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.

Weekend Odds and Ends

After a fairly uneventful Sabres weekend which saw them lose both games, once in overtime and once in regulation, there really isn't much to talk about. The Sabres just didn't seem to have that extra step against the Bruins and penalties killed them against the Thrashers. So, I'm moving on.

The NHL has released the top 10 sellers on for the month of October.

Top 10 Selling Items On (October 1 - 31, 2008)
1. 2008 Hockey Fights Cancer Tie
2. Buffalo Sabres Third Jersey
3. Sidney Crosby: On the Ice and Beyond DVD
4. NY Rangers Team Color Premier Jersey
5. Edmonton Oilers Third Jersey
6. Washington Capitals Team Color Premier Jersey
7. Montreal Canadiens Team Color Premier Jersey
8. Philadelphia Flyers Team Color Premier Jersey
9. 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup Championship DVD
10. 2008 NHL Reflections Book

Buffalo fans are ridiculously crazy about the new third jersey so it makes sense that it would be a high seller. But the second most sold thing on the internet shows that we are crazier than to be expected. The only thing we lost to was the Hockey Fights Cancer Tie which the NHL has been pimping out like crazy.

On a Bills front, which we don't talk about here much, there is a petition going around on the internet trying to convince the Bills and the Rogers Center to keep the dome open for the Miami game on the 7th. The reason they want the dome open is to try and neutralize the neutrality that Toronto is going to be. If they can make the Dolphins cold, then it has more of a home-field advantage. Here is the petition if you are interested in signing it.

Finally, our thoughts and prayers go out to Buffalo News writer Tom Borelli. Borelli is the Bandits beat writer for the News and he had an serious accident covering high-school football at All-High Stadium. We here at Dueling Sabres hope that Borelli makes a full recovery and that he can be well enough to see the Bandits raise the banner on January 3rd.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Game 13: Sabres/Thrashers Preview

The Sabres are coming off a good win against the ailing Devils on Monday night. They also should be rested and healthy heading into the back to back weekend against the Thrashers and the Bruins. The Thrashers are coming into this game on a high themselves having a third period comeback to beat the Islanders on the Island last night 4-3.

The Sabres are getting healthier as well with Jochen Hecht coming back from finger surgery. This poses a problem for the Sabres as the Hecht reentry puts them over the player limit. There are three players that could pass through waivers untouched. They are Drew Stafford, Kaleta, and Sekera. While it would make sense to send Stafford down because of the fact that he is struggling so bad, Kevin Dineen had comments yesterday that makes it sound that they will not do that move. The second move that makes sense would be sending Matt Ellis down through waivers and hoping that no one picks him up. With the fact that he hasn't played bad in his time here, passing him through waivers could be a hard option.

While the Sabres are getting healthier, the Thrashers are starting to encounter injuries. Defensemen Mathieu Schneider is going to be out for this game with a hip flexor issue. He strained it during warmups last night.

The last meeting against the Thrashers saw Lalime making some major saves as the Sabres wiped out a third period deficit to tie the game and eventually losing it in a shootout, 3-2. At the time, the Sabres were coming off a game the night before and traveling. Now the shoe is on the other foot so it should make for an interesting game tonight. As a note, Johan Hedberg will start in net for the Thrashers while most likely we will see Miller again due to the fact that he is on a two game shutout streak. Game time is 7:30 at the Bank. Here are the stats.


Stat Leaders
Goals - Vanek (11)
Assists - Spacek, Sekera (8)
Points - Vanek (14)
Plus/Minus - Lydman, Vanek (+5)
Penalty Minutes - Mair (37)
Shots - Vanek (52)

Special Teams
Power Play: 20.3% (Tied for 9th in League)
Penalty Kill: 91.1% (2nd in League)

Miller: 7-1-1, 1.62 GAA, .942 SV%
Lalime: 1-1-1, 2.59 GAA, .910 SV%


Stat Leaders
Goals - Kozlov (8)
Assists - White (11)
Points - White (14)
Plus/Minus - Little (+5)
Penalty Minutes - Boulton (35)
Shots - Kovalchuk (35)

Special Teams
Power Play: 16.4% (Tied for 18th in League)
Penalty Kill: 75.0% (28th in League)

Pavelec: 2-0, 2.57 GAA, .859 SV%
Lehtonen: 2-5-2, 3.44 GAA, .903 SV%
Hedberg: 0-2, 6.41 GAA, .817 SV%

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Couple Practice Notes

Hecht skating today, Connolly is not. Shocking, hardly.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Martin Brodeur Out 3-4 Months, Devils Fans Jumping off Bridges

Most Devils fans were alright with the performance that backup Kevin Weekes had against the Sabres last night. He stopped 28 of 30 shots including an onslaught of 19 of 20 in the first period.

They probably aren't going to deal with the fact that he just may be the starting goaltender for the next three months.

The Devils announced today that the elbow bruise that held Brodeur out of Monday's game was actually a bicep tear that required surgery. The Devils season rides on Weekes and Scott Clemmensen. If that is not a scary thought, I don't know what is.

Four Sabres Make the All-Star Ballot

Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, and Teppo Numminen have made the all-star ballot for the 2009 All-Star Game in Montreal.

This seems almost too ridiculous that the ballot has started for the all-stars of the season with only about 15 games for each team this season. All-star voting opens next week on the 12th. With the new initiative of real-time all star results, a Vote for Rory campaign can have more openness about it and the shrewd numbers that were presented last season. We here at Dueling Sabres are thinking about having a dailyish post about the all-star numbers and giving the movers and shakers in the system. I haven't exactly decided yet though.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Inside the NHL for 10/30

2:30 Hello everyone. Sorry we had to push it back a few hours. I needed to be at the morning skate to make sure that Barry Melrose was, in fact, coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fire away.

2:33 Well, it's still there. I thought that style disappeared in the 1980s. Actually, it did. Some people didn't get the message. Melrose is a good guy, though, mullet and all. We media types stick together ... until one of us decides to coach.

2:33 [Comment From Wayne and Garth]
How's Melrose's mullet?

Have you noticed lately that the mullet is quickly disappearing. Melrose's mullet is not as big as it was as early as last year. Brian Engblom cut his mullet back this season. Its sad that the mullet may just die.

2:34 sorry about that. I forgot to show the question. Let me just say I was having a Sully moment with the computer.

2:34 [Comment From Matt Ellis]
Am I not playing tonight since Goose is back?

2:35 That would be my guess. Hey, just think, you could have won a Cup last season with Detroit if they didn't bring McCarty back.

2:40 [Comment From Pat Kaleta]
Does Tampa have any goons I need to worry about having to fight tonight....or can I run wild and bash some heads into the boards?

2:41 Feel free to run wild, Patty, but don't bash any heads into the boards. See, that would be two minutes for roughing, and that's against the rules. You should play by the rules so other people don't get angry with you. That said, keep an eye out for Chris Gratton. Say what you will about him, but he can definitely throw 'em.

2:44 [Comment From real question this time]
What do you see happening when all of the injured guys are back...obviously Weber goes back down when Rivet/Tallinder are back...but what about he forward situation when Goose/TC/Hecht all return?

2:47 Goose and Hecht go back in the lineup, no questions asked. They need Gaustad's big body, especially with the way the game is being played these days. He can be a handful. Hecht does a good job on both ends of the ice. He's dependable and consistent. Connolly will need to work his way back in the lineup. I wouldn't take out Mair to make room for him. I also wouldn't play him just so he can play on the PP. His ice time should be earned. Again, the Sabres have been fine without them. They need Goose playing. I'm not sure they need Connolly unless he's ready to play every night.

Connolly has been a pleasant surprise in the last two games. He isn't fully into game shape but he almost seems that he has his special move back which means that if he ever gets fully healthy he may actually be an asset to this team. Right now, he is working his way up to that status.

2:47 [Comment From Mike Czerwonka]
Any chance Brendan Shanahan ending up in Buffalo?

2:50 sorry, I had another little glitch. Shanahan isn't signed, and I don't see him coming here. It is interesting, however, because he had 20-plus goals and 50 points or so last season with the NYR. I'm not sure Shanny would want to come here. He wants another Cup. I don't see the Sabres being in contention this year despite their strong start. He could wait to see what the interest is in other places, such as Detroit or Montreal.

We have a glut at forward, why would we want him.

2:51 [Comment From Chad Pennington]
Which weak defense will show up tonight against the team from Florida: The Bills or Sabres?

2:52 Well, considering the Bills aren't playing tonight, I would say the odds are on the Sabres' weak defense showing up. Actually, their defense hasn't been weak. It was dreadful against Ottawa. Spacek and Sekera had tough nights. Otherwise, it has been solid enough. Could it be better? Yes.

2:52 [Comment From terryray ft lauderdale]
my #1 roy,vanek,gaustad, #2 hecht, paille, pominville, 3# gerbe, afinogenov, kotalic, #4 mair, kaleta, mancari and if hecht is not healthy keep macarthur there what do you think about that?

2:55 I think you should reconsider before going into coaching.

2:55 [Comment From Bucky Gleason]
NO chance Shanahan ends up in Buffalo....this isn't a stupid rumor site like thanks for letting me answer that one for you Bucky!

2:55 No, really, thank you.

2:55 [Comment From Tom]
How are the young guys in Portland : Butler, Gerbe, Kennedy, Zagrapan, Mancari, etc. looking? After Weber, who is the next defenseman to come up? The first forward?

2:59 Mancari, Gerbe and Kennedy combined for 24 points in the first five games. I just looked it up yesterday. Mancari is doing most of the scoring for now, but Gerbe knows where the net is located. Kennedy has switched to center in a move I really like. He plays both ends of the rink, has very good vision and is a good passer. That's just putting things in simple terms, but I really do like him more in the middle than the wing at the professional level. Butler is learning the professional game down there. It could take a little while before he gets into the NHL, but I do expect to see him at some point this season. The first forward? It depends, but it would most likely be Gerbe. He has NHL speed and an NHL shot.

Wouldn't surprise me that the first forward called up would be Mancari. In 8 games this season in Portland, Mancari has 5 goals and 9 assists to a team leading 14 points. Gerbe has played fairly well in the early going of this season, having a team leading 7 goals and 2 assists in 8 games. With the Pirates tied for first in their division with the Providence Bruins, it only means that the team has good depth coming through the pipeline to help serve these players with long term contracts. Kennedy and Gerbe and Mancari will most likely fill the roles of Afinogenov, Connolly, and Kotalik coming this next season.

3:00 [Comment From terryray ft lauderdale]
Well Bucky that wasnt really an answer. I know the news and organization are in love with a player whose best games were his first four, and hasnt lived up to anything since. Plus since you already acknowledged we are not going to win the cup why not let some young players in and showcase others. Ps do you even know how to skate or are you another wgr schopp?

3:03 Terry, I'm not really sure what you're talking about. On your first line, you have Gaustad or Roy playing wing. Both are centers. On your third line, you have three wingers and no centers. On your fourth line, you have a player who isn't currently on the roster. Do want to just make room for Gerbe and Mancari? If so, you're going to need to make room. To make room, you need to waive some players or somehow get them into the minors.

You have to love Bucky throwing the beatdown on stupid people. It is definitely more entertaining when it is a reader rather than a member of the organization.

3:03 [Comment From Chris]
Will it ever be wise to field a team with Roy and Gerbe at the same time? Physically, can the Sabres afford it?

3:05 It depends on who they're matched up against and who plays the right side of that line. Neither is big, obviously, but they can create problems because both skate so well. I'm not sure I would do it for five games or even one entire game, but I wouldn't be afraid to throw them out there with another aggressive winger.

The question would be why not. Physicality should not be an issue with this question because if they can create scoring chances then why not field them on the same team. If a team continues to put the puck in the net, they will be successful. Needed to channel my inner Harry Neale for that one.

3:05 [Comment From Chad]
Bucky, play Darcy Regier: Florida GM Jacques Martin calls and offers you Jay Bouwmeester for Stafford + Paetsch OR 2nd rounder. Yay or nay and why?

3:10 That's a tough, tough question. I actually took a deep breath before answering. Yes, I would make the deal on the condition that I could keep him. And that's the biggest problem. He's an unrestricted free agent after this season and could command big bucks. He's already making close to $5 million this season. But he's also a young player that you know would be here for a while. Bouwmeester is a very good player on a terrible team. If I have reservations about him, it's that he doesn't have playoff experience. He's never played in a postseason game, which I mention Sunday in Inside the NHL -- cheap plug. I do think that Stafford will be a very good player some day.

Yes, Stafford is a player that is very streaky. He had two very pretty goals in two games and just when Sabres fans thought that he was going to perform well he lays an egg in the last two games and is now possibly looking at time on the bench. He played well in his first season and then not so well in the second. Not sure how to judge Stafford at this point.

3:10 [Comment From Tom]
Why play Peters ahead of Ellis tonight?

3:11 Peters is good to have in the lineup for what he does. Gaustad obviously shouldn't be fighting. Gratton can throw down with anybody in the league. Peters is the one guy who would make him think twice.

3:11 [Comment From Chad]
With Kotalik and MacArthur off to good starts, do you think Regier starts talking new contract with either before Kotalik becomes a UFA and Clarke becomes an RFA?

3:14 No and no. Kotalik is off to a good start, but he's still basically the same player that he's been for years. I'm not convinced the Sabres should keep him. If anything, I would be shopping him between now and the deadline and trying to get a good, young player in return. It depends on the package. MacArthur isn't Vanek. He's not going to draw a monster contract as a restricted free agent. They can deal with him now if they can keep him cheap. He's only making about $500,000 or $600,000. I don't think he's in a position where he's going to command big bucks as a restricted guy.

Contract years are those funny things. The player looks amazing by them and completely throws the GM off. In the case of Kotalik, it is definitely the case of contact year stud. Kotalik reminds me of Miro Satan. A very streaky player that was electric and could do no wrong when he was hot and could do nothing when he was cold. Stay away from him Darcy.

3:15 [Comment From joe, nyc]
why are people so in love with all these rookies we drafted?! dont people get that when it comes to nhl its the worse draft when it comes to finding good players, and it takes a good 2 years in the minors to do anything consistent...also sully in the earlier chat made a good point that this team is more about signing average players to long term deals your thoughts?

3:17 Sometimes it takes two years, but sometimes it doesn't. I don't look at Gerbe, Butler or Kennedy as being little kids. They've played big-time college hockey and won at the highest levels. They're in their early 20s, so it's not as if they're teenagers. Sam Gagner played in Edmonton last year as an 18-year-old. Paul Stastny played as a teeanager in Colorado. Jordan Staal in Pittsburgh came in as an 18-year-old. So it's different.

The rookies are good, there is no doubt about that. I would like to see them play in Portland for the full year and gel together as a cohesive group before they get brought up to Buffalo. If they can be like the current group that we have in Buffalo then this team will a dangerous team for some years to come.

3:20 Sorry, as for the Sabres signing average players to long-term deals ... They've locked up Vanek (by force), Roy, Miller, Pominville, Gaustad into long-term deals. All are good players. Vanek could be a superstar. Roy will be a bargain at the end of his deal. Miller could break into the upper echelon this season. He's off to a great start. He'll also be Team USA's goalie in the 2010 Olympics. Pominville is a scorer who also kills penalties. They're good players.

3:20 [Comment From joe, nyc]
whats your take on the juniors coming to buffalo, im not that amazed by it mainly cause i dont care about the juniors at all, and in all honesty 5% of the usa will know about. should i be jumping for joy?

3:22 Yes, you should be happy. It's a great, great tournament and should be good for the area. You're talking about many of the best players in the world at that age. It's a much bigger deal in Canada, where people call in sick to watch the tourney on TV. But if you love watching hockey the way it's designed to be played, you're going to love the WJC.

3:22 [Comment From Chad]
With the Lightning in town, was Thomas Vanek working on his Goal Celebrations today in practice?

3:23 Why, you don't think Mike Smith is a good goalie? Their defense is suspect, but Vanek shouldn't be working on anything in practice other than his shot and his defense.

3:23 [Comment From Steve, Detroit]
Where are we going to see the new third jerseys?

3:24 I'm not sure, Steve. I never really pay much attention to the third jersey or whatever jersey they're wearing. I'm not a big uniform guy. I am happy that they no longer wear the snorting goats, however. That was tough on the eyes.

3:25 [Comment From ralph]
please don't tell me that ales realizes its the last year of his contract and he has to play really hard and that darcy going to fall for it again and resign him

3:26 He wouldn't be the first. That's one thing you always need consider when re-signign someone. Look at his play during the entire time he was under contract, not the last season.

3:26 [Comment From Tom Golasano,]
why dont you like me bucky? maybe if you were a nice gentleman i would return your calls?

3:27 It would be nice if you at least spelled your own name right.

Some people are just idiots.

3:27 [Comment From Steve, Detroit]
Pominville is killing both my fantasy teams. When's he going to get the scoring going?

3:28 Good question. He's like many around the league who are off to slow starts. You just might read a story in The Buffalo News addressing the issue. Funny you ask. Were you in the Sabres' dressing room today?

3:29 [Comment From Chad]
The Vanek comment/question was more of a reference to how he's KILLED the Lightning in the past. It's ok, the humor must not have translated in this medium.

3:31 It didn't translate with me, but it should have, I guess. I just looked it up. Vanek has 11 goals and 15 points in 12 games against the Bolts. Good job, Chad, I didn't realize he had that many.

3:32 I'm pretty sure that Tallinder is playing.

3:32 [Comment From Steve, Detroit]
Am I the only person that isn't too impressed by the Sabres start? This whole coming back from two goals down thing makes me think this team is no more than a few bad bounces from 2-4.

3:34 You can look at two ways. The Sabres are 6-1-2 and can play much, much better. They've fallen behind in games and came back. Is it a bad sign that they fell behind or a good sign that they came back? I'm more impressed with the Sabres' start than I was the Bills when they were 3-0.

This team has one different twist from last year that has attributed to the good start they have had this season, leadership. Thats what was lacking from last years team that makes this years team so dangerous.

3:34 [Comment From joe, nyc]
which franchise do you think has bigger issues as far as being financial viable at how the run there business on and off the ice. the bills or sabers?

3:38 They're two entirely different beasts. I don't have the time or the space in this chat to break it down. In general, very general, I expect the Sabres to be here much longer than the Bills because the NHL is more suited to Buffalo's market than the NFL would be. The NFL has become an absolute giant that is driven by corporate money and a huge TV contract, not so much their fans. The Bills sell out every game and still have a difficult chore being competitive in terms of money. The Sabres are driven by their fan base.

The only thing that could be on Buffalo's side with the Bills is the fact that it costs so much money to move a team.

3:38 [Comment From B Nagy]
Please settle a longtime disagreement I have had with a friend. What is the most dangerous lead in hockey? Is it two or three goals?

3:41 I'm always wary when a team has a two-goal lead because it can turn around very quickly and get away from you. The opposing team is one shot from trailing by a goal and can gain momentum. Three goals has a way of making the losing team think that the mountain is too high to climb. Of course, then they're one shot from having a two-goal lead and the situation changes. Get me? That said, I'll take any lead when the clock reads 0:00.

3:41 [Comment From Steve, Detroit]
I didn't get to see the whole NHL franchise values list, but how did did the Sabres rank when compared to the other US teams? If I had to guess, I'd expect them to be right behind the US original 6 teams and maybe Philly.

3:43 Last question. The Sabres were ranked in the bottom third. I don't have the list in front of me, but I believe they were 23rd and worth $169 million. Not bad. Golisano pulled the team from bankruptcy for $60 million.

3:44 Thanks everyone. I'm hoping to be back in my regular time slot of 11 am next week, work permitting. Work gets in the way of a good time.

Game 12: Sabres/Devils Preview

The Sabres may get another break tonight as they face the Devils in Newark. Martin Brodeur suffered an elbow injury and will not play tonight for the Devils. In his place will be Kevin Weekes who will be playing his first game of the season. Weekes has never really had good luck against the Sabres, going 5-10-2 in 19 games with a career 3.37 GAA and .883 SV%. The Sabres are coming off a solid win against the Capitals at home. Being second in the division means that every game is going to count especially if the Sabres have to keep pace against the Canadians.

The game time is 7:00 on the network that Bill Dance made famous. Here are the stats.


Stat Leaders
Goals - Vanek (11)
Assists - Sekera, Afinogenov (7)
Points - Vanek (14)
Plus/Minus - Vanek, Lydman (+5)
Penalty Minutes - Mair (37)
Shots - Vanek (49)

Special Teams
Powerplay - 20.3% (10th in League)
Penalty Kill - 89.8% (3rd in League)

Miller: 6-1-1, 1.82 GAA, .936 SV%
Lalime: 1-1-1, 2.59 GAA, .910 SV%

New Jersey

Stat Leaders
Goals - Parise (9)
Assists - Gionta, Zajac (6)
Points - Parise (14)
Plus/Minus - Oduya (+8)
Penalty Minutes - Rupp (32)
Shots - Elias (42)

Special Teams
Power Play - 15.8% (22nd in League)
Penalty Kill - 77.8% (21st in League)

Brodeur: 6-2-2, 2.16 GAA, .916 SV%

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Tale of Two Games

Thursday and Saturday night were the exact opposite for the Sabres in terms of result, effort, and overall play. The Lightning came into the Bank on Thursday and absolutely wiped the Sabres clean with their 5-2 win. On Saturday, Ryan Miller got his first shutout of the season as the Sabres just out hustled and out played the Ovechkin less Capitals.

The effort the Sabres put forth against the Lightning was just pathetic. No one seemed to really cared about their play as the Lightning took an early 3-1 lead and never looked back. Rookie Steve Stamkos scored his first two goals of his career in this game while Ryan Miller looked soft and just bad letting in at least two soft goals including one that dribbled five hole for a score.

The Capitals could not put together many scoring chances as the Sabres shut them down and Thomas Vanek scored twice on Saturday. Miller had his redemption game stopping all 29 shots that he faced.

If the Sabres play the system that they are set to play like they did against the Capitals, they will be a hard team to stop and be a playoff caliber team. The only issue with that statement is that they have to avoid playing games like they did on Thursday. The bipolar nature of this team was something they did a lot last season and if they continue this trend then the playoffs again will not be in reach. This team has the talent to compete, they just need the ability to play the way they should night in and night out.

The Blue Footed Booby award for the Lightning is going to be Ryan Miller just because of the extremely soft play during the game. For Saturday night it is going to be the Washington defense. Three goals within the first two minutes or final two minutes of a period will kill any momentum that the team could create.