BUFFALO – One current Sabre, forward Matt Ellis, played with legendary goalie Dominik Hasek, who was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame prior to Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning inside the First Niagara Center.
Ellis played 16 games as a rookie with Detroit in 2006-07, Hasek’s 15th NHL season. Incredibly, Hasek posted a 2.05 goals-against average and .913 save percentage as 42-year-old that year.
“He was a great teammate, someone as a young player coming in watching some of the work habits Dom had, you can definitely see why he was the goalie that he is,” Ellis said.
The stories about Hasek’s dogged workout regimens are true, Ellis said.
“That’s one thing with Dom, he came to work,” he said. “He worked. He was a fanatic about the details and about bettering himself. He was probably his biggest critic.”
Former Sabres goalie Drew MacIntyre developed in the Red Wings system and went to Detroit’s training camp with Hasek, who didn’t want to give up ice to a youngster.
“He’s a battler,” MacIntyre said last week in Toronto during a brief NHL recall. “As a kid, even in practice he wanted nothing to do with sharing the net whatsoever. You might not have liked it at the time, and I didn’t, but not much you could say to him.”
Playing with Hasek, Ellis said, was a cool experience.
“I’ve had the ability to rub shoulders with some great players in this league,” he said. “Dom’s definitely one of them. Some good memories from my time with Detroit.”
Hasek received a standing ovation Saturday. He called Sabres fans the best in hockey.
“I will never forget playing for such a passionate fan base here in Buffalo,” he said.
What the heck is going on with Sabres forward Ville Leino?
Interim Sabres coach Ted Nolan said the Finn, who left Thursday’s 6-1 loss in Nashville early after experiencing some lightheadedness, was evaluated and came to Saturday’s morning skate.
“He was doing OK and then just before going on the ice he didn’t feel very well again,” Nolan said Saturday morning.
Nolan said Leino will be examined again. He believes Leino never got hit.
“He just felt it before the game,” Nolan said. “He had just one shift. So he just went out, he felt a little woozy.”
With only eight games left, have the Sabres thought about shutting Leino down for the season?
“We have to be very, very cautious on this one,” Nolan said.
While Nolan wouldn’t acknowledge it, Leino, having scored zero goals in 52 games this season, will almost certainly be bought out following the season. He might’ve played his last game here.
Nolan said a report he has signed a three-year contract extension is false.
“One thing about those insiders, they have a lot of information,” he said. “I’m not too sure where they get it. Like I said last week, Tim (Murray) and I, we’re real close in getting something done. As I’ve mentioned all along, I’m very excited about the possibility of staying here.”
Nolan said center Mikhail Grigorenko, whose junior season just ended, could go to AHL Rochester, where the 19-year-old’s eligible to play now. Nolan said he’ll discuss that move with Murray, the general manager.
The Americans have lost more players than the banged-up Sabres. Eleven regulars – both goalies, five defensemen and four forwards – are missing thanks to injuries and recalls.
“Rochester needs some players, too,” Nolan said.
The Sabres got one player back Saturday, rookie center Zemgus Girgensons, who returned from an 11-game absence (lower body).
“He’s a life-changer,” Nolan said. “Even his demeanor on the ice, he just lifts up the whole team. Those are the special people, (what) special players do for your team.”
Defenseman Tyler Myers, who crashed into the net Tuesday, sat again and will probably miss Tuesday’s game, Nolan said.
“He could be a little bit longer,” he said.
The Sabres honored Bills owner Ralph Wilson, who died Tuesday at age 95, with a moment of silence.