It was game off for the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night.
The blizzard that walloped Western New York forced the mid-afternoon postponement of the team’s scheduled meeting with the Carolina Hurricanes in First Niagara Center, their first weather-induced break in the schedule in more than 13 years.
No makeup date has been announced and the Sabres are instructing fans with tickets to hold on to them for further instructions when that date is finalized.
Sabres President Ted Black and NHL Executive Vice President Colin Campbell stayed in contact throughout the day and the league ultimately agreed to the postponement.
The Sabres had every intention to play the game when employees reported for work Tuesday morning. But as the weather worsened, interim coach Ted Nolan canceled the morning skate and instructed his players to stay home.
The Hurricanes, who arrived Monday afternoon, were staying at the downtown Embassy Suites and took a normal bus ride to the arena for their pregame skate. They returned to the hotel when it was done and were told of the postponement about 90 minutes later.
The visitors stayed overnight and were planning to leave on a charter flight this morning.
“It was a lot of different things coming together,” said Michael Gilbert, the Sabres’ vice president of public and community relations. “The weather not getting better and was actually getting worse downtown. Then you look at the amount of driving bans.
“When you have roads like the 90, the 190, the 219, the 400 getting closed, well, there’s only so many ways for people to get to this building.”
In particular, the Sabres were struggling to field a normal game night work crew in many major ancillary areas because of employees who were unable to get downtown due to the storm.
“As the day wore on, it became more and more of a challenge for us,” Gilbert said.
The postponement was the first at the FNC due to weather since a game against New Jersey was wiped out on Dec. 6, 2000, and played the next night. In an Olympic year with a tight window to play an 82-game season, rescheduling Tuesday’s game is going to be tricky.
Rules of the collective bargaining agreement prohibit teams from playing three straight days and there does not appear to be a common off day between the two clubs the rest of the way that would not violate that principle.
The league is thus going to have to work on a creative solution. Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford told the Raleigh News & Observer that there have been situations in the past where the league has shuffled games of teams not involved in the postponement to make the schedule work.
“The game definitely will be rescheduled but it’s difficult to do in an Olympic year,” Rutherford said. “They’re working on it. We’ll try to figure it out in the next day or two.”
One bad consequence of the postponement is that it will extend defenseman Tyler Myers’ three-game suspension that was handed down by the NHL on Monday.
Myers will now miss Thursday’s visit by Florida and Sunday’s trip to Washington as well as Tuesday’s visit by Philadelphia. He can thus return to the lineup Jan. 15 in Toronto.
Three Sabres were named to their nation’s Olympic teams Tuesday as rookie Zemgus Girgensons took his expected spot on the Latvian team coached by Nolan while goalie Jhonas Enroth and defenseman Henrik Tallinder were chosen by Sweden.
Girgensons, who turned 20 Monday, is the only current NHL player on Team Latvia. Tallinder also played for Sweden in 2010 in Vancouver. Enroth joins Detroit’s Jonas Gustavsson in backing up Henrik Lundqvist, Enroth’s gold-medal performance in last year’s World Championships clearly helped his case.
Carolina defenseman Andrej Sekera, who was going to play his first game in his first former home rink until the postponement, was chosen for his second straight appearance with Slovaka.