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Biega earns preseason honors

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, September 29, 2009 | 9/29/2009

In what seems like an annual occurence, ECAC coaches and media have tabbed Harvard senior defenseman Alex Biega for their preseason all-conference teams.
Biega, a two-time selection to the All-ECAC Hockey third team, received his fourth and fifth preseason all-conference honors. It was his third straight selection to the media's all-league squad and his second straight to the coaches' team. He led Harvard with 16 assists last season and placed second on the squad with 20 points. Biega was also a key part of ECAC Hockey's top power play in league games (19.2 percent). The Crimson captain was one of four players named preseason all-league by both the ECAC coaches and media. Princeton goaltender Zane Kalemba, Colgate forward David McIntyre and Cornell forward Riley Nash were picked to both teams. Dartmouth's Evan Stephens was the other defenseman on the coaches' team, while Cornell's Brendon Nash made the media's squad. The coaches chose Yale forward Sean Backman to their preseason team, while the media selected his teammate, Mark Arcobello.
9/29/2009 | 6 comments | Read More

9/27 Recap: Kennedy makes case

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, September 28, 2009 | 9/28/2009

The Sabres ended their exhausting preseason Sunday night with a 7-6 win over Toronto. With some players having their spots locked up, Tim Kennedy, Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Myers, and Mike Weber made their final auditions before the team decides on the opening day battle roster. Kennedy (+2) showed the most value on the night, executing well defensively while doing good things with the puck in the Leafs end. Centering Clarke MacArthur and Jason Pominville, the Buffalo native snapped home a MacArthur back pass and added a nice assist in 16:44 of action for his best performance in a Sabres sweater. Gerbe (-1) rounded out his strong weekend by netting a goal for the second straight night and earning a helper on Matt Ellis' game winner. Gerbe played just under 14:00 in the win. As of now, it's hard to say what's going to happen with the two second-year guys. Kennedy's ability to make plays from the pivot make him a good flexible option, but he'll need to improve on faceoffs to solidify his NHL standing. Gerbe demonstrated the ability to zip in and out of space and finish plays while going hard every shift. On the blueline, Myers continued his ramp-up towards earning a spot this season with excellent skating and steady defensive posture. There was one particular play that I didn't like, where Matt Stajan escaped his cluthces behind the net and sent a pass to the front for a Nikolai Kulemin tally. Playing the man, Myers was unsuccessful in rubbing Stajan off the puck, but that's a play where his long stick (that I'm always talking about) could have been more effective in stopping the throw to the front. Weber, who has been plagued by turnovers for most of the preseason, made some nice defensive plays early before mixing in a few giveaways. His aggressive nature will be a welcome element to the blueline, but perhaps a start on the farm will reset his puck focus and propel him into better decisions. There will be more on this as the week progresses. In New Hampshire, Portland defeated Manchester 5-1 to move to 1-1 on the pre-season. Felix Schutz, Paul Byron, T. J. Brennan, and Derek Whitmore were among the Pirates scorers. Dennis Persson had three assists, while Tyler Ennis contributed a pair of helpers. Jhonas Enroth made 34 saves for the win. Also on Sunday, Marcus Foligno (+1) assisted on the game-tying goal midway through the third period as Sudbury went on to defeat Oshawa in overtime, 4-3. Foligno, who clicked on a line with overager Daniel Lombardi, continues to give teams trouble down low and has shown marked all-around improvement over last season. Jacob Lagacé finished a nasty -5 as Chicoutimi was steamrolled by Lewiston, 7-1. Jordon Southorn was even with two shots on goal as PEI edged Gatineau, 2-1.
9/28/2009 | 5 comments | Read More

9/26 Recap: Busy night for CHLers

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, September 27, 2009 | 9/27/2009

A trio of Sabres prospects are leading the way in the young season by registering points in every game since returning from Buffalo's training camp. Zack Kassian (+1) had a goal and an assist but tired Peterborough finished their third game in as many days with a 4-3 loss. The banging right wing has two goals and five assists to start the year, and will look to tie a career-best six-game point streak on Thursday against Oshawa. Ethan Werek (NYR) scored for the Fronts, while stud 2010 rearguard Erik Gudbranson had a pair of assists. In the QMJHL, Jacob Lagacé (-2) scored his fifth goal of the season then added another in the shootout as Chicoutimi came back to defeat Quebec, 4-3. Lagacé's tally at 10:27 of the third period knotted the game 3-3 and forced the extra time. Lagacé now has nine points through his first four games. Last season, he scored four goals and three assists in his first four games before notching just two assists in his next six. In the WHL, Brayden McNabb had an assist as Kootenay stumbled at home against Medicine Hat, 4-2. The Tigers, who were 1/5 on the power play, connected in the second period while McNabb served a roughing minor. The big defenseman will look to equal a career best five-game point streak when the Ice host Calgary on Friday. After scrapping on his first shift the night before, Marcus Foligno (+2) scored his first goal of the year in the opening minute on Saturday as Sudbury opened up a can on Belleville, 7-1. Showing no signs of wear from his energetic Friday, the grinding forward continued to throw his weight around in the second of a three-games-in-three-nights run. With an obvious affection for a fresh sheet of ice, Foligno was called for a checking from behind minor in the opening minute of the second period. Also from the OHL, Nick Crawford notched two assists as previously unbeaten Saginaw lost to Erie, 6-4. 2010's Andrew Yogan and Greg McKegg had goals for the Otters, while Anthony Camara ('11) had two goals and an assist for the Spirit. Rounding out QMJHL play, Jordon Southourn scored PEI's only goal of the game as the Rocket fell to Victoriaville, 3-1. The 6'2 defenseman beat Kevin Poulin (NYI) cleanly with :07 to play in the first period for his 2nd of the season. In Russia, Vjacheslav Buravchikov notched his first point of the year, an assist, as Ak Bars held on to defeat Salavat Yulayev, 4-3. Buravchikov's assist came late in the second period to put Ak Bars ahead 4-0. Salavat came back with third period goals by former NHLers Patrick Thoresen, Alexander Radulov, and Viktor Kozlov, but couldn't connect on a fourth with the goalie pulled and a power play in the final minute. In Sioux City, Mark Adams was even with 4 PIM as Chicago closed the USHL Fall Classic with a 4-3 shootout loss to Waterloo. Adams, who was earlier called for a tripping infraction, comitted a hook at 3:53 of the third period that led to the game-tying goal being scored on a penalty shot. Chicago finishes the pre-season with a 2-4 record.
9/27/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Gerbe makes push; Pirates push off

The Sabres lost to Montreal on Saturday, 3-2, in their second-to-last pre-season contest. Clarke MacArthur and Nathan Gerbe scored the Buffalo goals. Gerbe looked hungry for a roster spot, impressing with his hustle and attitude in the paint. His unassisted shorthanded goal in the first period came when he sharply hit a seam into the slot and roofed a backhander over Carey Price's left shoulder. As time expired in the first, a determined Gerbe followed the play in tight and took a solid cross-check as fellow hopeful Tim Kennedy was getting bowled over at the side of the net. The 5'6 buzzer immediately got up and deposited Maxime Lapierre in the crease before a minor melee ensued. Gerbe finished the night with one shot on goal in 11:28 of action, while Kennedy was -1 with one shot on goal in 11:58 of work. Defenseman Tyler Myers continues to show the Sabres that he's worth a longer look, holding his own in all situations with fluid movement and increasing NHL fluency. He's making safe plays and contact in his own zone, easing his way into rushes out of it, and learning to find lanes for shots and passes in the offensive end. He was low man on the blueline with 17:50 of play, but he's gradually showing more poise and promise. I'm not sure there's much more the Sabres could expect from him at this point. Myers' ramp-up will no-doubt carry into the regular season, potentially making for some sticky decisions by the time Halloween rolls around. As of now, a ticket back to Kelowna should not on the radar. ----------------------- The Portland Pirates opened the exhibition season Saturday with a 6-3 loss to Lowell. Rookie Tyler Ennis had a goal and an assist for the Pirates, while Paul Byron also netted a goal in his first professional sniff. Free agent rookie Mark Voakes, 26, also had a goal and an assist for Portland. Voakes is signed with Cincinnati of the ECHL, but is looking to postion himself for an AHL gig after scoring 56 goals over a four-year CIS career with Wilfred Laurier. The Pirates will scoot to New Hampshire for a 2:00 Sunday faceoff with Manchester.
9/27/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Next batch heads to Portland as final cuts near

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, September 26, 2009 | 9/26/2009

The Sabres today announced that forwards Philip Gogulla and Felix Schutz, defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani, and goaltender Jhonas Enroth have been assigned to Portland of the AHL. Also sent to the Pirates were veterans Joe Dipenta (D) and Jeff Cowan (F). Remaining with the big club for the final round of cuts are Nathan Gerbe, Tim Kennedy, Mike Weber, and Tyler Myers, with all but Weber suiting up for Saturday night's game at Montreal. The moves come on the same day that Mark Mancari decided to re-enter the Sabres fold on a one-year deal. Portland's top point-getter last season, the fifth-year man will be subject to waivers before re-joining the Pirates.
9/26/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

9/25 Recap: Friday night fights

Marcus Foligno led the way physcially on Friday, earning a noticeable +2 as Sudbury defeated well-balanced Barrie, 4-3. The 6'3, 216-pounder did not register a point, but he set an early tone with a fight, instigator, and misconduct on his first shift after coming to the aid of star teammate, John McFarland ('10). A projected top-10 pick next June, McFarland was rocked cleanly in open ice by Colts veteran dman, Ryan Gottschalk. Foligno reacted quickly, making a beeline and taking the scrap. The win was the Wolves first of the year, with an opportunity for two more coming Saturday and Sunday against Belleville and Oshawa. In Oshawa, Zack Kassian had an assist as Peterborough defeated the Generals, 6-4. The Petes captain matched OHL mate Foligno, earning a major, instigator, and misconduct for a quick second period southpaw session with Gens' 6'3, 221-pound forward Victor Terreri ('10).
Kassian has points in all four Petes games thus far, and will look for five on Saturday against Kingston. In the QMJHL, Luke Adam kept his gloves on and posted an assist as Cape Breton lost to Moncton, 4-1. Adam's helper came on the power play when the rebound of his shot was scooped up by Nick MacNeil. The Eagles, who have scored the first goal in four straight games, will next take the ice on Friday at Bathrust. At the USHL Fall Classic, Mark Adams and Chicago edged Omaha, 5-4. Adams (2 PIM) did not factor into any of the goals, but adjusted well to the quick Lancer forwards. The Steel move to 2-3 on the pre-season. Marek Zagrapan and the rest of his teammates were quiet in Severstal's 1-0 overtime loss to Novosibirsk. The Slovakian was whistled for a tripping minor on his first shift, and did not register a shot on goal all game.
9/26/2009 | 2 comments | Read More

9/24 Recap: Q forwards impress

Written By Kris Baker on Thursday, September 24, 2009 | 9/24/2009

Jacob Lagacé continued his hot start on Thursday, scoring a goal and adding an assist as Chicoutimi dropped a 4-2 decision to Val-d'Or. The reigning QMJHL Offensive Player of the week now has four goals and four assists in his first three games. Also in the Q, Luke Adam posted an assist in Cape Breton's 2-1 win over Gatineau. The big center had another strong all-around effort, showing dominance at the dot by winning 15 of 21 draws, while also pacing the Eagles with four shots on goal and four hits. In the OHL, Zack Kassian (-2) picked up an assist as Peterborough lost to Sault Ste. Marie, 5-3. The Petes held a 2-0 lead after the first period, but were outworked in the final forty minutes on home ice to take their first loss of the year. Nick Crawford was even as Saginaw remained undefeated with a 6-1 drubbing of Plymouth. 2010 eligible Ivan Telegin scored twice for the Spirit. In the KHL, Vjacheslav Buravchikov played even over 16:44 of action as Ak Bars defeated Barys in overtime, 5-4. The defenseman again skated bottom pair minutes with 23-year old Montreal Candiens prospect, Alexei Emelin. -------------------------------------- The USHL Fall Classic kicked off Thursday morning in Sioux City with the Chicago Steel falling to Sioux Falls, 3-1. Steel defenseman Mark Adams was -1 with a shot on goal in the loss. Russian scorer Andrei Kuchin had Chicago's lone goal, while Grand Island, NY native Matt Zarbo had two assists and team-best five shots on goal for the winners. Zarbo will join brother Joe next fall at Clarkson. The Fall Classic is highly scouted preseason tournament with all 14 clubs participating under two roofs. NHL teams will have eyes in the stands, as will all of the major NCAA D-I and D-III programs. The Steel open the regular season next Friday against Team USA. ------------------ Also of note, undrafted summer camp invite Michael Fine was sent home earlier this week by the Soo Greyhounds for disciplinary reasons. The 5'11 Fine will likely be traded to another OHL club this weekend as all parties agree that's the best option moving forward. With locker room troubles plaguing the Hounds last season, Fine reportedly had issues with attitude, focus, and committment in the early goings this year. He was moved from his natural center position in camp, and may have felt that his role was being diminished after not being selected for a shootout over weekend. This is the second early departure in the past six months for the skilled forward, who left Canada's U-18 camp last spring due to family issues. This can be a breakout year for the North York, Ontario native once he lands back with another team.
9/24/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

9/23 Recap: Marek on mark with new bunch

Marek Zagrapan had a busy second period on Wednesday, igniting Severstal with two goals and an assist in a 4-1 win over Amur. Zagrapan, who was also +2 on the game, sits as the club's second leading scorer (3-1-4) through five games despite averaging just 12:14 of action. In the WHL, Brayden McNabb (+1) earned an assist as Kootenay needed a shootout to edge Edmonton, 3-2. McNabb, who entered the game tied for the Ice lead with four points, helped put Kootenay on the board when his point blast was tipped in by Steele Boomer at 9:35 of the first period. The 6'4 defender brought the heat physically as well, laying solid pops in the final period including one on Tomas Vincour (DAL) to held give the Ice the comeback edge. In the QMJHL, Jordon Southorn was sidelined with a flu bug as PEI dumped undefeated Saint John, 6-1. The Rocket are tied with the Sea Dogs for first place in the Atlantic Division.
9/24/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

9/22 Recap: Pirates ship begins to fill; KHL heating up

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 | 9/22/2009

The Sabres today announced their first batch of names leaving camp for farm assignments. Off to Portland of the AHL are the following 14 players: F: Tyler Ennis, Paul Byron, Maxime Legault, Travis Turnbull, Derek Whitmore, Kyle Rank, Brad Larsen, Mark McCutcheon D: T.J. Brennan, Drew Schiestel, Dennis Persson, Matt Generous, Mike Kostka D. J.P. Lamoureux No real surprising moves, as all were expected to start the year with the Pirates. Ennis had the potential to play one more game, but there are too many other battles to be won in other areas. Technically still the captain of the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL, Legault, 20, will shoot for an AHL roster spot and first NHL contract when he reports. The cutdown leaves 33 players still in camp including defensive prospects Tyler Myers, Mike Weber, and Marc-Andre Gragnani; forwards Nathan Gerbe, Tim Kennedy, Philip Gogulla, and Felix Schutz; and goaltender Jhonas Enroth. For those who've not watched any of the pre-season games, Myers has gradually gotten better with each of his three appearances. He's shown an adjustment to speed, demonstrated good escapability to start breakouts, and used his stick well to break up plays for quick clears. At this point I score him ahead of Gragnani and Weber, who committed several turnovers in Monday's win over Washington, but need more views to project him out against the current top-6. ---------------------------- Overseas, a pair of 2005 draft picks are getting deeper into their KHL seasons. Vjacheslav Buravchikov was -2 on as Ak Bars lost to Avangard on Tuesday, 3-1. The 6'1 dman manned the bottom pair with Alexei Yemelin (MTL) for 15:03 if action, a few ticks above his season average of 13:45. Ak Bars next plays on Thursday at Barys. On Monday, Marek Zagrapan was -1 as Severstal dropped a 3-1 decision to Metallurg. The 23-year old is -3 with four shots on goal in three games since scoring the winner in the season opener. Severstal will take the ice on Wednesday against an Amur club carrying former Sabres defenseman, Nolan Pratt. -------- Also of note, PEI's Jordon Southorn stayed away from practice Tuesday with a bug, and may not be ready to go for their Wednesday tilt with 4-0 Saint John. Brayden McNabb and Kootenay will host the Edmonton Oil Kings in a mid-week WHL battle.
9/22/2009 | 7 comments | Read More

Foligno grinds gears early

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, September 21, 2009 | 9/21/2009

Newly measured at 6'3, 216 pounds, Sudbury left wing Marcus Foligno appears in mid-season form as the 2009-10 season catches stride. It could be tough sledding nightly for opposing skaters if the freshly turned 18-year old plays every game with the same intensity as he did the Saturday's 3-1 loss to Ottawa.
Win or lose, Sudbury Wolves forward Marcus Foligno wants to make sure any opposing team leaves the city with bumps and bruises. Foligno made his return from the Buffalo Sabres camp to the Wolves lineup Saturday night against the visiting Ottawa 67's and made his mark with crushing bodychecks that left more than one Ottawa player going back to the bench in pain. When the dust settled though, Ottawa skated away with a 3-1 victory, leaving Foligno with a bad taste in his mouth, but not dejected. "It feels great to be back," the strapping forward said. "This team has a lot of upside. I'm here to play hard every game and be a leader for the team. The Buffalo camp was a great experience for me and I learned a lot." Foligno wasted no time, seeking out his first target. On his first shift, he sent an Ottawa player sprawling to the ice within seconds of stepping on the ice. Throughout the game, Foligno never let up with the rough play. Opponents can expect plenty more. "It's part of my game," Foligno said about his nasty, remorseless physical side. "The fans love the bodychecks and I love it, too. There's nothing better than putting a guy down and seeing your team stand up and the fans cheering. I'll keep playing it and hopefully the points come with it, too."
Last season, Foligno registered 12 goals, 18 assists, and 96 PIM in 65 games for the Wolves.
9/21/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Lagacé named QMJHL Offensive Player of the Week

The QMJHL announced this morning that Chicoutimi forward Jacob Lagacé, 19, has been named Offensive Player of the Week for Sepetember 14th-20th.
Lagacé registered three goals and three assists in only two games, helping the Saguenéens earn three valuable points in the league standings. Moreover, he directed twelve shots on net and posted a +1 rating. Lagacé enjoyed his best game of the week on Wednesday, collecting four points in a 6-4 win over the Victoriaville Tigres. Chicoutimi is second in the TELUS Eastern division standings.
The 5'11, 195-pound Lagacé was the Sags leading scorer last season with 32 goals and 69 points. He was chosen by Buffalo in the 5th round (134th overall) of the 2008 draft.
9/21/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

Early season jab by McNabb

Aside from scoring Kootenay's only goal in Saturday's lopsided 7-1 loss to Red Deer, defenseman Brayden McNabb also earned a slashing and fighting combo late in the game after a quick scrap with Rebels forward Cody Esposito. The bout was the closing act in a game featuring five fights. Tale of the Tape: McNabb, 18, 6'4, 210 lbs, 13 career majors Esposito, 20, 6'3, 205 pounds, 43 career majors
Remember how the theme of the draft was team toughness? The Sabres have invested quite a bit in goaltender Ryan Miller, yet in recent years have too often came up short when protecting their meal ticket. Names like Tallinder, Spacek, Sekera, Numminen, and Campbell weren't scaring anyone away from taking a whack. That's why hard-nosed Craig Rivet was viewed as a Godsend when he arrived, why Steve Montador was a free agent target, and why it's important for Mike Weber to show a disciplined edge when trying to earn the 6/7 spot in Buffalo. Along the same lines, it's refreshing to see another Sabres CHL defenseman show a consistent willingness to "go" as he develops NHL chops. Aside from the occasional police work of future workhorse Tyler Myers, the use of fight-or-flight adrenaline is one trait that's been somewhat lacking among the Sabres' junior rearguards since the lockout. T.J. Brennan rarely pulled that club out of the bag in the Q, while OHL products Drew Schiestel and Nick Crawford have been developing with cooler heads. Even Mike Weber, who in 2007-08 had nine fights as an AHL rookie (including an infamous tune-up by Mike Keane), only had 11 scraps in his four junior seasons. (The team toughness movement is obviously not limited to defensemen. Veteran forwards Jeff Cowan and Cody McCormick are being fitted for grit in camp, and it's likely that Travis Turnbull's 14-fight USHL resume was consulted before signing him out of Michigan. There's no need to even mention what Zack Kassian represents down the road.) I'm not making a case for a back end goon, nor am I proclaiming the current blueline crop a bunch of "nice guys". Players like Matt Generous, Jordon Southorn (seasons of three and four majors) and Drew MacKenzie (three fights in 2007-08) have shown minor flare-ups in the past. I'm merely suggesting that variety is a requirement when building a blueline stable, and the drafting of third-rounders McNabb (2009) and Corey Fienhage (2008) are positive steps towards toughness while Rivet leads by example ahead of them. McNabb's 10 goals last season would have tied Schiestel for tops among all Sabres defensive prospects, while his 10 fights and 140 PIMs proved more active than his next closest competitor, Myers (5 majors, 105 PIM in nine fewer games). Fienhage had 28 PIMs in nine games including six roughing minors, one high stick, one check from behind, and a fighting misconduct. These are young, talented players acting mean and putting up different types numbers in terms of Sabres D prospects. So yes, this is all old news. Pardon me if it sounds like I'm going out of my way to state the obvious, but it's encouraging to see the plan in action.
9/21/2009 | 4 comments | Read More

9/20 Recap: Quartet comes up empty

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, September 20, 2009 | 9/20/2009

Luke Adam fired a team-best five shots on goal but was held without a point Sunday as Cape Breton lost a marathon shootout at Moncton, 5-4. Adam, who won 18 of 35 draws at the dot, was the first of 11 Eagles shooters who failed to crack Wildcat netminder Wendell Vye in the tiebreaker session before Daniel Pettersson finally bested Olivier Roy (EDM) to call it a night. High-end defenseman Brandon Gormley ('10) had a goal for the Wildcats. Also from the Q, Jordon Southorn was even with three shots on goal as PEI lost a 3-2 shootout to Bathurst. In the KHL, Vjacheslav Buravchikov was even through 15:23 of action as Ak Bars lost to Neftekhimik, 3-2. Mark Adams was even as Chicago lost a USHL pre-season contest to Green Bay, 3-1. Undrafted Buffalo native and Shattuck-St. Mary's product Sam Alfieri had an assist for the winners after notching the game winner a night earlier against Indiana.
9/20/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

9/19 Recap: Kassian cashes winner

In Saturday night OHL action, #1 star Zack Kassian scored the game winning goal and added an assist Peterborough downed Belleville, 3-2. With his usual physical game on display, Kassian's tally midway through the third period held up at the visiting barn to get the Petes' off to a 2-0 regular season start. The Petes will go for three in a row on Thursday when they host the Hounds. In the QMJHL, Luke Adam (+1) made his Cape Breton debut a successful one, scoring a third-period goal in the Eagles 5-4 overtime loss at Saint John. Often found near the Sea Dogs cage, Adam also notched an assist and won 11 of 18 draws to earn the game's #2 star. Adam's last Q goal was on January 28th of last season. The Eagles will face Moncton on Sunday. One night removed from a four-point performance, Jacob Lagacé (+1) followed up with a goal and an assist as Chicoutimi dropped a 5-4 shootout decision to Quebec. The third-year man fired five shots on goal (a total of 12 in his first two games) en route to earning the game's #3 star. Lagacé was stopped by Remparts' netminder Peter Delmas in the shootout. In the wild west, Brayden McNabb scored his team's only goal as Kootenay was thumped by Red Deer, 7-1. Trailing 1-0 in the first period, McNabb snuck in on the power play and shoveled a wrister from the edge of the dot to tie the game at 15:47. It was all Rebels from there. After the two clubs squared off in an aggressive 2nd period, McNabb dropped the gloves in the final minutes with 6'3, 205-pound Cody Esposito. It was a frustrating night for the Ice getting outshot 50-15 and fighting off 11 Rebel power plays. Rounding out the Saturday skates, Marcus Foligno finished -2 with a minor penalty for contact to the head as Sudbury lost to Ottawa, 3-1. Nick Crawford was even in Saginaw's 3-2 win at Owen Sound. Starting the year with a pair of road wins, the Spirit will head home to host Plymouth on Thursday. On Friday, Mark Adams was +2 as Chicago defeated Indiana in a USHL pre-season match-up. The Steel will face off against Green Bay on Sunday.
9/20/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

9/18 Recap: Lagacé leads

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, September 19, 2009 | 9/19/2009

Fresh off a strong showing at Sabres camp, Jacob Lagacé maintained his NHL momentum in the QMJHL on Friday by collecting two goals and two assists as Chicoutimi edged Victoriaville, 6-4. The #1 star performance saw both goals come at even strength while his helpers came with the man advantage. The best player on the ice all night, Lagacé was stronger in the corners, faster to the puck, and generally quick to execute. He looks locked in for a big year as his professional aspirations unfold. Also in the Q, Jordon Southorn was -1 as PEI fell to Moncton, 4-3 in a shootout. In Cranbrook, promising WHL rearguard Brayden McNabb got a solid season jump, posting two assists and a +3 as Kootenay shelled Lethbridge, 8-1. The 6'4 McNabb had six multi-point outings in 2008-09. The Ice take on Red Deer on Saturday. In the OHL, Nick Crawford had a power play assist as Saginaw opened their OHL season with a 4-3 shootout win over Guelph. The Caledon, Ontario native had 19 power-play assists last season. Marcus Foligno was held out for rest as Sudbury dropped a 4-3 decision to Erie. The Wolves, who lost all six of their pre-season games, were outshot 43-25 on home ice.
9/19/2009 | 0 comments | Read More

9/17 Recap: Kassian captains streakbuster; "A" group battles Caps

Written By Kris Baker on Thursday, September 17, 2009 | 9/17/2009

The Sabres sent a half-dozen junior players back to their CHL clubs on Thursday just hours before starting their 2009 pre-season schedule. However, only five of the six were afforded down time as one prospect was able to drive 100 miles home to arrive in time for the start of his team's regular season. Peterborough Petes captain Zack Kassian left Buffalo in the 2:00 hour and joined his mates prior to the 7:11 puck drop with Brampton. Seeing loads of ice time from coach Ken McRae, the 6'3 banger assisted on the game-tying goal midway through the third period as the Petes came back to edge the Battalion, 2-1. The Petes victory was their first over the Troops since November 2006, a span covering nine regular season games and another four from last season's playoff sweep. Joining Kassian back in the OHL will be Marcus Foligno, who returned to Sudbury for Friday's contest with Erie, and Saginaw's Nick Crawford, who will get with the Spirit for their opener at Guelph. WHL defenseman Brayden McNabb is expected to play in Kootenay's season opener against Lethbridge after a late-Thursday arrival. Capping the list of departees, Cape Breton center Luke Adam and Chicoutimi's Jacob Lagacé are back in the QMJHL for weekend action. Adam will make his Screaming Eagles debut on Saturday against Saint John. Lagacé will be in uniform for weekend games against Victoriaville and Quebec. --------------------------- With six leaving town, the Sabres "A" list of remaining prospects got a solid look as the club opened the pre-season with a 4-3 OT loss to Washington. Bubble forwards Nathan Gerbe (16:25), Tyler Ennis (15:40), Philip Gogulla (13:54), and Tim Kennedy (13:36) all saw nice chunks of action, while Tyler Myers (21:01), Marc-Andre Gragnani (17:02), Mike Kostka (16:41), and Mike Weber (21:26) formed a youthful backline with Chris Butler and Andrej Sekera. Jhonas Enroth finished the game in Buffalo's net after Patrick Lalime's played his period-and-a-half. Myers (+1) made a positive impression by using his reach, executing sharp passes, and even making a nice hit on Caps defender John Carlson. As expected there's still a speed adjustment needed in terms of being an everyday NHL defenseman, but the foundation is clearly in place. In my opinion, the NHL-CHL rule with 19-year old players needs to be amended to at least allow first-round NHL picks to play in the AHL in their second post-draft season. Regardless of contract/budget issues, I'm seeing little developmental value in Myers going back to dominate the WHL. Ennis, who will make any line buzz when placed down the middle, put his speed and passing skills on display with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville as wings. The creative element that Ennis brings to the top-six will not be ignored once the necessary strength is built on his smallish frame. His line saw top-unit power play time, yet connected for even strength damage on Buffalo's first goal of the night by Pominville. Also worth noting was the smart, effective blueline work by Kostka. The 23-year old hit for two shots on goal and picked up an assist on the Pominville tally. The goal tied the game at 1-1 after a Weber (-1) miscue earlier allowed the Caps a 1-0 lead. Late in the third period with the score tied 2-2, Gerbe's grunting forecheck behind the Caps' cage resulted in Gogulla finding Kennedy, who buried a backhand to put the Sabres ahead with 2:32 to play. With anything possible, the trio could be a potent combo if all three land on the farm to start the year. Just :23 later, a Gragnani turnover would allow Jay Beagle to beat Enroth and force overtime. A Brian Pothier slapper while on a 5-3 power play ended tings just :49 into the extra session. Enroth entered the game at 13:13 of the middle period, allowing three goals on 26 shots. (13:13. 26 shots. An interesting thought for superstitious stat junkies.) He got a taste of the NHL's down-low pressure on his first goal against scored by vet Mike Knuble, but played well overall. Remaining prospects in camp include T.J. Brennan, Drew Schiestel, Felix Schutz, Paul Byron, Matt Generous, Travis Turnbull, and Maxime Legault. All but Legault are under contract and slated for Portland. The Sabres will return to exhibition action on Saturday in Detroit. --------------------------- In Thursday KHL action, Marek Zagrapan was kept off the sheet as Severstal dropped a 2-0 decision to Mettalurg.
9/17/2009 | 10 comments | Read More

Ennis inked, set to pivot in Portland

Written By Kris Baker on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 | 9/16/2009

As expected, the Sabres today announced that Tyler Ennis has been signed to a three-year entry-level contract.
"I think if you look at him, he’s got some characteristics that are along the Derek Roy line," Head Coach Lindy Ruff said. "He can open people up, he can make some special plays and he’s a good player in real tight spaces. Obviously size is a factor but I think he’s been able to push through at every level so you hope he can continue to push through." So far in training camp, Ruff has put the the forward at center - anchoring a line between Matt Ellis and Jason Pominville during scrimmages. Ruff said his thought is to keep Ennis in the middle in Portland.
Keeping Ennis at center is an interesting decision after the speedy Albertan hoarded WHL points predominantly from the left wing spot. The move adds a high level of skill to a position of need, and certainly puts a little heat on Tim Kennedy as the Buffalo native looks to crack the top club in a contract year. Like Kennedy, Ennis likes to carry the puck while creating and finishing plays with equal aptitude. If things don't pan out, he can always glide as a wing, but for now this shouldn't be viewed as an experiment as much as a step forward for the future top six. I'll have more on this as camp winds down.
9/16/2009 | 1 comments | Read More

9/13 Recap: Zagrapan starts anew

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, September 14, 2009 | 9/14/2009

Marek Zagrapan made his KHL debut Sunday, scoring what proved to be the game winning goal and finishing +1 as Severstal defeated Avtomobilist, 4-1. Zagrapan, chosen 13th overall at the 2005 draft, scored 56 goals and 127 points in three AHL seasons between Rochester and Portland. When his entry-level deal with the Sabres expired in the off-season, the RFA bolted for KHL colors in Cherepovets, an industrial city in northern Russia. Despite the move, the Sabres extended Zagrapan a 'qualifying offer' in June to retain his NHL rights. His KHL deal with Severstal is for three seasons, but he can opt out after year two if the Sabres were to offer a one-way NHL contract (or perhaps trade his rights). Also from Sunday, Jordon Southorn (+2, 1 SOG) assisted on the game winning goal as PEI edged Halifax, 7-4. The win gives the Rocket a 2-0 regular season jump before the 60+ QMJHLers in NHL camps start trickling back to junior. The Rocket next plays on Friday at Moncton. In the USHL, Mark Adams helped Chicago open the pre-season with a 6-2 win over Youngstown on Friday. The 6'3, 207-pounder was -1 as the Steel dropped the Saturday rematch, 3-1.
9/14/2009 | 1 comments | Read More

9/11 Recap: Southorn lights lamp; KHL gets krackin'

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, September 12, 2009 | 9/12/2009

Jordon Southorn cast the first Sabres-centric stone of the 2009-10 regular season, scoring a goal and adding five hits as PEI defeated Moncton, 2-1, in the QMJHL opener for both teams. Paired with Czech import Adam Polasek, Southorn (+1) put forth a strong effort by leading numerous rushes up-ice and getting shots to the goal area while settling his own zone. He put the Rocket on the board at 8:55 at the second period when his crisp rising wrist-shot beat Wendell Vye to tie the game 1-1. These are the types of tempo dictating efforts that the 19-year old lefty will have to regularly produce to remain in the Sabres mix after a suspension kept him from skating in his second NHL camp alongside fellow Q'ers Luke Adam, Jacob Lagacé, and Maxime Legault. At 6'2, 200-pounds, Southorn has the frame, skating, and two-way tools to develop into a solid professional. As the raw foundation is present, demonstrating growth in consistency and maturity could make the Sabres' contract decisions more interesting next offseason. If the money wasn't there to sign RW Andrew Orpik for depth, the Sabres are in no position to gamble with character when the blueline is already well-stocked. A Harvard educated leader with a two-year experience edge, Alex Biega, 21, appears to be the better bet for a deal at this point, but it will be interesting to monitor the year since Southorn has the potential to put up some big numbers on the Island. -------------- In Thursday's KHL opener, recently re-upped Vjacheslav Buravchikov logged nearly 14:00 of icetime and spent another 4:00 in the box as Ak Bars defeated Lokomotiv, 3-2 in OT. On Saturday, Ak Bars fell to Spartak by a 4-1 count. Severstal's Marek Zagrapan will make his KHL debut on Sunday against Motorist.
9/12/2009 | 4 comments | Read More

Southorn stays in PEI as peers gear up

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, September 7, 2009 | 9/07/2009

The CHL pre-season is coming to a close, and the bulk of prospects are in Buffalo for early work before the opening of main camp later in the week. However, one Sabres property will be wearing his junior colors when the QMJHL kicks off its regular season. The Sabres this week informed PEI Rocket defenseman Jordon Southorn that they were rescinding his 2009 training camp invitation due to his second team-imposed suspension in as many seasons. Southorn, who was suspended by the Rocket for an alleged curfew violation, will be in uniform when the club opens their QMJHL regular season this week instead of competing in Buffalo.
The group, including Southorn’s agent Don Meehan, sat down (with input from the Buffalo Sabres which nabbed Southorn in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL draft) to decide his fate. Savard helped make last year’s docking call and the recent suspension. He said Southorn’s back in the fold, but what happens next is up to him. “The kid knows what to expect. He’s getting another chance,” said Savard, who selected the blue-liner 17th overall in the first round in the 2006 QMJHL draft. “That’s the way it’s going to be. He knows things have to change as we move forward (and) the season begins.” The greater damage might be Buffalo reneging Southorn’s invitation to its training camp next week. He had been scheduled to leave P.E.I. for New York, Sept. 7. He might get another chance later in the camp, said Southorn, but for now the NHL squad has cooled his jets. “They don’t want me in Buffalo breaking curfew or getting into trouble,” he said. “They don’t want me there in that state of mind.”
At this point, Southorn will have to be lights out this season to be considered for an NHL contract. Harvard's Alex Biega and Saginaw's Nick Crawford are also up for a blueline look after this season, while T.J. Brennan and Drew Schiestel have already joined Mike Weber, Mike Kostka, Dennis Persson, and Matt Generous in the minor league mix. Add in top clubbers Chris Butler, 22, and Andrej Sekera, 23, and the already-inked Tyler Myers, 19, and it's easy to think that only one of the three could be signed next offseason. Speaking of Myers, the 6'8 defenseman arrived in Buffalo on Saturday for his second NHL camp.
“Having one year and one camp under my belt, I’m going in with some confidence,” Myers said. “I’m very excited to go in there, do the best I can and just keep things simple. Whatever they have planned for me I’ll accept. “I’d love to play with Buffalo this year, but I know there’s a possibility I may get sent back. If that happens, Kelowna’s not a bad place to come play hockey and I don’t think another year of development would hurt me at all.”
Meanwhile Buffalo News reporter John Vogl spoke with GM Darcy Regier, who confirmed that Tyler Ennis will be signed and done shortly.
"He’ll come to camp and we’ll work on his contract, but the expectation is that he’ll turn pro and not return to junior this year," Regier said.
The same article mentioned that RFA Mark Mancari would like a chance to play elsewhere. Four years into his pro career, the big wing has essentially graduated from this space. Cruising the other CHL training camps for updates on those heading to Buffalo this week... Luke Adam saw his first pre-season action for Cape Breton on Wednesday, posting two goals and an assist as the Eagles hammered Halifax, 9-2. The 6'2 forward, who also led the Eagles with five shots on goal and five blocks, departed for Buffalo the following day. On Friday, Jacob Lagacé had two shots on goal as Chicoutimi lost 4-2 to Shawinigan. Cataractes forward Maxime Legault did not play. Lagacé played again the following night, getting into a fight with 6'1, 194-pound Maxime Lamarche in the Sags 6-1 loss at Victoriaville. The 17-year old Lamarche got the better of Lagacé, who rarely drops the mitts. Portland forward Felix Schutz was seen skating in Saint John on Friday as his former junior club, the Sea Dogs, broke camp for a week before the start of the regular season. In the OHL, Marcus Foligno was tossed from Sudbury's loss to Barrie on Thursday. The big forward earned a five-minute major and a game misconduct after a slew foot in the second period. On Friday, Foligno tipped a shot in from his belly for his second goal of the pre-season in Sudbury's 5-2 loss to Oshawa. Saginaw rearguard Nick Crawford had an assist in Friday's 5-3 loss to Sault Ste. Marie, and did not play as the Spirit lost a Saturday rematch, 4-2. After sitting out the pre-season opener, Zack Kassian had two assists in Peterborough's 6-4 win over Oshawa on Wednesday. Kassian arrived in Buffalo Monday morning. In the WHL, Brayden McNabb did not play in either of Kootenay's pre-season losses before heading to Buffalo over the weekend. The OHL and WHL will drop the puck for regular season play on the 17th. 2009 pick Mark Adams started his USHL career this week as Chicago opened up with a holiday weekend of practices. The New England high school product will hone his skills for a season under the guidance of former NHLer Steve Poapst before entering Providence College next fall. The USHL regular season doesn't get underway until October 2nd.
9/07/2009 | 5 comments | Read More