Friday, October 30, 2015

The seeds of Buffalo's rebuild were sewn in Pittsburgh.

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When Terry Pegula took over ownership of the Buffalo Sabres in February, 2011, he immediately took off the financial chains that had been binding then GM, Darcy Regier. The team, which had a mandate of "just break even" from the previous ownership group, was now free to pursue any and all free agents available. Which they did.

In the 2011 off-season Regier proceeded to trade for defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and extend him to a long-term contract extension for $40m over 10 seasons. Next on the list was forward Ville Leino who Regier signed to a six-year, $27m contract after their failed effort to land free agent center Brad Richards. Although it was fun seeing the Sabres throw money around like their big city counterparts, these two signings were disastrous as both were bought out using the two compliance buyouts the league offered teams.

As we would find out in the fall of 2011, it wasn't a missing piece or two that had been keeping the Sabres from the playoffs and a possible extended run, it was Regier's team-building concept.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sabres win, Briere honored, Miller denies Montreal

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On a night when former Sabres and Flyers great Daniel Briere was honored for a stellar career in Philadelphia, with nods to his time in Buffalo, it was Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons who left a lasting impression at the Wells Fargo Center.

Girgensons took a chip pass from defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (who played for Philadelphia last season) and deposited a breakaway goal in overtime to give Buffalo it's third win of the season and first one on the road. It was Girgensons' first goal of the season, and first point of the season and was well deserved. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Z,” said forward Jamie McGinn of Girgensons. “I thought he played a great game. He hustled all over the ice, and he did a lot of good things. There were a lot of plays where he turned a 50-50 puck into a scoring chance.”

McGinn himself garnered his first goal of the season while Colaiacovo, Johan Larsson and Brian Gionta all hit the score sheet for the first time this season. “It’s been trouble for all these games, not just for me,” said Girgensons. “It’s nice for the guys to open up a little bit.”

The Sabres were playing without injured top-line winger Evander Kane who will be out 4-6 weeks and as witnessed by nine players hitting the score sheet, it was a total team effort. "It was a great team win," said Larsson who's two assists made him the only multi-point player on the night for Buffalo. “Everyone battled hard. Every line was rolling. We were shooting, going to the net, so I think this was our best game so far."

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sabres game-day preview before Briere night in Philly

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It took seven years, an ownership change, and a complete demolition of the 2007-2013 Sabres known as "the core," for Sabreland to finally get over the summer of 2007. But with a new owner and the likes of Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen and host of other players, it would seem as if we can finally put that to rest as one of the driving forces behind the success of the 2005-07 Buffalo Sabres teams will be honored  in a retirement ceremony tonight at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.

Daniel Briere was former GM Darcy Regier's greatest acquisition. At the trade deadline in 2003, Regier traded big center Chris Gratton and a 2004 fourth-round pick to the Phoenix Coyotes for Briere and a 2004 third round pick (Andrej Sekera.) Briere,  worked his way through the final stages of that poor Buffalo season by scoring 12 points (7+5) in 14 games.

In his first full season for the Sabres he got things rolling with 65 points (28+37) in 82 games. Although it was unfortunate that the 2004-05 lockout hit, a positive is that the "new-NHL" allowed for a freer-flowing game to which suited Briere and his freer-flowing style perfectly.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tough sports weekend in Buffalo, but Rochester pulls out a win

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While sports radio in Buffalo this morning is filled with who was to blame for the Bills' loss to the previously 1-5 Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday, it should be noted the Peace Bridge has effectively been cleared of the few Sabres fans who are ready to jump off at the team's 2-6 start. And if you want a sliver of hope in an otherwise dire weekend, the Rochester Americans did manage to pull out a victory yesterday for Pegula Sports and Entertainments only win of the weekend.

The untamed braggadocio that emanated from One Bills Drive has effectively been shuttered after the loss yesterday while the unfettered enthusiasm emanating from the foot of Washington St. has been tempered considerably after the Sabres dropped back-to-backs at home by a combined 11-4 score. Seven of those goals against were scored by a Stanley Cup contending Montreal Canadians team who came in with a 9-0 record to start the season and the other four came with a rookie goalie in net making his first NHL start.

Even the Amerks were cause for concern as they were humiliated at home by the rival Toronto Marlies (TOR) 8-2 on Friday, the same night the Sabres were getting buried by the Canadiens 7-2. After starting out the season 2-0, Rochester proceeded to lose three straight road games before getting smoked by Toronto. "I was at a loss for words," said Amerks head coach Randy Cunneyworth after the Toronto game. "After every period to go into [the locker room] and give them advice on how we can be better, and it seems to fall on deaf ears, I don't know. Somebody's got to come up with some answers. There's got to be some guys looking in the mirror."

Monday, October 26, 2015

Exasperated. Sabres fall to Devils. Rough start continues

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As the horn blew to end last night's 4-3 loss at the hands of the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres rookie center Jack Eichel skated over to his empty net and gave it a whack with his stick. Although it wasn't a full-blown, two-handed chop sending splinters everywhere, it symolized the frustration this young group of Sabres are going through right now.

The loss was their second in a row, fourth in five games and sixth on the season. As it stands right now, Buffalo's four points puts them last in the division, second last in the conference and 28th in the league. In scoring three goals last night, only the second time this season they've scored three or more (CLB, 4,) the Sabres are 26th in the league in goals-for at 1.88 per game. Their seven goals at even strength are less than 50% of their 15 total goals scored. Only the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks have scored less 5-on-5 goals and they've both played one game less than Buffalo.

It was particularly exasperating for the Sabres considering it was Hockey Fights Cancer Night in Buffalo. The pregame video of Sabres players visiting cancer-stricken children at Roswell Park Cancer Institute had eyes welled up throughout Sabreland. Eichel, Evander Kane, Ryan O'Reilly and Mike Weber were amongst the host of Sabres bringing a bit of happiness, if only for a couple of hours, to patients in a battle for their very lives.

And it was Eichel who escorted Matthew Eggers to lead 18 members of Carly's Club on to the ice for the ceremonial puck drop. Carly's Club, says it's mission statement, "exists to offer support programs to make life more manageable for children diagnosed with cancer and their families, and to raise funds for pediatric cancer research seeking cures at Roswell Park Cancer Institute." Each of the 18 children passed the puck to Eggers who dropped it between Sabres captain Brian Gionta and Devils captain. As they paraded off the ice, they received fist-pumps from the Sabres to a standing ovation from the crowd.

So it's within that context that the Sabres ended up frustrated at the end of the game.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

And he shall be Lee-nus, and he shall be the Buffalo goalie tonight

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After dancing with the media last night about who would start in goal for the Buffalo Sabres tonight when the New Jersey Devils come to town, head coach "Disco" Dan Bylsma announced that Linus (pronounced Leenus) Ullmark will get his first NHL start.

Ullmark's arrival in Buffalo for his first game is just this side of amazing after undergoing elective double-hip surgery in April. The original prognosis was a 6-8 month recovery time but that was pushed up to a return to game-action in November, but his recuperative powers had him back and starting for the Rochester Americans on October 8th.

With Nathan Lieuwen up in Buffalo the door opened up for Ullmark and he dazzled during a 38-save performance against the Utica Comets (VAN.) "You can go on and on about what [Ullmark] did tonight," said Amerks head coach Randy Cunneyworth post-game. "[His] positioning, quickness, reading [the play], finding the puck. Just textbook. [He's] a big reason we managed to get the win."
Although the Amerks proceeded to lose in his next two starts, Ullmark has been able to hold his own and even rise to the occasion. In his last game before being called up he faced 46 shots from Utica stopping 43 of them for a .934 save percentage. Overall Ullmark has stopped 111 of the 119 shots he's faced for a .932 sv%. Not bad for a guy who didn't play in the preseason.

Buffalo GM Tim Murray focused heavily on the forwards when he turned his sights to building the Sabres and at times he's mentioned the goalie situation working itself out. This is the first big opportunity for this group of homegrown goalies.

Ullmark stands 6'3" and weighs in at 198 lbs. His transition to North American hockey has gone well in Rochester and now he gets a crack at the big-time. Something tells me he'll be ready despite the inconsistent play the Sabres skaters have shown thus far (see last night's 7-2 loss to Montreal.) "We have a thing, risk management," Ullmark said on Thursday. "You always have to be aware of the risk that can happen. You don't think about the safe play. You think about what could go wrong. Everything can turn real bad real fast."

He witnessed that first-hand last night as back-up in Buffalo and hopefully he won't sniff that tonight.


Quick note:

This is the first of 15 sets of back-to-backs for the Sabres this season, down from 19 in 2014-15. Last season they went 4-14-1 in the first game and 4-14-1 in the second game. Buffalo’s point breakdown in back-to-back sets last season was: four points (1), three points (1), two points (5), one point (1) and zero points (11).

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Undefeated Montreal heads to town

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The 2015-16 edition of the Buffalo Sabres enter tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens with 10 goals scored in six games. Only one team in the league has scored fewer goals so far this young season than the Sabres. The Anaheim Ducks, surprisingly, have scored just six goals in six games. And only one other team is below the Sabres 1.67 goals/game—the Pittsburgh Penguins at 1.57 g/gm.
Although this isn’t an indictment of the present Sabres’ roster or coaching, it is a good thing that Montreal starting goalie Carey Price will be on the bench tonight. Price has been brilliant this season. He's 6-0 with a 1.00 gaa, a .966 sv% and two shutouts. In his place will be rookie Mike Condon who will be making is second NHL start. The 6'2"197 lb. Condon allowed one goal in his first ever win, a 3-1 victory in Ottawa over the Senators.
This group of Sabres looks nothing like the teams that hit the ice over the course of the last two seasons. Coach Dan Bylsma has them playing an up-tempo, attack style of play that has them controlling large chunks of the game. They're a group of puck-hounds with speed quickness and skill who, unfortunately, have been a bit snake-bitten in the goal-scoring department. Some of it is missed opportunities, some of it has been a matter of a defenders stick inexplicably getting in front of a shot into a wide open net as Evander Kane and Zemgus Girgensons will attest to. But they're generating plenty of shots, almost 30 per game which is right in the middle of the pack in the NHL. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

That was fun

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I wonder how many Sabres fans said, "Finally!" when Evander Kane sent a rocket past Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier. It was an exasperating game for the Sabres until that goal tied the game at one-all with less than five minutes to play. Kane's post-goal celebration also had "Finally!" written all over it as he netted his first goal of the season, first as a Buffalo Sabre.

Kudos to Zemgus Girgensons on that play as he went up the boards and dislodged the puck from Toronto's Nadzim Kadri. Girgensons fell the play but he forced Kadri into a turnover. His clearing pass went right to Kane's stick and he wasted no time sending it home. Although he didn't get an assist on the play, Girgensons may have caught coach Dan Bylsma's eye enough to get net-front opportunities on the top-line.

Bylsma was at his line-juggling best in the third period as both lines prior to the goal worked Toronto hard. Tyler Ennis who was with Ryan O'Reilly and Jack Eichel had a glorious opportunity foiled by Bernier then the line of Sam Reinhart, Brian Gionta and Johan Larsson put intense pressure on the Leafs. This may have been Larsson's best game this year. He started out on a checking line with Nic Deslauriers and Marcus Foligno and after making life miserable for the Leafs, Bylsma bumped Larsson up a notch.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dan Bylsma keeps lines together for second straight practice

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There's gonna be line juggling. Every coach does it. Much to the consternation of fans in Buffalo, former Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff did it to the point where "the Tinkerer" moniker was added to his name, and most of the time it wasn't added in a positive manner.

It might seem as if new Sabres bench boss Dan Bylsma has taken "tinkering" to a whole new level, and in a way, he has. He opened the season vs the Ottawa Senators with five brand new faces up-front and a couple more who saw limited (Sam Reinhart) to moderate (Johan Larsson) ice-time. In fact, the players Buffalo opened up the season with were all new as this is Bylsma's first season as Sabres head coach.

For those of us who've been watching this team over the course of the last season-plus, Bylsma's line combo's left early left many scratching their heads. Thanks to Reinhart's play last game, and that of his line, Bylsma has five of his top-six in place. For now. Bylsma said that if the trio continues to play as well as they did last game, they'll remain together. Prior to Reinhart, Matt Moulson and Zemgus Girgensons had been the third forward joining the pairing of Tyler Ennis and Ryan O'Reilly but they were inconsistent.

The line that Bylsma has had the most difficult time filling out, is the one with Jack Eichel and Evander Kane on it. Reinhart had initially started on the right wing with that duo, but soon gave way to Girgensons then Marcus Foligno. When captain Brian Gionta came back from injury in time for the two-game road trip in Florida last week, he spent both games on that line and is still trying to catch up with them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sam Reinhart scores first NHL goal, may help solidify top-six

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We are now five games into the regular season for the Buffalo Sabres and after their loss last night at Tampa Bay, the team stands at 1-4 on the young season. Although Buffalo got off to a great start in the first period last night, the defending Eastern Conference Champion Lightning held the fort, regrouped and pulled off the 2-1 win.
Inconsistency in a young team like Buffalo’s is not all that uncommon and with the influx of new personnel it’s not unusual to see the team look lost as they get a feel for the team, the coaches and their linemates. Although five games is enough time to get a general idea as to how everyone might fit into the equation, it's a long process in a long season.
On the good side, head coach Dan Bylsma has two pairings up front that seem to be working very well—Ryan O’Reilly with Tyler Ennis and Jack Eichel with Evander Kane. Both pairings have shown well despite a revolving door on one wing and have dominated at times.
Last night the line of O’Reilly, Ennis and rookie Sam Reinhart controlled the first period which lead to Reinhart’s first career NHL goal as the 19 yr. old took a feed from Ennis and shot a quick one past 6'7", 215 lb. goalie Ben Bishop. All told those three accounted for 15 of the Sabres' 32 shots on goal. Ennis lead the way with a team-leading seven, O'Reilly had five and Reinhart three. It's something that bodes well for Bylsma's plan of using pairings up-front.
The duo of Kane and Eichel played well and created chances themselves while generating three and four shots on goal, respectively, but were unable to light the lamp versus the Lightning. Their linemate last night was 36 yr. old Brian Gionta who once again tried furiously to keep up the two speedsters. Finding a third for the Kane/Eichel duo has been a bit troublesome as the two possess blinding speed and in order for them to use it to their advantage, the other winger needs to get themselves into the play, which is somewhat difficult if you're an average skater.
Bylsma started out the season putting Reinhart on that line for the season opener at home against the Ottawa Senators was soon demoted while Marcus Foligno and Zemgus Girgensons finished out the game in his spot. Game-2 started with Jamie McGinn on that line but Foligno ended up with the bulk of the duties with Ennis, Reinhart and even Nic Deslauriers rotating in for a stint or two.
In Buffalo's only victory of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets Bylsma kept the line of Kane/Eichel/Foligno intact for the entire game while sticking with O'Reilly/Ennis/Girgensons as the other line. But when the Sabres hit the road for their first trip of the season, he switched things out on the Kane/Eichel line as he moved Foligno out and replaced him with Gionta for the two games in Florida.
Things have been much more stable with O'Reilly/Ennis and it's not all that surprising as it's easier to keep up with them. Matt Moulson played the entirety of game-one while Girgensons played on their line for the majority of games 2, 3, and 4. And last night it was Reinhart on their line.
It's worth noting that the Sabres have scored nine goals in five games this season, but only four of them have come at even strength with Eichel as the only top-six regular to score an even-strength goal. Kane, who had a goal disallowed after a coach's challenge, is without a goal on 15 shots, has two assists and is a minus-3. Girgensons has zero points, nine shots and is a minus-1.
Many had thought that the defense and goaltending would be a major concern, but Buffalo has held up rather well behind the blueline even though they're missing defenseman Zach Bogosian whom Bylsma considers a 25-minute, all-situations d-man and starting goalie Robin Lehner who was lost in the first game. All-in-all they're ranked 19th in the league in goals-against with 14 while allowing third-best 25.6 shots per game. The worst of the group stats-wise is, somewhat expectedly, Cody Franson who's without a point thus far and is a minus-4 in five games.
The Sabres are off today and will hit the ice for a couple of practices before they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at the First Niagara Center on Wednesday. The Leafs look like easy pickings as the Sabres beat them twice in the preseason by a combined 10-4.
It would be a good time for Bylsma to go with what's worked well thus far in the top-six. Reinhart earned another shot on the line with O'Reilly and Ennis while Kane and Eichel looked their most dangerous with Girgensons on their line.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Disco(rd) Dan? Head coach Dan Bylsma "dancing" with Gus during practice yesterday

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If you happen upon a Pittsburgh Penguins fan and ask them about Dan Bylsma one thing invariably comes to the fore with the head coach—he’s notorious for changing lines.
The former Pens bench-boss who’s now head coach of the Buffalo Sabres has a Stanley Cup to his resume’ so it’s not like he’s some career AHL coach getting his first opportunity at the NHL level. That promotion to the big time happened six and a half years ago when the Pittsburgh brought him up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to take over for ineffective Michel Therrien who was fired after an average start for the Penguins. Bylsma and his methods guided Pittsburgh to an 18-3-4 run to finish the regular season and an eventual Stanley Cup that June.
Perhaps he caught lightning in a bottle that year. Although Pittsburgh would make the playoffs the following five seasons under Bylsma, they would make it past the second round only once (in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season) and he would end up getting fired after the 2013-14 season.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Notes from the game at Florida

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For those diehard Buffalo fans who’ve been following the Sabres the last two seasons, a typical game in Florida against the Panthers left you just short of brain-dead. On one side was a visiting Sabres team in the midst of a scorched-earth rebuild with barely enough talent to be called an NHL team. On the other side was the Panthers chock full of youth surrounded by aged veterans guiding this group youngins through the early stages of the building process.
A typical game saw two teams skating in sludge making many mistakes in front of a sparse BB&T Center crowd with many of the less than 10,000 in attendance decked out in Blue and Gold regalia. Sure the game summary will say that there’s upwords of that number, but one can easily see season ticket holders and others spending the evening hanging out on the beach instead of watching Cats goalie Roberto Luongo shut out a third-rate Sabres team.
In his last five games vs. the Buffalo Sabres over the course of the last two years (one while he was with Vancouver,) Luongo is 5-0 with five goals against and three shutouts (one with VAN on Oct. 17, 2014.) Overall the Panthers went into last night's contest with a 7-0-1 record versus the Sabres and were on a three-game home winning streak. Buffalo hadn't won in Florida since October 25, 2013 with Ron Rolston as head coach. Seven players were on the roster that night--Mark Pysyk, Mike Weber, Johan Larsson, Zemgus Girgensons, Rasmus Ristolainen, Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno. The "elder-statesmen" of that group were Weber (25 yrs. old) and Ennis (24.) All the rest were under 22 years of age.
With a revamped lineup and those seven two years older, the game was much better to watch and although the announced crowd of 11,616 looked more like 6,160, there was a little more energy as an up-and-coming Panthers team was taking on a young, eager Sabres team. It didn't help on the scoreboard, however, as the Buffalo dropped this one 3-2, but at least it approached the level of mild entertainment.


Friday, October 16, 2015

To sit him or to play him, the Sam Reinhart saga

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Buffalo Sabres forward Sam Reinhart is on the fence once again. With the return of captain Brian Gionta set for tonight against the Florida Panthers, one forward will need to sit. Sure, head coach Dan Bylsma said that he may dress 13 forwards, but odds of that happening are very slim so somebody's hitting the pressbox in FL and based upon practices yesterday and today, looks as if Reinhart's headed upstairs.

The 2nd-overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft has had an uneven start to the 2015-16 season and Bylsma looks as if he's been doing everything he can to get Reinhart going, or at least make it look as if he belongs. During the last game at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Reinhart got some early powerplay time before he even stepped foot on the ice for a regular shift as the Jackets were in the box a mere 1:07 into the game. He would not see the ice again until later in the period and was on the fourth line with David Legwand and Nic Deslauriers.

Bylsma has done a lot of line-juggling and has been moving some players all over the place. Other than Zemgus Girgensons who's been constantly switching from line to line, back and forth from wing to center, Reinhart has been moving the most as Bylsma tries to find a home for him. Problem is, there might not be one for Reinhart in Buffalo at this time.

Way back on July 11, I had problems fitting Reinhart into the lineup as there's no room for him. With Evander Kane, Ryan O'Reilly, Zemgus Girgensons, Jack Eichel, Tyler Ennis and one of Matt Moulson or, now, Brian Gionta filling out the top six, the only place for Reinhart is in the bottom-six, which really isn't ideal for him.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Catching up with long-time Amerks broadcaster, Don Stevens

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When you bring three top-six players into the forward ranks for an organization like the Buffalo Sabres did from February to June this year, lost in the immediacy of the affect it will have on the big club is the benefits trickle right on down to the farm club.
Evander Kane (acquired via a trade with the Winnipeg Jets,) Jack Eichel (drafted 2nd overall, 2015) and Ryan O’Reilly (acquired from the Colorado Avalanche the day of the 2015 NHL Draft) immediately added legitimacy to the top-six forward ranks for Buffalo. And with those three joining Tyler Ennis, Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson in the top-six mix, the rest of the forwards dropped down into place to the point where solid bottom-six players were squeezed out and ended up in the AHL playing for the Rochester Americans. It’s something not lost on long-time Amerks broadcaster Don Stevens.
When asked by phone if there was a totally different feel for the Americans this year as opposed to last year, Stevens pointed out that the 2014-15 Amerks started out very well and that there was a good feeling about the team. He said if there's a at this stage of the season it's “not necessarily with the team, it’s with the organization,” and how they added depth.
“The depth is so much better than before,” said Stevens, “[Last year] you knew you were going to be losing some players [to call-ups and injuries] and that you would be having trouble replacing the talent-level of those players.
“This year [Buffalo’s] talent-level increased with so many more quality-type players to pick from here in Rochester now, and then Rochester has some players that could play [for the Amerks] that have been sent to Elmira (Buffalo’s ECHL affiliation.) There’s a lot more depth, a lot more positive aspect to the [situation] should there be injuries."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Powersurge. Sabres win their first of the season.

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I can't remember the last time the Buffalo Sabres scored three powerplay goals in a game. In fact, it's been a rarity for them to score two in a game and over the last two seasons, when the team was challenging the modern mark for goal-scoring futility, the team scored only 30 powerplay goals last season and 36 the year before.

Today against the Columbus Blue Jackets the Sabres went on the powerplay seven times, scored three powerplay goals and eventually came away with a 4-2 victory in front of an announced First Niagara Center Crowd of 18,075. This was the second matinee in a row for the Sabres and the third of three home games to open up their 2015-16 season.

Three Sabres--Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Moulson--all scored their first goals of the year on the powerplay. Ristolainen on a shot from the point with Sam Reinhart providing the screen, O'Reilly on a no-look feed from Moulson, and Moulson himself who was the beneficiary of a strong forecheck and good work from O'Reilly.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Rumors aplenty that the Sabres are in the market for a goalie

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With Buffalo starting goalie Robin Lehner out for as many as 2 months and the Sabres in an 0-2 hole to start the season, rumors are running rampant that Buffalo GM Tim Murray is in the market for a goalie.

Thanks to our own Sabres 89, here's a compilation of what's out there:

--Allan Muir speculates we could see our first trade of the season perhaps before this weekend is over. If Buffalo Sabres starting goalie Robin Lehner (right-ankle injury) is sidelined for an extended period, they could be in the market for help between the pipes. Muir believes the Calgary Flames, who are carrying three netminders, could be a trade partner for the Sabres, claiming they’re willing to part with Karri Ramo or Jonas Hiller. The latter is more experienced and also more expensive ($4.5 million) that Ramo, but the Sabres have the depth in cap space and draft picks to swing a deal.

 --THE HOCKEY NEWS’ Brian Costello tweets “Flames could get more in return for Hiller than Ramo, but would Cgy settle for a Ramo-Ortio duo if Hiller goes to Buffalo?

 --EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jonathan Willis recently noted the Oilers also have depth to move a goalie, having recently demoted Ben Scrivens.

 --SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Sabres won’t have much choice but to acquire a goaltender if Lehner is on the shelf for a lengthy period. For them, this season is about being competitive and improving. To do that, they need decent goaltending. Hiller has more experience but he’s also struggled with his consistency. Sabres GM Tim Murray will certainly shop around and it wouldn’t be surprising if he calls the Oilers about Scrivens, who might benefit from a trade at this point.

The best line of the compilation is the one from Spector's Note, "The Sabres won't have much choice but to acquire a goaltender." He goes on to say that the season is about "being competitive and improving" but had these guys been watching these first two games, they'll find that the man between the pipes now for the Sabres, Chad Johnson, has really done a good job even though the numbers are weak.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ellis' pulls off the "trick" and, 45 yrs. ago today

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Rochester Americans center Matt Ellis began his 14th season of pro hockey with a bang. The 34 yr. old undrafted free agent, whom the Buffalo Sabres acquired via waivers from the Los Angeles Kings just over seven years ago, finished off a superb night with an empty netter for the hat trick as the Amerks won their season opener 6-4 over the Lake Erie Monsters.

Ellis was his usual humble self post-game. He's consummate pro who's career path has seen him start in the ECHL (Toledo Storm) and bounce between the three AHL teams and three NHL teams. Being long in the tooth and well aware that every season could be his last as a player, Ellis took the hatty for what it was, gave credit to his linemates as well as the team reveled in the moment.

"It's special," said Ellis of the hat trick. "Year 14 [as a player]. You never know how many more opening night you're gonna get. One thing I've learned is that you try to make the most of each moment. Do what you can, live in the moment and enjoy it.

"It's always nice coming back to the bench seeing big smiles and a lot of high-fives and guys enjoying it with you. I understand what my role is here, but at the same time I like to show the young guys the old guy here can still play hockey."

Jean Dupuy, playing in his first pro season, had three assists. Dupuy was signed by the Sabres as an undrafted free agent last November and is in the first year of a three-year entry-level deal. The 21 yr. old who just celebrated is birthday on October 6th played for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds as an overager last season. He had 46 points (18+28) in 54 games for the 'Hounds.

Nate Lieuwen, who hasn't seen regular season action since December, stopped 35 of the 38 shots he faced seving notice that he's recovered from concussion symptoms.


The Rochester Americans celebrated the beginning of their 60th season in the AHL last night as 6,620 came to the Blue Cross Arena to celebrate the milestone and the victory as well. Banners with images of former Amerks like the late Al Arbour and Don Cherry greeted the fans as they headed towards the arena.

Inside five Amerks Hall of Famers were on the ice for the ceremonial puck drop:  Joe Crozier, Dick Gamble, Doug Gibson, Jody Gage, and Chris Taylor.Wendy Charron was there for her late husband, Craig.

Thanks to Kevin Oklobzija of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle for those tidbits. You can read the full article here.


It was 45 yrs. ago today that the Buffalo Sabres played their first-ever NHL game. The new franchise beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in Pittsburgh.

Jim Watson scored the first-ever goal for Buffalo while Sabres legend and 1970 first overall pick Gilbert Perreault scored the game-winner at the 11:36 mark of the third period on assists from Kevin O'Shea and Gerry Meehan. Roger "the Dodger" Crozier was in net for the Sabres that night. He stopped 35 of 36 Penguins shots for the first victory in franchise history.

Thanks to werqa 123 we have some footage of that night and the Sabres franchise home-opener as well:

Thanks to Joe Pelltier's Greatest Hockey Legends for the links.


Buffalo hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning for a 1pm matinee, the first of 10 afternoon games on this season's schedule.

It's also the first of four meetings with the Lightning all of which will be played within the Sabres first 15 games. Their final matchup will be on November 10th.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dan Bylsma may have found himself a top line

Reprinted with permission from

About half-way through last night's loss Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma put Zemgus Girgensons up with Jack Eichel and Evander Kane. Buffalo had been slogging through much of the game to that point and "Disco Dan" was juggling the lineup trying to get his club moving. Sam Reinhart had originally been on Eichel's right wing but was demoted late in the first period and in a bit of a head-scratcher, Bylsma replaced Reinhart with Marcus Foligno.

That lasted for a good chunk of the second period, but with the Sabres down 2-0 and Ottawa's swarming defense bottling up Buffalo, Bylsma put Girgensons on the wing with Eichel and Kane and the move would eventually generate some desperately needed energy late in their first shift together. Kane jumped on an Ottawa turnover at the Buffalo blueline and headed up ice. The play ended with the trio battling in the Senator's crease and a hooking call going against Ottawa's Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

That line would start the third period for Buffalo and in the words of Bylsma, "really lead the charge."

Friday, October 9, 2015

Buffalo's probable lineup for tonights season opener plus notes

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres open up a highly anticipated 2015-16 season against a team that's been a thorn in the side for the better part of the decade. The Ottawa Senators have had their way with Buffalo dating back to the 2007 playoffs when they bounced the Sabres in five games of the eastern conference finals. Buffalo fans are well aware of what's transpired since then and are eagerly awaiting tonight's contest to begin a new era.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Buffalo Sabres 2015-16 Season Preview

Reprinted with permission from
There was anticipation when new owner Terry Pegula took over the Buffalo Sabres in 2011 with deep pockets and a commitment to winning. Likewise when he opened up his wallet that summer to bring in the best free agents available. Granted it was a thin market that year and things blew up in his face, but Pegula followed through with his declaration that he’d be taking off the financial chains and moving an organizational mandate from “just break even” to “the Buffalo Sabres’ reason for existence will be to win the Stanley Cup.”
The loose, three-year time-frame that Pegula put on making it to their ultimate goal took a bit of a Griswold detour featuring a comedy of errors lead to an extensive overhaul for the franchise. From team president on down, very few were spared. Three seasons and four drafts later this incarnation of the Buffalo Sabres, one that’s filled with high-draft picks and young veterans just beginning to enter their prime years, will hit the ice for the most anticipated season in years.
Sabres fans expectations have invariably pumped to the point of sheer frenzy in the past, and in every occasion the prize was out of reach. One need to go no further back than the first quarter of the 2015 NFL season to see a Buffalo Bills fan-base get stoked to the point of ponying up for a franchise record-breaking 65,000 season tickets only to have their team get embarrassed twice in front them.
When the Sabres hit the ice at First Niagara Center tomorrow night, fans will be in tizzy as two years of “suffering” are now in the past and the future begins now. It's the beginning of "the Next Chapter” in the book that is the history of the Buffalo Sabres, but it’s only the first paragraph of the first page. Win or lose, fans know (or should know) that there’s a new coaching staff and a revamped roster featuring 12 players 24 yrs. old or younger. New head coach Dan Bylsma will be guiding the youngest team in the league, according to at an average age of 26.230 yrs old, and there will be growing pains.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Some pundits and experts chime in on the upcoming Sabres season

Reprinted with permission from

Just a quick look at what some media members are saying about the Buffalo Sabres and their upcoming season:

Kevin Allen, USA Today:  Plenty of new arrivals for Buffalo with Allen calling GM Tim Murray "a man of great vision." Points out that uber prospect Jack Eichel is coming into a situation where he has a strong, young supporting cast to help in the transition. Allen calls Zemgus Girgensons " a born leader and gritty competitor," thinks Rasmus Ristolainen's ice-time will be in the low 20's and his point total "could rise from 20 to 40-plus," while also saying the youngster to watch is Sam Reinhart, whom he called "a prime prospect.

" Neither Rome nor the Sabres were built in a day," summarizes Allen. "The Sabres were 45 points out of a playoff spot last season. They can’t make that up in a season. Pick them as the NHL’s most improved team, but still seventh in the Atlantic."

Allan Muir,  Muir writes that Murray, "threw out the traditional draft-and-hold approach and charted a more dramatic and risky path to contention." He also points out that the Sabres are strong down the middle and also feels an eye should be kept on Reinhart who he writes, "will have a sizeable learning curve, especially without the puck," and forward Evander Kane who's "ready to get his hockey life back."

"The defense is a work in progress and Murray gambled heavily on Robin Lehner as his new starting goalie," continued Muir. He feels that "the Sabres will be a better team in 2015-16 and certainly more entertaining. The playoffs are a whole lot closer than they were this time last season. Prediction--74 points, seventh in the Atlantic."

Jen Neale, Yahoo's Puck Daddy:  Neale covers Buffalo's "extreme makeover" aptly and in a very cool approach lists Eichel as first on her "five most fascinating players" section. She lists him in the 2-5 spots with a strike-through while adding (in order)--Lehner, Kane, Ryan O'Reilly and Tyler Ennis. Neale loves a possible 3-on-3 line of Kane, Eichel and Ennis writing of the three, "In the immortal words of Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson: SPEEEEEEEEED."

Attention is paid to head coach "Disco" Dan Bylsma as Neale points out that "he fits what the Sabres need in their transitional period. Bylsma is a players coach who can work with young players shouldering huge expectations." Prediction--"They’ll miss the playoffs but make significant strides towards turning things around."

Joe McDonald,  "There's been a major culture change in upstate New York," writes McDonald. "How long will it be before the Sabres begin to see the results of the rebuild? It won't happen overnight, but there's a lot to be excited about in Buffalo." That excitement includes players like Eichel, Kane and O'Reilly while giving props to the Sabres for signing Cody Franson and acknowledging Bylsma and the "instant credibility" he brought to the organization.

A cool thing he also mentions is that the Sabres "are loaded with young talent and many of those players will participate in the World Cup of Hockey next year." But for this season, McDonald writes, "There's no way the Sabres will be as bad as they were last season, Buffalo should have a better season, but reaping the benefits of the rebuild will take more than one season. Prediction--eighth in the Atlantic Division.

The Hockey News:  "Between 1979 and 2009, 10 teams drafted in the top two in consecutive years," begins THN's season preview of the Buffalo Sabres. "Five of them reached the Stanley Cup final within eight seasons and three won the Cup. Buffalo, after bottoming out for two straight second-overall picks, hopes to join the list." The ascent begins, they write, with the forward group with Eichel, O'Reilly and Kane, but they also point out that "the D-corps remains a major weakness," saying Josh Gorges and Zach Bogosian "will be forced to play top-pair minutes but are better suited to supporting roles."

"The Sabres added about five wins of talent to the roster this season which is the most of any team, writes THN in their outlook. "It’s a huge injection of skill, but what it really shows is just how terrible Buffalo was last season. Take five wins off their current projection and you get a true-talent 69 point team. Most teams fall within the 80-to-100 point range, so a number below 70 is shockingly low. That’s the hill Buffalo has to climb to get out of the NHL’s basement and while this season is a good start, there’s a lot of mountain left for them."

TSN's Frank Servalli's "bold prediction" for the Sabres:  Eichel will beat out Edmonton wunderkind Connor McDavid for the Calder Trophy. "He will feed three-time 30-goal scorer Matt Moulson and push the Sabres go the brink of the playoffs." New players "will account for a 35-point turnaround, but the Sabres will fall short of the playoffs."

Monday, October 5, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--The reserves

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres entered camp this year with 60 players on their training camp roster. In just over two weeks and with seven preseason games they’ve whittled the roster down to 29 players after Jason Akeson was assigned to Rochester yesterday. A couple more moves will need to be made to get down to the final 23-man roster by 5pm Tuesday.
Four players presently on the roster—F, Cody McCormick, D, Zach Bogosian and Bobby Sanguinetti and G, Linus Ullmark--are all injured and will miss the start of the season with two being of the longer-term variety. McCormick has not been cleared due to a blood clot issue while Ullmark underwent double hip surgery in April and is slated to return to the ice some time next month. Sanguinetti hasn't been on the ice since the first day of training camp and Bogosian was listed as week-to-week late last week. Head coach Dan Bylsma said that "[Bogosian] is working out and doing off ice workouts and progressing well. We don't have a time table for him to return to get on the skates."
Of the two move the Sabres need to make, the easiest one will be waiving veteran center Cal O'Reilly. The older brother of Buffalo center Ryan O'Reilly, Cal played for the Utica Comets (VAN) of the AHL last year was brought in to fortify the Amerks roster for this season.
That leaves the reserve forward spot for another veteran, David Legwand.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Some notes in B-flat as the Sabres fall to end the preseason

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres fell just short of staging a third period come back last night. Even though they scored four goals in just over 13 minutes of the third period, it was not a good tune-up for the regular season. Fact is, they were an abysmal, turnover machine last night. The team, in general, also lacked intensity while goaltending did nothing to bail the team out. By the time they snapped out of it the Sabres were down 5-0 with less than half the game played.

But before the Peace Bridge gets overcrowded with Sabres fans or there's a run on pitchforks, torches and lighter fluid, it's best to keep in mind that this team is in the midst of a major transition and there will be growing pains, especially to begin the season. There were eight players on the ice last night (including goaltender Robin Lehner) who weren't with the team last year and three others who spent only a handful of games on the big club last season. In addition to that, the Sabres are employing an up-tempo system that's a far cry from what they were doing last year.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--The fourth line

Reprinted with permission from

The cool thing about the Buffalo Sabres adding top-six forwards in Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and Jack Eichel is that not only does it immediately legitimize the Sabres top two lines, but it also pushes the other forwards down to a level more in line with their individual capabilities. And the depth Buffalo is beginning to develop is especially evident on the fourth line.

In the past few years the Sabres lacked true top-line talent and in turn were really thin at the lower levels of the depth chart to the point where the last two seasons, especially the last one, Buffalo relied upon borderline NHL’ers to play fourth-line minutes. Last night's 6-1 shellacking at the hands of the Minnesota Wild was a microcosm of the last two seasons.

While the Buffalo Sabres were dressing a lineup that featured as many as 10 players ticketed for Rochester of the AHL, the Wild were gearing up for the regular season and dressed most of their opening night roster in their final preseason game. "It was two teams at two different levels," said head coach Dan Bylsma after the game.

This huge discrepancy in talent trickled down to the Amerks as well. They opened up their preseason by getting walloped by the Binghamton Senators 8-2. The baby Sens had a team that was also fortified by having a parent club playing most of their opening night roster.

Tonight's home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets will be the Sabres last of the preseason and what hits the ice will constitute much of their opening night roster, injuries not withstanding.

Which brings us to the fourth line.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Building the 2015-16 Buffalo Sabres roster--G, Chad Johnson

Reprinted with permission from

If the parade of goalies through Buffalo over the past two years wasn't record-breaking, it has to be pretty close. In the 2013-14 season the Sabres dressed an NHL-record 10 goalies for games including goalie coach Arturs Irbe and HARBORCENTER employee Ryan Vinz. Last year five goalies would make an appearance in net--Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth, who were both traded, Anders Lindback, who took on post trade deadline starting duties, plus prospects Andrey Makarov and Nathan Lieuwen.

The well-travelled Chad Johnson, who was acquired from the NY Islanders (along with a 2016 3rd round pick) for Neuvirth at the trade deadline, would have made it six, but he took a shot to the ankle prior to his scheduled March 6th start at Ottawa against the Senators. The "lower-body injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.

Johnson's all that's left of the 16 men in the crease for the Sabres over the last two grueling seasons (save for Vinz,) and he entered training camp as back-up to No. 1 goalie Robin Lehner who was acquired at the draft from Ottawa for the 21st overall pick. Lehner was sidelined in February after suffering a concussion in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes and, like Johnson, hadn't seen action until this preseason.

Lehner got the start (and the 4-0 shutout) last game vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs and with only two preseason games left on the schedule, Johnson will get the start tonight in Minnesota against the Wild.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick...

heading up ice with the puck on his stick...




Speed is speed, whether it's preseason or not and when Sabres rookie phenom Jack Eichel jumps on a puck it's 1st gear to overdrive. Last night Eichel took a chip pass from Nic Deslauriers, blazed through the neutral zone and with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Connor Brown in hot pursuit, yet still two strides behind, he proceeded to snap a quick wrister past goalie Jonathan Bernier.

Said Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma of the play."D-Lo (Deslauriers) makes a great positional play by being there in the slot and intercepting the pass. In about a half a second it was clear it was going to be a breakaway. [Eichel] took off and beat the guy (Brown) almost by the blue line and had three-quarters of the rink for a breakaway. It turns into another [short handed goal] for us."