The Buffalo Sabres gathered at First Niagara Center on Thursday to prepare for their game on Friday against the New York Rangers. However, the game won't be played.
The Buffalo area has been hammered by a snow storm the past few days and the unrelenting nature of the storm has forced the NHL to postpone the game. The Sabres’ next game will now be Saturday night against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center.
The NHL released the following statement Thursday afternoon:
Due to the continuing weather-related difficulties in the Greater Buffalo area and out of respect for the fans of the Sabres, Friday’s game between the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center, NHL Game No. 291, has been postponed.
A makeup date will be announced as soon as it can be confirmed.
The announcement was made well after the Sabres’ practice at First Niagara Center wrapped up, so the players went into the session preparing like they would before any other game day.
The weather conditions have been kinder to downtown Buffalo and the areas north of the city, but the Southtowns have seen up to 8 feet of snow. Forward Patrick Kaleta has been stuck in his home since Tuesday and was forced to miss practice once again.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan admitted that, because of what’s going on outside, it can be tough to concentrate on the games at hand.
“It’s kind of tough to think solely about hockey when all your surroundings are in dire straits like we are right now. Hopefully, we’ll get through this,” he said. “Hockey seems like a very small thing when the city’s going through something like we’re going through right now. We’re hoping not only Kaleta, but everybody gets out of this thing relatively safe and sound.”
What residents of the area are going through is on the minds of the players as well.
“Our thoughts and well wishes are with the people that that area, it’s a challenge, struggling to get out of there,” Drew Stafford said. “It turns into a kind of life-and-death situation with some people so hopefully they can get the help they need.”
Cody McCormick, a native of London, Ontario, has been with the Sabres since 2010 and says he’s never seen a storm like this one, which has really affected certain areas of Western New York and has barely touched others. What’s been constant through many storms, though, has been people trying to go out to their way to help one another.
“I think in these times, you see a lot of people come out and help each other,” McCormick said. “That’s what’s great about the communities here.”
Marcus Foligno was born in Buffalo and lives downtown. He has been glad to see that when it’s come to shutting down roads and instituting driving bans, people’s safety has taken priority.
“The best thing about the City of Buffalo is we’re a close-knit city,” he said. “It’s just been great to see all the right precautions have been taken and everyone’s pretty much worried about everyone’s safety”
Foligno has also been in touch with Kaleta.
“I texted him yesterday and he said he is in deep with snow,” Foligno said. “He’s doing hour shifts and trying to get the snow out but he said there are police out there that aren’t letting him try to get gas. He wasn’t allowed to go any further than the road he’s living on.
“So he’s stuck but hopefully we get him back soon because he’s probably itching to get back at the arena.”
A QUICKER RETURN EXPECTED
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth missed practice as well because of a lower-body injury he sustained near the end of the first period of the team’s win Tuesday night. Nolan said that the injury isn’t as severe as they initially thought and that he could be back within a few days.
The plan was to start Jhonas Enroth in both games this weekend.
In the meantime, Nathan Lieuwen has been called up from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. With many major highways between Buffalo and Rochester shut down because of the storm, he had to use some alternative routes. He made it in about two hours and 45 minutes.
“I went north and then west and then south,” he said. “I definitely learned some new routes of how to get here and saw some nice places of Upstate New York. But I’m here and that’s huge.”
Rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov is set to play in his 10th NHL game of the season on Saturday, which would activate his entry-level contract and likely keep in him Buffalo for the rest of the season. He’s taken on a larger role with every game, playing at least 16 minutes in each of the past four. But to get him to this point has taken a collective effort.
Nolan said that veterans on the team have helped him a lot this season and the coaching and training staffs have paid special attention to both his off-ice approach to the game and his conditioning.
“It was a team buildup to help a young man reach his potential,” Nolan said. “To watch it grow over the last month was pretty special. Now we have to worry about just keeping it going.”
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
65 Brian Flynn – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 8 Cody McCormick – 21 Drew Stafford
82 Marcus Foligno – 19 Cody Hodgson – 80 Chris Stewart
24 Tyson Strachan – 57 Tyler Myers
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
6 Mike Weber – 41 Andrej Meszaros
61 Andre Benoit
1 Jhonas Enroth
50 Nathan Lieuwen
31 Matt Hackett
Did Not Skate: 4 Josh Gorges (Injured Reserve, lower body), 34 Michal Neuvirth (injured, lower body), 36 Patrick Kaleta (absent due to weather)