The Winter Classic held in Buffalo was an unquestioned success. It appears the Sabres’ minor-league club will follow its parent by playing outside.
The Rochester Americans have called a news conference for this morning in Frontier Field, the home of the city’s minor-league baseball team. The Amerks are expected to announce they will play a game there next season.
Ted Black, president of the Sabres and Amerks, will be part of the news conference, as will the men’s and women’s hockey coaches from Rochester Institute of Technology. RIT is expected to be part of the outdoor event, which will be held in December, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
The Sabres hosted the inaugural Winter Classic in 2008 in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
There was no sign of hobbled Thomas Vanek on Wednesday, but interim coach Ron Rolston wouldn’t rule out the Sabres’ leading scorer for tonight’s home game against Toronto.
Vanek left a 3-2 overtime victory in Montreal on Tuesday after getting drilled near the hip by a slap shot from teammate Christian Ehrhoff.
“He’s a little bit better, but it’s still going to be day-to-day and what he can tolerate,” Rolston said in First Niagara Center. “It’s certainly a possibility, but we’ll have to see how he is in the morning and how he’s moving.”
Vanek has missed three of the Sabres’ 30 games but remains the team leader with 14 goals and 31 points.
“We’re trying to keep things simpler on the power play, and he happens to block one of the ones that gets through that’s got some heat on it from the point,” Rolston said. “He wants to be around that area. Usually when you’re around that area you get some lumps.”
Mark Pysyk will play his third NHL game in place of injured defenseman Andrej Sekera, who is not ready to return from an upper-body injury suffered Saturday.
“It’s still weak and in pain,” Sekera said. “Not quite there yet. I can skate, it’s no problem. The trouble is shooting, battling and stuff like that.”
Pysyk, the Sabres’ first-round pick in 2010, has two shots and a minus-1 rating while averaging 15:06 of ice time in his opening two games.
“I’m just thankful every day that I’m up here and just trying to stay as long as I can,” Pysyk said. “Who knows how long that may be, but another game will keep the fun going.”
The Toronto hype machine has been in overdrive for defenseman Jake Gardiner, who was recalled from the minors this week. Gardiner, a first-round pick by Anaheim in 2008, played for the Leafs nearly all of last season and had seven goals and 30 points in 75 games.
He was recovering from a concussion when the lockout ended and has spent most of this season with the Marlies, putting up 10 goals and 31 points in 43 games. He had two goals and three assists against the Amerks while Rolston was the coach.
“He’s just an offensive talent,” Rolston said. “He skates extremely well, and he’s similar to what P.K. Subban does for Montreal.”
Toronto waived 31-year-old defenseman Mike Komisarek with one year left on his five-year, $22.5 million contract.
The Sabres have won consecutive games on just three occasions this season. They started the season 2-0, beat Montreal and the New York Islanders back-to-back in early February and had a three-game run Feb. 26 to March 2. They have another opportunity tonight, and the 13th-place club knows it needs to string together wins to have any chance of contending for a playoff spot.
“They’re fully aware of that,” Rolston said.