The Buffalo News - Sports Latest stories from The Buffalo News en-us Wed, 16 Apr 2014 20:50:07 -0400 Wed, 16 Apr 2014 20:50:07 -0400 <![CDATA[ Sabres lose out in draft lottery, will pick second in NHL draft ]]>
He was right. The Sabres lost all season on the ice, so it’s little surprise they lost a lottery, too. They’ll pick in the No. 2 slot at the NHL Draft on June 27 in Philadelphia.

“I’m not disappointed,” Murray said Tuesday night in a Canadian television studio. “It’s kind of what I was expecting.”

Despite the continuing run of bad luck, Buffalo will select in the top five for only the second time since 1987. They took Thomas Vanek fifth overall in 2003.

“We’ll get a good player, and I think there’s a great chance we could get a guy that we have No. 1 on our list,” Murray said. “I think with the way the draft sets up, we probably have a better chance of getting the guy that we have No. 1 than we had a chance today of getting the first pick.

“To me, it’ll all work out.”

There’s a chance the Sabres could have two of the top five picks. The New York Islanders own the No. 5 selection, but they have until June 1 to decide whether to give it to Buffalo or deliver their 2015 first-round pick to the Sabres as part of their October trade for Vanek.

“We haven’t made our mind up yet,” said Trent Klatt, the Islanders’ head amateur scout.

New York GM Garth Snow did not attend the lottery.

“I certainly know staying at five there’s a better possibility of us getting their pick versus if they had moved to one,” Murray said. “There’s a 50-50 chance that we’ll have two picks in the top five.”

The NHL has been conducting a draft lottery since 1995, but it revamped the rules last year to give all teams that fail to make the playoffs a shot at the No. 1 selection. The team that finishes last has a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery and retaining the top pick. The rest of the first round is conducted in reverse order, so last-place Buffalo had a 73.5 percent chance of falling to No. 2. It did.

(New Jersey, which had a 1.5 percent chance of winning the lottery, was ineligible because of a salary cap violation. Another lottery would have been conducted had the Devils won.)

Buffalo became the 13th last-place team in 19 lotteries to lose the weighted contest. Florida finished at the bottom last year, but Colorado won the lottery to bump the Panthers to second. They’ll get the top spot this year.

“Very good day for the Panthers,” said Travis Viola, the vice president of hockey operations.

There are three players considered worthy of being drafted at the top: defenseman Aaron Ekblad and forwards Sam Bennett and Sam Reinart. Viola said the Panthers have depth up front. That might lead them to take Ekblad. The Sabres were far and away the worst offensive team in the NHL and have a good corps of defense prospects, so forward might be their desired selection.

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Wed, 16 Apr 2014 01:57:49 -0400 John Vogl
<![CDATA[ Sabres GM says season ‘was completely unacceptable’ ]]>
But they also met with first-year general manager Tim Murray. And he had a stern message to them about the train-wreck of a season they had just completed.

“This year was completely unacceptable,” Murray said during the team’s wrap-up news conference in the arena on Tuesday. “I told them it wasn’t all on them. It was on management, it was on the coaching staff. A lot of it was on injuries where we had to put people into positions that they aren’t ready for. So that’s out of our hands.

“As far as coming next year and being ready to battle for jobs, there’s going to be competition and we’re not going to hand jobs to young kids unless they deserve it. Come in shape, come ready to battle and come ready to play hard. That was the message.”

The Sabres finished 21-51-10, with their 52 points the lowest by an NHL team in a full season since 2000 and the second-lowest in franchise history. The mandate to the players is their summer preparation has to be better than it’s been.

“The expectations are going to be a little bit higher and training camp is going to be a lot tougher,” said coach Ted Nolan. “You can compete. You don’t have to have a whole lot of skill to compete and don’t have to have a whole lot of skill to come into training camp in the best possible shape.”

What does Murray plan to do to get this team out of the nether regions of the NHL?

The plans are still a work in progress. It depends, for instance, if the Sabres have one, two or three first-round picks this June, as they could still earn No. 1s from St. Louis and the New York Islanders. And it depends upon how quickly their cadre of young talent keeps developing.

“A lot of nights it was hard to watch,” Murray admitted. “A lot of nights we competed hard and just didn’t have enough talent to put us over the top, but other nights weren’t pretty.”

Murray said he’ll do what’s best for the organization through the draft and free agency, and expects to sign a couple of veterans this summer to augment the roster. He also said targeting young players who averaged 8-18 minutes per game for trades is another key avenue.

“Are we going to improve in leaps and bounds or is it going to be increments?” he said. “We will improve. We have to decide as an organization how we’re going to get there. This is not going to be a five-year rebuild. … When you tear it down, it doesn’t happen overnight, but I don’t buy into five-year rebuilds.”

Murray was asked point-blank about the potential of the Sabres or other teams tanking next season with prizes such as Ontario Hockey League superstar Connor McDavid and American standout Jack Eichel expected to be at the top of the draft. The topic has been a hot one this year in the NBA because of the talent expected to declare for its draft in June.

“We want to be competitive. If anybody thinks that there’s a message of tanking being sent from upstairs, I would suggest they put a camera on me for 60 minutes of the game when we’re losing and you’ll know that tanking is not what I want,” Murray said. “I want to play properly. I want to be competitive.”

Murray said he understood the notion that his deadline deals of Ryan Miller, Steve Ott, Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick could have been construed as a form of tanking. That’s especially true considering the Sabres went 2-16-2 over the final 20 games.

But he said those deals were done with long-term goals in mind, and not with the idea of getting a top pick this year that was already in reach.

“The coaches on the bench don’t want to lose,” Murray said. “I can’t imagine there’s one player in there that wants to finish last so we can get Connor McDavid so he can lose his job to him. Where in our organization would the tanking come from if the GM doesn’t want to lose and the coaches don’t want to lose and the players don’t want to lose?

In other items from the news conference and beyond:

• Injuries: Murray said he believes goaltender Matt Hackett needs surgery on his injured right knee while goaltender Michal Neuvirth has been seeing a specialist for a nagging hip problem. Marcus Foligno (shoulder) and Henrik Tallinder (ankle) are pondering minor surgeries.

Neuvirth, who played two games after being acquired from Washington but didn’t play again, had refused to reveal his injury Monday.

“We think he’s a good goalie and we’re trying to get to the bottom of it,” Murray said. “Beyond the injury, how can we help him in that area so it’s not a recurring thing?

• Buyouts: Murray said it was less than 50-50 the Sabres would use both of their CBA-allowed compliance buyouts this June but pretty much admitted one will be used on goal-less forward Ville Leino. “It’s not 100 percent, but it’s a very good possibility that’s one of our buyouts,” Murray said.

• Coaching staff: Nolan said no definitive decision has been made on his assistants, although sources maintain that Joe Sacco, Teppo Numminen, Jim Corsi and Jerry Forton will not be retained.

“You want to make sure you evaluate properly,” Nolan said. “Tim and I have had some discussions the last couple of weeks. It’s hard to address during the season.”

• Defenseman Jake McCabe was confirmed Tuesday afternoon by USA Hockey for the Team USA roster at the World Championships next month in Belarus.

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 23:22:13 -0400 Mike Harrington
<![CDATA[ Chad Kelly issues an apology ]]> Former St. Joe's star Chad Kelly, who was dismissed from the Clemson football team early this week, issued an apology today through his uncle, Dan Kelly:

"I have apologized to the coaching staff for my behavior," Kelly, the nephew of former Bills great Jim Kelly, said in the release. "I am disappointed in myself. I let down not only my coaches and teammates, but also Clemson University and all of our fans. Most importantly, I've let down myself and my family.

"I have always been competitive to a fault, winning at all costs. I let my emotions get the best of me, culminating in this unfortunate situation with Coach (Dabo) Swinney and the Clemson Tigers."

Swinney, the Clemson head coach, dismissed Kelly from the team on Monday, citing a "pattern" of behavior. Kelly had an on-field alteraction with his coaches last Saturday during the annual spring game. He was upset with the coaches for punting on fourth-and-three in the first half and was benched for the entire second half as a result.

According to South Carolina newspaper reports, Kelly didn't show remorse in a meeting with Swinney on Monday. The reports said Kelly also didn't apologize for an incident from last Thursday, when he was involved in a fender-bender that involved Ali Rogers, a former Miss South Carolina who works as in intern in the football offices. Rogers tweeted on Tuesday that Kelly had been disrespectful and tried to get her not to file a police report.

I spoke today with St. Joe's football coach Dennis Gilbert, who coached Kelly during his two years as a high school star in Buffalo. Gilbert attended Saturday's spring game with his two teen-aged sons and has been in contact with Kelly in recent days.

"I tell you, one of his best attributes is the fact that he's so competitive, " Gilbert said. "I think that's what gives him a big edge on the field of competition, that he's so competitive in everything he does. At times, that can get in your way, too."

"I have talked to him extensively," Gilbert said. "He's one of us, you know. Regardless of what happens, as a coach you've always got to be there for your kids and support them. It's easy to stand with them during the good times; you got to help them through the tough times, too.

"One of the first things Chad said to me after everything played out Monday was, ''Well, coach, we always said it's not the mistakes you make, it's how you answer them. We're in answering mode now.''"

Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:18:09 -0400
<![CDATA[ Sabres making coaching changes as ax falls on Nolan’s assistants ]]> By John Vogl

There was no question Sabres coach Ted Nolan would want his own assistants. He has room to add them because the holdovers are out.

Buffalo announced today that assistants Joe Sacco, Teppo Numminen, Jerry Forton and goalie coach Jim Corsi will not be back in their roles next season. Sacco and Forton have been offered other jobs in the hockey department. Corsi has been let go and Numminen will not have his contract renewed.

Nolan took over for Ron Rolston during the season and inherited the former coach's assistants. Though there were no outward signs of struggle within the staff, it was assumed Nolan would want to hire his own people.

The Sabres said Nolan is not available to comment on the changes.

Corsi was the longest-tenured member on the Sabres' coaching staff. He just completed his 16th season in Buffalo, and he's worked with Dominik Hasek and Ryan Miller. The affable coach is also known for inventing the Corsi Rating, a common hockey analytics tool that compares the shots directed at the opposition's net to the attempts taken on the team's own net.

Numminen, who finished his long NHL career on the Sabres' blue line, just finished his third season as a coach. He spent the first two in the press box talking to the other coaches on a headset, and he was promoted to a bench job this season.

Sacco and Forton were in their first year in the organization. Sacco spent the previous four seasons as head coach in Colorado, where he was a Coach of the Year finalist in 2010. He will be an assistant for the U.S. world championship team this spring.

Forton came to the Sabres with no prior NHL experience and worked in the press-box role.

There's no word on who Nolan will hire as his assistants. One likely addition will be Randy Cunneyworth, a longtime friend of Nolan who is already in the organization as liaison between the Sabres and their minor-league club Rochester. Nolan, who is also the coach of the Latvian national team, has spoken highly of Latvia's goalie coach, Arturs Irbe. The longtime NHL goaltender left his job with the Washington Capitals in 2011 to spend more time with his family.

Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:28:08 -0400
<![CDATA[ Binghamton lax beats Griffs ]]>
Matt Springer (Hamburg) had a goal for the winning Bearcats.

Canisius will complete its home schedule with a Senior Day game against VMI at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Demske Sports Complex. ]]>
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 23:35:23 -0400
<![CDATA[ Accountability in Sabreland will be a big deal with Murray ]]>
Things were so promising then. Pegula walked out onto the stage and was greeted like a savior. Fans thought they were getting hockey heaven. Three years later, they had the worst team in franchise history. Next year, the Sabres will likely miss the playoffs for a record fourth straight time.

But at least they nailed the season-ending press conference. I didn’t expect them to produce the owner. You’d think Pegula would feel compelled to offer a few words on the sorry state of his team, or to answer questions about the bizarre departure of Pat LaFontaine.

The Sabres know better by now. They did the wise thing, which was to keep anyone from ownership as far away as possible. Pegula’s lack of media skills are well-established, and they weren’t sending out Ted Black after his hostile, embarrassing performance of a year ago.

Tim Murray and Ted Nolan are the new faces of the franchise, men who weren’t responsible for running the franchise into the gutter and who have engendered positive feelings in a fan base that has been paying NHL prices for a minor-league product.

Say what you will about the team, which was an abject disgrace this season, Murray and Nolan give suffering fans a reason for hope. It’s faint hope, but when your team has hit rock bottom, you’ll grab onto anything you can.

Evidently, Sabres fans have a boundless capacity for belief. They continued to show up and support what was possibly the worst NHL team in half a century. The Sabres had the fewest goals per game of any team (not counting shootout goals) in the post-1967 expansion era.

As entertainment, it was dreadful. Still, there’s a waiting list of people who want to patronize the team. A lot of season ticket holders are afraid to surrender them, for fear they’ll lose out when the draft picks pay off and the Sabres are competitive again.

The big question, of course, is when that will happen, and how one defines the term “competitive.” Nolan, the head coach, promised the standard will be raised and the team will compete harder than ever next season. Murray, the general manager, said the same thing.

Murray characterized this past season as “totally unacceptable” and told the players expectations will be higher next season. He and Nolan talked, as all rebuilding teams do these days, about “changing the culture.”

So what will the standard be? The Sabres finished 41 points out of the playoffs. They could improve by 20 points next year and still miss by 20. Murray was asked if missing the playoffs next season would be considered acceptable.

“It depends how we do it,” he said. “There’s still a lot of questions to be answered about direction. There’s lots of questions to be answered about our top young players. Are they ready? Is it the right thing for them to be here or to be in Rochester?

“We haven’t had pro meetings yet,” Murray added. “We haven’t had amateur meetings yet. We haven’t decided our draft list yet. So there’s all kinds of questions that need to be answered that will help us answer which direction we’re going in next year. … But the direction we’re going in, depending on whether it’s young, it’s old, it’s free agency, it’s trade – we have to improve,” he said. “So are we going to improve in leaps and bounds, or in increments? But we will improve.”

Murray said he would like to add a couple of veteran free agents, assuming they want to play here. I’d love to see them take a run at Ryan Callahan. It remains to be seen how many members of the current team will stick around. I get the impression that Murray isn’t too fond of some of the underachieving veterans.

He was a very strong presence Tuesday. It might have been the best public performance I’ve seen from a Sabres management person in 25 years. Murray was part dour executive, part Jimmy Fallon. At one point, a reporter began to ask about a certain expression from last April. Murray cut him off.

“I wasn’t here,” he said.

Fair enough, he was told. But fans were told to set up for suffering.

“I’m not using that word,” Murray said, smiling. “I want to get out in front of you.” The room broke up in laughter at that point. It was a far cry from a year ago, when Black and Darcy Regier presided.

Murray was asked how much rebuilding might be in store for fans, considering that the Sabres had bottomed out.

“When you tear it down, it doesn’t happen overnight,” Murray said. “I don’t buy into five-year rebuilds … I could sit here and say it’s a seven-year rebuild and hopefully I get 10 years out of it.

“But that’s not reality and it’s not what I want, anyway,” he said. “I want to rebuild here properly, which takes time. But it doesn’t have to take years. We’re not going to take short cuts. We’re going to do it right.”

As the cranes will attest, Pegula is good at building. Rebuilding is another thing. He was too slow to acknowledge the decrepit state of his hockey team. Murray is a veteran hockey man who knows how teams are built. There was a palpable disgust in his voice when he talked about the mess he inherited in January.

Murray seems like the right guy for the job. He and Nolan are determined to put a team on the ice next season that’s hard-working and accountable, something along the lines of Nolan’s first team here in 1995-96.

They won’t be a contender in the short run. They need to hit on some high draft picks and have their kids evolve into solid NHL players. As Murray said, he can’t fix it overnight.

More suffering is in store. That doesn’t mean the team should be a joke.

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 23:21:05 -0400 Jerry Sullivan
<![CDATA[ Murray says Sabres need to earn NHL officials’ respect ]]>
General Manager Tim Murray has heard plenty of it and seems to agree. Murray revealed Tuesday he’s voiced his opinion as well, and it hasn’t been well-received in league offices.

“I’ve had some talks with people in the league. We’ve had our ‘pee-pee’ slapped once here so I’ve got to be careful what I say,” Murray said, as laughter filled the press conference room in First Niagara Center. “I’m on notice and I don’t want to have to pay that fine.”

The Sabres were agitated right from the start of the season, months before Murray was hired, as former coach Ron Rolston was hit with a bizarre “player selection” fine for the infamous preseason brawl in Toronto – even though John Scott was already on the ice before the altercation even began.

In October, Patrick Kaleta was hit with a 10-game suspension for an elbow on Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson – who finished the game and actually played 23 minutes. Scott was then nailed with a seven-gamer for an elbow on Boston’s Loui Eriksson.

Scott was a first-time offender, but the elbow was a brutal hit on national television so the penalty didn’t seem too harsh. But the Sabres were furious when a concussion-causing hit by Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo to the head of Chad Ruhwedel during their April 6 loss to the Flyers, also on NBC Sports Network, drew just four games.

And Murray said he was also outraged at the five-minute interference major rookie defenseman Jake McCabe was hit with Saturday in Boston for a clean hit on Daniel Paille.

Murray said Tuesday he spoke to NHL officiating head Stephon Walkom about that play.

“They were in agreement with what I had to say,” Murray said. “We’re not always going to agree.”

Murray acknowledged that Scott is clearly a target of officials and that the staged fight the Sabres’ enforcer specializes in probably needs to be eliminated. The GM, however, said he loved the spontaneous battle rookie Nicolas Deslauriers had Sunday against Scott Mayfield of the New York Islanders, and used that as an example of how the Sabres need to be a harder team to play against.

“We won’t be the best team, but we don’t want a team to come in here and think it will be an easy two points,” Murray said. “Sometimes when you’re the 30th-place team, some calls don’t go your way because it depends who you’re playing against. I don’t think there’s any malice in that or they do it purposely, but you just don’t have the same respect the Boston Bruins have, for example.

“You have to earn that respect on the ice. We will earn that back. I think we’ll earn it back with the league and the officials, and we’ll earn respect going forward next year that we’re harder to play against.”

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 23:20:57 -0400 Mike Harrington
<![CDATA[ Despite loss of Mack, Bulls’ linebacking looks strong ]]>
There’s plenty of experience for defensive coordinator Lou Tepper to work with and opportunities for younger players – even a true freshman or two – to earn some valuable playing time. “I love them,” said Tepper who doubles as the Bulls’ linebackers coach. “I don’t have a jerk in my room, I’ve got hard-working guys who want to be pretty good.”

It didn’t even take Tepper long to identify Mack’s replacement: 6-0, 200-pound sophomore Jarrett Franklin, who appeared in 11 games and had 21 tackles, including three for loss. “He has an unusual body type, but he does some pretty good things,” Tepper said. “I’ve very pleased with his progress.”

But the Bulls don’t have a backup to Franklin just yet. Solomon Jackson, a 6-1, 230-pound redshirt freshman and 6-4, 215-pound true freshman Juwan Jackson, an early enrollee from Milford Academy, are being developed.

“We’ve got some guys who are working hard,” Tepper said. “They’re not ready yet, but they have wonderful attitudes,” Tepper said. “I’m hoping one of those two will develop in time.”

The Bulls are solid at mike linebacker starting with 6-2, 233-pound senior Lee Skinner, a pillar in the lineup, who has started all 37 games of his career and has ranked second on the team in tackles in each of his first three seasons. The Dayton, Ohio, native recorded 79 tackles including 3.5 for loss in 2013. His backup is 6-0, 219-pound redshirt freshman Greg Lis from Lincoln Park, N.J.

Returning at bull linebacker is Jake Stockman, a 6-3, 237-pound senior who started three times last season and finished with 43 tackles, 5.5 for loss. He replaces starter Blake Bean, who transferred to North Texas. Lancaster product Travis Pitzonka, who appeared in all 13 games last season, will back up Stockman.

“I can’t say enough good things about them,” Tepper said. “They may not be All-MAC guys, but they are disciplined, they’re in the right locations, they’ll hit the bejabbers out of you. I like them.”

The big question is who will be the rush linebacker? A likely candidate would be senior Adam Redden, a third-team All-MAC selection last season, but he’s spent most of the spring in the secondary at safety. Another is 6-2, 232-pound Kendall Roberson or 6-3, 222-pound junior Brandon Tammaro, who has missed the spring with an injury. It could be a true freshman like Myles Nicholas from Rochester, Randy Anyanwu from Lovejoy, Ga., Corey Henderson from King George, Va., or Will White from Detroit.

“We’ve got a number of guys who are going to be able to get out there and prove their worth whether it’s on defense or special teams,” UB coach Jeff Quinn said. “You can’t get enough linebackers because you have to utilize them in special teams and they’re going to have their chance to go out there and help this football team win games.”

There’s junior Nick Gilbo, who has missed most of the spring with a knee injury. He missed seven games last season with an injury, but Tepper expects the 6-1, 220-pounder from Port Henry to compete for playing time at the mike, bull and rush in training camp if his knee improves.

“Nick Gilbo is the guy who’s very talented, but he hasn’t played and we don’t know if he’s going to be ready or not,” Tepper said. “If he is, he’s going to challenge somebody to start, and it could be one of the three positions. He’s not the typical rush, he doesn’t have the length that most of the rushes have, but if we don’t develop a taller, lankier guy, I wouldn’t be afraid to put him there.”

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 23:20:51 -0400 Rodney McKissic
<![CDATA[ Bisons lead division despite six postponed games ]]>
The Herd’s doubleheader against the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders on Tuesday was the second straight postponement. The games were called with snow and cold temperatures moving through Coca-Cola Field.

That makes it six postponed games for the Bisons through the first 15. They are, however, 6-3, and a half game in first place in the International League North Divison.

Marcus Stroman is scheduled to start for the Herd tonight when the teams play a single game at 6:05 p.m. He is 0-1 in his first two starts with a 1.80 earned run average. Stroman, one of the top prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, has 12 strikeouts against six walks in 10 innings of work.

With two games to make up in the series with the RailRiders, Thursday’s game will be a doubleheader beginning at 12:05 p.m.

Ricky Romero and Kyle Drabek are scheduled to start those seven-inning games before the team leaves for an eight-game road trip.

The other postponed game will now be made up as part of a doubleheader on July 2 with the first game beginning at 5:35 p.m.

While the weather has wreaked havoc with the schedule, the roster moves continued on Tuesday afternoon.

The Toronto Blue Jays purchased the contract of shortstop Munenori Kawasaki and activated pitcher J.A. Happ from his Major League Rehabilitation Assignment.

To make room on their roster, the Blue Jays optioned catcher Erik Kratz to the Bisons. Toronto also announced today that pitcher Jeremy Jeffress cleared waivers and has been outrighted to the Bisons. Also announced was that Buffalo pitcher Marcus Walden has been designated for assignment.

The promotion for Kawasaki comes after Toronto’s Maicer Izturis suffered a complete tear of his lateral collateral ligament. Typical recovery time for the tear is four to six months, although the 33-year old is reportedly seeking a second opinion before scheduling the surgery.

In eight games with the Bisons, Kawasaki batted .240 with a double and an RBI.

Happ returns to the Blue Jays after making one start for the Herd last Thursday. He struck out six, gave up one run on five hits in a no-decision to Pawtucket.

Kratz played six games with the Blue Jays, batting .200 with a home run and four runs batted in. He is a three-time International League All-Star, winning the honor with Indianapolis (2009) and Lehigh Valley (2010, 2011).

Jeffress pitched in 25 games for Buffalo last season, going 1-0 with a 1.65 earned run average and seven saves. He appeared in three games for the Blue Jays this year giving up four runs in 3∑ innings.

Walden was 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA in three games with the Bisons this year.

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 23:20:06 -0400 Amy Moritz
<![CDATA[ The Watch List for April 16 ]]>

• Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Buffalo, 6:05 p.m., Coca-Cola Field.

Horse Racing

• Buffalo Raceway, 5 p.m.


College Softball

• Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton, 7 p.m., ESPNU.


• LPGA Tour, LOTTE Championship, 6:30 p.m., Golf.


• N.Y. Mets at Arizona, 3:30 p.m., SNY.

• Chicago at N.Y. Yankees, 7 p.m., YES.


• Atlanta at Milwaukee, 8 p.m., ESPN.

• Toronto at New York, 8 p.m., MSG.

• Golden State at Denver, 10:30 p.m., ESPN.

NHL Playoffs

Conference Quarterfinals

• Montreal at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m., CNBC, Ch. 5.

• Columbus at Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN.

• Dallas at Anaheim, 10 p.m., NBCSN.


• English Premier League: Manchester City vs. Sunderland, 2:45 p.m., NBCSN.

• Copa Del Rey Championship: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, 3:25 p.m., ESPN.



• Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Buffalo, 6:05 p.m., 1520. ]]>
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 23:19:02 -0400
<![CDATA[ Will Elliott: Fishing Line for April 16 ]]>
The walleye, pike and Lake Erie early bass season does not kick in until May 3, but many an inland lake, river and bay area offer some attractive panfish prospects.

Boater are reminded that wearing a PFD (personal flotation devices) or life preserver is mandatory for all aboard vessels in New York State until May 1.

Crappie critters

The crappie (aka calico, strawberry bass, speck, etc.) offers the most challenging pre-spawn fishery open as soon as ice disappears from water surfaces.

Chautauqua Lake was best known as the Mecca for “calico” catches. Before 50-fish limits were placed on this prize species, many a Buffalonian – and anglers from elsewhere many miles from Mayville or Jamestown – filled pails, buckets and bins with hundreds of these tasty panfish.

White crappie schools can be tight, abundant and a good bite; they prefer stained waters and can be picky about habitat areas. The black crappie is much more dominant in area waters and can be found in relative shallows at varying depths throughout the ice and early spring season.

But the catch is finding both the sites and depth levels at which these fish will feed on terminal tackle.

Chautauqua still holds many a sizeable school of black crappies, but the shoreline run is shorter and boaters have to make reconnaissance runs to find these tight schools. At times, three or four boats in a circle have good catches and boaters in dozens of surrounding boats become an audience rather than performer in the harvest.

Other panfish

Each early-spring a corps of savvy anglers get in on this crappie bite, but for most shoreline scourers bluegills and perch lead the search.

Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors in Lakewood has been selling many minnows and gets good ‘gill reports along with smaller perch and the start of a calico run at Chautauqua.

In the western Finger Lakes, both Honeoye and Silver Lake have had a decent early-spring run of sizeable bluegills. Dave at Dave Washburn’s Bait Shop on West Lake Road said, “The boaters have been getting out of the state launch on Honeoye for about a week now and I’m selling all kinds of bait – minnows, worms and grubs.”

The worms (nightcrawler) sales could be the start of a good bullhead run. The minnows and grubs indicate a beginning for crappie and ‘gills. “They (boaters) won’t tell me what they’re doing yet,” Washburn said Tuesday afternoon.

Along Lake Ontario, shore casters have been reaching perch at Cranberry and Long Pond but not yet on Irondequoit Bay, according to George at S&R Bait & Tackle in Rochester. Ice has been off the bay for more than a week, but most bait buyers are headed to shallower bays or trout streams.

Bait debates

Many early-spring crappie chasers rely wholly on live minnows, but plastic baits (tube jigs, Mr. Twisters, Gulps, and small whacky worms) all can connect with the right presentation.

Minnow hookups vary with each expert. Some say hooking through the head or lip draws the best bite on rigs suspended under a bobber/float. Others swear by a connection just behind the dorsal fin of either emerald shiners or fathead minnows to let the bait swim a bit and draw attention from passive feeders.

The waxworm get hooked at either end or through the center, but a dead-center hookup give this longer grub the appearance of a mini whacky worm and often ups the hit and hooking count.

As for plastics, colors can be essential at times and so-so at others.

Darker colors resemble bugs, larvae and grubs. Lighter colors work like minnows. For decades, even the smaller, grub-like plastics ended up as small, oval or tubular offerings.

Lately, some panfish plastics experts have gone with longer white bodies on plastic heads, either in a full body pattern or with long tentacle-like streamers behind the white head. Southern crappie experts swear by these longer patterns for bigger crappie gathering around brush piles and dock structures. Perhaps they will catch on up north here this spring.

Most inland lakes have reached that magic 39 degrees, creating the turnover that melts off even the thickest layers of ice.

Niagara river

Lower Niagara River water temperatures hold in the mid 30s, water coming down from ice-covered Lake Erie, says Capt. Jim Rores.

Water remains clear, so Kwikfish are not as effective as egg sacks or minnows, Rores suggests. He looks forward to fish setting up on the Niagara Bar prior to the removal of the ice boom.

email: ]]>
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 23:18:54 -0400
<![CDATA[ Teeing it up for April 16 ]]>
Event: RBC Heritage.

Site: Hilton Head, S.C.

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday.

Course: Harbour Town Golf Links (7,101 yards, par 71).

Purse: $5.8 million. Winner’s share: $1.04 million.

Television: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m., 10:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.; Saturday, 1-2:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m.-3:30 a.m.; Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m., 7-11:30 p.m.) and CBS (Saturday-Sunday, 3-6 p.m.).

Last year: Graeme McDowell beat Webb Simpson with a par on the first hole of a playoff.

Last week: Bubba Watson won the Masters for the second time in three years, beating Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt by three strokes. Watson also won at Riviera in February.

Notes: The 20-year-old Spieth is in the field. … Nick Faldo and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson are entered. Watson won at Harbour Town in 1979 and 1982, and Faldo took the 1984 title. Faldo tied for 53rd last month in the Champions Tour’s Mississippi event. … Brandt Snedeker won in 2011, overcoming a six-stroke deficit with a 64 and beating Luke Donald with a par on the third extra hole. … Jim Furyk won in 2010 on the first playoff hole after Brian Davis called a two-stroke penalty on himself for moving a loose impediment in a hazard during his backswing. … In 2009, Brian Gay finished with a 64 for a tournament-record 10-stroke victory. Gay also broke the event scoring record, finishing at 20-under 264. … The Zurich Classic is next week in Avondale, La., followed by the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., and The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.



Event: LPGA Lotte Championship.

Site: Kapolei, Hawaii.

Schedule: Wednesday-Saturday.

Course: Ko Olina Golf Club (6,383 yards, par 72).

Purse: $1.7 million. Winner’s share: $255,000.

Television: Golf Channel (Wednesday, 6:30-10:30 p.m., 11 p.m.-2 a.m.; Thursday-Sunday, 6:30-10:30 p.m.).

Last year: Suzann Pettersen beat Lizette Salas with a par on the first playoff hole after Salas chunked her approach shot into the water. Salas closed with a tournament-record 62.

Last event: Lexi Thompson won the Kraft Nabisco Championship on April 6 for her first major title and fourth tour victory, beating Michelle Wie by three strokes. The 19-year-old Thompson became the second-youngest major champion in LPGA Tour history.

Notes: Thompson is skipping the tournament. … Pettersen is sidelined by an aggravated disk in her back. … Top-ranked Inbee Park is winless in five tours starts this season after sweeping the first three majors and winning six times last season. She won a Ladies European Tour event last month in China. … Wie, from Hawaii, won the last of her two LPGA Tour titles in 2010. … The Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic is next week at Lake Merced in San Francisco, followed by the North Texas LPGA Shootout in Irving.


Champions Tour

Event: Greater Gwinnett Championship.

Site: Duluth, Ga.

Schedule: Friday-Sunday.

Course: TPC Sugarloaf (7,259 yards, par 72).

Purse: $1.8 million. Winner’s share: $270,000.

Television: Golf Channel (Friday, 12:30-2:30 p.m.; Saturday, 2-4 a.m., 3-6 p.m.; Sunday, 3:30-5:30 a.m., 3-6 p.m.; Monday, midnight-3 a.m.).

Last year: Bernhard Langer won the second of his two 2013 titles. He closed with a 67 for a three-stroke victory over Tom Lehman and Tom Pernice Jr.

Last event: Jeff Maggert won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic on March 23 to become the 17th player to win in his tour debut.

Notes: Miguel Angel Jimenez is making his Champions Tour debut. Fourth last week in the Masters, the Spaniard turned 50 in January. He won the Hong Kong Open in December for his 20th European Tour title. … Langer won the season-opening event in Hawaii for his 19th tour title. He tied for eighth in the Masters. … Fred Couples is coming off a tie for 20th in the Masters. He won last month in Newport Beach, Calif. … The Greg Norman-designed course was the site of the PGA Tour’s now-defunct AT&T Classic from 1997 to 2008. … The tour is off next week. Play will resume May 2-4 with the Insperity Invitational in The Woodlands, Texas.



Jim Lumadue, on the 186-yard fifth hole at Terry Hills, with a 6-iron. ]]>
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 23:18:19 -0400
<![CDATA[ Official: Stadium group meetings should be open ]]>
“Clearly the Open Meetings Law would apply to the board ... and its records are subject to the Freedom of Information Law,” said Robert J. Freeman, the veteran director of the state Committee on Open Government. “Wouldn’t it be better to let the public in so it can be reported objectively on what is said and heard?”

Restrictions are bound to guide access to a host of deliberations by the New Stadium Working Group and its umbrella agency, the Erie County Stadium Corp., Freeman said. But enough public characteristics guide at least the stadium corporation stemming from the Bills’ new 10-year lease on Ralph Wilson Stadium, he said, that access to that group should be granted in many instances.

Freeman also said the records of anything kept or prepared by the stadium corporation, a public benefit corporation – except for those records exempted under the law – would be considered public.

Kearns, who on Monday sent a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo seeking public access to the groups’ meeting, is now taking his efforts a step further. He said Tuesday he will introduce legislation to require the Erie County Stadium Corp. and the New Stadium Working Group to conduct its meetings in public.

The Buffalo Democrat continued his push for open meetings of the New Stadium Working Group by noting that the Erie County Stadium Corp. was constituted as a public benefit corporation as a subsidiary to the Empire State Development Corp. He also believes it should be subject to many aspects of the Open Meetings and Freedom of Information laws.

“In the end, we can get this stuff,” he said of the public proceedings of the group. “So why not just let us be part of the process?”

Deputy County Executive Richard M. Tobe, who served as the county’s point man in the negotiations that produced the new lease, said the county agrees on access to board meetings – to a point.

“They should be and are open,” he said, adding that several meetings of the board have already taken place.

Tobe cautioned that the directors retain the right to adjourn to executive session, and that other caveats regarding access to meetings and documents should also apply. But he emphasized the county considers the working group to be a nonpublic advisory panel that is not governed by Open Meetings or Freedom of Information laws, and that “very, very powerful reasons” guide that thinking.

“We’ll be dealing with potential sites for a stadium, and don’t want to forecast that because it could lead to land speculation and possibly hike prices,” he said.

Tobe said the county appointees to the board of the Erie County Stadium Corp. include himself and former County Executive Dennis T. Gorski. A spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corp. in Buffalo was unavailable Tuesday to discuss state appointees, but Tobe said Empire State Development President Kenneth Adams serves as chairman of the local corporation.

Kearns acknowledges the working group meetings may technically be conducted behind closed doors. But he argues that the public should have access because $95 million in state and county funds are already committed to improving the team’s current home in Orchard Park.

His new legislation aims to assure that all such panels dealing with public policy – including the New Stadium Working Group – abide by the Open Meetings and Freedom of Information laws. He said executive session provisions may apply where necessary.

“I understand there could be sensitive information,” he said. “However, this is a public-private partnership. The point of this legislation is to correct this, and not only in this instance, but to prevent others from getting around these secretive discussions.”

Kearns said he is confident that he will obtain a Senate sponsor for his planned legislation.

Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said Monday that the governor has not yet received Kearns’ request, but will review it when it arrives.

email: ]]>
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 22:42:10 -0400 Robert J. McCarthy
<![CDATA[ Bona golfer takes 12th ]]>
The Bonnies were last among seven teams in the team scoring. Marshall won with an 863 total. Bona had a 54-hole total of 927. ]]>
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 22:04:13 -0400
<![CDATA[ Baron named Canisius MVP ]]>
Other Canisius awards: Defensive Player of the Year, Jordan Heath; Most Improved Player, Zach Lewis and Phil Valenti; Charles Eppolito Award as the unsung hero, Chris Manhertz; Father Demske Academic Award, Chris Perez, who holds a 3.8 grade point average while working towards his master’s degree. ]]>
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 22:03:08 -0400
<![CDATA[ Panthers win NHL Draft Lottery; Sabres will select second overall ]]> By John Vogl

SCARBOROUGH, Ont. – The Sabres lost all season on the ice, so it’s little surprise they lost a lottery, too.

Last-place Buffalo will not pick first overall pick in the NHL Draft after the Florida Panthers won the draft lottery tonight. There were 13 non-playoff teams eligible of earning the No. 1 selection, and the 29th-place Panthers won while having an 18.8 percent chance.

The Sabres had the best chance at 25 percent.

The draft will be held June 27-28 in Philadelphia, and Buffalo will select in the top five for only the second time since 1987. They took Thomas Vanek fifth overall in 2003.

The NHL has been conducting a draft lottery since 1995, but it revamped the rules last year to give all teams that fail to make the playoffs a shot at the No. 1 selection. The rest of the first round is conducted in reverse order, so Buffalo had a 73.5 percent chance of falling to No. 2. It did.

(New Jersey, which had a 1.5 percent chance of winning the lottery, was ineligible because of a salary cap violation.)

Buffalo became the 13th last-place team in 19 lotteries to lose the weighted contest. Florida finished at the bottom last year, but Colorado won the lottery to leapfrog the Panthers and bump them to second.

There are four players considered worthy of being drafted at the top: defenseman Aaron Ekblad and forwards Sam Bennett, Sam Reinart and Leon Draisaitl. The Sabres were far and away the worst offensive team in the NHL and have a good corps of defense prospects, but General Manager Tim Murray wouldn’t rule out taking Ekblad, if he’s available.

“We could if he’s the best player,” Murray said. “I’m not saying he’s the best player, but he’s in the group of three or four guys when we get together in May that will be discussed as the No. 1 pick. He’s in the group. I’m not going to say he for sure is the No. 1 player on our list, be he will be in the discussion. There’s no question.”

The Sabres could end up with two picks in the top five. The New York Islanders own the No. 5 selection, but they have until June 1 to decide whether to give it to Buffalo or deliver their 2015 first-round pick to the Sabres as part of the Thomas Vanek trade.

Isles GM Garth Snow did not attend the draft lottery, so his thoughts will have to wait.

“He’s got to say yes or he’s got to say no. It’s not maybe,” Murray said. “Next year in a really good draft, if he decides to keep it this year, then you have an extra pick. It’s a win-win situation.”

Tue, 15 Apr 2014 20:52:45 -0400
<![CDATA[ Sabres general manager not happy ]]>
By Mike Harrington

The Buffalo Sabres' rebuild starts in earnest tonight with the NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto,  after what General Manager Tim Murray admitted was an "unacceptable" last-place season.

Murray and coach Ted Nolan met with reporters today in a wrap to the Sabres' 21-51-10 trainwreck of a season, the worst by an NHL team in 14 years. And Murray was frank in his assessment of what happened and what he'll do going forward. He said he pulled no punches when he met with his players yesterday prior to the taking of the annual team photo.

"This year was completely unacceptable," Murray said. "I told them it wasn't all on them. It was on management, it was on coaching staff. A lot of it was on injuries where we had to put people into positions that they aren't ready for. So that's out of our hands. As far as coming next year and being ready to battle for jobs, there's going to be competition and we're not going to hand jobs to come in unless they deserve it."

"A lot of nights it was hard to watch," Murray said a few minutes later. "A lot of nights we competed hard and just didn't have enough talent to put us over the top but other nights weren't pretty."

Murray said he's naturally impatient but will do what's best for the organization through the draft and free agency, and expects to sign a couple of veterans this summer to augment the roster.

"Are we going to improve in leaps and bounds or is it going to be increments?" he said. "But we will improve. We have to decide as an organization how we're going to get there. This is not going to be a five-year rebuild. ... When you tear it down, it doesn't happen overnight but I don't buy into five-year rebuilds."

Murray said the Sabres have several players on their draft board -- even Barrie defenseman Aaron Ekblad. The Sabres were the lowest-scoring team in the expansion era but aren't automatically taking a forward whether they draft No. 1 or No. 2. 

The New York Islanders owe the Sabres a top pick either this year or next year. If they win the lottery tonight, they would almost certainly give Buffalo the pick next year, another chance at the Connor McDavid sweepstakes. Would they really give up the No. 1 this year? Murray is pondering all options.

"I want to win the lottery. I want to win something here," Murray said, drawing laughs. "I do want to win the lottery. If I don't win it, I want Garth to win it and so at least there's a 50-50 chance we get that pick."

In other news from Murray and Nolan:

---NHL supplemental discipline: "I've had some talks with people in the league," Murray said. "We've had our pee-pee slapped once here so I've got to be careful what I say." The GM did say the league acknowledged his complaints about the five-minute major for interference Jake McCabe got Saturday in Boston.

---Coaching staff: Nolan said no definitive decision has been made on his assistants although sources maintain that Joe Sacco, Teppo Numminen, Jim Corsi and Jerry Forton will not be retained.

---Buyouts: Murray said it was less than 50-50 the Sabres would use both of their CBA-allowed compliance buyouts this June but pretty much admitted one will be used on goal-less forward Ville Leino. "It's not 100 percent but it's a very good possibility that's one of our buyouts," Murray sid.

---Injuries: Murray said he believes goaltender Matt Hackett needs surgery on his injured right knee while goaltender Michal Neuvirth has been seeing a specialist for a nagging hip problem. Marcus Foligno (shoulder) and Henrik Tallinder (ankle) are pondering minor surgeries.

Click below to hear the full question-and-answer session with Murray and Nolan

Murray-Nolan presser

Tue, 15 Apr 2014 18:26:25 -0400
<![CDATA[ Robitaille plans to continue in radio ]]> By Alan Pergament

Buffalo Sabres analyst Mike Robitaille said a tearful goodbye at the end of his final MSG post-game show Sunday night.

But the 66-year-old Robitaille really isn't retiring in the traditional sense.

He might even be on his regular WGR talk show hour, "Roby Radio," at 8 Wednesday morning.

His tears Sunday night seemed to surprise him, though in retrospect they were totally understandable.

"I was signed by the New York Rangers when I was 14," said Robitaille. "When your whole life is hockey, it is not an easy thing to give up."

His tears might have confused some viewers into thinking Robitaille was giving up all his media ventures instead of just his regular MSG role.

In a telephone interview Monday night, Robitaille said he expects to do his WGR show for four or five Wednesdays during the National Hockey League playoffs, plans to be back on WGR at least for his hour show in the fall and might also appear on MSG next season on an emergency fill-in basis.

"This is a semi-retirement," said Robitaille. "I'll just have enough to do on TV to have a parking pass."

"I would fill-in on TV now and then in a small role if someone is sick or can't make the show," added  Robitaille.

He said he owes WGR the extra weeks this season because of the time he took off during the Olympic break.

In addition to his broadcast duties, Robitaille said he expects to take a larger role with Yancey's Fancy,  the cheese company that is one of the co-sponsors of his WGR show along with the Seneca casinos. His sponsors want him to continue his radio show next fall.

"I represent them and I''ll continue to be on the radio," said Robitaille.

"I don't want to give up the bully pulpit," he cracked.

Robitaille said he is leaving his regular TV role because he wants to spend more time traveling, reading and being with his four grandchildren. He and his wife have a home in Mexico that they visit three or four times a year and he'd like to do it more during the winter when the Sabres play.

During the TV ceremonies and the post-game, I was waiting for an explanation for why he was leaving the chair next to Brian Duff, who he has enjoyed working with. Robitaille essentially told me that he just wants to work now on his own terms rather than have a regular TV job.

"I guess you just know when it is time," said Robitaile. "I'd rather leave early than late even though I'm probably leaving a little (money) on the table. I just didn't want to make a full commitment so I could do more traveling that I want to do. I'm running out of time."

Robitaille added he hasn't finalized his fall plans with WGR or its Entercom brother WBEN -- which carries a 15-minute segment with him on Wednesdays  -- but he doesn't expect there to be a problem because he brings the sponsors.

There is a chance he'll do even more work for WGR next fall, though it wouldn't be as full a schedule as he has done in years past appearing after every game.

Besides being on WGR during the NHL playoffs, Robitaille's goals will be minimal until the Sabres play real games again in October.

"I'm trying to figure out how to be quiet for the next six months," he cracked. 


Tue, 15 Apr 2014 09:24:13 -0400
<![CDATA[ Stroman looks to get Herd rolling in twin bill ]]>
The right-hander from Duke University is scheduled to get the start in the first game of a doubleheader tonight against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Coca-Cola Field. First pitch is set for 5:05 p.m. Gates will open at 4:30 p.m.

The twin bill will make up the rainout of Monday’s scheduled opener of a four-game series between the Herd and the New York Yankees affiliate.

Stroman started Buffalo’s season opener but got no decision after pitching four innings of a game the Bisons eventually would win, 6-3. In his most recent start, the 22-year-old Stroman took the loss in a 1-0 decision at Lehigh Valley. The only run against him was unearned – it scored on a passed ball – as he struck out eight and allowed only three hits in six innings. He did walk five, however.

The Bisons are coming off a split of their home series against the Pawtucket Red Sox which closed with a 6-4 loss in 12 innings on Sunday.

Left-hander Ricky Romero (0-0, 6-75) is scheduled to pitch the second game tonight for the Herd. Right-handers Chase Whitley (0-1, 7.71) and Graham Stoneburner (0-0, 2.25) are expected to get the starts for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Those holding tickets for Monday’s rained out game can exchange them for a comparable ticket (excluding special events) for the remainder of the season at the Coca-Cola Field Box Office.

Meanwhile, Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Maicer Izturis needs surgery for a ligament tear in his left knee and could be out for the rest of the season. The 33-year-old Izturis was put on the disabled list Sunday.

With shortstop Jose Reyes already on the 15-day disabled list, the Jays recalled infielder Munenori Kawasaki from the Bisons on Sunday.

Outfielder Gregory Polanco, who is batting .465 after the first 11 games for Indianapolis was named International League Batter of the Week. Pitcher Scott Carroll was named Pitcher of the Week. The Charlotte Knights hurler won a pair of games last week to go 3-0 and has not allowed an earned run in 19 innings so far. ]]>
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 06:48:55 -0400 News staff report

<![CDATA[ Sabres hoping for No. 1 pick in tonight’s NHL draft lottery ]]>
The Sabres hope to become No. 7.

The league will announce the result of the weighted lottery at 8 tonight on NBCSN, with Sabres General Manager Tim Murray attending the event in Toronto.

Last-place Buffalo has a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery and keeping the first overall pick.

Florida, which finished 29th, has an 18.8 percent chance.

The odds for the remaining non-playoff teams are: Edmonton 14.2 percent, Calgary 10.7 percent, New York Islanders 8.1 percent, Vancouver 6.2 percent, Carolina 4.7 percent, Toronto 3.6 percent, Winnipeg 2.7 percent, Anaheim (from Ottawa) 2.1 percent, New Jersey 1.5 percent, Nashville 1.1 percent, Phoenix 0.8 percent and Washington 0.5 percent.

Though New Jersey is in the lottery, it is not eligible to select first overall as part of its discipline for giving a salary cap-circumventing contract to Ilya Kovalchuk. If the Devils win the lottery, another will be conducted.

If the Sabres fail to win, they will drop to No. 2 in the draft, which will be held June 27-28 in Philadelphia.

The last-place team hasn’t won the lottery since 2010, when Edmonton retained the No. 1 pick. The other bottom-feeders to win were Ottawa (1996), Boston (1997), St. Louis (2006), Tampa Bay (2008) and the Islanders (2009).

The Islanders have until June 1 to decide whether to give their first-round pick to the Sabres as part of the Thomas Vanek trade. They can also keep this year’s selection and instead give their 2015 first-round pick to Buffalo.

email: ]]>
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 18:25:56 -0400 John Vogl
<![CDATA[ Trump card: Billionaire declares interest in buying Bills, keeping them in Buffalo ]]>
Skeptics have scoffed at Trump’s declared interest in buying the Bills. They assert it’s a publicity stunt so the billionaire entrepreneur, entertainer and political flirt can remain in the headlines.

Trump today stressed that he’s committed to buying the Bills and keeping them in Western New York. Multiple sources confirmed he already has spoken to Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon twice.

“I’m going to give it a heavy shot,” Trump told The News on Monday from his office in Manhattan. “I would love to do it, and if I can do it, I’m keeping it in Buffalo.”

Trump also wanted to erase any thoughts he would move the team to Los Angeles or Toronto. He spoke about the loyalty of Bills fans and the team’s importance to the region.

But Trump also has a selfish reason for leaving the Bills here. His Boeing 757 could leave LaGuardia Airport and deplane at Prior Aviation in an hour.

“I live in New York, and it’s easier for me to go to Buffalo than any other place,” Trump said. “Where am I going to move it, some place on the other side of the country, where I have to travel for five hours?”

Trump so far has been the only ownership candidate to publicly state his desire to buy the Bills.

Rock star Jon Bon Jovi reportedly could be the front man for Toronto company Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, but nobody from that supposed group has spoken definitively for the record.

Other potential suitors who’ve yet to comment one way or the other are Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula and former Sabres owner B. Thomas Golisano.

Jeremy Jacobs, of East Aurora, has stated through his Delaware North Cos. that he won’t sell his Boston Bruins to buy the Bills, as would be required under the NFL’s cross-ownership rules. But Delaware North didn’t specify anything about his children being interested.

Some Western New Yorkers might have trouble warming up to Trump’s advances. They’ve had their emotions toyed with before.

Trump acknowledged his past ditherings with presidential and gubernatorial campaigns that weren’t entirely plausible. His business and broadcast endeavors took precedence.

“I’m not like a politician,” Trump said. “Some of these guys, they professionally run for office and raise money and live off it. I have a big business, a great business.”

Accumulating colossal properties, meanwhile, is what Trump always has done.

Trump indicated he’s willing to get into a competitive bidding process for the Bills. He noted his established track record of beating out multiple bidders on high-profile acquisitions.

In a few weeks, for instance, Trump’s company will begin $200 million in renovations to turn the historic Old Post Office Pavilion between the White House and U.S. Capitol into a luxury hotel. Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, are paying $250,000 a month to rent the building as part of a 60-year lease with the federal government.

“I won the Old Post Office over everybody, 18 companies,” Trump said. “Everybody wanted it. I won it.”

Forbes magazine estimates Trump is worth $3.9 billion, but sources close to him claim he’s worth almost three times that.

“I have a track record that’s pretty much unparalleled,” Trump said, “but that doesn’t mean that I pay stupid prices.

“Somebody could come out and bid through the roof for the Bills, something crazy. In which case, I’m sorry I can’t do anything about that. You have to be sane. But maybe there’s not going to be any other bids. You never know with these things.”

Asked for his impressions about how soon the Bills could be sold, Trump replied, “I think it’s going to go quickly. I hope it goes fast.”

High-ranking Bills sources have told The News a sale could be finalized as soon as October, the earliest NFL owners could vote on it, although approval more likely would happen at the December or March meeting.

Trump insisted his casino dealings wouldn’t impede his purchase and denied any bad blood still exists from the USFL’s $1.7 billion antitrust lawsuit against the NFL in 1984.

The NFL prohibits all personnel – from owners all the way down to the assistant equipment manager – to have any involvement with gambling operations. Trump’s name is on two Atlantic City casinos, the Trump Taj Mahal and the Trump Plaza, but he said he owns only a small stake in those properties anymore.

“It’s a public company, and I could sell instantaneously,” Trump said. “So that wouldn’t be a conflict at all.

“I did very well with Atlantic City. It was a great experience. When we sold the casinos, they didn’t change the name. But I’m not involved, not on the board.”

Trump also said his legal history with the NFL would be a non-issue.

Trump bought the New Jersey Generals and was the USFL’s driving force behind switching from the spring to direct competition with the NFL in the fall.

“I think the NFL owners respected me for it because I took a dead league and made it hot,” Trump said. “But my thing when I bought the team was, ‘I will not play football in the spring.’

“Even if they would have teetered along for another couple years, it wouldn’t have survived in the spring. And if I hadn’t gotten involved, they wouldn’t have lasted another season.

“The NFL owners that I know and are very honest about it, they’ll tell you I did a good job and they have respect for me. And I have respect for them.”

email: ]]>
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 09:40:48 -0400 Tim Graham
<![CDATA[ Sabres must move on with a new attitude ]]>
The experience actually made Enroth happy he missed the final month of the season with a knee injury.

“I got a chance to step back and see everything from a different kind of view,” the goaltender said Monday. “Driving into the game, you saw the passion in the fans’ face. It’s not like we don’t expect it. It’s that we don’t really think about it when we’re playing.

“You can really tell how passionate fans here in Buffalo are. It’s something I picked up, something I learned from that. It was something I’m going to take with me to next year and hope that we’ll grow from it.”

The fans and the future were on the minds of many players as they cleaned out their lockers in First Niagara Center. The Sabres know the suffering experienced in 2013-14 was hard on everyone.

“These types of things, they hurt,” defenseman Mike Weber said. “Our fans have been very supportive, but at the same time you don’t want to disappoint people. You don’t want that feeling walking around town that you’ve disappointed people or you’re letting people down, especially a hard-working city like Buffalo. I think to every man, we’ve accepted the challenge.

“We’re not joking around anymore. There has to be a new standard here. I know that word has been thrown around for a couple years here with talking to all of you guys – ‘We’ve got to change the culture, we’ve got to change the standards’ – but enough’s enough. Joke’s over. We’re not in this game to get high draft picks, at least I’m not. I know that’s not the goal for the front office, either. We’re in this to win championships and get things on the right track here.”

The rebuild won’t happen in one summer (and many fans hope it takes a little longer because of the franchise-altering talent available in the 2015 NHL Draft), but adopting a competitive spirit will be an important first step when the Sabres return in September for training camp.

The competition could begin in the Sabres’ net. Enroth wants to be Ryan Miller’s full-time replacement, but Michal Neuvirth joined Enroth in proclaiming his desire to be the No. 1 goalie next season.

“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Neuvirth said. “Jhoni is a great goalie, great guy, and it’s going to be good competition. Hopefully, he’s going to push me to be a better goalie, and I’m going to push him to be a better goalie. It’s going to be good.”

Enroth and Neuvirth were just two of the record nine goalies who dressed for the Sabres this season, but they have the edge to be atop the organizational depth chart next season. Both have one year left on their contracts before becoming unrestricted free agents.

Enroth, who suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament that is nearing a return to full health, had an up-and-down fourth season with the Sabres. He started 1-12-5, which included a couple of hard-luck losses. He finished 4-17-5 with a .911 save percentage and 2.82 goals-against average.

The 25-year-old stopped 218 of 234 shots (.932 save percentage) after the Sabres traded Miller to St. Louis.

“I thought I had a good year, not a great year, but a good year,” said Enroth, who was voted “Unsung Hero” by his teammates. “I was a little surprised by it, but I appreciate it a lot, especially when it comes from the guys. I’m very proud of that.”

Neuvirth, acquired from Washington at the trade deadline, turned heads during his only two appearances. Though he lost both, the goalie stopped 93 of 98 shots for a .949 save percentage.

The 26-year-old remains vague about an ailment that made his 51-save performance on March 13 his final appearance. He merely says it was a lower-body injury, and he also was elusive with the Sabres’ medical staff, a team source said. Neuvirth said he still has no timetable for recovery.

“You come to the new team, and you want to be good for your new team,” he said. “I thought I had a good couple games, but getting hurt was obviously very frustrating for me.

“I’ve got to regroup in the summer and use this frustration to motivate me to even work harder in the summer, come back here in the best shape I can get, work hard and see what happens.”

The other goalies in the organization who got extended looks also will take time to heal. Matt Hackett probably won’t be ready for the start of the year after getting his knee torn up Saturday. Nathan Lieuwen hopes Rochester has a long playoff run so he can eventually join them when his concussion heals.

Concussions nearly ended the 22-year-old’s career during junior hockey, but he says (and hopes) the outlook isn’t as dire this time.

“It’s one of those things where there’s a lot of question marks,” Lieuwen said. “You have no idea what’s going to happen. I’m going to try my hardest to get back.

“It’s incredible just to be here, not only to be here but to play games. A dream come true. It’s obviously a little bit spoiled here with the injury, but at the same time I can take a lot of positives from my experience here. I learned a lot and I can move forward.”

The Sabres all want to move forward. After all, the last-place team can’t step back.

“You have five and a half months here to get yourself ready for training camp,” Weber said, “and I expect training camp to be what training camp should be for a 30th-place team. It should be hard. It should be intense.

“You do have to feel defeat to succeed, and these are the types of things where guys’ true character come out. You see what they’re going to be able to do over these next five months to bring it next season so you don’t feel the same way again.”

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Mon, 14 Apr 2014 23:04:37 -0400 John Vogl