the game winner and Connolly looked really good until Tkachuk knocked him out of the game.

The winner of the Blue Footed Booby which we haven't awarded in a very long time is Max Afinogenov though. Max reverted back to his old ways of playing really crappy hockey. He looked really out of position on the Blues second goal which then put him on the bench for the rest of the game. That sir earns you the Booby prize for the night.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Early All Star Voting Numbers

We here at Dueling Sabres have decided to keep the general public informed on where your favorites stand in All-Star Voting. Voting opened today and will run through January 2nd. Right now, here are your starters:

Western Conference
Brenden Morrow (7354 votes)
Mike Ribero (7343 votes)
Brad Boyes (4689 votes)

Brent Burns (4396 votes)
Keith Yandle (4020 votes)

Luongo (5655 votes)

Eastern Conference
Saku Koivu (11934 votes)
Alex Tanguay (9784 votes)
Alex Kovalev (8666 votes

Andrei Markov (13764 votes)
Mike Komisarek (10861 votes)

Carey Price (15107 votes)

The only Sabre that appears in the top 10 is Teppo Numminen with 431 votes. A very long way away from starting but it is still early.

Anybody have any Salt?

Kudos to Sabres Not Slugs and Puck Daddy for these references.

Larry Quinn was on WGR before one of the games this weekend. During his interview he had this great nugget:

Quinn was on WGR today and Bulldog asked him about the new 3rd jerseys, and what could happen if they sell well, well received, etc..
Quinn confirmed that the team is in talks to potentially make the 3rds our PRIMARY jersey for 2010-11, which will be the 40th anniversary year. he said the current slug jersey may be a 3rd jersey.

Now granted, no one can find the actual audio because it was destroyed. But the organization has been leaning this way. With the crest at center ice this year and during the USA Hockey announcement the Sabres logo was the original crest and not the slug. My question is how the second hand quote was worded. Are they going to bring the original crest back permanently or are they just going to use it as the primary for the 40th anniversary year. It would be cool to see it back again and the team would still have to create a white version of the original crest again, which is still super sick. Any news though that mentions the death of the slug is great news all around.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Off Day Notes

It looks that Peters will be playing on Wednesday against the Blues. He has been playing on a line with Mair and Gaustad. This means that Kaleta is going to see the press box with Stafford. It also may seem that Jay McKee may not play on Wednesday. He was the seventh defenseman in Blues practice. Coach Andy Murray looks like he was trying to send a message to McKee but it will be interesting to see if he will play.

The Globe and Mail had a couple of articles today of note. First was a survey of hockey broadcasters and how they should change the game. The major consensus was to lower the number of regular season games about 10. Honestly, I enjoy the season dragging out through the winter. Lowering it 10 games probably would not change how the game is played.

Second was a review of Bettman's interview on TSN's Off the Record. In the interview Bettman noted that he is not currently looking into a second Toronto team because "all 30 clubs are in good financial shape" and expansion is out of the question. This is bullhonky but he does have to say it on television. When pressed about problems with teams like the Panthers, Predators, Thrashers, and Coyotes he said that improving their on-ice performance would help their financial picture. "When you look at teams that haven't been in the playoffs for five to 10 years, then those are the teams whose attendance suffers," Bettman said. If you look at the Predators, they have made the playoffs the last few years and still cannot seem to draw a crowd. The Predators have had good teams and still there isn't much of an interest. Therefore, if you put out a good product and it still fails then move the damn team.

Finally, the Toronto Sun came out with the shootout standings thus far in the season. The Sabres are 4th in the East when it comes to the shootout which is refreshing because this team was just so terrible in the skills competition last season. Here are the standings:

NY Rangers 2-1

New Jersey 2-1

Pittsburgh 2-1

Buffalo 2-2

Montreal 2-2

Atlanta 1-0

Washington 1-1

Tampa Bay 1-2

Toronto 1-3

Carolina 0-1

Florida 0-1

NY Islanders 0-1

Ottawa 0-1

Philadelphia 0-1

Boston 0-3

Fans Petition Canadiens to Have Shatner Sing the Anthems

Yesterday we featured the petition to keep the roof open at the Rogers Center for the Bills game in Toronto. Today's petition deals with the Canadiens and their centennial celebration.

It seems that William Shatner has a huge following in Canada, quite possibly being Canada's most famous actor. And a few fans want to see Shatner perform the Canadian and American national anthems some time during the season. If you have never heard Shatner's wonderful voice, you should take the time to. He is probably one of the most underrated singers ever. And that is why we are giving our full support behind this petition. If you want to sign it, here is the link.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Inside the NHL for 11/6

10:59 Good morning. Just spent a few minutes adding up the stats for Mark Mancari, Tim Kennedy and Nathan Gerbe for their first nine games in Roch---, er, Portland. Anybody have a calculator? Nine games, 20 goals, 45 points combined. And the Sabres think they have a tough decision because Jochen Hecht is coming back and they wondering if the should waive Matt Ellis or send down Patrick Kaleta or Drew Stafford. If these kids keep lighting it up, the decisions are going to be tougher but the options will be better.

11:03 [Comment From Zach]
Do you think that the Amerks are rethinking their decisions now that they are struggling with the Panthers as their affiliate and the Pirates are taking off.

11:05 The relationship with Buffalo reached a point where it couldn't be repaired under the Amerks' administration. It''s not a matter of the Amerks rehtinking their position. The contract expired, and the Sabres felt they needed to leave them. I agree with the move. It was an unhealthy situation for Buffalo in terms of development but also finances. Basically, the Amerks had major money issues.

The Pirates are 9-1-1 and leading the Atlantic Division while the Amerks are 2-10. Three Pirates are in the top 10 in scoring in the league, Mancari, Gerbe, and Kennedy, while the leading scorer for the Amerks only has 8 points. The Amerks may be reconsidering their financial decisions and the way they handled the Sabres. The Amerks are completely tanking in terms of attendance and game play while the Pirates are the cream of the crop this season. Its good to be a Sabres prospect this year. Also, the Pirates are coming to the HSBC Arena on February 10th. They will face off against the Albany River Rats.

11:07 [Comment From Zach]
If you were playing the role of Lindy, who would you sit down and why?

11:10 Slow start here, Zach. We could have just talked on the phone. People must be busy working. Lindy, to me, has two options. He can waive Matt Ellis and see if he can get him down to Portland. Ellis is a gamer, but he needs work on his skating. I'm not sure that's he's NHL material. Lindy can also send down Drew Stafford, whose confidence appears to be in need of repair. Stafford will be a good player in this league. I'm convinced of that. But he has struggled with consistency since last season. A few weeks, and only a few weeks, in Portland might do him some good.

11:11 [Comment From Brian]
People talk about Buffalo needing to be more like Anaheim to win a cup. Usually that's a knock on their grit, but to me the key to Anaheim's cup win was the Niedermayer-Pahlsson-Moen shutdown line. Do you think Buffalo has three forwards that could play this role right now? Paille and Hecht are solid choices, but the best I come up with for # 3 is Pominville, and they would miss his offense dearly

11:14 Brian, good points all the way around. The key to the Ducks' Cup win in my opinion was their ability to play either Scott Nidermayer or Chris Pronger virtually every other shift. Those are two dominant defensemen. The Rob Niedermayer line with Pahlsson and Travis Moen played a big role in the playoffs because they could shut down almost anybody. The Sabres don't have three forwards who would specifically fit that role, although you mentioned two. Perhaps Paille on one side, Hecht on another and Gaustad in the middle would be a solid defensive force. But at what cost? Lindy needs Hecht producing, and that usually happens when he's playing with Pommer. However, if they buy into the system and have players effective on both ends, the points will come.

The Sabres system does not lend to the need for a shutdown line I guess. It would be nicely needed but the fourth line could be a shutdown line with Pallie/Mair/Kaleta if they could play defense a little better. We really don't have many defensive forwards.

11:15 [Comment From Guest]
Peters is a waste of space. Why cannot Mair, Rivet and Kaleta take the role of enforcer? I cannot believe we drafted him the second round. I have seen better skaters playing pee-wees.

11:18 Peters has a role on this team, but let me say this: He's fortunate that Ruff is his coach. Ruff strongly believes you need a true fighter on your roster. They don't even need to play, but Ruff likes having the threat of a guy like him. Mair will fight anybody in the league. Rivet and Kaleta are also willing fighters. Gaustad is another one. But Peters is an enforcer. That's what he does. You don't want Mair fighting every night, especially now with him overcoming injuries. You don't want Rivet in the box for five minutes unless necessary because he's too valuable. Kaleta is a pest and very effective. Plus, he can play. Is he enough for an opposintg coach to change his lineup? Not on most nights. That's why Peters is still around. He forces the other team to dress a tough guy.

Peters is starting to show more skill this season. His forechecking is much improved and he does seem to be able to hit the net. I think given time he may be able to double his goal total from last year. I also said this in 2006 though and was sorely disappointed.

11:18 [Comment From Tom]
Will Connolly actually play tomorrow night? Is he the most frustrating player in team history with his "injuries" and inability to play through some pain?

11:20 I'm not sure on the latest with Connolly. I'm not at practice, so we'll have to wait and see. It's frustrating for everyone involved. The Sabres have had about all they can take with him and the injuries. They love his skill and rightfully so. Ruff has said many times that he wants Connolly fully healthy or not at all. After a while it gets old and becomes disruptive. I would say they at that point, if not past that point with him.

Connolly is starting to come back into form. He looks like he playing an inspired game this season, most likely due to the fact that this is his contract year. If we could get a good season out of Connolly, it may just help the woes that this team seems to suffer.

11:20 [Comment From Mo]
What are you thoughts on where the League is going, specifically on two topics: Do you feel the standards of enforcement have changed and if so, for better or worse?

11:20 [Comment From Mo]
and are we headed for another lockout?

11:23 I really liked the league in its form last season even though Sabres fans were miserable about them missing the playoffs. It was the third year after the lockout, and I thought the NHL struck the right balance between skill and aggression. Scoring this season was actually up slightly last week, so things seems to be in order. But the style of play has changed, in part because coaches are copycats. Everyone wants to play like Detroit. It makes sense, obviously. The trick is finding players who are committed the way Datsyuk and Zetterberg and Lidstrom and the rest are. Another lockout? No. I think both sides learned their lesson. The system seems to be working in a fianancial sense, although poor attendance in certain places is a problem. You could see the cap go DOWN after this season.

Honestly, I think the cap going down would not be a bad thing for the league. Since the cap was created, the salaries of some of these players has been way overinflated. Reigning them in makes sense in terms of a league that relies on their gate attendance as their main revenue. So while the players would be upset over the fact that their salaries would decrease, the league would still be viable and able to function. And taking a pay cut would be better than having no job at all.

11:24 [Comment From Mike]
It was amazing to me that when Craig Rivet was out of the lineup, how much this year's Sabres team looked like last year's team. Do you think the Sabres still need 1 more tough defenseman to be a force in the league again?

11:26 Rivet is a very, very good player. I lobbied for him a few years ago, when he was on the block in Montreal for contract reasons and the Sabres were desperate for another D. As usual, they didn't listen. He does so many things, though, even though he's not the fastest guy in the rink. You can never have too many good defensemen, which Buffalo found out the hard way. The problem is finding them. It's really hard to find defenseman who can play without breaking the bank in unrestricted free agency or getting lucky. That's why you keep them.

11:26 [Comment From Tom]
Have the Sabres given any consideration to extended Spacek? I know he is a UFA at the end of the season. Or are they planning on Weber and/or Butler being here next here with the rest of the same crew?

11:29 I'm really not sure at this point. Spacek has had his shining moments over the years, but not enough to make it a no-brainer. If you look at the two-plus years he's been under contract, it would be tough to say he has justified the money. He's been OK, but just OK. Weber will be in the NHL for a long time, in my opinion. He's a good player and only 20 years old, I believe. That's a good sign. Butler will spend this season adjusting to professional hockey, but he has the potential to be a good one. Do you keep Spacek on a short-term hitch? Only if you can get him for the right price.

Spacek has been a good defenseman for the Sabres but he is also expendable. There are some good defensemen coming through the pipeline that will get some playing time here. Sekera is playing well and learning some good pointers from Spacek. That being said, I could see the Sabres resigning him to shore up the defense. They would be very green if they didn't.

11:29 [Comment From David]
One of the rumors listed on (they cite the Ottawa Sun as their source) is that the Sabres will attempt to trade Kotalik before the season ends because he is to become an unrestricted FA over the summer. I've always been of the mind that Kotalik is overrated and that his supposed ability on the PP and in shootouts should be enough bait to ship him out of here. Do you think Kotalik should be traded by the Sabres- and what do you think his value actually is among other teams?

11:32 David, good question. Kotalik is off to a good start this season. He's a big guy and very strong. My biggest beef with him is that he doesn't use his size and strength to his advantage, especially in the physical department. This is a contract year, so I'm always leery about players performing above what they had done in the year or two previous. The fact that he would be the subject of trade rumors is not a surprise. Every UFA in the league faces that at some point. Let me put it this way: I would rather see them keep Kotalik than Max. And I would not keep Kotalik if they can get a good prospect in return.

Selling high on Kotalik would be great but I cannot see that happening because I don't any other team really having a need for him. Besides, its the Ottawa Sun. They are usually wrong with those things.

11:32 [Comment From David]
With Brodeur out for an extended period and given Ryan Miller's stellar play thus far in the season (I would argue he's been the best player on the ice for the Sabres and the biggest reason for their great start)- do you think Miller can make a push for the Vezina trophy (and maybe even gather some attention for MVP)?

11:35 Miller has played very well. I've said this before, but I think it's more apparent this season that he's grown up. It's taken a few years for him to learn how to harness his emotions. He's more critical of himself than most goalies and had problems getting over soft goals for a few years. Now, he's more stable. The Sabres are playing very good defense around him and he's become very quiet in net. I don't mean vocally, I mean in how he moves. Very quiet, very discplined, very much in control. It's a very good sign. Vezina Trophy? It depends on so many things, starting with the health of his teammates. MVP? That's a reach, but you never know.

Right now the Vezina leader is Luongo with his phenomenal play out west. Miller could be a candidate but his play does have to be better especially in games like Boston. Granted most of those games were not all his fault but they were three goals from just inside the blue line.

11:36 [Comment From Don]
In your opinion are we ever going to see a rule that penalizes blatant hits to the head? And also, with all the concussion problems in the NHL, why are players still allowed to skate with their chin straps hanging loose? Isn't it time the league got serious about this stuff? Thanks!

11:39 You're not going to see drastic changes until players start respecting one another. It's one thing that I despise about the instrigator rule. The players were more effective, in my opinion, when they could police themselves. The chin straps hanging loose don't bother me. It's not as if you see helmets rolling across the ice all game long. The NHLPA needs to protect players from each other as much as the league does. But I do think visors should be mandatory. I get on that rant every year after someone suffered an injury that threatens their eyes or breaks their cheekbone or whatever. They need to wear visors at every level until they reach the pros. Why would you remove them? Dumb.

11:41 FYI: All lines are open.

11:42 [Comment From Tom]
The last week or so it appears Tallinder is really turing it on - agree or disagree?

11:43 He's playing better, but that's not saying much. Really, he couldn't have played much worse than he did early in the season. He can play. He looks like he's starting to get his feet under him, and the results are obvious. But he's capable of playing even better. And that's what they need.

Tallinder needs to be the defenseman he was in 2005. Playing a sound game and not making mistakes. Right now he is playing not to screw up.

11:43 [Comment From Brian]
Given the current roster problems and the performance of our young guys in Portland, do foresee Darcy making any moves to help alleviate the situation. For example, he could move Max and some others to help shore up our defense.

11:47 I don't see any drastic moves just because they're tearing it up down there. And here's why: The Sabres want their young players riding the buses and growing into a tough league. The AHL is a better league than people realize. Another reason is that the Sabres are doing fine right now. They don't have any room on the roster for those guys unless they make trades. Who wants Max? Pretty short line there because teams know how to defend him. Plus, he's on the fourth line here, only because there isn't a fifth line. At some point, if they continue ripping up the AHL and the Sabres struggle, they might need to make a move. Remember, they're thinking down the road, like next season and beyond. I plan to address this in Inside the NHL this week -- cheap plus. No apologies for that, though, this is a Buffalo News blog.

11:47 [Comment From TerryRay32 Fort Lauderdal]
Well, Bucky, we talked about it last time, but Gerbe and Mancari are tearing up the Minors. Would you ever consider sending Stafford down, for Gerbe and then Mancari with his size could easily take Ellis, or Peters role, and has a scoring touch.

11:49 You need to have the roster spots to start making moves like that. Hecht is expected to be back Friday. That would put the Sabres over the 23-man limit. They can send Stafford down, for example, but it doesn't solve the numbers problem. If you want Mancari, Gerbe, Kenndy or anybody else up in the NHL, you're going to need to make some trades. Lindy can't send down MacArthur because he deserves to be in Buffalo. Kaleta has found a niche, and Ruff appreciates the way he plays and the effort he brings.

Somedays I wonder why anyone wants to be in talk radio. Or the newspaper business.

11:49 [Comment From Anxious fan]
Which defensemen who can help the Sabres are on the trade block?

11:52 As I mentioned before, good D-men are hard to find. I'm told that Jay Bouwmeester wants out of Florida. That's just what I heard, that he's tired of playing for a weak organization in a non-hockey town. He's a good one and an UFA at the end of the season. He comes with the risk of losing him. He's probably the best one out there than can be had. But what would the Sabres give up? Max and Connolly are tough to trade at this point. They have prospects that are untouchables. It depends what Fla would want.

I can't see Bouwmeester playing in Buffalo. The Panthers know what the Sabres prospects look like due to the prior dual affiliation but many of those prospects are going to be untouchable. I dont think there is much more that the Panthers could get from us.

11:52 [Comment From Don]
I know there are a glut of forwards in Buffalo, but realistically how long can the Sabres leave Gerbe down on the farm if he keeps scoring at his current more than a goal per game pace?

11:54 He definitely knows where the net is located. To play in Buffalo, for Lindy, you need to play both ends. My guess is the Sabres want to see him play better in his own end. But it could reach a point where he starts to outgrow the AHL and needs to play in the NHL. I do believe you'll see him in Buffalo at some point, maybe for a peek. He's off to a great start, but it's only a start.

11:54 [Comment From Todd]
Are the Leafs really that much better under Ron Wilson or is it just a decent start that will quickly cool off? Pretty impressive third period against the Rangers last Saturday

11:56 Wilson is a really good coach, one of the better ones in the league. The good thing for him this season is that he has everybody's attention. Nobody in the organization should be safe. Players can either play the way he wants or get shipped out. For now, they're playing the way he wants and seeing the results. But they're still a good way away from being any good.

They are a dangerous spoiler for the Northeast division. They can play well on any given night and throw a wrench into the standings.

11:56 [Comment From Tom]
I understand your problems with Max, but lets be fair - he has been better this year and leads the team in assists. Saying he should be on a 5th line this year is a bit harsh. Even the diving call the last game was horrible.

11:59 Max is playing the way he plays. He's off to a good start, yes, and has done a better job moving the puck and getting to the net. We'll see how long it lasts. He's another one in a contract year, by the way. I've witnessed this before only to watch him revert to the one-on-one, cough-it-up style that has followed him throughout his career. The diving call was a good call. All he had to do was fall down. He was going down anyway. But when you see his arms flying through the air as if he was jumping into a pool, it's a penalty. By the way, I despise the diving rule when a guy gets a penalty. It's either a penalty for tripping or a dive -- not both.

See this past weekend. Played really well on Friday and then cost us the game on Saturday.

12:00 [Comment From sly stone]
i'll be travelling down to the sabres/pens game next weekend, how have the pens looked so far this season, specifically with the losses they sustained in the offseason? and does fluery look like the real deal, as he did in the playoffs?

12:02 The Pens are still loaded with talent, but they aren't as good all the way around as they were last season. They didn't improve in one area during the offseason other than gain experience with reaching the Cup finals. Fleury actually has been pretty solid. I'm not sure of his numbers, but his GAA is under 2.40 and his save percentage was better than .920 the last time I checked. He's not the problem. Their defense is hurting without Gonchar.

The injuries have killed the Penguins. They have lost Gonchar and Whitney to injury. Miro Satan was brought in due to the cap crunch that they face. They are good but they need to shore up some cap space to be able to get rid of the dead weight that they had to bring on.

12:02 [Comment From A former local]
After a game: stay downtown at Pearl St. Grill or head to the burbs to Buffalo Brew Pub?

12:03 Depends on your age. I'm 41, so I'm not going to either one. I don't want to reveal my postgame spot but it's usually relatively quiet.

12:03 [Comment From Jon]
No one ever addresses this, so I'll give it a shot - why did the loss of Scott Arneil hurt our power play so much? I don't think the dominant power play we had a few years ago was specifically because of Briere, Drury and a healthy Connolly. I think Roy, Vanek, Pominville are just as skilled, but the results have never been the same. Why is that?

12:07 Chemistry had much to do with their success. So did Connolly, by the way, because teams needed to play him honest. What I saw last season was that teams on the PK started really attacking both points, especially after Campbell was shipped out. Briere was really good on the PP, too, because he was so effective on the half-wall. Drury had a spot that he liked near the bottom of the left circle where he would pick the corner, short side. Those goals add up. Also remember, that when you have Briere and/or Drury, plus Connolly on your first PP unit, you had Vanek, Roy etc. on your second PP unit. It usually meant they were against the opposing team's second-best PK. Big difference.

12:07 [Comment From Chad]
With how weak the Southeast Division has been, have there been any rumblings to go to an NBA-style seeding system where the best 2nd place team in the conference could be ranked ahead of the worst division winner if the best 2nd place team has more points? The NBA's system seems to work and it still allows the worst division winner to have the home advantage in the 1st round. It seems unfair to lock a team into the 4 vs 5 matchup when the #4 team has several more points than the #3 seed.

12:08 I haven't heard any rumblings, but it would be great to play in that division. Spend the winter soaking up the rays and beating up poor teams. It's been that way for years.

12:08 [Comment From terryray32 fort lauderdal]
Do you feel we are in the toughest division with Toronto playing as hard as the have and you can see how ottawa is starting to catch their breath?

12:13 At the beginning of the year, I would have said the Pacific was the toughest division with San Jose, Anaheim and Dallas beating up one another and Phoenix starting to grow up. Dallas is off to a terrible start, for some reason. I remember thinking they were the third best team in the division and the fourth best team in the conference. But they've been brutal. The Atlantic has the makings of another tough division with the Rangers, Penguins, Philly and New Jersey. Now that has changed, too, with Pittsburgh struggling a bit, Philly having a bad start and Brodeur out with the elbow injury. The Northeast is better than I envisioned. Montreal is great. Boston is better than I thought. Buffalo has been very good. People in Buffalo know what Ottawa is capable of doing. Toronto is taking baby steps. Tough question. Ask me in April.

12:13 [Comment From David]
I'm looking forward to Saturday night's matchup in Boston- Bruins seem to be on the upswing and the first game between these two teams was very close. I have a feeling this is a matchup that the Sabres are going to need to get the better of throughout the season if they want to continue to hold off Montreal in the division. How do you see this weekend ending up for the Sabres and where do you see the Bruins finishing at the end of the season?

12:15 It's a great Buffalo-Boston weekend with the Bills playing in Foxborough on Sunday. The Sabres will need to beat teams like Boston on a consistent basis if they're going to hold off Montreal. Sorry, but I don't see that happening. The Bruins apparently aren't going away. Montreal is one of the elite teams, in my opinion, or will be in the playoffs. Could be a tough weekend.

12:16 [Comment From Tom]
I still wish they would call interference when the defenseman cuts off the forward when both at going for the puck during touch-up icing.

12:17 I still wish they would call interference when D-men hold up forwards at the blue line after a dump-in. It was called all the time in the first couple years. D-men have adjusted and aren't doing it as much, but they're also getting away with it more than they once did. It's a penalty. Call it.

12:17 [Comment From Chad]
Has Enroth already taken over the #1 goaltender spot down in Portland?

12:19 Enroth has been splitting time with Dennis, but both are playing well. Enroth will likely get more time as the season goes along. The Sabres like him. I haven't watched enough of him to offer a fair opinion, but I know scouts outside the organization have also been impressed.

12:19 [Comment From SluggoNH]
Are the Sabres ever going to get a D-man with a real "mean streak" ? No doubt Sekera and Rivet are upgrades, but isn't there value in a guy that puts fear in the eyes of the opposing team when they hit the blue line?

12:22 Sluggo, first things first. You just might find me in The Fours after the game Saturday night. The first beer is on me. The next three are on you. Times are tough. To answer your question, those D-men that make you worried out there are really hard to find. It came up previously in my chat. If you would shorten your coffee break, you would have known. Really, everybody wants to get their hands on a Pronger or Phaneuf or Jovo or one of those guys. The best way is to develop them, but you still have to find them. It's why they're making so much dough these days.

12:24 OK, folks, thanks for coming back. The plan calls for addressing the prospects in Portland this week in Inside the NHL. See you next Thursday.