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Posted On Saturday, 02.01.2014 / 1:53 PM

By Joe Yerdon - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Crucial points on the line in Battle of Ontario

TORONTO – The Battle of Ontario is never lacking for story lines, and the matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators at Air Canada Center on Saturday night is no different.

The Maple Leafs lead the Senators in the Atlantic Division by six points going into the game, and for them it's a chance to put a little distance between themselves and their cross-province rival, who hold two games in hand.

"I don't think there needs [to be] any extra motivation for this game," Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri said. "They're kind of right on our tails in the standings. We want to try to keep them in our rear-view as much as possible."

Kadri has been a key player for the Maple Leafs lately and has scored 12 points in the past 8 games. Toronto is 8-1-1 in the past 10 games.

The Maple Leafs held an optional skate but have a pair of forwards dealing with injuries. Carter Ashton has a swollen hand and Peter Holland is dealing with "lace bite," an inflammation of the foot tendons caused by tight skates.

"It's a new one for me," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "To me it's crazy. It's something that a guy wears a pair of new skates in the morning, plays the game that night, and the next morning's got lace bite. Go figure. I'm at a loss to explain it."

Posted On Thursday, 01.30.2014 / 1:30 PM

By Joe Yerdon - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Maple Leafs' Smith has setback, not ready to return

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs head into the game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night having won six of the past eight games. The Maple Leafs thought they would get forward Trevor Smith back in the lineup, but he had a setback this week in his recovery from a broken hand.

"Trevor Smith is not available," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "Not the hand, if you can believe it. He hurt himself in the weight room. So we thought we'd have him available, but two days ago he came up with an ailment from a post-practice workout."

The Maple Leafs held an optional morning skate and only James Reimer was on the ice. That means Jonathan Bernier gets the start against the Panthers. Bernier made 40 saves in a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.28.2014 / 2:12 PM

By Joe Yerdon - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Capitals' Laich game-time decision against Sabres

BUFFALO -- Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates said forward Brooks Laich will be a game-time decision when they face the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).

Laich is dealing with a groin injury that has kept him out of action for parts of this season, but he did participate in the morning skate.

"I'm sure he's going through so many bumps and bruises that I'm sure he's hypersensitive to what's going on down there, which is natural for what he's gone through," Oates said. "You look at every single game, you get hit so many times you don't realize. Faceoffs you get poked and prodded that maybe it was just something like that that he thinks, 'Oh no, here we go again.' And he skated today and he felt pretty good.

"I'm sure in his own mind he wants to make sure he doesn't set it back. He said to me, 'What if I play [Tuesday] and I can't play Thursday?' I'm like, 'Well, you can't play [Tuesday].' But I don't know how you think like that. He's obviously over-thinking it and hopefully he felt good out there and he can conquer it."

Posted On Thursday, 01.23.2014 / 12:36 PM

By Joe Yerdon - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sabres' Varone set for NHL debut vs. Hurricanes

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres will have a new face in the lineup when they host the Carolina Hurricanes.

Forward Philip Varone was called up from the American Hockey League on Wednesday and will make his NHL debut Thursday.

"I don't think words can describe it," Varone said. "Extremely humbled, extremely excited, nervous. I mean, it's been a long time coming. I've worked my whole life for it. When it finally comes you don't expect it."

Varone was a 2009 fifth-round pick (No. 147) of the San Jose Sharks but never signed with the team. He's spent the past two seasons in the AHL with the Rochester Americans. He'll play Thursday on the third line with Marcus Foligno and Brian Flynn.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.21.2014 / 12:52 PM

By Joe Yerdon - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Tallinder returning to Sabres lineup

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres will have defenseman Henrik Tallinder back in the lineup when they host the Florida Panthers at First Niagara Center on Tuesday.

Tallinder was injured Dec. 29 against the Washington Capitals and missed the past eight games.

"It's always frustrating when you're injured, so it's good to be back with the guys in the locker room and everything that comes with it," Tallinder said.

Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said Mark Pysyk would sit out so Tallinder can play. Tallinder likely will be paired with Tyler Myers, his usual defense partner.

"We just found out this morning that he's really good to go," Nolan said of Tallinder. "We haven't really had a chance to think about exactly who he's going to go with. Myers seems to be the guy who's really going right now. It could be a big benefit for him to play with the top guy right off the hop."

Posted On Saturday, 01.18.2014 / 2:36 PM

By Joe Yerdon - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Bolland works to return to Toronto lineup

TORONTO -- Toronto Maple Leafs forward Dave Bolland has been out of action since Nov. 7 when a tendon in his ankle was cut by the skate blade of Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian.

Bolland resumed skating in Toronto this week and spoke to the media Saturday for the first time since getting back on the ice.

Dave Bolland
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 10
SOG: 27 | +/-: 4

"It's not like any other rehab when you break an ankle and you can just say six weeks and you're back and it's healed," Bolland said. "You cut a tendon and it's got to re-heal itself. You've got to do the rehab, do the movements with the trainers and in the gym. It's not fun. It's grueling.

"You're always in the gym, you're always doing the things. You want to get back on the ice and you want to play but these are the things you've got to do to get back on the ice. Now I'm at that step back on the ice. Now it's just trying to get back into the game."

Bolland had surgery on the tendon shortly after he sustained the injury. It's a good sign that he's returned to the ice to skate, but it doesn't come without pain.

Posted On Saturday, 01.18.2014 / 2:11 PM

By Joe Yerdon - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Beaulieu, Nattinen added to Canadiens lineup

TORONTO -- The Montreal Canadiens will have a pair of new players in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CBC, RDS), with defenseman Nathan Beaulieu and forward Joonas Nattinen drawing in. For Nattinen, it will mark his NHL debut.

"A hat trick, a great night in Montreal. But this'll do, I can do a hat trick here," Nättinen said describing what he pictured happening in his first NHL game. "I'm just trying to enjoy all the minutes I'll get there and play as good as I can for this team."

To make room for Nattinen, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Rene Bourque will be a healthy scratch. Nattinen likely will play on a line with rugged forwards Travis Moen and George Parros.

Defenseman Raphael Diaz did not skate Friday or at the morning skate Saturday and appears to be the likely removed for Beaulieu. Carey Price will start in goal.

Posted On Wednesday, 01.15.2014 / 5:53 PM

By Joe Yerdon - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sabres return Myers, Stafford to lineup

TORONTO -- The Buffalo Sabres will get defenseman Tyler Myers and forward Drew Stafford back in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.

Myers has served his three-game suspension for delivering an illegal check to the head of New Jersey Devils forward Dainius Zubrus and will return to his spot on the Sabres' top defensive pairing.

"I'm not the type of guy that's reckless or looking to injure somebody and I think on that play I was trying to be aggressive," Myers said. "At my height and my size I think it's going to happen sometimes. I have to be aware of it for sure, but I don't think I want to change my game."

Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan says Stafford is ready to go after he missed the past four games with an upper-body injury. He has four goals and 13 points in 41 games this season. Forward John Scott will also suit up against the Maple Leafs. Linus Omark and Marcus Foligno will sit to make room.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 1:33 PM

By Joe Yerdon - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Read back in Flyers lineup against Sabres

BUFFALO -- The Philadelphia Flyers will get Matt Read back in the lineup when they face the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN). Read missed the past six games after sustaining a concussion against the Calgary Flames on Dec. 31. He has 10 goals and 19 points this season.

"He's an every-situation player for us," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "Penalty kill, power play, 5-on-5. He's fast, has the ability to put the puck in the net, so he adds speed. Like I said, he's an all-around kind of player."

Berube said there wouldn't be any limitations and would use Read in all situations.

The Flyers arrived to Buffalo having lost their past two games by a combined score of 10-4.

Posted On Sunday, 01.12.2014 / 2:28 PM

By Joe Yerdon - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Injured Leafs forward Bolland hopes to start skating

TORONTO – The recovery for injured Toronto Maple Leafs forward Dave Bolland is going well and the hope is he'll return to skating with the team this week.

"Bolland will hopefully start skating with us after these two games. Thursday is the target date," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "He's had to travel to Montreal to have a new boot specifically designed to relieve pressure around where his injury, the incision, the repair, was done and that boot is supposed to be made available to us after this weekend. Hopefully he'll join our hockey club for practice on Thursday and then that's the road to recovery. The plan is for him to make the road trip with us and practice a week from Monday."

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— Sabres forward Tyler Ennis on the progress of Buffalo's rebuilding process