Kaleta, Hackett among six Sabres placed on IR


The Buffalo Sabres announced roster moves on Tuesday, confirming that the following six players have been placed on IR: Matthew Hackett (pictured), Patrick Kaleta, Johan Larsson, Jake McCabe and Mark Pysyk.

Earlier today, head coach Ted Nolan said that McCabe, 20, was going through a “maintenance day.” That gives the feeling that he isn’t that far off from being game-ready, but then again, it’s really just as opaque as referring to someone as day-to-day.

Pysyk, 22, was at least healthy enough to do some charitable work on Tuesday:

There’s no word regarding whether any of these moves might help Mikhail Grigorenko get some NHL reps. With Sam Reinhart likely to test the waters at the highest level, that might need to wait, if such an opportunity was in the cards in the first place.

Buffalo isn’t without good news today overall, as they announced new captain Brian Gionta as well alternates Josh Gorges and Matt Moulson.

Reinhart set to make Sabres’ opening game roster


Sam Reinhart’s training camp was less than perfect, but the 2014 second overall pick will play in Buffalo’s season opener on Thursday, per the Buffalo News.

If Monday’s practice was any indication, he’ll skate alongside Brian Gionta and Cody Hodgson in that game.

“If I’m competing with those guys and doing well with those guys, I feel confident,” Reinhart said. “It certainly helps playing with good players.

“To be here with the guys and surround myself with them the last few weeks, I came with the mentality I’m going to soak everything in. I feel I’ve learned more than I can ever imagine from all the veteran guys here, and I’m going to keep trying to learn every day from them. I know they’re here to help.”

Although he insists he’s simply focusing on his debut, he has to also be aware that his first nine games will be critical. That’s the number of contests Buffalo can use him in before this counts as the first season of his entry-level contract.

Buffalo used 2012 first-rounder Mikhail Grigorenko in 25 contests in the shortened 2013 campaign and he is consequently entering the last season of his entry-level deal despite the fact that he only has 43 NHL games under his belt. The Sabres will likely remember that experience when evaluating Reinhart.

Report: Sabres cut Grigorenko


Mikhail Grigorenko, the 12th overall pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, has been dropped from the Sabres and will report to AHL Rochester, agent Jay Grossman announced on Monday.

Grigorenko, 20, is a tantalizing talent that Buffalo selected out of QMJHL Quebec two years ago, but has had a difficult time adjusting to NHL play. It could be argued, though, that the Sabres are somewhat responsible for that; Grigorenko was rushed into action as an 18-year-old during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign and, last season, bounced around incessantly (Buffalo, Quebec, Rochester and the Russian national junior team) while trying to find a place to play.

While Grigorenko will probably benefit from more seasoning in the American League, it’s worth noting that he’s now in the final year of his entry-level deal.

Risk Factors: Buffalo Sabres edition


From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you“Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,” PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,” i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.

Buffalo Sabres

1. Ted Nolan’s coaching, in more ways than one. Sabres head coach Ted Nolan might be the best person to encapsulate Buffalo’s dichotomous 2014-15 season situation, as it’s more than reasonable to ask: “How successful does the franchise want him and the team to be, anyway?”

By just about every account aside from the typical “player doesn’t want to count his team out” stories, the Sabres seem penciled in to the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes. It’s probably fair to say that Buffalo might have the best odds of grabbing the most lottery balls for the 2015 NHL Draft.

That’s where Nolan becomes an interesting case study, then.

On the pro-tanking side, there’s the fact that one might conclude that Nolan’s tactics could be a little outdated. He went a decade between his first two gigs (ending with Buffalo in 1996-97 and starting his two-year stint with the New York Islanders in 2006-07) and then saw another big gap before taking over with the Sabres once more. Sports leagues tend to follow predictable coaching hiring trends, yet Nolan really doesn’t easily fit into many categories because there are few who traveled such a pateh.

In other words, there’s some reason to believe that Nolan will be the right kind of bad for Buffalo.

Still, if there’s one positive thing Nolan seems to generally be known for, it’s helping a scrappy bunch of players overachieve. That trend even carried over to the 2014 Winter Olympics, as Latvia generated buzz for “believing in themselves” under Nolan’s tutelage.

“We never had a coach that actually believes in the players,” Kaspars Daugavins told reporters in Sochi, according to The Globe & Mail. “It’s always been, like, army style, where everybody just has to work hard and you never get a tap on your shoulders saying ‘Good job, buddy.’”

That’s great for a hockey nation hoping to build its confidence, yet will it be a self-destructive formula in Buffalo?

2. Goaltending – Sure, some seasons were better than others, but Ryan Miller’s netminding provided long-term stability for a team that saw peaks and quite a few valleys. That’s gone now, leading to unfamiliar questions in net.

While the Jhonas Enroth (81 games of regular season experience) and Michal Neuvirth (136 regular season games) pairing are positively seasoned compared to the Anaheim Ducks’ combo of John Gibson and Frederik Andersen, their experiences are still scattered enough that they remain legitimate question marks.

Neither goalie has awful individual career numbers (Neuvirth’s save percentage is .911 while Enroth’s at .913), yet it’s up to question if either can handle the expected torrent of pucks coming their way. Neuvirth’s brief run as a borderline starter in Washington feels like it came a long time ago, as he hasn’t seen a lot of action since 2011-12. Enroth hasn’t ever played more than the 28 games he appeared in last season. Miller was one of the NHL’s true workhorses in a time when that breed has become tougher to come by, so this could be a bumpy transition for Buffalo.

3. Scoring. Buffalo scored by far the fewest goals in the league last season (157), generated the lowest number of shots on goal per game (26.3) and possessed the second-least efficient power play unit (14.1 percent success rate). Incremental progress is plausible … unfortunately, they’re currently leaps and bounds behind the league’s contenders.

While Cody Hodgson’s a gem, the Sabres are glaringly low on the sort of top-level scorers who can help you win games and dominate puck possession. Matt Moulson could be a solid fit in his second stint with the Sabres, yet the team probably can’t expect much more than solid mentoring from the likes of Brian Gionta.

Sure, there’s a wild card or two in Chris Stewart and Mikhail Grigorenko, but the situation’s pretty bleak overall. (And Stewart himself admits that he’s gone into one too many seasons with “something to prove.”)

Really, it isn’t tough to poke holes in the team’s defense either, but one could see Nolan driving this group to do its best to “bend but not break.” There’s only so much you can do to camouflage a lack of scoring ability, though.

Hodgson feels ‘really comfortable’ at left wing


When the 2014-15 campaign starts, it looks like Cody Hodgson will play as a left winger rather than his natural position of center, which suits him just fine.

“I feel really comfortable,” Hodgson told the Buffalo News. “Talking with the coaches and different players on how to play wing, I try to get as much advice on things on possible. You want to figure out things beforehand so you’re not going through all that transition on the ice.”

Hodgson had an assist and a team-high seven shots on goal in 24:33 minutes of ice time on the left wing during Sunday’s preseason game. He was playing alongside center Mikhail Grigorenko and Chris Stewart.

Before training camp began, Hodgson already had an opportunity to acclimatize himself to his new position towards the end of the 2013-14 campaign and then with Team Canada in the 2014 World Championship. He excelled in that tournament with six goals and eight points in six games. He wasn’t nearly as effective during the 2013-14 campaign though as he finished with 20 goals and 44 points in 72 contests.

Buffalo will be looking for more out of him this season as he enters the second season of his six-year, $25.5 million contract.