Tag Archives: Lindy Ruff

The Road to Redemption

There is no better may to combat a tough game than to comeback in the next and make everyone forget that last one ever happened.  Tonight the Sabres will try and do just that with the visiting Calgary Flames in town.  The team will look to rookie goaltender Jhonas Enroth to steady the ship tonight.  Coming off a game where he held the Philadelphia Flyers scoreless for roughly 53 minuets.

Its no surprise that Lindy Ruff is giving Enroth the nod for tonight.  Even though he might just be sticking to the schedule like he says, when a goaltender puts up a shutout the majority of the time the coach will ride that goalie.  In my eyes this is the right decision to make for several reason.  The first being is that in protects Ryan Miller for the time being.  It is well advertised that Miller plays an emotional game, just look at his reactions when there is a missed call or something he disagrees with.  Even though Miller would like to make you think otherwise I for one believe that the boos get to him, and not in a good way.  Having Miller most likely go on Saturday night in Ottawa at this point is the better scenario to put Miller into to get his confidence built back up and return him to that passionate goalie we all at some point have loved.  With that all being said the other reason i support this as i stated above Enroth is the hot hand, during his relief stint he was a perfect 15 for 15 against the Flyers bringing him to a .955 save percentage in his three appearances on the young season.

Missing from the Sabres lineup tonight will be Buffalo native Patrick Kaleta.  Kaleta was suspended 4 games by Brendan Shanahan and the NHL for a headbutt he landed on Flyers foward Jakub Voracek.  While at the game I initially did no see the headbutt, upon watching the reply of the incident I have to say the NHL made the right call on this one.  Don’t get me wrong I love a Kaleta hit has much as the next Sabres fan, but there is a difference between a nice clean hit and ramming your helmet into the jaw of an opponent.  If this was a first time offender the NHL most likely would of let the player off with a warning, but since Kaleta is a repeat offender of the offense the 4 game suspension is a fair ruling in my eyes.

Taking the spot of Kaleta in tonight’s lineup will be Sabres prospect Corey Tropp, who will be making his NHL debut.  This call makes sense since Tropp plays a physical game much like Kaleta.  During his 2011-2012 campaign so far  Tropp has notched 4 goals and 3 assist while compiling 16 penalty minuets in 10 games played, while playing for the Rochester Americans, the Sabres farm team.If I had to guess where Tropp will be inserted into the lineup, it would be on the 4th line with veterans Matt Ellis and Cody Mccormick.  This would move Brad Boyes onto a line with Paul Gaustad and Nathan Gerbe and leave the top two lines alone.

Despite what people might think the Sabres besides the first seven minuets of the game played a solid game.  The Lenio-Roy-Stafford showed some sign of chemistry and where creating chances and pressure throughout the rest of the game.  Even though they didn’t find the score sheet I think if you keep this line together for some more time then 1 game you could see some great things from them down the line.  The top line up Vanek-Adam-Pominville continued there hot start of the season and will be looked at to continue it while the rest of the team has yet to hit there stride.

Players to Watch

Buffalo Sabres:

Robyn Regehr:  Regehr will get the chance to play his former team tonight for the first time.  Like most players he is probably excited to get out there and play against the team he spent his whole 11 year NHL career with before being traded over to the Sabres this past summer.  While Regehr has yet to find the score sheet as a Sabres he has brought something much more important to this team, and that is grit and determination.  Ask any player who has tried to squick past Regehr while entering the offensive zone, and they will tell you how hard he hits.

Calgary Flames:

Olli Jokinen/Jarome Iginla: Both Jokinen and Iginla are entering tonight game on high points.  In there last 4 games both Iginla(2G, 2A) and Jokinen(2G, 2A) have 4 points during this stretch.  Look for these line mates to try and continue there game from last night against Detroit today against the Sabres.  Combined the two forwards tallied 3 goals and 2 assists in the Flames 4-1 win.

Between the Pipes:

Tonight’s match up will feature two goalie seeing there 4th appearance of the season.  The Sabres will send out rookie Jhonas Enroth(2-0-0), while the Flames will feature Henrik Karlsson(0-1-1).  The advantage tonight has to go to Enroth who is posting a .955 save percentage in his 3 appearances thus far, while Karlsson has struggled posting a measly .881 save percentage to date.  If Enroth can continue his solid play the Sabres should skate away with the W aginst a less talented Flames Squad.

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Here we go Again

Tonight the Sabres will take on the conference rival, Philadelphia Flyers.  This game has importance for several reason, mainly showing that they can indeed play at home.  Since i last wrote (sorry got busy)  the Sabres have returned home for a stretch that has them play 7 out of 8 games inside the confines of  the First Niagara Center.  On the season the Sabres are a abysmal 1-3 at home, not only losing but looking terrible in doing so.

The Sabres will be looking to come out strong and put this behind them.  The Flyers are not in anyway a give me game, but the players should have the motivation to come out and beat the team that ousted them from the postseason last year.  An added bonus will be the abscencse of Daniel Briere from the Flyers lineup as he is out with an Upper-Body injury.  Briere has generally been the biggest problem for the Sabres since hes relocation to the Philadelphia, so this should help the Sabres in defending the Flyers offense.

Beyond the Flyers the Sabres should be looking to make a statement to the home crowd that will attend the game tonight.  The fans are not asking the team to win every game at home, we are just asking that you put the effort out there and play the game we know your capable of.  This is the earliest I can remember the team being booed at home in a long time.If the effort is put in and the team does not try to over do it on the flashiness there is no reason this team shouldn’t be winning at home like they are on the road.  Granted this has been a same sampling of the season thus far, but as everyone knows every singal point out there is important when it comes to the end of the season.

With all this in mind Lindy Ruff made some much needed changes to the lineup in hopes of creating a new spark in this team.  Marc-Andre Gragnani will take to the press box tonight and Mike Weber will take over for him on the blueline.  I have been asking for Weber to get his chance from the start, going back to last years playoffs he has been one of out better defense man.  From what i understand Weber will be pairing with Robyn Regehr.  All i can say is Philly forwards i hope you wear some extra padding tonight, this pair should hit everything in site and look for Weber to come out hungry after sitting in the press box since the start of the year.

Up front Ruff will be moving Ville Leino back to pivot where he will join the top line with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.  Not to say Luke Adam was doing a bad job on this line,  this move is clearly just trying to get Lenio going and no better way then to put him on a line with your two highest scorers this season.  When asked about Lenio, Ruff had this to say:

“We’re trying to be patient, let him try to make some plays and it doesn’t mean he’s going to fit right where I’ve got him, right now, but I know he’ll fit. It’s no different from when Danny Briere got here and Danny didn’t want to play center, he felt wing would be his best spot and I thought it would be center and eventually he ended up and center and that would be his position so I’ve got lots of experience to rely on.”

Look for the rest of the lineup to stay pretty much the same, except for the powerplay which will now be sans Gragnani and see Derek Roy take over the point on one of the units.

Players to Watch

Buffalo:

Matt Ellis: During his 3 games with the Sabres thus far,Ellis has been one of the Sabres few bright spots during that stint.  Hes hard work earned him a spot on a line with Roy and Drew Stafford midway through the Panthers game.  While registering 1 assist this season Ellis wont dazzle you with his point production, but will with ability to play Ruffs system almost to a tee.

Philadelphia:

Scott Hartnell:  Hartnell is on a real hot streak as of late, During his last 4 games he has amassed 9 points( 4G, 5A).  Hartnell is not afraid to play the body physical in both the offensive and defensive zone.  He is well know as being one of those players you love on your team and hate on the other team.  Defenseman should be on the look out and ready whenever Hartnell is on the ice because he is as much a physical threat as he is a offensive threat.

Between the Pipes:

Tonight’s Goaltending  matchup will find Ryan Miller(4-4-0) vs. Ilya Bryzgalov(4-4-1).  Both former Vezina finalist will be looking to get there season back on track after facing early struggles.  How these goalies play tonight will go a long way in determining which of there teams will be leaving the First Niagara Center tonight with the W and the important 2 points.


Player Preview: Defense/Goaltending

The Sabres defense is quickly gaining the distinction of being one of the top defense groups in the NHL on paper, and this is without playing a regular season game together.  They will be asked to defend the crease in front of All-Star, Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Ryan Miller, along with up and comer Jhonas Enroth.

Pairing 1

Tyler Myers – Christian Ehroff

This pair should find them selves on opposite sides of the blue line once the actual games begin.  This pair will be looked at to not only stop the other team, but to go and score, as well.  Myers will be entering his 3rd NHL season and is considered to be one of the premier defense man in the league.  Not only will his extended reach close down gaps in the defensive zone, he was able to realize his physical prowess and was not taking any nonsense from anyone, last season, Zdeno Chara included.  While not being known for his defensive dominance,  Ehrhoff is known as one of the top offensive defense man in the league.   It has been seen in the preseason that he is willing to join the rush and create offensive chances.  Both players will see time playing the point on the PP, with Ehrhoff most likely quarterbacking the first line.

Pairing 2

Jordan Leopold-Robyn Regehr

The former Calgary Flame teammates will find themselves reunited on the same blue line for the upcoming season.  Regehr has garnered a lot of attention since coming over from Calgary early in the off-season.  While not known for scoring goals, Regehr is known for dominating the defensive zone with his physical play and defensive skill.  One thing the Sabres have been missing is that defenseman who could out muscle most opposing forwards in the league, and that man has been found in Regehr.  Regehr will be a constant player on the PK, and should be paired up with Myers to go aginst the other teams’ top units.  Leopold is more known for his offensive play, but is capable of playing a solid defensive game.  Last season, Leopold was the second highest scoring defense man for the Blue and Gold and will look to continue this.  He could find himself on the second PP unit along with Tyler Myers, which could be a top unit on another team.

Pairing 3

Andrej Sekera – Marc-Andre Gragnani – Mike Weber

These three young man will to start the season finding themselves rotated between being in the lineup and in the press box.  To start the season this pair will likely be Sekera and Gragnani.  Sekera is one of the young defenseman the Sabres feel confident in for years to come after signing a new 4-year deal this off-season.  Last year was a year of streaks for Sekera.  There were times when Sekera was nearly unstoppable for opposing teams to defend his offensive ability.  On the other side of things, Sekera as had those moments where you wondered if he was really ready to make the jump to be a full time defenseman.  There will be a short leash for Sekera this season.  This can be done since the Sabres will have an NHL capable player up in the press box every night, barring injuries.  Gragnani will be entering his rookie season in the top hockey league in the world.  Up to this point he has amassed only 15 regular season games and 7 playoff games.  He will be looked at to produce on the offensive side of things.  In last season’s playoffs, I will flat out say Gragnani was the best Sabres player on the ice.  He did everything, from shutting down Philadelphia’s offense, play on both the PP and PK, and also lead the team in points with 7.  This season, Gragnani, when playing, should be paired with Ehrhoff on the first PP unit.  Gragnani should be able to put up decent number if he stays in the lineup for the majority of the season.  A 40 point season is not out of reach if everything falls into place.  At this point Weber will be pushing all the other defenders to play better,  because he will be chomping at the bit for any player to make a mistake and let their lineup spot fall to him.  Weber put up a decent rookie season last year putting up 17 points and showing  loads of grit and physical ability.  Not afraid to drops the glove with anybody, Weber will not be intimidated by any of the leagues power forwards, goons, and enforcers.

Goaltending

Starter- Ryan Miller

Once again, and to the surprised of no one, Ryan Miller will be entrusted to defend the twine for the Sabres for the majority of the games. Miller will be looking to return to his All-Star status this season.  This shouldn’t be a problem since the Sabres have surrounded Miller with a top flight group of defensemen.  Miller should get around 60 games this season, which would be on the lower side from past seasons, and reduce the amount of  both mental and physical fatigue.  This can be done with the emergence of Jhonas Enroth as a legitimate backup goaltender.  Miller should be able to reach to 40 win plateau for the third time in his career.  If Miller falters at all this year Enroth will be given a chance to play, which should lead Miller to upping his level of play because this will be the first time since Marty Biron in which Miller has a backup who could be trusted with the role of starter for longer periods of time.  (Editor’s Note:  That’s not to say that Jhonas Enroth could take Miller’s job from him.  Jeff is only pointing out that the Sabres finally have a guy that can be trusted to start in place of Ryan Miller if need be.)

Backup- Jhonas Enroth

Enroth will be looking to add to his numbers from his first serious stint the NHL.  In 14 games last season, Enroth was able to amass a record of 9-2-2-1.  Enroth will be the first serious backup goaltender for the Sabres since the presence of fan favorite Marty Biron.  I would not be shocked to see Enroth getting between 20-25 games, if not more this season.  He will be pushing Miller every step of the way, and if Miller were to falter at all Lindy Ruff should have no problem giving Enroth time to see if he is the real deal.


Lindy Believes In The Core

Today, Lindy Ruff and the Buffalo Sabres announced their captain and alternate captains for the upcoming season.  To the surprise of some, Jason Pominville was announced as the 15th full-time captain in Sabres history.  His assistance for the upcoming season will be long time teammates Paul Gaustad, Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek, and Drew Stafford.

All of these players have been playing together on the Sabres since the 06-07 season,  Pominville, Gaustad, and Roy playing together since the 03-04 season (Sabres and Americans).  In this day of free agency and the trade deadline frenzy, its rare for groups of players to play long amounts of time together.  It has long been used as an excuse for past events, saying things like we believe in our core group of players and that the loss of former players wasn’t going to be a problem.

Ruff is putting all of his confidence into the core right now. With this move he, is telling them this is your team now lead us to the goal.  In the past a veteran player who developed in another organization would have been named captain.  The last Sabres captain that was drafted by the team was Mike Ramsey.  Ramsey was last captain back in the 1991-92 season.  Ruff could have easily named new veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr as captain and most would have been alright with this.  Instead, Ruff is putting this team on the back of the core group of players he has developed.

I couldn’t agree more with this move.  It is finally time to show the faith you have in these players and not just talk about it. Let this group prove you made the right decision in investing in them (35% of the cap hit).  This group will be entrusted in leading a group of players with high aspects for the upcoming season, along with mentoring possible future leaders like Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe, Luke Adam and others currently on the Rochester Americans roster.


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