No big words. No threats. Lots of buzzkill.
If you expect to see any sort of payback tonight in First Niagara Center between the Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs from their preseason line brawl, both sides say you’ll be disappointed.
Of course, we all know what’s said in private could be dramatically different than what was said in front of the cadre of reporters and cameras that filled the Sabres’ locker room Thursday because the Toronto media was in town following the Leafs on their trip from Minnesota.
In fact, there was such a crowd waiting around the locker of Sabres enforcer John Scott that they were directed in front of a nearby wipe board to speak to him in the spot goaltender Ryan Miller normally uses for his postgame chats.
“I think it’s being blown out of proportion with this game,” Scott said. “It’s something that happened in the preseason. I don’t think much is going to happen from it.”
“It happened a long time ago,” added Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. “It’s things like that we don’t like to remember. We’re just trying to move on from that. We’re here to play a hockey game that’s going to give us the best chance for success and they’re a hockey club that wants to show its new coach what they’re made of. It should make for an exciting time.”
The brawl, of course, went full-on when the 6-foot-8 Scott tried to engage Leafs winger Phil Kessel right off a faceoff after a fight between Toronto’s Jamie Devane and Buffalo’s Corey Tropp resulted in Tropp getting a broken jaw.
Kessel responded with swings of his stick at Scott that earned him a suspension from the final three preseason games but Toronto winger David Clarkson missed the first 10 regular season games after he jumped off the bench into the fray. Goaltenders Ryan Miller and Jonathan Bernier also were ejected after staging a slugfest of their own. Kessel was not in the Toronto locker room Thursday while it was open to reporters.
Cracked a smiling Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan: “They want to carry over, they can do it. I have nothing to carry over. I wasn’t there. I’m brand new.”
Scott said he has already spoken to Nolan about his role on the team and downplayed any sort of revenge plans.
“He wants me to play my game, go out there and hit, actually not be too concerned about fighting,” Scott said. “He wants me to be a hockey player, be responsible and physical and go from there.”
“We’re not worried about one individual person,” Clarkson said. “We’re worried about winning games. You have to go out and find ways to win.”
Scott will play tonight for the first time since getting suspended for seven games for a head shot against Boston’s Loui Eriksson in the Oct. 25 game here. He was actually eligible to play the last two games but former coach Ron Rolston kept him as a healthy scratch.
New President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine said Wednesday his search for a new general manager would begin immediately and a report from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said the Sabres will be granted permission to talk to Penguins assistant GM Jason Botterill – a former Sabres player and rising prospect in NHL executive ranks – about their vacant post.
Botterill, 37, is in his fifth season with the Penguins and is considered an expert with the salary cap. He spent the last three years of his pro hockey career in the Buffalo organization, including 36 games with the Sabres in 2002-03 and 2003-04.
Sabres President Ted Black revealed on his weekly show Thursday morning on WGR Radio that Nolan and LaFontaine were at his home watching Tuesday’s shootout win over Los Angeles on television. They were later joined by owner Terry Pegula, and Pegula and Black then headed downtown after the game to dismiss Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston.
Neither Rolston nor Regier has responded to Western New York media requests for comment on their dismissals. Rolston did, however, file a text message response to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman late Wednesday night.
Wrote Rolston: “I appreciate the opportunity to have coached for the Buffalo Sabres. Developing a young team is a process and I regret that I was not afforded the time to fully realize the goals that were set for the coaching staff and the team. Regardless, coaching and developing hockey players will remain my passion and my profession, and I look forward to a new challenge.”
Said defenseman Mark Pysyk, who played with Rolston most of last season in Rochester and Buffalo: “You never want to see somebody you worked with have that happen. But you can tell everybody’s excited.”
The Leafs will be down three centers tonight as Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland are injured and Nazem Kadri earned a three-game suspension from the NHL Thursday for his hit to the head of Minnestoa’s Niklas Backstrom during the Leafs’ shootout loss Wednesday in Minnesota. They are expected to make a minor-league recall for tonight’s game.