Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
After hitting the .500 mark with a victory at Florida vs. the Panthers, the Sabres, according to Sabres PR Buffalo at 8-8-0 were off to their best 16-game start since beginning 10-6-0 in 2011-12 and are at .500 for the first time since the end of the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
Then they met some of the big-dogs of the Western Conference. The stretch began with an OT loss vs. the San Jose' Sharks before the Sabres alternated between the conference-leading Dallas Stars and 2nd-seed St. Louis Blues to finish both of those two-game season series in a six-game span (0-3-1.) The Nashville Predators came to town on Wednesday and pulled out 3-1 victory on First Niagara Center Ice. Of note, the Preds had been shout out the three previous games, a franchise-record 227:39 minutes without a goal before Mike "Mr. Underwood" Fisher broke the drought.
All-in-all the Sabres head into tonight's matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes on an 0-4-2 winless skid.
The 'Canes aren't exactly the Dallas Stars, as they're 6th in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference, but they present a formidable foe for Buffalo. Sabres PR has 4-6-0 in their last 10 meetings with Carolina, 5-5-0 at home. Many Sabres fans may have forgotten, but on the third-last game of the 2014-15 season, with the Sabres in a battle for last place, Buffalo defeated Carolina 4-3 at home. Goalie Anders Lindback made 49 saves for Buffalo while Tyler Ennis and Brian Gionta each had a goal and an assist.
Fans were finally able to breathe easy as the Sabres lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 four days later assuring a 30th place finish for the Sabres and a shot at either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in the 2015 NHL Draft.
The Buffalo Sabres have been dealing with injuries to key players all season and according to Sabres broadcaster Dan Dunleavy neither Evander Kane nor Tyler Ennis were on the ice for the morning skate. Dunleavy said on Hockey Hotline today that he believes Kane has the morning skate off while Ennis might be out.
The lines at the skate this morning from the Sabres twitter page:
Johan Larsson-Ryan O'Reilly-Sam Reinhart
Matt Moulson-Jack Eichel-Brian Gionta
Nic Deslauriers-Zemgus Girgensons-Marcus Foligno
Tim Schaller-David Legwand-Jamie McGinn
On the ice at defense were Josh Gorges, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe, Cody Franson, Carlo Colaiacovo, Mike Weber.
Mark Pysyk was not on the ice this morning either and seems doubtful for tonight's game.
WGR's Paul Hamilton tweeted that Chad Johnson will be in net for Buffalo tonight.
One more note from the Sabres. There are 11 players in the NHL who've yet to be called for a minor penalty and the Sabres are the only team in the league with two players on that list--Ristolainen and Larsson.
Ristolainen has averaged 23:55 of ice-time per game, good for 20th in the league amongst all players, and is one of only three players with over 20 minutes ATOI who've not been penalized this year--Loui Eriksson (BOS,) Morgan Reilly (TOR.) He's also tied for 9th amongst d-men in goals (4) and tied for 12th in points with 13. Sabres PR also pointed out that Risto has four multi-point games (T-6th) and that no Sabres d-man has finished a season with five or more multi-point games since Christian Ehrhoff had six in 2011-12.
The hate for Patrick Kaleta's exploits on the ice is definitive and copious, at least from opponents and fans of other teams, but as is often the case with some of the meanest SOB's in hockey, the Angola, NY native has a big heart off the ice. "Some of the toughest guys in hockey, the fighters, are the nicest guys and do so much for their teams and their communities," Amerks coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "Patty loves to do that charity work."
That quote was from a Kevin Oklobzija's piece on Kaleta in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Kaleta was hauling turkeys (28 all-told of which he purchased) for a Thanksgiving dinner at Open Door Mission in Rochester, a downtown shelter helping the impoverished and homeless. Mike Hennessey, executive director of the mission admittedly knows nothing of Kaleta and his on-ice adventures, he sees someone sharing his blessings with the less fortunate "I just know him as a really caring, generous person," he said in the Oklobzija article.
Unbeknownst to many, Kaleta also started a foundation called, Helping Individuals to Smile, or HITS. From their website, http://www.hitsfoundation.org/: The mission of the HITS Foundation is to provide financial, facility and program support for underprivileged children and adults. We offer opportunities for recipients to participate in activities that would otherwise be unavailable to them. The HITS Foundation enhances their quality of life and enriches the lives of the families and friends that support them.
Kaleta looks to hit the ice for the first time tonight as the Rochester Americans host the St. Johns Ice Caps (MTL) at Blue Cross Arena. It will be his first game this season after suffering a lower-body injury during Sabres training camp.
Speaking of the Amerks, they've been inconsistent but seem to be stabilizing a bit lately. After going on a three-game winning streak (October 31-November 6) they proceeded to lose three in a row by a combined 13-3 as scoring dried up. An OT-loss at home to the Toronto Marlies (TOR) was followed by a win vs. the Bridgeport Sound (NYI) then another loss to the Marlies followed by a win on Wednesday vs the Syracuse Crunch (TBL.)
Former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward Jean Dupuy, who was signed as a free agent by Sabres GM Tim Murray on November 24, 2014 scored a highlight-reel goal in OT to beat the Crunch. If you haven't seen it, here it is compliments of the Rochester Americans:
Dupuy is known more for his hard-nosed game and willingness to drop the gloves when necessary but he's been able to contribute offensively for the Amerks as well. His nine points (2+7) in 18 games is tied for fourth on the team right now.
The goal also had a little more significance as Dupuy's dad (Richard) was in the stand watching his son play professionally for the first time. According to Dupuy he drove down from Ottawa then headed back after the game. While talking to the gathered media a obviously thrilled Dupuy said his goal hopefully mad his Dad's trip bac a "little more enjoyable."
At 8-9-1 Rochester is slowly climbing out of the hole they dug themselves early in the year. They presently sit 5th in the AHL's North Division, 10th in the Eastern Conference.