After the ceremonial groundbreaking for his new HarborCenter project, Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula said Saturday the franchise’s goal of the Stanley Cup is unwavered but begrudingly admitted it is going to take far longer than the three-year plan he had initially hoped for to get close.
“I just look at it optimistically. We’ll move forward and do the right thing,” Pegula said in his first comments to the media since Jan. 19, the day before the season opener. “One team wins the Stanley Cup every year. We will build toward that goal. We’re daily working on that goal.”
Pegula then noted it was 39 years between Cups for the Boston Bruins, who got one for owner and Western New York native Jeremy Jacobs in 2011.
“I don’t know how long,” Pegula said. “How can you guarantee anybody anything? You do your best every year. When’s the last time the New England Patriots won the Stanley Cup? Or the Super Bowl?”
Reminded the Pats don’t regularly miss the playoffs like the Sabres, Pegula’s only response was, “Well, hey.”
Sabres vice president Mike Gilbert tried to deflect reporters’ hockey questions a couple of times, especially when Pegula was asked about the Feb. 19 firing of longtime coach Lindy Ruff. Pegula has not commented publicly on the dismissal of the longest-tentured coach in the NHL.
“I don’t need to answer that now. This is a different topic today,” Pegula said.
Reminded that fans had yet to hear from him on the subject, Pegula shot back, “Why don’t you figure that one out?”
Pegula admitted the Sabres will likely need a youth movement as part of their rebuilding and that it’s difficult for all parties involved, especially fans, to endure tough times.
“I was a fan. But I’m still the owner of the team,” Pegula said. “This is a business now. It’s a little different. You’ve got to take the emotion out of it.”
Jhonas Enroth made 29 saves – and got a fortuitous bounce on a Danny Briere shot off the crossbar with one second left – to get the Sabres’ first shutout of the season and third of his career in their 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. After going nearly 16 months without a win, Enroth is 3-0-1 in his last four starts with a 1.46 goals-against average and .955 save percentage.
“It gives me a little breathing room I think, especially from you guys,” a smiling Enroth told reporters. “You guys are the ones that were talking about it. A couple tough games where I played well and lost. For sure, it gives me breathing room and looks a little bit better in the stats.”
It was the first shutout for Buffalo against the Flyers in the regular season since Dominik Hasek made 31 saves in a 3-0 win over Philly here on Dec. 4, 1998.
Christian Ehrhoff got the game’s only goal at 17 seconds of the third period, firing a shot off the backboards that richocheted home off the leg of Flyers goalie Steve Mason.
“Sometimes you get a good bounce off the boards,” Ehrhoff said. “They did a good job being in shooting lanes and I just tried to get it back in front of the net. Fortunate bounce for me and for us and I’m happy with it.”
Interim coach Ron Rolston admitted the Sabres are in experimentation mode and that included switching Tyler Ennis to left wing with Cody Hodsgon and Thomas Vanek and putting Marcus Foligno at center with John Scott and Drew Stafford. Foligno, who had not played center since his junior days in Sudbury, Ont., won 6-of-8 draws.
“I like how you’re in the battle a lot and counted on down low to get pucks to your wingers and get them down low,” Foligno said. “When you got big guys down low, I feel like I’m able to match that and take pucks off people.
“The biggest thing is get my feet moving. I’m not going to be able to be as skilled skating-wise but just doing little things to make plays.”
The Quebec Remparts were eliminated from their junior playoff series Friday night so that means No. 1 draft choice Mikhail Grigorenko is free to come back to the NHL or make his debut in the AHL with the Rochester Americans. General Manager Darcy Regier said that decision will come in the next day or two.
“He’ll come back, and we’ll make a decision whether we’re going to play him here or we’ll play him in Rochester,” said Regier. “We’ll wait for him to finish up, up there with meetings with [Quebec coach] Patrick Roy and whatever they want to do, and then we’ll bring him back here.”
Sabres center Kevin Porter assisted on Ehrhoff’s goal and has six points (three goals, three assists) in his last six games. … The Flyers have lost four straight and scored just three goals in those games to drop to 12th in the East, and are going to miss the playoffs for just the second time in 18 years. … Former Sabres co-captain Briere returned to the Flyers’ lineup after missing 10 games with a concussion. He played 18:51 and had three shots.