You want frustration? Pretty easy visual when you see Ryan Miller, mask off, trying to throw punches.
That’s what happened with four seconds left in Saturday night’s dreary 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders as Isles forward Matt Martin and Sabres defenseman Mike Weber got entangled with Miller in the Buffalo goal crease.
Martin got bumped into Miller and the Buffalo goalie dropped his gloves and grabbed at Martin as Weber and the Islanders forward grappled.
“Martin is usually a pretty honest guy but he grabs Millsy’s head in there,” Weber said. “We can’t have that so I had to get in there.”
“We know who’s on the ice,” Miller said. “I just thought a bump would be that. He didn’t have to try to rip my head off.”
The Islanders were apparently unhappy when Marcus Foligno bumped into Evgeni Nabakov at the other end six seconds earlier. Sabres assistant coach Kevyn Adams and Isles assistant Brent Thompson were yelling at each other from long-distance on the benches.
“If they want to be physical around our net, we’ll do it around their net,” Martin said. “It goes both ways.”
“I made a play hard to the net, just a hard play,” Foligno said. “I knew what I was doing. They just took it to the net too. They thought we did something and they tried to do it back. Webby did a good job there for us. We need emotion. We need to be involved in that.”
When Miller and Martin were engaged, Nabakov came down the ice. Eventually he chatted calmly with Miller in the Buffalo crease and there was no battle between the goalies.
“He just said ‘hi,’ ” Miller said. “Pretty sure he didn’t want to share that shutout.”
Injured winger Ville Leino was on the ice with his teammates for the first time since Jan. 18 in the morning skate and said he still holds out hope he can recover from his sore hip to play at some point this season.
What was far more interesting during Leino’s chat with reporters, however, was his feelings on the firing of coach Lindy Ruff.
“It’s disappointing. It’s not the coach always, or it’s not his fault, but a lot of times it’s players and everything else, too,” Leino said. “At the same time you’ve got to move forward. What I like about it is we’re doing an effort, we’re trying to make it better, doing moves to make the team better. It’s a signal to the players, too, that we want to win and we’re doing everything we can.”
Leino said the firing shows the Sabres have to be more demanding of themselves.
“One of the things here I’ve noticed just being here over a year is we’ve got to have higher demands, higher priorities on the games and working better, keeping each other accountable here,” Leino said. “It’s not always a happy family. You’ve got to have some controversy, some guys pushing each other. It’s not all smiles and happy and be nice – because nice guys usually finish last.”
The Sabres returned rookie Mikhail Grigorenko to the lineup after he sat the last three games as a healthy scratch. Grigorenko centered Foligno and Patrick Kaleta but only played six minutes in the game totaling 10 shifts.
“It was really difficult,” Grigorenko said of his press box stint. “Every hockey player wants to play and for the last week I didn’t. I missed the last three games. It was a little bit hard. It’s never happened to me in my life.”
The firing of Lindy Ruff and hiring of interim coach Ron Rolston marks the first in-season coaching change by the Sabres since John Muckler replaced Rick Dudley on Dec. 11, 1991 with the Sabres 9-15-4.
The team went 22-22-8 under Muckler to finish 31-37-12 but still finished third in the Adams Division, qualifying for the playoffs but losing to Boston in seven games.
The Islanders officially assigned goaltender Rick DiPietro to Bridgeport of the AHL after he cleared waivers Saturday. DiPietro has eight years left on the 15-year, $67.5 million contract owner Charles Wang gave him in 2006 and carries a $3.6 million cap hit.
In three NHL games this season, DiPietro is 0-3-0 with a 4.10 goals-against average and an .855 save percentage.
Defenseman Alexander Sulzer left the game midway through the first period and did not return after being checked into the boards by Islanders forward Colin McDonald. He has an upper-body injury and will be re-evaluated today.
The Islanders entered the NHL in 1972 and with Saturday’s win have 1,355 wins and 1,354 regulation losses. They also had 347 ties and 86 overtime losses.