Goaltenders were the center of attention following the Sabres’ practice session at HSBC Arena on Monday. Jhonas Enroth
was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week – the second straight week a Buffalo netminder has been recognized – while Ryan Miller
stepped on the ice for the first time in six days as he continues to recover from an upper body injury.
|Getty Images |
With Miller sidelined, Enroth has started between the pipes in each of the last three games and led the team to a 2-0-1 record while posting a 1.94 goals against average, a .936 save percentage and a shutout. Those numbers would be impressive at any point during the season, but Enroth’s performance in the middle of a playoff race has been the definition of clutch.
“I had a lot of confidence in him, really from the games he’d played previously (to last week), even in the Minnesota game (on March 6) where he gave us a big save on a breakaway in that game that gave us an opportunity to win that hockey game,” said Head Coach Lindy Ruff. “I really feel that he’s got a great mentality. There’s not a lot that bothers him. He’s one of those real low-key type of goaltenders that keeps everything under control.”
While Enroth was surprised to hear about the recognition, he was pleased with the news.
“It’s very exciting. I didn’t know about it, but it’s a big honor and a lot of fun,” Enroth said.
Miller, who was named the League’s First Star the previous week, skated on to the ice as his teammates were winding down their practice session but did not take any shots. He said he hopes to play shortly, but did not indicate when exactly that would be.
“I feel good. It was just good to get back and feel the ice a little bit, and will graduate from there and see what they say if I can practice tomorrow,” Miller said. “We’re at that time of year where we don’t want to deal in specifics (regarding injuries) but it was something that didn’t allow me to give the team the best chance to win, and it’s something where I had to make sure I was good health-wise. Now we’re in a position where we are day-to-day and today was a good step forward. I really believe that it shouldn’t be something that is going to linger too long and is something that I can get back and play shortly.”4/4 - Ryan Miller Interview
Ruff confirmed that Enroth will start on Tuesday when the Sabres host Tampa Bay at HSBC Arena and laid out his views on the team’s goaltending situation.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt there, I think that Jhonas is the starting goalie tomorrow (vs. Tampa Bay),” said Ruff. “There isn’t any doubt that Ryan’s the No. 1. At the same time, and I’ve said this all year long, that we’re going to play the guys that are going to help us win games. When Ryan comes back, he’s got to be on top of his game. We’re in the business of winning games, and Jhonas knows that stepping in, too. But there’s no doubt that Ryan’s the No. 1.”
Miller stayed back in Buffalo while the Sabres spent the weekend in Washington and Carolina. He said he needed to squeeze a stress ball while watching the games on television, but was happy to see Enroth play so well.
Marc-Andre Gragnani’s first NHL goal, the overtime game-winner in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Carolina, was followed by about 50 text messages from friends and family members. However, that is to be expected when a player scores the biggest goal of his career to date.
“For sure, because obviously it’s my first one in the League and the importance of the game was huge,” Gragnani said when asked whether it was the most important goal he’s scored.
With Gragnani helping to fill some of the void created by the hand injury to Jordan Leopold
, Ruff explained why Gragnani has been thrown right into the fire of the playoff race.
“With Leopold going down, we knew we lost a big piece. On the offensive side of our power play, ‘Leo’ was a guy we looked at to help make plays back there. I said this about a week ago, that we can’t wait to try to make a decision, we have to get (Gragnani) in and get him going and see if he can help us, because otherwise we’d be doing the hindsight looking back and saying maybe we should have put him in earlier,” Ruff said.
Gragnani now has a goal and an assist in the last three games, and both points have resulted in game-winning goals.
Ruff offered a number of other injury updates on Monday, beginning with Leopold. According to Ruff, Leopold has visited one doctor already and will be further evaluated today. Patrick Kaleta
practiced on Monday, and while he will not play on Tuesday, Ruff said he was very close to full speed. Mike Grier, meanwhile, is still recovering from a knee injury but took part in some of the practice drills. He skated on his own while the team worked on special teams.Andrej Sekera
did not participate in Monday’s practice after being given a “maintenance” day. Ruff said Sekera is fine to play on Tuesday.
|Buffalo Sabres Adult Sled Hockey Team (Photo: Buffalo Sabres) |
The Buffalo Sabres Senior Sled Hockey team won the first-ever Adult Sled Hockey National Championship (Tier I division) this weekend in Blaine, Minnesota.
Teams representing Buffalo, Boston, Philadelphia and San Antonio qualified for the event and faced-off for the national title over the weekend as part of USA Hockey’s Disabled Hockey Festival, which encompasses four disciplines of disabled hockey: deaf/hard of hearing hockey, special hockey, sled hockey, and standing/amputee hockey.
Coach Rich DeGlopper’s Buffalo squad went undefeated in the round robin portion of the sled hockey tournament before defeating Boston by a 7-1 score in the championship game.
According to USA Hockey, “Sled Hockey follows most of the typical ice hockey rules with the exception some of the equipment. Players sit in specially designed sleds that sit on top of two hockey skate blades. There are two sticks for each player instead of one, and the sticks have metal picks on the butt-end for players to propel themselves. Goalies wear similar equipment but do make modifications to the glove. Metal picks are sewn into the backside to allow the goalie to maneuver.”
Be sure to vote for Ryan Miller
for The Mark Messier Leadership Award Presented by Bridgestone at http://ultimateleader.nhl.com/
Miller is up against Jonathan Toews in the semifinals of the contest, while Nicklas Lidstrom is taking on Ryan Kesler in the other semifinal.