Life after Vanek: Ruff returns to Buffalo, Ott named full-time captain


Monday night at the First Niagara Center promises to be one filled with emotion.

Sabres fans will get their first look at Matt Moulson — or, depending how you look at it, their first look at a Thomas Vanek-less team — and welcome back the winningest coach in franchise history.

Oh yeah, they’ll also have a new full-time captain.

Those are the three major storylines as the Stars take on the Sabres tonight… so let’s begin with Lindy Ruff, as he faces the club he led to 571 wins over the span of 16 seasons.

“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it,” Ruff told the Buffalo News over the weekend. “It’s going to be great to walk into the building and say hello to old faces. It really is. I’ve got a lot of old friends there, a lot of good memories. We had a lot of great hockey in there.

“It’ll be a good day. I want to see our team play really well, and it’ll be a good day.”

Ruff did say, however, his primary focus for tonight’s game is getting the Stars to play better on the road. Dallas is just 1-4-0 away from American Airlines this year, with its lone win coming back on Oct. 11 in Winnipeg.

Now, onto Ott.

Earlier this year, the Sabres made waves with the unorthodox announcement they’d be rolling with co-captains this season — Vanek and Ott — with Vanek serving at home and Ott on the road.

(Buffalo’s former captain, Jason Pominville, described the split as “weird.”)

With Vanek now on Long Island the full-time duties fall to Ott, something the club made official on Monday. He’ll be the home ice captain for the first time this season tonight.

Finally, we’d be remiss without mentioning the newest Sabre. Moulson was on a line with Cody Hodgson during the morning skate, suggesting they’ll play alongside each other tonight against the Stars.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan


Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?