Tag Archives: Zack Kassian

The Injury Bug Strikes Again

So, while we head into the month of December, the Sabres find themselves with a slew of injuries, which even the best of teams would have a hard time overcoming. Let’s take a look at those injuries who is injured:

Ryan Miller – Concussion
Tyler Myers – Wrist
Robyn Regehr – Upper Body
Mike Weber – Upper Body
Brad Boyes – Lower Body
Tyler Ennis – Ankel
Cody McCormick- Upper Body
Patrick Kaleta – Lower Body
and following last nights loss to Columbus its being reported that a mystery forward is hurt and might miss tonight’s games. (UPDATE: Drew Stafford is reported to have a groin injury, according to WGR’s Paul Hamilton.)

Day-to-day injuries happen, and they are expected over the grueling 82-game season. The Sabres’ injuries fall mostly into the “wait and see what happens” category, with no real timetables for any player’s return. The only two players from the above list that have been skating in no contact drills are winger Tyler Ennis and defenseman Mike Weber.

To try to alleviate the pain from these injuries, the Sabres were forced to call up many players from the Rochester Americans. The Sabres must be relieved that they remade this partnership with the Amerks before the start of the season. So in case you’re having trouble matching the numbers to the names in tonight’s game here is a list of those players who were called-up:

54 – Zack Kassian – 1 NHL GAME – RW
58 – Paul Szczechura – 83 NHL GAMES – C
78 – Corey Tropp – 9 NHL GAMES – RW
33 – T.J. Brennan – 2 NHL Games – D
81 – Brayden Mcnabb – 0 NHL GAMES – D
31 – Drew Macintyre – 4 NHL GAMES – G

Hopefully the injured mystery player doesn’t prove to be too costly, and the Sabres can find a way to battle hard and pull out what should be a tough 2 points against a Washington team that is also in need of an important 2 points.


Things I Think: Did You Hear Sidney Crosby’s Back?

(This is a weekly segment at Hockey Heaven, New York. It features TJ Luckman’s thoughts on the Sabres, the NHL and other things that tickle his fancy.)

1) The Sabres have called up the Chosen One, Zack Kassian, due to Brad Boyes’ injury against Boston on Wednesday night. John Vogl of the Buffalo News picked up some tweets from Kassian’s teammates indicating Kassian was on his way to play in the Sabres’ next game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. The Sabres later confirmed that news through their website. While many fans have been calling for this move to be made since the Sabres’ debacle in Boston nearly two weeks ago, I don’t think this is the right move for Buffalo. WGR 550’s Matthew Coller says that Kassian hasn’t exactly been the physical force the Sabres might be looking for, but he’s certainly helping in the points department, leading the AHL’s Rochester Americans with 14 points in 18 games.

Speaking of call-ups, T.J. Brennan had a memorable debut in his first NHL game, scoring in his first NHL game to put the Sabres ahead 3-1 against the Bruins on Wednesday night. Of course, the Sabres couldn’t hold on, losing 4-3 in a shootout, which Puck Daddy’s Harrison Mooney finds pretty ironic.

2) You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. All the while, I kept telling myself that hockey was fine without Sidney Crosby. The Penguins are still good with Malkin, and Dan Bylsma is one Hell of a coach. I wasn’t looking at this past Monday with as much fanfare as NBC Sports was when they decided that Crosby’s return was much more important than the rivalry game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins.

And then it happened.

Sid the Kid (is he ever going to be the Man? We need a new idiom for when he finally grows up, if he ever does) exploded on the scene against the New York Islanders, collecting four points in a 6-0 beat down on the Island. As much as I can’t stand the guy, everything he does is pure magic. He instantly transforms the Pens into a Stanley Cup contender. Of course, Sid was held scoreless against the St. Louis Blues the following game, so maybe he just took advantage of a cake matchup…

3) Since Jeff Carter’s return from injury to the Blue Jackets, Columbus has grabbed points in five of the last six games (3-1-2). Depending on what you think about overtime losses, that’s not bad. Perhaps he’s more important to the BJ’s success than anyone actually realized. Or maybe that’s just good timing. Who knows.

4) Thanksgiving is a bad day for a hockey fan. I can’t wait for Christmas.

5) Movember is the coolest thing ever. As a participant in the more laid-back (read: lazier) “No-Shave November”, I’m jealous of the mustaches that NHL players can grow. I never saw Thomas Vanek as a facial hair grower, but his mustache is very impressive. George Parros of the Anaheim Ducks always shaves his epic mustache for the month in order to grow it back for charity. Bruins goalie Tim Thomas created a new goalie mask design to show his support for the month, not to mention show off his great ‘stache. Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller did the same, only his design is slightly more creepy.

Movember benefits those who suffer from prostrate cancer, or other problems in men’s health. Go to the website here to donate to the cause, if you can.


Who is Luke Adam?

After his hot start (2G, 2A) to the young 2011-2012 season, many people might find themselves asking: “Who is Luke Adam?”

Adam joined the Sabres organization back in 2008 where he was taken in the 2nd round, 44th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Adam’s route to the NHL started via the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.  During his time there Adam produced at nearly a point a game pace accumulating 220 points (113G, 107A) in 236 games playing for the St. John’s Fog Devils, Montreal Juniors, and the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.

Adam’s first professional experience came when he joined the Portland Pirates in the 2009-2010 AHL playoffs.  During this three-game stint, Adam registered two assists.

The 2010-2011 season saw Adam split time with both the Sabres and the Pirates.  For the Sabres last season, Adam played in 19 games across several stints, in which he scored three goals and added an assist.  In his time with the Pirates, Adam impressed. Adam lead all rookies in scoring, putting up 62 points (29G, 33A).  This lead Adam to being selected to the AHL Eastern Conference All-Star team. Adam also went on to win the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award, which is awarded to the rookie of the year in the AHL each season.

At first glance, it looked as though Adam was going to find himself starting the season with the Rochester Americans, Buffalo’s new AHL affiliate club.  Adam, however, must not have gotten the message, because he has played his way onto the Sabres’ top line.  An injury to veteran Jochen Hecht, and the waiving of Ales Kotalik might have helped in Adam earning his current spot, but his play has spoken volumes about himself.

From the start of the Sabres’ rookie camp, all Adam has done is impress.  This all started with Adam joining other Sabres’ prospect to take on other prospect teams in the Traverse City Tournament, a prospect tournament held every season in Traverse City, Michigan that is hosted by the Detroit Red Wings.  Adam, along with line-mates Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno, lead the Sabres’ prospects to the title.  Adam and his line-mates often looked a notch above most of the competition that they faced,  which was expected from the top 3 forward prospects within the organization.  Adam was named the MVP of the entire tournament.

Adam continued his success into the preseason, where he found himself playing with some more experienced talent.  During his four games played with the team, Adam put up 1 goal and 3 assists with his goal coming via the power play.  This lead to Adam getting the nod to stay with the team and travel along with them to Europe.  Some thought this was an insurance move since teams traveling to Europe were allowed to travel with and extra player and goaltender on the roster.  Since Jochen Hecht was injured and deemed unavailable for the games, Lindy turned to the rookie to take his spot over veteran Matt Ellis, who has filled in nicely when the Sabres have called on him in the past.

Adam took this role and went with it.  Many were surprised when Adam was seen centering a line consisting of leading scorer Thomas Vanek and veteran winger Jason Pominville.  To say that Adam has succeeded so far would be an understatement.

So far during this young season, Adam has amassed two goals and two assists in two games.  The Vanek-Adam-Pominville line has tallied 13 points thus far.  It is safe to say that if this line stays in tact and continues to click, you will being seeing Luke Adam for years to come sporting his Buffalo Sabres jersey.

Adam could just be the number one offensive center the team has been looking for since the departure of Daniel Briere.  Only time will tell if Adam can continue this pace of production.  If he does, a shot at the Calder trophy is not out of the question, along with the possibility of Adam putting up numbers in the range of 25 goals 60 points.

Of course, it’s only been two games. Sabres fans can’t get ahead of themselves just yet.


Offseason Needs: NHL Draft 2011

It’s been a while, angels, but as I sat at home last night, scanning the many tweets coming from the bloggers attending the Sabres Summit, it dawned on me that school had ended, and I’ve had plenty of time to write. The Sabres have been out for a while, and a Stanley Cup has already been awarded. However, it’s not too late for me to join in the game.

Hell, with the draft coming up, it’s probably a good time for me to get into the swing of things. July 1st isn’t too far off. It’s time for me to put my mind to the word processor and assess the Sabres’ needs heading into next Friday’s draft.

First of all, our furthest need for the draft is to grab a defenseman, at least not in the first three rounds. For years, our biggest need has been center (at least the past two). For years, I’ve seen the Sabres draft a defensman or a winger in the first round, two things that this team is in absolutely no need of.

It’s time for this team to start stocking up on what they’ve been needing for a long time: a first- or second-line center.

The Sabres truly missed Derek Roy last year. Buffalo’s #1 center was having one of his most promising years as a Sabre until a terrible knee injury took him out for the rest of the regular season. After that, our center depth was Tim Connolly, Paul Gaustad, and a bunch of wingers that had significant dropoffs in their play as fill-in centers.

Bear with me, here. We all know that Jochen Hecht is a winger forced to play center. Rob Niedermayer was more or less… himself. I can’t even say a ghost of his former self because, to be quite honest, he’s been mediocre his whole career, living in the shadow of his older, much more talented brother. While Nied’s presence as a “leader” was nice, his lack of talent along with the rest of the team at the center position was just daunting.

So, the Sabres center depth as of right now is as follows: Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad, and again, wingers forced to play center because of our poor center depth.

Traveling northeast to Portland, I see that we have the ever-promising, AHL Rookie of the Year Luke Adam, who in all honesty, seems to have the potential to maybe be a third-line center until he improves upon his speed. Paul Byron gave a little bit of a spark before he was sent back to Portland. Matt Ellis is the captain of the (insert future minor league team here) and shouldn’t be moved out of Portland anymore. His efforts as a leader are more valuable when spent teaching the rooks in (insert future minor league location here).

Who else… Brian Roloff? Travis Turnbull? Mark Voakes? At least I’ve heard of the first two. Roloff had 24 points in 76 games in Portland. Turnbull had 9 points in his 20 games with the Pirates.

I just don’t trust the center depth with this team, and that is obviously the most glaring need both on the big club and in the system.

So again. Let me stress. We want CENTERS in this year’s draft.

Why no defense?

First of all, we have only three defensmen signed. However, of the five that are unsigned, four of them are restricted free agents.

Of those that are restricted, two can easily be retained with the standard, one-year qualifying offers. Butler and Grags will be the ones to do that. Say what you will about the amazing Marc-Andre Gragnani, who was named the best defensman in the AHL this year on top of leading the Sabres in scoring in the playoffs. However, I need to see him play across an entire NHL season first. If anything, he might require a $1M offer, but please, nothing more.

Of the other two, Sekera and Weber may be a bit more difficult to retain. Sekera has his ups and downs last season, but it could certainly be counted as his “break-out” year. He’ll probably get a two-year deal in the $1M-$1.5M range. God help me if it’s $2M. Weber should command about the same, maybe a bit more. His toughness was exactly what this defensive corp needed, and could fill in as at the very least, a solid 2nd pairing defender.

When I look down to Portland, I see TJ Brennan (sick name, bro), Alex Biega, Nick Crawford and Dennis Persson, who have all shown some improvement since they’ve been drafted. The jury’s still out on Persson, though. 17 points for a guy drafted to be a puck-moving offensive defensman is unacceptable at this point of his career.

When I look at the juniors, I’m thrilled with the years both Mark Pysyk and Brayden McNabb had. McNabb is coming off a career season for the WHL’s Kootenay Ice. The team’s captain, McNabb lead the team within a game of reaching the Memorial Cup Finals. He had 72 points in 59 games in 2010-11.

Pysyk improved his play tremendously for the Oil Kings. Increasing his production to 40 points in this past season, Pysyk also vastly improved his dreadful +/-, going from a -19 in 2009-10, to a +29 the year after he was drafted.

And please, Buffalo. Whatever you do, don’t draft a winger, when you know damn well that you have about 10 wingers and 2 centers in the big club. Oddly enough, the Sabres have the same problem in the minors as well.

Wingers back for the 2011-12 season include Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford, Brad Boyes, Jochen Hecht (I will forever refer to Hecht as a winger. A center, he is not), Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis (at the moment. I think he has potential to be a top 2 center), Patrick Kaleta, Jason Pominville…am I done yet?

You get my point.

Taking a look at the system, we have the big, bad, bruising Zach Kassian waiting to recklessly kill somebody in the NHL, and Marcus Foligno waiting to be his tag-team buddy, and they’ve barely thrown a (insert minor league team)’s jersey on at this point.

On top of that, we’re still not sure if the Sabres are going to waste the space on yet another year for AHL All-Star (and I use that term very loosely, somewhat sarcastically) Mark Mancarri, who has proven time and again that the NHL is just not for him, but keep him in the AHL and the guy explodes.

However, on a bright note, I love what I’m seeing from guys like Derek Whitmore (47 points last season), Corey Tropp (40 points), and Dennis McCauley. There’s going to be more too, with the Sabres’ junior prospects waiting to make the jump to the AHL after their eligibility for juniors is out. All-in-all, the Sabres are solid at winger, although it seems that maybe a new draftee or two wouldn’t hurt.

Finally, I get to the goaltender’s position. Honestly, I view goalie to be the second most important need on this team. While Jhonas Enroth all but secured his spot in the NHL next season as Ryan Miller’s RELIABLE (I’m being ecstatically serious, there) backup, the Sabres should really do David Leggio the favor of resigning him back to the Pirates.

Leggio did phenomenal for the Pirates this season, posting a 22-12-3 record across 36 games, with a 2.8 GAA and a .911 save %. Those are solid numbers for a goalie who is probably going to be a career AHLer. That is, of course, if a coach like Peter Laviolette doesn’t come across him, because we all know Pete loves his mediocre Stanley Cup caliber goalies!

That leaves us short another new up-and-comer to at least give one of our goalies some trade value if and when the time comes that we’ll need to go that right (and come on, the way the Sabres draft/acquire goalies, I don’t understand why this never happens.) Take a guy with a 6th or 7th rounder a la Ryan Miller. It can’t hurt.

So… who should Buffalo take when pick #16 comes along? Well, first of all… a center.

But really, if Buffalo really wants to find a good center, what good prospects are available?

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is almost assuredly going #1 overall to the Edmonton Oilers, who are eventually going to be amazing, by the way. Stock up enough Top 10 picks, and yeah, you’re on the fast track to at least getting closer. Look at the Penguins.

Mark McNeill is the first player I see that has a chance of lasting until #16. McNeill had a nice year for the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, scoring 32 goals to go along with 49 assists, good for an 81 point season in 70 games. McNeill stands at a height of 6’2″ and weighs 210 pounds.

I would mention Victor Rask (does that count as a mention), but he’s European and plays in Europe, who we know the Sabres don’t go near nowadays. But, let’s humor Darcy Regier just for a second. Rask, who has no relation to the Bruins’ Tuukka, by the way, is a Swedish J20 SuperElit center from the Leksand J20 team. Rask scored 41 points in 39 games and added another 5 points in 5 playoff games. Rask is 6’2″, 194 pounds.

That leaves us with Daniel Cantenacci from the OHL’s S.S. Marie Greyhounds. Cantenacci scored 71 points across 67 games for the Greyhounds this past year. The only thing that turns me off about him is his size: 5’10”, 180 pounds. Yikes. Just what the Sabres need. Another small fry center.

All that said, the Sabres options are thin at center, and they’ll have to hope Mark McNeill falls to them. He seems like the big, powerful scoring center they’ve been looking for for a while. If not, my gut is that they’ll still at least go with a forward. One can only hope, at least.

Odds are, though, that the player the Sabres draft will be at the very least productive. The Sabres have had a very good decade of first rounders come through. Thomas Vanek and Tyler Myers lead the charge, followed closely behind by Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis. The jury’s still out on a few, but hey! One of them just won a Stanley Cup (Dan Paille).

We can only hope the next first rounder follows suit in the beginning of this new decade.


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