The Sabres Observer
Late last night, Buffalo Sabres President Ted Black sat in a conference room at HSBC Arena, flipped on the Detroit/Carolina game, ordered out for dinner and hopped on the computer for a little bit to chat online with hundreds of fans.
That “little bit” turned into three hours and nineteen minutes.
It may or may not be a record for duration of an online chat with a major pro sports team executive, but either way it still wasn’t enough time to answer the 1000+ questions posed to him by Sabres fanatics.
It started to get rather humorous after awhile, but in the process we did learn a few things:
• The Sabres at some point will be looking to retire Dominik Hasek’s #39.
• The third jersey for the Sabres will be retained for next season.
• While working as an executive in the Penguins organization, Black once participated in the intermission festivities on the ice donning a sumo-wrestling suit.
Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula is throwing a party this Friday night for 18,690 of his closest friends. He’s reached out to all Sabres Alumni to be part of pregame festivities before Buffalo’s regular season finale against the Flyers. Pegula is footing the airfare, hotel, transportation and food bill for over 75 former Sabres who will be here for the event. Notable attendees will include Danny Gare, Phil Housley, Jerry Korab, Pat LaFontaine, Brad May, Jay McKee, John Muckler, Craig Muni, Teppo Numminen, Rene Robert, Bob Sweeney, Rick Vaive, Rhett Warrener and Jay Wells.
From the Sabres,
“More than 75 Sabres Alumni have already confirmed their attendance for this Friday’s Fan Appreciation Night, a series of events surrounding the team’s final regular season home game on Friday, April 8 against the Philadelphia Flyers.”
“Every former player that attends will be part of a pre-game Party in the Plaza red carpet event outside HSBC Arena from 5-7 p.m. Alumni will be available for autographs and pictures as they walk into the arena.”
“All attending alumni will be honored in a pre-game on-ice ceremony that will also include presentation of the 2010-11 Sabres MVP, Rookie of the Year and Hardest Working Player awards.”
more, including the full list of Alumni attendees
So I guess this is the part where we in Buffalo don’t even consider giving proper credit to the architect of it all, the man who stocked this team with promising young talent and maturing veterans with one budget-constrained hand tied behind his back.
After embracing the euphoria of last night’s ginormous 2-1 overtime win in Carolina, crossing my mind was the thought of where this Sabres team would be, both in this game and overall in the standings, without the clever maneuvering of mastermind GM Darcy Regier. It’s funny how his work gets nary a mention in this town when the team is winning.
More than half of the Carolina roster that played in last night’s game, ten players to be exact, were former 1st round draft picks. That was nearly twice as many as Buffalo, who are challenging to be one of the top six teams in the East while boasting a roster that in 2010-11 has featured a contingent of major contributors (Ryan Miller, Nathan Gerbe, Steve Montador, Chris Butler, Paul Gaustad, Patrick Kaleta, Cody McCormick) who were drafted in the 4th round or later, or in Montador’s case not at all.
Granted, every team has their share of late round hits, but not many clubs have as many of them playing as big a role and contributing to a playoff contending team the way Buffalo does.
And it’s just part of the bigger picture of how the low-key decisions of Regier have resulted in fans of the Sabres, a team left for dead in 12th place and ten points back of 8th on December 31, now staring at the Eastern Conference standings with equal parts joy and disbelief.
After practice on Friday, Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff told reporters that Ryan Miller would be making the road trip with the team to Washington, and would be re-evaluated over the weekend.
As it turns out, half of that is false at this point in time. WGR’s Mike Schopp has learned that Miller did not travel with the team on Friday.
Miller is still considered to be day-to-day with an upper body injury. Ruff revealed today that it is not a long-term injury. Keep it locked to WGR Sports Radio 550 for any new updates on the situation.
Buffalo takes on the Capitals on Saturday night, followed by a Sunday night road game against Carolina.
Fending off Carolina for 8th place in the East hasn’t been easy for the Sabres, considering the Hurricanes have won five of their last six games. It’s tough putting away a team in hot pursuit that can scratch and claw its way to five straight wins in games decided by one goal, which is what Carolina has done in just the past two weeks.
All of this makes the Sabres clutch 1-0 victory over the Rangers last night that much more significant. Now, Buffalo has in effect dragged the once semi-comfortable Rangers into a three-team battle for two Eastern Conference playoff spots and has given pesky Carolina another target at which to aim.
Despite a fantastic performance in this game by rookie goalie Jhonas Enroth, the big question for the Sabres right now is the extent of Ryan Miller’s injury. In the past week, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner has taken a Brian Rolston shot to the face mask and a Dion Phaneuf blast to the collarbone. The Sabres are being mum on specifics.
WGR 550 has learned that Sabre Goalie Ryan Miller will be out for Wednesday night’s game against the Rangers due to an unknown injury. Jhonas Enroth is likely to get the start at the H.S.B.C. Arena. Patrick Lalime would serve as the back-up if that is the case. Lalime is returning from a knee injury. Miller was the NHL’s first star last week, going 3-and-0 with a pair of shutouts. He allowed 4 goals in Toronto on Tuesday night in a loss to the Maple Leafs.
Enroth has won his last 3 games between the pipes. He got wins against Ottawa on March 13th, Minnesota on March 6th and Montreal on February 15th.
We’ll have full details on the story as they become available.
Miller is 33-22-8 this season with a 2.60 goals against average and a .915 save percentage.
From Bill Hoppe of The Olean Times Herald,
“I’ve had instances when you get hit in the visor and the visor cuts you,” Mancari said Tuesday prior to the Sabres 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. “I just have better vision with it off. We’ll see what happens over time.”
As Mancari spoke, Vancouver’s Manny Malholtra was in New York hoping a surgeon could save his left eye and vision. Mancari has watched the scary footage of an errant puck hitting the veteran’s unprotected eye March 16.
Mancari’s in the minority. According to research The Hockey News published in December, 59 percent of NHL players (381) wear visors. A similar survey earlier in 2010 found 65 percent of players 30-or-younger wear the protection. It’s only 45 percent for those older than 30.
more, including some interesting comments from Buffalo’s Jason Pominville and Toronto’s Tim Brent.
Well, that’s one Shaone Morrisonn and Ryan Miller would like to forget.
The Leafs took advantage of some shaky defense and goaltending in their 4-3 win last night over Buffalo. Miller had an off night, which isn’t a reason to panic considering how much better he’s looked overall in recent weeks.
As far as Morrisonn goes, well, you’d think it would be pretty difficult to be a -3 with only eight minutes of ice time, but he found a way to do it. Morrisonn and Mike Weber are gritty guys that you really want to root for, but their hijinks last night as the 5-6 defensive pairing had to be uncomfortable for Sabres fans to watch.
If I’m Lindy Ruff, my top four defensemen (Myers, Sekera, Montador, Butler) are getting the brunt of the ice time on the blue line tonight against the Rangers, with my third pairing only playing 10-12 minutes or so. This tactic didn’t work last night, but it has in the past and I would try it again. You need your best guys out there and this game is too important.
I’d also strongly consider giving Morrisonn the night off and allowing Marc-Andre Gragnani some power play time.
Nervous fans in Buffalo need to keep in mind that this team is still on a 4-1-1 run, and mathematically they’re in very good shape for a playoff spot. And while you’re complaining that the team looked awful last night, I actually didn’t think the forwards collectively were that bad.
Tonight is a huge night in the East, with 7th at 8th (NYR-BUF) and 6th at 9th (MTL-CAR) on tap. Enjoy the ride.
Update 11:02 am: Per Mike Harrington tweet- Gragnani, who can play forward, and Matt Ellis will be in for Jochen Hecht and Mike Grier (both injured).
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From The Buffalo News,
Ryan Miller is playing some of his best hockey of the season at just the right time. That’s good news for the Buffalo Sabres and could be curtains for the slim playoff hopes of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I’m feeling better, feeling like I’m in the play a lot more and able to get in the flow of it,” Miller said. “It has a lot more to do with attention to detail around me and I can commit to some things. Way earlier in the season, we were hesitant on some plays and that makes me wait for things to unfold and that’s a tough position to be in sometimes. Right now I’m trying to dictate the play, force guys to do what they don’t want to do.”
I don’t know what’s riskier, walking on the Sabres logo in the locker room or bringing a negative vibe to any conversation involving this team in the midst of its playoff-bound bliss, but I’m going to walk a fine line with the latter while looking at the big picture here.
If I’m Darcy Regier or Lindy Ruff, the first thought to cross my mind when picturing this team in late April without Jordan Leopold is the ugly 0-19 power play drought that cost the Sabres a playoff series against Boston last spring. That may be overplaying it, but in my opinion not by much.
With Leopold suffering a hand injury that will keep him out for the rest of the regular season and possibly longer, you have to wonder if the Sabres will want to take another peek at Marc-Andre Gragnani, who has been breaking scoring records down in Portland (AHL).
About The Sabres Observer
Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003. He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene. Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]