The Soviet block has been lifted. Barring any last-minute political maneuvering, Alexander Mogilny is free to play tonight when the Buffalo Sabres face Soviet Khimik as part of Super Series 1990-91.
Mogilny, a Soviet defector, was scratched from last year's Super Series at the insistence of the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation and the National Hockey League. The Sabres proceeded to scratch a number of other regulars, but denied it was a tit-for-tat response to the ban on Mogilny.
A much more amiable political climate surrounds tonight's game at Memorial Auditorium (7:35, WGR): Sabres General Manager Gerry Meehan said there have been no attempts to bar Mogilny's participation.
It's expected the Sabres will put forth a representative lineup against Soviet Khimik. Last season, Buffalo called up a number of players from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Rochester Americans. However, the Amerks also are scheduled to play tonight.
Meehan said a callup or two is possible. Defenseman Kevin Haller, Buffalo's first-round pick in 1989, is one player who might become a Sabre for the night.
Buffalo's 5-1 record against Soviet competition is the best compiled by any NHL team. Buffalo has averaged almost six goals in those games.
Khimik was 32-9-7 in the Soviet National League last season. Right wing Dmitri Kvartalnov led the league in scoring with 25 goals and 29 assists in 46 games. Forwards Leonid Turkhno and Igor Vyazmikin lead Khimik in scoring this season. Khimik is 1-3 on its tour, and coming off a 6-3 victory Monday night in Montreal.
The Sabres report that many good seats remain for tonight's game, which is part of the season-ticket package. This year's Super Series includes a penalty shot shootout. Following the second period, five players from each team will take penalty shots against the opposing goaltender.
The city of Hamilton is irate over its failure to land one of two NHL expansion franchises awarded last week. And some residents have pointed the finger at the Sabres, who carried veto rights because of the proximity of the two cities.
The furor has prompted the Sabres to go public with their side of the story. Seymour H. Knox III, the team's president and chairman of the board, appeared on Ch. 49 before and during Tuesday night's game at Detroit and denied the Sabres were responsible for Hamilton's failure to gain a franchise. The Sabres also purchased an advertisement in today's Hamilton Spectator.
The Sabres say Ottawa and Tampa were awarded expansion franchises unanimously on their merits, and that neither Buffalo nor Toronto moved to block or veto a Hamilton franchise.
Buffalo reportedly would have received $5 million (Canadian) indemnification if a team had been awarded to Hamilton.
The Sabres again were without goaltender Daren Puppa (back), and defensemen Mike Ramsey (ribs) and Brad Miller (hand). The three remained in Buffalo; Robert Ray and John Tucker were scratched.
The Red Wings were without tough guys Bob Probert (fractured forearm) and Joe Kocur (arm contusion).