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Sabres recall Cody McCormick for Game 4

The Buffalo Sabres announced this evening that they have recalled forward Cody McCormick from the AHL’s Portland Pirates.

McCormick, who will make his Sabres debut, will likely take the place of Matt Ellis, who is out with the effects of the hit he took from Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk.

McCormick was recalled before tonight’s Game 4 in the Portland-Manchester series. The Pirates saw their season end in a sweep as they lost 7-2. Expect the Pirates under Sabres contracts to join the big club before Game 5 in Buffalo on Friday.

Revisiting the “Adam Mair is garbage” argument

I’m sure many of you may remember my widely debated “What can Adam Mair do for you?” post.

It seemed to be a divisive issue, mainly because it was perceived that I was just taking a shot at Adam Mair for not being very good. On the contrary, it was meant to provide insight as to why it was an issue that he was even playing on a nightly basis.

The timing of the original post was impeccable. Mair responded that very night with his first goal of the season, and then added another a few nights later. He’s scored 5 goals and added 2 assists with 33 penalty minutes in the 24 games since I called out his uselessness.

But does that invalidate the argument? Of course not.

The whole concept was keyed around the idea that the team needed to bring more to the table if they would compete in the postseason. The idea is that Mair shouldn’t be playing, simply because the team should have 12 forwards in the lineup who are better than him.

After Tyler Ennis’ sparkling performance Saturday night, after a stellar season so far in Portland, do you really see any reason Ennis should be sent back if Mair is playing? At this point, it should be obvious that when healthy, Adam Mair and Matt Ellis are your 13th and 14th forwards… if you’re putting the best possible lineup on the ice. With Ennis’ performance all season, and his clear potential, I don’t see how you can say this team is better with off with Adam Mair over him.

Despite his offensive output in the last couple months, it’s still clear that Mair doesn’t produce much positive. Even with all his points, he’s still an even plus/minus on the season.

The mitigating factors of his presence really should outweigh his value. The thing Adam has been doing lately is taking stupid penalties. His lack of discipline is evident. Mair is currently tied with Patrick Kaleta, Paul Gaustad and Derek Roy with 21 minor penalties this season, which is second most on the team behind Craig Rivet.

So he’s not the only one who takes penalties. But the rate in which he does so is frightening. With 21 minors in 61 games played, Mair’s .34 minors/per game is worse than only Kaleta and Gaustad. But, you’ll say that’s because they all play the same style! They bring energy!

I shake my finger and say “Nuh-uh-uh!” I beg to differ.

Accounting for ice time, and how often they’re on the ice in relation to when they take penalties, I calculated how much ice time each Sabre had in relation to their number of minor penalties. (Best? Andrej Sekera with 395 mins of TOI per minor penalty. Solid work, ‘Rej!) Patrick Kaleta had the worst number, with 26.20 mins of play per minor penalty, followed closely by Adam Mair at 26.35. That difference is negligible in comparison to the rest of the team. The next closest is Gaustad at 42.5 mins/minor, and Kennedy sitting at 47.5 mins/minor the only other forwards below 60.

So, looking at pretty much the bottom three forwards on the roster:

Player GP PIM mP mp/Gm TOI/Gm Min/mP
Mair 61 69 21 0.34 9:04 26.35
Kaleta 54 87 21 0.39 10:11 26.20
Ellis 64 8 4 0.06 9:02 144.75

What needs to be said is the thing that goes without saying. Pat Kaleta adds an element to the team that absolutely noone else does. He mixes it up, throws opponents off their game and draws penalties. Mair? Not so much.

Also, notice in those numbers what Matt Ellis brings to the table: discipline. For being a fourth liner, Ellis does little to hurt the team. He’s been a plus player for most of the season and does not put the team at a disadvantage. Is there something to be said for staying out of the box? I think so.

But forgetting about Ellis, let’s stick to the two “energy” guys. Since their penalty totals seem so similiar, let’s delve a bit deeper. Thanks to ESPN’s statistics on minor penalties, here is how Mair and Kaleta stack up:

Player Minors HKG TRP RGH HLD INT SLH HIST CC HLDS GINT
Kaleta 21 0 1 8 0 3 1 0 0 0 1
Mair 21 0 3 6 2 0 2 1 4 1 0

Some of Kaleta’s penalties are unaccounted for, but the statistics do not include penalties such as unsportsmanlike conduct or instigating. I think this illustrates the difference between Kaleta and Mair. Mair’s penalties are overwhelmingly undisciplined stickwork penalties. Kaleta’s are mainly physical, as he clearly takes the body with reckless abandon. With Mair, his careless play makes you wonder if he actually has a case for being the 13th forward on the depth chart, ahead of Matt Ellis.

With Tyler Ennis on the verge of blowing out the door standing between him and a permanent roster spot, something will have to give. As junior seasons end, Portland’s roster will be restocked in the coming days (see: Adam, Luke), so keeping little Ty around isn’t going to throw our farm team under the bus.

I guess what it comes down to is that, when the team has a healthy roster, Mair shouldn’t be playing. For the time being it’s not an issue, with Kaleta, Tim Connolly, Thomas Vanek, and Raffi Torres nursing injuries. Mair has been filling in admirably, in the eyes of Lindy Ruff, anyways.

But will Lindy be willing to send his boy to the press box when the postseason starts?

God, I hope so.

Mancari and Gerbe recalled from Portland

As first reported by the fine folks at Maine Hockey Journal, the Buffalo Sabres have brought up a couple more bodies from the Portland Pirates.

Forwards Mark Mancari and Nathan Gerbe have been recalled and will be in the lineup when the Sabres visit the Boston Bruins on Monday night.

With Thomas Vanek going down to injury in Saturday night’s playoff clinching rout of Tampa, it was necessary to bring the two up for another tour of duty in Buffalo.

Mancari had been up earlier this month, scoring a goal and and adding in assist (both coming against Dallas on March 12) in three games. He also played one game in December, missing the scoresheet against the Rangers before being returned to Portland.

Gerbe had an extended stay with the Sabres, but only appeared in two games in mid-December before being felled by a groin injury. He was able to tally his first NHL goal before the injury in a 3-0 win over Washington at HSBC Arena. The Boston College-grad will be making his first visit to Boston as an NHL player, so it should be a memorable recall for the diminuitive dynamo.

+ + + + +

Interestingly enough, with Tyler Ennis being called up Saturday afternoon, Portland’s top three scorers are now with the Sabres. Despite missing all three, the Pirates pulled out a 3-2 win over Hartford this afternoon.

I just hope we can win a game.

Perusing NHL.com, they have a daily feature with the night’s clinching scenarios for playoff berths.

Friday’s is quite concise:

#3 Buffalo Sabres would clinch a playoff berth…

If they defeat the Ottawa Senators (Sens are 4-0-0 against the Sabres this season)

Wait, they’re really going to make the playoffs?

After missing the playoffs two years in a row, one can almost forget what playoff time is like in Buffalo. The Sabres have only two playoff appearances in the last nine seasons. Just two. Really!

Buffalo clinches a playoff berth with two points tonight, thanks to the Maple Leafs squeezing out an overtime win over 9th place Atlanta.

I just hope they can win a game… tonight.

The much-loathed Senators are in town tonight for a 7:30 start against the Sabres. The players know what this game means, and they’re sick of losing to Ottawa as much as the fans are.

“It’s a chance for us to put some points between us,” Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman said. “There aren’t that many games left, and that would be a huge advantage going into that last road trip [in April]. It’s a big game. It’s also a big game as we’ve struggled against that team a lot over the last [five] years.

“It’s time to finally have a good game against the Senators.”

While this game won’t make or break the division race, it does have the opportunity to have a positive impact on the psyche of the Sabres. Beating Ottawa for the first time this season could give the Sabres the boost of confidence needed to hit the playoffs in stride. Knowing the Sabres visit Scotiabank Place for Game 81, you would like to think that that game won’t mean anything.

The Sabres have their destiny in their hands. The last thing Buffalo needs right now is to let the Senators or Canadiens back into the race for the Northeast title. Winning a game would help.

Dear Sabres: You lock it up!

The year was 2007.

The Sabres had two captains. They had been in first place in the league since October. The Bills still sucked. And that was the last time Buffalo saw the postseason.

After tonight’s action, the magic number for the Sabres to clinch their first playoff berth since the “Better Days” campaign is a mere five.

8th place Boston knocked off 9th place Atlanta, 4-0. Ottawa took sole control of fifth in the East with a 2-0 win over 6th seed Philadelphia.

The playoff race is shaping up exactly how the Sabres could possibly want it. Ottawa is poised to pull away from floundering Philadelphia (who’ve lost three in a row) and has a little distance on 7th place Montreal (four points with the Habs having a game in hand) for that fifth place spot. Which would force the Sens, who have owned the Sabres for the better part of two years, to face the Devils or Penguins in the opening round of the playoffs. Their only way out of that is to catch Buffalo, who has them beat by five points and still has three games in hand over the Sens.

The Sabres can play their way into a good matchup over the next two weeks by clinching the division. They can really help themselves this week by gaining enough breathing room to lock up the division title and a nice banner for the rafters. With Montreal and Ottawa visiting this week, there’s four points at stake that can leave some margin for error in early April. The magic number for the division is 12, which is whittled down by every point the Sabres earn and every point the Sens fail to gain.

Locking up the division gives the Sabres a first round date with either Montreal, who is very beatable, or maybe Philadelphia, who are poised to see the wheels come off their campaign.

The Sabres are in control of their playoff destiny. It’d be great if they could make it easy on the fans and do a little “T.C.B” (ya know, takin’ care of business) in the next few days. The team is in the Northeast driver’s seat.

Now they just gotta lock it up.

Sabres acquire Torres, deal MacArthur & Paetsch

The Sabres have made some moves at today’s NHL Trade Deadline.

Buffalo acquired forward Raffi Torres from Columbus in exchange for defenseman Nathan Paetsch and a second round pick.

Torres is a pending unrestricted free agent.

The Sabres also sent forward Clarke MacArthur to the Atlanta Thrashers for a third and a fourth round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft.

More details, and possibly more trades to come.

Which game are you watching today?

Today is January 3rd, a microcosm of Buffalo sports as it currently stands.

Sports fans in the 716 area code have a lot to think about today, as the 5-10 Bills play their final game of the season at 1 in Orchard Park, while the 2nd place Sabres are in Montreal to take on the Habs at 3.

Usually, a Bills game day draws all the attention, but today is a bit different. The Bills host the 14-1 Colts, who have absolutely nothing riding on this game whatsoever. All the Bills are playing for is a draft pick. Concluding a decade of accomplishing nothing, as detailed by TBN today, on a sub-freezing day in Western New York, the Bills are a mess.

The Sabres? Not so much. While their play has been unstellar of late, despite pulling out miraculous wins in the last two games, they’ve been winning. 6-2-2 in their last 10, the Sabres face Montreal, who would be their first round opponent if the season ended today. Wait… playoffs? They’d make the playoffs!?!

It’s the divide between the teams. The Sabres, after missing the playoffs two seasons in a row, are a virtual lock to at least make the postseason, and are in good position to win the division. The Bills, on the other hand, have been headed in the opposite direction for years. Read the rest of this entry

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