On Halloween night in 2009, the Islanders hosted the Sabres at Nassau Coliseum. Buffalo came into that game with an 8-1-1 record while the Isles were struggling at 3-4-3.

Richard Park put the Islanders on the board with his first goal of the season.

Halfway through the second period, the Islanders took control of the game. New York scored three times within six minutes to build the lead up to four.

Jeff Tambellini scored twice and Josh Bailey added his second of the season. After the third goal, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff pulled Ryan Miller and put in Patrick Lalime.

With less than five minutes to go in the third period, Tambellini recorded a hat trick, putting the Islanders up 5-0. Tabmellini’s father, Steve (Edmonton’s general manager) was in attendance and got to see his son score three times.

Miller finished the night with 13 of 16 saves. Lalime didn’t perform much better, stopping 12 of 14 shots. At the other end, Martin Biron was perfect as he stopped all 38 Buffalo shots, earning his first shutout as an Islander. The victory was Biron’s 200th in his career.

“I don’t think we changed too much…we hit five posts,” said Miller, who made 13 saves before being lifted. “We were sharp in some areas, but Marty made some great saves and played solid. Then again, we did ring some posts and missed some opportunities and passed up some shots. It comes down to us being tighter on that side. For me, I could have been sharper, too. Coming back-to-back, I could have been a little more energetic.”

Despite Biron’s excellent night, the shutout was kept in tact mostly because of Radek Martinek, who blocked Thomas Vanek’s shot while Biron was out of position. Biron also stopped Clarke MacArthur on a breakaway.

“It felt great,” Biron said of his play and that of his team. “With the way the month started for us, to say that we’d finish this month playing .500 hockey…[it’s] three big wins against three big teams, teams that are at the top of our conference right now. To have played that way and responded the way we have, it just demonstrates how the guys want it."

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When Tyler Myers burst onto the NHL scene last season, many fans were envisioning him as the next Chris Pronger and possibly the best defenseman the Buffalo Sabres franchise has ever had.

There is no denying he had one of the best seasons of a rookie defenseman in recent memory with 11 goals and 48 points in all 82 games last season. He very deservedly earned the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.

Myers also displayed the type of mindset and persona ahead of his years. Many people did not expect him to have a sophomore slump; he was just too level-headed and talented to go through what many second-year players do.

This year, it is looking more like a season to forget for Myers. He is dead last in the NHL in plus-minus (minus-10) and has looked very shaky and indecisive in the defensive zone. Against the Dallas Stars, Myers gave away the puck to forward Jamie Benn, which led directly to a shorthanded goal for the Stars. He was late covering Steve Ott, who eventually scored that goal.

That play defines Myers’ season. He was tentative with the puck as he held on to the puck too long while assessing his options, rather than acting on instinct and getting rid of the puck quickly. To make a bad play worse, he was late covering the eventual goal-scorer.

The Sabres are in real trouble in this young season. Coach Lindy Ruff has already benched current captain Craig Rivet. However, that has failed to light a fire under this Sabres team. The Sabres are 14th in the Eastern Conference, leading only the New Jersey Devils, who have been playing with a short bench for most of the year due to their salary-cap troubles caused by the signing of Ilya Kovalchuk.

As coach, Ruff can only do so much, but he should tell Myers to take a seat in the press box. If the players fail to respond to these messages, this season will be lost, and many players who are currently on the roster will find themselves in different uniforms, and the jobs of Ruff and general manager Darcy Regier will be in jeopardy.

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It is no secret that the Buffalo Sabres are off to one of the worst starts in some time. One of the reasons for this slump has been the play of the defense. On Friday night against the Atlanta Thrashers, Captain Craig Rivet was a healthy scratch as he watched his team lose to the Thrashers 4-3 in overtime.

Lindy Ruff, when asked about his decision to scratch Rivet, said that “the guys that are playing the best are going to have to play.” Rivet has been the most inconsistent defenseman this season and has looked very slow ever since he came to Buffalo in 2008. One could say it is his age, but over his career Rivet has been a very effective defensive defenseman. So far this season he has one assist in nine games, along with a plus-1.

In 2008, Rivet was elected captain by his teammates. But his leadership has clearly taken a hit after being benched for most of a 6-3 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers, and now he is sitting in the press box.

This clearly sends a message not only to Rivet, but to the rest of the players. They are going to have to play hard in order to stay in the lineup. This slow start is now officially a slump for the Sabres who are digging themselves a big hole in the Eastern Conference race.

Rivet’s benching may signal a captaincy change, but it is too early to tell if Ruff will play him again to re-discover his game or sit him for an extended period of time. With Rivet’s absence, young blueliners Chris Butler and Andrej Sekera will get extended playing time, and if they play well, Rivet could very well go from team captain to the eighth defenseman on the Sabres' roster.

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The expectations were high for the reigning Northeast division champion Buffalo Sabres entering this season. The playoffs seemed like a no brainer, with many analysts and fans picking them to also repeat as division champs. Lindy Ruff, Darcy Regier and the players all talked about how they believed the Sabres were legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

Flash forward to now, and you find a Sabres team mired in a 3-6-2 start and looking more like a team that will get the first pick in next summer's draft than one that will be playing well into June.

Many things have contributed to the Sabres' slow start. They have several new players on the squad, have struggled to score goals at key times of the game, Tyler Myers is stuck in a massive sophomore slum, and goaltender Ryan Miller has been average at best.

All of those things are very troubling, but there are two problems that rise above everything else. This year's edition of the Buffalo Sabres has shown an extreme lack of focus, and a knack of crumbling in the face of adversity.

They look like world beaters for one period and then a confused midget squad the next. When the Sabres hit the post, get a bad call or a bounce goes the other team's way, they start taking stupid, untimely penalties and fall completely apart. Both of these things are terrible signs for a team that was supposedly maturing and coming into their own.

In an attempt to shake up his squad, head coach Lindy Ruff has implemented and carried out a policy where only the best players will play. It has seen different players get benched for periods at a time or scratched from games all together.

Ruff's axe has now found captain Craig Rivet, who was benched for an 11-minute stretch in the third period of Tuesday's game against Philadelphia after taking a penalty that put the Sabres down two men. Then the captain was a healthy scratch last night against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Craig Rivet has had a respectable career. The defenseman has suited up for the Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks and the Buffalo Sabres during his 17 years in the NHL. Rivet is known for his rugged style of play and fighting. Rivet has taken on many team's heavyweights and has never backed down from an altercation no matter who he was facing.

General Manager Darcy Regier brought in Craig Rivet to add toughness to the Sabres and to mentor young players such as Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Chris Butler, Andrej Sekera and Drew Stafford. However, age and injuries have affected the way Rivet plays. He has lost a step and hardly ever drops the gloves anymore. Also, Mike Grier has had a larger effect on the Sabres' young core then Rivet has, so it becomes clear that he is not doing his job as captain of this team.

When Ruff was asked about scratching Rivet he said, "He just hasn't played well enough, hasn't played well enough. That's just the bottom line. He missed training camp, and it just seems like he's a step behind right now."

So now the Buffalo Sabres have another problem to deal with. Should Craig Rivet still be the captain of this team? No. This team's lack of focus and maturity falls on Lindy Ruff and Craig Rivet's shoulders. Many people have called for Ruff's head, and while that may eventually happen it is not going to anytime soon.

Lindy Ruff has been the coach of the Buffalo Sabres for 13 years, is being inducted into the Buffalo sports Hall of Fame soon and is closing in on 500 wins. So that leaves changing the captain as the only option to get this team back on track, and I believe this will happen in the next few days.

I'm not sure what Craig Rivet will do. Rivet most likely is very angry about being a healthy scratch and Lindy Ruff said, "No player understands, he won't understand." 

Ruff had the same thing happen to him while he was captain of the Buffalo Sabres. Ruff would go on to relinquish his captaincy and was then traded to the New York Islanders. My guess is that Rivet will do the same. I do not believe that he will be traded, but that he will retire. Rivet talked about retiring before the season began, and I would not be surprised if he hung up the skates. It is sad that it may end this way, but something has to be done to shake this team up. 

My choice for the next captain of the Blue and Gold would be either Derek Roy or Thomas Vanek. Who do you think it should be?   

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The defenseman is the most underrated fantasy stud an owner could have.  This weekend the league takes Sunday off to pass out some candy.  Let’s break down some of the weekend warriors who could be fantasy studs to watch out for. 

Teams with two games this weekend: Ducks, Thrashers, Sabres, Hurricanes, Blackhawks, Canadiens, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers and Penguins.

 

Defensemen To Watch

Steve Montador, Sabres. The 30-year-old d-man is on an offensive tear with five points in his last five games.  The eight-year veteran tied his career high last season with 23 points and is already on pace to smash that with eight points in his first 10 games this season. 

Even more importantly, he ranks near the top of the league with +8 and has chipped in with 12 penalty minutes.  With the Sabres being one of the few teams that have two games this weekend, be ready for this rising defenseman to be owned in more than 32 percent of leagues. 

 

Michal Rozsival, Rangers. The Rangers are still missing their top offensive weapon in Marian Gaborik but Rozsival is picking up some of the scoring slack with four points in his last four games. 

With the Rangers making the movement to a more young defense with the likes of Staal, Del Zotto and Girardi, many owners forget about Rozie.  The 32-year-old defender leads the young kids in time on ice with 24:32 minutes per game and is still located on the top power play line, with three of his six points coming on the power play. 

The Blue Shirts have games against the Hurricanes and Maple Leafs and grab him, as when Gaborik comes back the power play will continue to blossom.      

 

Matt Taormina, Devils. As the Devils continue their slide let’s not forget their fantasy value and Lou has done it again by finding a diamond in the rough and this time in his old stomping ground. 

The undrafted free agent from Providence has been on the top line of the power play playing almost 3:30 a game on the man advantage.  It has not produced points yet as the Devils have struggled to score goals, but as they start to produce so will this defender.  With two games out west this weekend while you are sleeping, Taormina could be producing.

       

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For the next three games, fans of the Buffalo Sabres and the NHL will see the potential future core of the Buffalo Sabres.

Sabres' prospect, forward Luke Adam, will see his first NHL regular season game action tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. He will also go on the road trip to Atlanta and Dallas as forward Rob Niedermayer is on paternity leave, as his wife is giving birth.

Adam, before being called up today, has garnered 10 points in eight games with the Portland Pirates of the AHL. The Sabres signed Adam to an entry-level deal at the end of last season after an impressive career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with St. John’s, Montreal, and Cape Breton. Adam scored 113 goals and 220 points in 236 games in four years of junior hockey.

Adam is a goal-scorer and also had an excellent showing for Team Canada in the 2010 World Junior Championships with four goals and eight points in six games.

The Sabres drafted Adam in the 2nd round (44th Overall) in the 2008 Draft, the draft that the Sabres selected Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis. Adam has good size (6’2”, 215) and great hands around the net.

Adam was one of the last cuts of training camp this year as he produced two goals and three points in four preseason games.

At least to start, Adam will take Niedermayer’s position between Mike Grier and Ennis.

If Adam plays very well in this three game stint, there could be a very interesting battle at forward, and it possibly could influence the defense corps if Lindy Ruff decides to keep Adam on the roster afterward. In order to do that, Ruff will have to send either Andrej Sekera, Chris Butler, or Mike Weber through waivers. One forward who should be wary is Nathan Gerbe. If Adam outperforms him in these games, Gerbe’s roster spot could be in jeopardy.

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The NHL Northeast division has won more championships than any other, mostly because of the Montreal Canadiens' 23. The rival Toronto Maple Leafs are second in league history with 13. Among other teams, only the Detroit Red Wings (11) have more than five.

But this division has not won Lord Stanley's Cup in almost 20 years (thank you, referees, for being too cowardly to call Brett Hull for being in the crease!). They have had only two finalists in that time.

So how will they do this season? To see how they will fare in the playoffs, check out the following link to the Eastern Conference playoff preview; here, the division's regular season standings are previewed.

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Many Buffalo Sabres season-ticket holders have been frustrated, disappointed and downright disgusted with their team’s play at HSBC Arena.

The Sabres home record currently stands at 0-4-1, with the team being outscored 17-9 in those contests. It is because of this very poor start at home that the Sabres are currently in 12th place in the Eastern Conference.

The team’s play away from home however, has been stellar, earning a 3-1 record. The Sabres have outscored their road opponents 15-7 in those four games.

It is a mystery as to why the Sabres seem to skate to relatively easy wins during these road games, but fail to generate the same type of play and excitement at home.

This week, the Sabres embark on a series of three road games, starting Tuesday night at Philadelphia. The Sabres then round out the mini road trip with games at Atlanta on Friday and then Dallas the night after.

Both Philadelphia and Atlanta are tied with the Sabres in points with seven, so the Sabres could gain some ground in the Eastern Conference race with a good showing this week.

At home, the Sabres have seemed to feel the pressure and the high expectations that have been present since the start of the season.

After all, the team did win the Northeast Division title last year, and their early success in that season was reflected in the standings at the end of the year.

In the first nine games of last season, the Sabres’ record was 7-1-1, compared to 3-5-1 this season. In the long run, a division title means nothing if compared to the lackluster effort in the playoffs shown last season.

If this means that the Sabres will peak come playoff time, then it is easier to swallow these early-season struggles.

However, in order to play in peak condition in the playoffs, they have to claim a top eight spot in the Eastern Conference first.

The Sabres could potentially see the return of winger Jason Pominville, who is recovering very nicely from his concussion. According to WGR 550 in Buffalo, Pominville is hoping to be ready by the weekend.

Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn is still out with a groin injury, but has been going through a full practice. Chris Butler, who has played well in his stead, will continue to patrol the blue line for the near future.

Craig Rivet, who did not play in the 6-1 win over the Devils, looks like he will play against the Flyers.

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Vanek scores twice, Sabres earn two points in 6-1 victory over New Jersey

What a difference 10 days can make. Last Wednesday, the Sabres were shutout 1-0 by the Devils. On Saturday night, Buffalo went into New Jersey and made it look easy, winning 6-1 at the Prudential Center.

Martin Brodeur was expected to get the night off, since the the Devils were playing three games in four nights. Then, shortly before the game, it was announced the Ilya Kovalchuk was a healthy scratch.

The Sabres certainly took advantage of that. Buffalo scored early and continued to pour it on throughout the game, embarrassing the Devils in their own arena.

Johan Hedberg, who made his first start for the Devils, came into the game with 12 wins in 16 career games against Buffalo. After allowing four goals on 15 shots, he was replaced by Brodeur, who allowed two more goals.

The Devils dropped to 0-4-1 on home ice and the Sabres earned their third win on the road.

Craig Rivet did not play after injuring his shoulder in Friday’s game against Ottawa. That allowed Mike Weber to see his first action of the season.

Thomas Vanek scored the final two goals of the game for the Sabres, raising his total to three on the season. Patrick Kaleta found his first of the season after putting home a rebound.

Ryan Miller’s shutout was ended with a goal by Zach Parise in the third period. Miller finished with 26-of-27 saves on the night.

It was hard to notice Weber, especially with all of the scoring going on. He played decent, but there was nothing too impressive. Weber may not get a chance to play next week. Rivet could be back from his shoulder injury.  Shaone Morrisonn and Jason Pominville are both not far from returning either.

It is still weird seeing Henrik Tallinder and Adam Mair on New Jersey. Tallinder had a tough game (as did most of the team), but he turned over the puck a few times, gift-wrapping a couple Sabres goals.

The Sabres played well tonight and the Devils didn’t. It’s as simple as that. New Jersey has been struggling to score goals, and they decide to scratch Kovalchuk? That doesn’t make sense. New Jersey has now only scored two goals against Buffalo this season.

This game should give Buffalo some momentum, but I said the same thing about the win over Atlanta.

Buffalo will head to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers on Tuesday. That game will be on Versus.

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Friday proved to be just another frustrating night for the Buffalo Sabres and its fans. Ottawa defeated the Sabres 4-2 in front of the HSBC Arena crowd.

Daniel Alfredsson continued his tear against the Buffalo Sabres, scoring three times and earning his 1,000 career point.

Alfredsson came into the game with just one goal and four assists on the season, but had a hat trick and led the Senators to their second victory of the season. He now has 22 points in his last 11 visits to HSBC arena, along with 81 points in 78 career games against Buffalo.

Brian Elliot, who made 34 saves, improved his lifetime record against the Sabres to 9-0.

The Sabres trailed by a goal three different times during the game, but were unable to tie it up in the third period. Despite 20 shots on goal in the third, and 36 overall, Buffalo couldn’t get the tying goal, although they showed a solid effort.

Tim Connolly scored both goals for the Sabres, but Buffalo turned the puck over too many times. The first three Ottawa goals came as a result of direct giveaways by Buffalo.

After Steve Montador failed to get the puck out of the zone while short-handed, the Senators took advantage. Alfredsson tipped a shot that beat Ryan Miller, giving Ottawa a 1-0 lead.

Ottawa’s second goal also came off a Buffalo turnover. Tyler Myers was stripped of the puck behind the net, and Ryan Shannon put the Senators back on top.

Connolly gave the puck away inside the Ottawa zone, and the Senators came down on a two-on-one. Alfredsson blasted the shot past Miller, giving his team its third lead of the night.

The turnovers are what lost this game for Buffalo. If the Sabres would have played the whole game as they did in the third, they probably would have won.

Steve Montador dampened any chance of tying the game in the third by taking an interference penalty. However, there was a good chance he helped save a goal since the Buffalo net was empty.

Now the Sabres have to head to New Jersey to take on the Devils, who are coming off of a 3-0 shutout against Montreal on Thursday.

The Sabres dropped to 0-5 at home this season and last in the Northeast Division. How much longer is this going to last? Or are the Sabres really not that good a team?

Post a comment below with your thoughts.

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