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With Sabres dressing seven on D, the key is a lot of talk

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Sabres have talked for years about their need to talk more. Buffalo’s on-ice communication has been lacking at times, and conversations are vital during games, especially among defensemen. That’s true now more than ever.

Because of suspensions and injuries up front, Buffalo has been using seven defensemen, including during Friday’s road game against Florida. The odd number means rapid swapping of partners, so the D-men need to chat to make sure each guy knows his role when he gets a new pairing.

“Whenever you’re playing with someone new, communication helps a lot,” defenseman Tyler Myers said in BB&T Center. “It’s definitely a different feeling, but I think all the D within our group know what’s expected of us and how we’re expected to play within the system.”

The Sabres used Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Mark Pysyk, Mike Weber, Jamie McBain and rookies Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov in the 3-1 win over the Panthers. Henrik Tallinder was a healthy scratch but will return to the lineup tonight against Tampa Bay.

He will likely do so in place of Weber, who suffered an upper-body during the second period against Florida and did not return. The Sabres will likely stay with seven defensemen.

“We’ll see how this goes,” coach Ron Rolston said. “We’re just playing it day-to-day there, and we’ll make decisions as we move forward.”

Rolston says he’s stressed good chatter along the back end, especially for the rookies, while the team is short at forward.

“Communication is vital, and those players as they play in this league understand the importance of it,” the coach said. “It’s part of their development being able to do that.”

The job of rotating the blue-liners falls to assistant coach Teppo Numminen, giving him an early test during his first year on the bench.

“He’s been awesome,” Pysyk said. “He knows the game and he knows what he’s doing.”


John Scott’s date with Brendan Shanahan is set for Thursday.

The Sabres’ enforcer will have an in-person hearing with the NHL’s disciplinarian in New York to determine how many games Scott will be suspended for his head shot to Boston’s Loui Eriksson. The meeting coincides with the Sabres’ game in New York against the Rangers.

Scott will miss three games before the hearing. He is expected to get at least six games for the illegal hit, which left Eriksson with a concussion.

Patrick Kaleta, meanwhile, said he and his advisers have not yet decided whether to appeal his 10-game suspension to a neutral arbitrator. Commissioner Gary Bettman upheld the ban set by Shanahan, and a new rule in the collective bargaining agreement allows for an impartial hearing for suspensions of six games or more.

Kaleta has already sat for seven games. Because the 10 games might be up before a hearing is completed, a reduction in the suspension would likely result only in some of the in lost salary being returned.


Rolston scratched Tallinder for the first time this season. The veteran blue-liner made a bad mistake during the previous game, allowing the Bruins to get an odd-man rush and score.

“He’s played well for us,” Rolston said. “He’s a presence in our room. He offers leadership. We’ve liked his game. He’ll be back in there.”


Center Kevin Porter cleared waivers and was sent to the Rochester Americans, a move that was hard for Rolston because he has been Porter’s biggest backer.

“It’s always the toughest thing you have to do is cut somebody, waive somebody,” the coach said. “I have a lot of respect for him.”