Mike Kostka played two seasons with the Sabres’ old affiliate in Portland. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Former Sabres prospect Kostka finally living NHL dream with Leafs

TORONTO – Mike Kostka was one day away from ditching his NHL dream, all set to take a gig playing overseas.

The 27-year-old Maple Leafs rookie couldn’t find any good work in North America. Despite two solid seasons with the Buffalo Sabres’ top affiliate in Portland, the team hadn’t tendered the defenseman a contract in 2010, making him a free agent.

Then Kostka’s friend, an AHL player named Marco Rosa, stopped over Kostka’s home a ... Read the full article

Thomas Vanek tucks the tying goal past Philadelphia goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on Sunday. ©2013, Dan Hicking, Olean Times Herald

Thomas Vanek’s career day pushes Sabres past Flyers in opener

BUFFALO – It was as if nine months hadn’t passed. One game into a new season, the Sabres kept exorcising their old demons, picking up where they left off last winter and spring during an exciting 5-2 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday inside a noisy First Niagara Center.

Thomas Vanek enjoyed an opening day that will forever live in Sabres lore, recording two goals and a career-high five points to start the lockout-shortened ... Read the full article

Mikhail Grigorenko skated 15 shifts during his NHL debut Sunday. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Mikhail Grigorenko, Steve Ott impress in Sabres debuts

BUFFALO – Ten minutes after the Sabres’ 5-2 opening-day win over the Philadelphia Flyers had ended, Steve Ott was still thinking about that nifty chance beside the net slick rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko had created for him.

Sure, Ott was excited about his power-play goal that opened the scoring just 11:07 into his Sabres debut. But the opportunity that had gotten away was still playing inside his head at bit.

“I kind of feel bad. ... Read the full article

Darcy Regier has owner Terry Pegula’s support. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres GM Regier receives extension; Pegula apologizes for lockout

BUFFALO – To his supporters, Darcy Regier’s a victim. Poor ownership handcuffed the general manager multiple times. Look at the Sabres teams he built, they say. The 1998-99 club came within two games of the Stanley Cup. Two dynamic post-lockout teams also nearly won it all.

If he had been given more tools or just some help re-signing his own talent, who knows how far the Sabres could’ve gone?

Regier’s detractors believe he should’ve been ... Read the full article

Ville Leino’s questionable for this afternoon’s season opener. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Leino questionable for opener; Grigorenko set for debut

BUFFALO – The Sabres have their first injury of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

“A nagging little” problem that flared up kept Ville Leino from practicing Saturday, coach Lindy Ruff said.

The winger’s questionable for this afternoon’s season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers inside the First Niagara Center.

Leino, who left practice early Friday, plans to skate this morning before making a decision. It’s believed he’s nursing a leg injury.

“If he feels like he’s good, ... Read the full article

Darcy Regier has been the Sabres’ general manager since 1997. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres extend GM Regier

BUFFALO – Darcy Regier isn’t going anywhere.

Sabres owner Terry Pegula announced a contract extension for his general manager this afternoon during a news conference on the eve of the season opener. No details were provided.

Regier, the team’s general manager since 1997, last signed an extension in the fall of 2010.

“I am very grateful and honored to be able to continue in this capacity working with this ownership,” Regier said inside the Lexus ... Read the full article

Mikhail Grigorenko could make his NHL debut Sunday. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Top prospect Grigorenko makes 23-man roster; Sabres mum on status for opener

BUFFALO – The Sabres first planted the seeds almost seven months ago inside the Consol Energy Center. Mikhail Grigorenko, the slick center that had just fallen to them 12th overall at the NHL Entry Draft, would be given every chance to play in the big leagues immediately, they said.

The strong words from the team’s brass that June night in Pittsburgh resonated. The Sabres hadn’t had an 18-year-old play regularly for them since center ... Read the full article

Adam Pardy played only 36 games last season. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres newcomer Pardy poised to earn spot on stacked blue line

BUFFALO – Adam Pardy couldn’t handle his difficult situation in Dallas last season. Becoming a spare part and clashing with his coach wore the Sabres’ new defenseman down mentally. Going to the rink every day became tough.

Following the season, Pardy felt “embarrassed for myself as a player, as a person,” he said. The 28-year-old had sat 44 times as a healthy scratch and even went back to the minors briefly. The negative experience gnawed ... Read the full article

Jochen Hecht left his family to play at home in Germany briefly. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Jochen Hecht thrilled about return: ‘Everything worked out’

BUFFALO – Nine months earlier, in the same spot he stood smiling Sunday, Jochen Hecht had fought back tears discussing what appeared to be the end of his long Sabres career.

Back then, concussions – three in 10 months and two in five, including a serious, season-ending one last January – had derailed the German’s career. He was turning 35 years old and entering free agency following a 22-game season.

The chances of the Sabres ... Read the full article

Mikhail Grigorenko (right) “doesn’t look like a junior player,” coach Lindy Ruff said. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Lindy Ruff wants Mikhail Grigorenko’s play to force Sabres to keep him

BUFFALO – About 10 minutes into his first NHL practice, Mikhail Grigorenko calmed down, channeled his nervous energy and began showcasing the many talents that could land the 18-year-old in the Sabres’ opening-day lineup next week.

The slick Russian center enjoyed a solid showing on Sunday, the first day of training camp and the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

But, as Lindy Ruff said, “practice drills are one thing.” Competition drills, where Grigorenko can utilize his 6-foot-3, ... Read the full article