Northeast: Ennis a menace to opposing defenses

By John-Eric Iannicello

Photo: Buffalo Sabres forward Tyler Ennis was the top performer in the Northeast Division this past week (courtesy of

Bob Frid/Icon SMI)

Forwards Tyler Ennis (Buffalo Sabres), Erik Cole (Montreal Canadiens), and Drew Stafford (Buffalo Sabres) are the three stars for the week in the Northeast for March 9-15th.

First Star: Tyler Ennis, C, Buffalo Sabres –
The second-year forward Ennis has been the Sabres top offensive threat over the last week of games. His three goals and three assists in three games this week is a big reason why the Sabres collected five out of a possible six points in the standings. He started the week scoring a goal and adding the shootout winner over the Ottawa Senators. He then scored his ninth and tenth goals of the season against the Montreal Canadiens. He would finish off the week tallying three assists in Buffalo’s shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. Missing a large chunk of the season with an ankle injury, Ennis has only played in 37 games this season. A healthy, contributing Ennis will be a key factor in the Sabres offense down the stretch.

Second Star: Erik Cole, RW, Montreal Canadiens –
The Canadiens’ recent 3-0-1 surge can largely be attributed to the play of the 33-year-old Cole. In three games this week, Cole has scored four goals and added one assist while garnering a +4 rating. He scored the game-winning and insurance goal against the Vancouver Canucks last Saturday which were also his 24th and 25th goals of the season. Cole opened the scoring in the game against the Sabres on Monday with his 26th of the season, and made a pretty pass late in the third period which led to the game tying goal. His 27th of the season, against the Senators, pushed him past last season’s goal scoring total of 26. Cole’s 52nd point matched his season totals from the 2010-11 season, as well.

Third Star: Drew Stafford, RW, Buffalo Sabres –
While Ennis has been the Sabres first-star this week, Stafford has been a primary contributing factor in Ennis’s success. The 26-year-old forward has one goal and four assists in three games this week for the Sabres and has averaged 19 minutes of ice time. Three of Stafford’s four helpers this week have been primary assists on goals. His lone goal came as a shorthanded tally against the Avalanche on Wednesday. He’s been a part of a strong unit with Ennis and rookie Marcus Foligno.

Northeast Division Notes

Boston Bruins: Tim Thomas got the start vs. the Florida Panthers on Thursday and allowed six goals on 29 shots. Defenseman Andrew Ference played in his 700th career NHL game. The Bruins announced on Thursday the signing of goaltending prospect Adam Morrison from the Vancouver Giants (WHL) to an entry-level contract. Morrison was a former Philadelphia Flyers third round, 2009 draft pick. The Bruins will host the Flyers on Saturday night.

Buffalo Sabres:
The Sabres will start their Florida road trip this weekend as they face the Panthers on Saturday. Then they are off to Tampa Bay for a game vs. the Lightning on Monday. Rookie forward Marcus Foligno has three points in his last two games. The Sabres enter the weekend in ninth spot in the Eastern Conference, three points out of eighth.

Montreal Canadiens:
The Canadiens will travel to Ottawa tonight for another matchup with the Senators. The teams clashed earlier this week with the Canadiens coming out on top in a shootout. The Canadiens will then travel to face the New York Islanders on Saturday night. The team is 3-1-1 in their last five games.

Ottawa Senators:
Captain Daniel Alfredsson is the Senators nominee for the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy. Division rivals are on the weekend forecast for the Senators. A win tonight and they’ll be atop the Northeast Division. They’ll play host to the Canadiens tonight and the Maple Leafs on Saturday. Craig Anderson, who’s been sidelined with a hand injury, could re-join the Senators next week.

Toronto Maple Leafs:
A 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday snapped the Maple Leafs five game losing streak. John-Michael Liles picked up his 300th NHL point in the game. James Reimer got the start and turned aside 34 shots. On Thursday, it was revealed that Nikolai Kulemin would miss the next three weeks with a broken finger. He suffered the injury on Tuesday night vs. the Florida Panthers. The Maple Leafs will travel to Ottawa on Saturday for a game against the division rival Senators.