Drew Stafford

Buffalo Sabres sign Drew Stafford to four-year, $16M contract extension

The Buffalo Sabres face a lot of free agent questions going into the 2011 off-season, but they opted to answer one of their biggest ones today. The team signed pending restricted free agent Drew Stafford to a four-year, $16 million contract extension according to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News.

That works out to an annual salary cap hit of $4 million, which is the same exact mark as fellow Sabres forwards Derek Roy and Brad Boyes. Stafford enjoyed an abbreviated breakout season in 2010-11, scoring 31 goals (and 52 points) in just 62 games played. He scored one goal and two assists for three points in the team’s seven-game series against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Obviously, there are natural questions regarding whether or not this was an all-too-convenient “contract year” performance by Stafford. His 17.3 shooting percentage in 10-11 will be tough to duplicate, but he might be able to reach the 30-goal plateau again anyway if he can play in closer to 82 games per season going forward.

Contract year aberration worries aside, there are reasons the Sabres should feel pleased. It’s not a mammoth deal, especially if he can be a 30-goal guy with regularity. He reached the 20-goal mark in 08-09, is only 25-years-old and has the pedigree of a first round pick (13th overall in 2004), so it’s a reasonable gamble.

Using the common estimate of a $60.5-$63.5 million salary cap ceiling for the 2011-13 season, the Sabres will have about $15.6-$18.6 million with 7-10 roster spots to fill. We’ll take a deeper look at the Sabres’ salary cap situation on Saturday.

Video: Mike Fisher ends Nashville’s nasty goal drought

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No, the Nashville Predators did not forget how to score goals … or at least they were lifted from that amnesia on Wednesday.

Mike Fisher lifted the curse 13:52 into the first period of tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. You can watch that rare beast in the video above.

They had been shut out for three straight games and pretty close to four in pure game time.

On this subject, PHT’s Jason Brough asked Predators GM David Poile if he was considering moving a defenseman to improve in another area earlier today.

Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer