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Sabres send Larsson to Rochester, recall Schaller & Varone

schallerSunday was an off day for the Buffalo Sabres, but it didn’t come without some news.

Early Sunday evening, the team announced they have recalled forwards Tim Schaller and Phil Varone from the AHL’s Rochester Americans, while sending back center Johan Larsson.

Schaller has been having a phenomenal year, becoming a key player for the Amerks and earning multiple looks with the Sabres. On a team with more notable offensive prospects, he’s leading Rochester in goals (10) and notched his first NHL goal December 21st against Boston on his second of now three recalls.

Varone, on the other hand, gets his first recall of the season. Leading the Americans in scoring with 29 points in 35 games, the former Erie Otter collected a goal and an assist in a nine-game stint with the Sabres back in January and February 2014.

Both players are deserving of their respective recalls. Both players have shown capabilities beyond the AHL level. But the more interesting part of this roster shuffle is in regards to Johan Larsson, who’s drawn the ire of media, fans and, apparently, coaches due to his questionable play.

Larsson, 22, has one goal and one assist in 12 NHL games over two recalls this season. Apparently, that doesn’t seem to be enough output for a player whose game isn’t the type that exhibits buzzwords such as “grit” or “compete.”

In his most recent eight game stint with the Sabres, he added a goal and an assist with an even plus-minus rating as the team was outscored 36-14 and went 1-6-1. In a terrible stretch, Larsson was on the ice for as many goals for as goals against: two. Read the rest of this entry

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Overreactions with 46 to go: Sabres storm back in 3rd to beat Isles

460861224_slideFor most of Saturday night’s game, the result looked inevitable. For the final 13:21 of regulation, it became nothing but a bunch of questions.

Three Sabres goals in a span of 5:12 during the third period brought Buffalo back from a 3-0 deficit before Tyler Ennis scored the shootout winner in a 4-3 shootout win over the New York Islanders.

Nick Deslauriers, Zemgus Girgensons and Chris Stewart all tallied goals in the explosive comeback, with Islanders call-up Kevin Poulin, in his second start in back-to-back nights, getting shredded to force overtime.

New York had opened up a 3-0 lead thanks to an early goal by Nick Leddy and two goals from nephew-of-Buffalo-legend John Tavares. They carried that lead into the third period where it all fell apart.

Deslauriers opened the scoring by ripping a rebound past Poulin at 6:39. After Drew Stafford took a dubious goaltender interference penalty, Deslauriers rifled a pass from inside his own blueline to a streaking Girgensons, who made it 3-2 with his second shorthanded goal.

“We always believed, but we got lucky,” Deslauriers said. “The puck just popped out at me. I took a shot and it went in. From there, we built momentum and Girgensons buried a nice goal.”

Less than two minutes later, the lead was officially gone, as Stafford fed Stewart, who cut in front of Poulin and tucked it home to tie the game.

Ennis scored the only goal of the shootout, and Jhonas Enroth stopped all three Islanders attempts after making 33 saves in 65 minutes of play.

Buffalo now heads to Ottawa for a game with the Senators on Monday night.

  • The Sabres lost defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen during the game, as he apparently caught the bug that has been sidelining guys for the last couple weeks. Nolan said after the game there would be a recall coming. (UPDATE: Sabres have recalled Mark Pysyk from Rochester)
  • I don’t see the benefit of having Johan Larsson playing 9:23 on the wing with Cody McCormick and Patrick Kaleta rather than 18-20 in all situations with the Americans. This team isn’t very good. Pick up a plug off waivers or call up Matt Ellis, let Larsson keep developing with more minutes. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 49 to go: Avalanche bury crumbling Sabres

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With pregame rumors of a Johan Larsson call-up circulating, there was speculation as to what could possibly necessitate the move. Turns out Matt Moulson’s late scratch due to being sick would be what is referred to as a “harbinger.”

Missing their top left winger, and losing Patrick Kaleta due to illness and Tyler Myers to injury, the Sabres were on their heels all night and dropped a 5-1 decision to the visiting Colorado Avalanche.

In a fitting tribute to the discourse around the team this season, 2006 first overall pick Erik Johnson took a pass from 2013 first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon and beat Jhonas Enroth just 2:23 into the game.

It was all downhill from there. Colorado’s Cody McLoed would score shorthanded five minutes later. That 2-0 lead would hold through the third period, when Alex Tanguay and John Mitchell would score to put the game away.

Larsson made his whirlwind night memorable, burying his first career NHL goal with 6:33 left to make it 4-1. Tanguay would add an empty netter and the Sabres fell 5-1 for the second straight game.

Enroth made 22 saves in his first loss since December 4th. Calvin Pickard stopped 28 of 29 for the Avs.

  • Good for Johan Larsson to finally pick up his first NHL goal. Tonight was his 34th National Hockey League game. He’s not supposed to be some elite goalscorer, but at some point the points had to come. Nice way to cap off the day for him.
  • Ted Nolan brushed off the idea that it could be mumps that ailed Moulson and Kaleta. Could just be a flu bug, but hey, who knows. He’s not a doctor.
  • Missing Tyler Myers for an extended period of time will really aid the tank. Not so much in the way the team will be worse per se, but that guys like Andre Benoit and Andrej Meszaros might have to get more ice time.
  • The Sabres did a great job with the Make-A-Wish kid who dropped the puck for the ceremonial face-off. The kid was in the locker room helping interview players after the game. Really cool experience for him.  Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Heavily favored Sabres start out hot, but fall to Avalanche

185376342_slideThis season’s gonna be fun.

Not in the way of “these guys are so good, I can’t believe it”-fun, but in the way of “this team is a mess and I don’t know what’s going to happen next”-fun. And as a fan, the least you can ask for out of your team is being interesting. And this team is just that.

Facing a red-hot Colorado team in their own rink, the Sabres, still winless at home, decided to mail it in for the first 20 minutes and couldn’t dig themselves out of the hole they were in. Buffalo ended the night with a 4-2 loss to the visiting team formerly known as the Nordiques.

It wasn’t even about how the game ended, it was about how it started.

Colorado took a 2-0 lead before the Sabres even registered a shot on goal, which didn’t happen until 14:09 into the game.

“A lot of our vets are out there to start a hockey game,” said coach Ron Rolston after the game. “I think preparation is the first thing you look at, and focus on what we need to do early on in the game.”

Buffalo was outshot 14-3 in the opening period, and after giving up a powerplay goal to Matt Duchene in the first minute of the second period, they actually made it a game.

Cody Hodgson ripped a slap shot past Colorado’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere to make it 3-1, which was later answered by Avs center Paul Stastny to make it 4-1.

Marcus Foligno would score in the third to make it 4-2, but Buffalo’s scoring struggles continued despite holding a 27-12 shots advantage over the final 40 minutes.

“We just need to come out better,” said Hodgson. “I don’t know what else to say.”

Neither do we.

  • Nikita Zadorov, playing his first NHL game, looked solid. Played like a veteran. The talk went from getting him a game before the puck was dropped to talking about giving him more minutes after the buzzer went. He did look good, but considering the rest of the blueline is a dumpster fire, it’s all relative. Let’s not ruin this kid for playing within himself. Look at the guy wearing #57. Develop him right.
  • That cheer when Stafford put the Sabres’ first shot on goal was loud.
  • Ryan Miller didn’t talk after the game, again. I don’t find that to be a big deal, but it’s interesting because making the decision not to is as much of a statement as anything he’d say. He can’t be happy with the way things are going. He’s not the problem. He’s playing well, and it’s not enough. Read the rest of this entry

Delayed Overreactions: Sabres drop home opener as Miller stops many pucks

183125572_slideRyan Miller did more than he needed to for the Sabres to get a result. They didn’t. And so begins the issues.

Playing their first game of the season at First Niagara Center, the Buffalo Sabres were shutout by Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson, as he out-dueled Miller and helped the visiting Senators hand the Sabres a 1-0 loss in front of a sellout crowd.

Ryan Miller stopped 45 of 46 shots, surrendering a goal to Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson with 1:35 remaining in regulation.

“Would’ve been nice to grind one out and get an ugly one,” Miller said. “You just have to gain points where you can get them. I just needed to make one more save there. It’s disappointing.”

Buffalo peppered Anderson with 35 shots, failing to beat him at all. Thomas Vanek registered nine shots on goal himself, but came up empty.

The Sabres also went 0-for-4 on the powerplay.

“I thought both teams deserved a point,” Vanek said. “We were the first team to break at the end, which is disappointing, but the effort was good again.”

  • Considering I’m the guy who incessantly talks about game presentation, I need to point out that the pregame was pretty damn good and there were noticeable improvements throughout the game. The bracelets they gave away added a nice effect, but overall, it’s better. There’s still some things they can do better, but it’s not like it’s still as bas bad (#unfollowBuffaloWins) as it was. We’ll see what they do for the next game, when there’s not the season opening festivities.
  • Thomas Vanek got killed by many after the game for losing Karlsson on the game’s only goal, but after watching the replay, Tyler Myers has to do better. As Clarke MacArthur came into the zone along the boards, Myers had him closed off before he inexplicably backed off and allowed him space to wait for Karlsson to jump into the play. If he plays MacArthur more aggressively, maybe the play doesn’t even happen. Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis were standing around as well. One bad play, one goal, one loss.
  • Vanek just didn’t have his touch. Had numerous glorious chances, but some bad decisions mitigated some of the opportunities. A few passes were just off. But he’s getting those chances at least. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, Preseason Edition: Kids help Sabres beat Hurricanes

It’s good to be back.

In the Buffalo Sabres’ return to their home rink for their first home game of the preseason slate, a squad littered with young talent overcame a sloppy first 30 minutes to storm away with a 5-2 win over visiting Metropolitan Division rival, the Carolina Hurricanes.

Johan Larsson, acquired at last year’s trade deadline in the Jason Pominville deal, scored twice for Buffalo, who moved to 3-0-0 on the preseason campaign.

Trailing 1-0 after one period of play, Joel Armia scored his first of the preseason to tie the game. After surrendering another goal just minutes later, Larsson scored his first of the game, tipping in a Brayden McNabb point shot to deadlock the score after two periods.

Buffalo would go on to score three unanswered goals in the third, led by Cody Hodgson’s redirection of a Thomas Vanek pass with just under six minutes to go. Larsson and McNabb (who finished with a goal and two assists) would score insurance goals before the clock ran out.

The Sabres also got a very strong performance out of Ryan Miller, who played his first full game after splitting duties with Matt Hackett in Wednesday’s win over NHLBettingTips.com Metropolitan Division underdog Columbus. Miller stopped 34 of 36 shots to get the win.

While an undefeated record in preseason only means so much, the Sabres now face a home-and-home with Toronto. The Leafs will visit First Niagara Center on Saturday night for a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.

  • Really like Johan Larsson’s game tonight. The guy does everything you’d want him to do. He goes to the net, wins draws (71% on 17 draws) and shows a lot of hustle. He could force his way into a roster spot, but if he doesn’t, he won’t be in Rochester long.
  • Best guy on the ice for Carolina tonight? You guessed it: Andrej Sekera. Led Carolina with 23:03 of ice time, showed a lot of possession of the puck, and save for the two third period goals he was on the ice for, was really, really good. The Canes are gonna love him. Compher better pan out.
  • Brayden McNabb’s game has been hit-or-miss for a little while, but tonight his work in the offensive zone is evident in the boxscore. That shot can generate a lot of opportunities, whether it’s going straight in, or he’s putting it in places that guys can tip it. He needs to show that if he wants to stick. Read the rest of this entry