NEWARK, N.J. — Jochen Hecht was agitated and not in the mood to talk. Getting scratched for the first time after 10 seasons in Buffalo obviously didn’t sit well.
The former Sabres captain took a seat Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils despite being healthy. It had never happened before to the team’s longest-tenured player, who arrived from Edmonton via trade before the 2002-03 season.
“No comment. Talk to the guys that are playing,” Hecht told The Buffalo News in Prudential Center.
Hecht had been threatened with benchings twice during his long stay in Buffalo. Former coach Lindy Ruff came close to sitting the forward during the playoffs in 2007 and in December 2008, but he never followed through with a scratch.
The 35-year-old Hecht has one goal, six points and a plus-2 rating in 24 games this season. He had been skating on the left wing with rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko and right wing Drew Stafford.
Enforcer John Scott replaced Hecht.
“We have to make decisions on our lineup,” interim coach Ron Rolston said after the game. “We always just put the lineup we feel is going to give us the best opportunity to win. He’s playing been playing good hockey for us, and I’m sure he’ll get another opportunity real soon.”
After the morning skate Rolston said: “Jochen is a smart player. “He plays very smartly, does whatever you need, and he’s played well lately. We’ve had him in a situation where he’s been with Mikhail, so he can provide that stability, I think, on that line along with Staff as wingers, like a veteran presence. … I think that helps the transfer over to Grigo on the bench.”
It appears the Sabres will welcome Detroit, Florida and Tampa Bay to their division next season.
The NHL Players’ Association has approved the league’s realignment plan, which calls for 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference. Detroit and Columbus will move to the East, while Winnipeg will join the West.
“After discussions with the executive board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season,” union Executive Director Donald Fehr said in a statement.
The NHL board of governors will vote on the proposal, with acceptance expected.
The East would have two eight-team divisions, while the West would have a pair of seven-team divisions. The Sabres’ division would also include Boston, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto.
Eight teams in each conference would make the postseason. The top three teams in each division would secure a spot and be joined by two “wild card” clubs with the next-best records, regardless of division.
Former Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder joined the Devils for the start of the pregame warm-up then left the ice and was replaced by Mark Fayne, whom coach Pete DeBoer said in the morning would be a healthy scratch. New Jersey said Tallinder had a lower-body injury.
Along with Hecht, Buffalo scratched defenseman Adam Pardy.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Cliff Benson, the Sabres’ chief development officer, will meet at 10 this morning in First Niagara Center to formally complete the sale of the Webster Block to the Sabres. ... The ninth annual Scotty Bowman Showcase, which features high school players from Buffalo competing against their counterparts from Rochester, will be held at 6 p.m. April 15 in the arena. ... The Sabres and Unyts will hold their annual blood drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 18 in First Niagara Center. The first 200 donors will receive a free Sabres hat.