Ott looks good at Sabres skate

Jordan Leopold skates by the net in a small-sided drill.

Jordan Leopold skates by the net in a small-sided drill.

I checked out the Buffalo Sabres’ optional practice Wednesday morning at the Northtown Center in Amherst. It was tough to really gauge who looked ready to play (everyone looks good when no one’s really playing defense and the goalies aren’t professional caliber) but here’s what stood out to me:

—Steve Ott looked good. Everyone on the ice had his way with the goalies (even “coach” Andrew Peters), but Ott’s shots were particularly well-placed and he continued to create openings and finish when they broke into small-sided games.

—John Scott skated for the first time this week, donning New York Rangers gear and green socks. The 6-foot-8 newcomer’s biggest talent seems to be just that: being a large person. All pros are great puck-handlers and shooters, but other players on the ice were clearly a step above him talent-wise. Scott hasn’t scored since 2009-10, but that’s OK — his job is to be large and intimidating (and/or take out Milan Lucic) and he certainly accomplishes that.

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The Crimson Chins

If you follow hockey in any extent, these two bearded gentlemen need no introduction.

But in case you forgot, these are the Sedin twins, Henrik at left and Daniel on the right. Henrik has the upper hand as the older twin, but Daniel has the honor of being drafted first. Both are by the slimmest of margins (Henrik is six minutes older), but when twins compete, that’s all that matters.

The Vancouver Canucks made Daniel the second overall pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft and Henrik the third. They passed over the likes of Tim Connolly (fifth overall), Martin Havlat (26th), Jordan Leopold (44th), Ryan Miller (138th) and Henrik Zetterberg (210th) to do so, but they haven’t regretted the decision for a second.

The twins may be Swedish, but on the ice, they’re all finish. Daniel is currently leading the playoffs in goals while Henrik is tops in assists. Through 10 NHL seasons, the pair has over 1,300 points between them.

Their ability to find the back of the net sets the twins apart from any other duo in the league right now. But there’s more. Something else makes Daniel and Henrik different from other players, and I think it’s growing on their faces.

Everyone has a playoff beard this time of year. The whiskers on the Sedin twins may not be as thick or as full as the beards sported by other players, but their beards are different. They’re red.

Red hair is nothing new in sports (see: Brain Campbell, Bill Walton or Shaun White — if you consider him an athlete), but especially in hockey, things like hair color are usually hidden by those protective helmets they’re fond of wearing. Seeing two beards this up close and in your face is new and different.

Hold off on you ginger jokes, but I’ve come up with my own nickname for the twins. I’ve started calling them the Crimson Chins.

If you’re familiar with Nickelodeon’s hit cartoon “The Fairly OddParents” you’ll get the reference. The Chin is the favorite comic book character of the show’s protagonist, Timmy Turner — yes, he’s a made-up character within a made-up show. As you could have guessed, his most prominent feature is his shoulders that are so big he’d fall over if he was real chin, which he used to beat up villains on a regular basis.

The orangey-red facial hair you’ll see flying around on Vancouver’s power play tonight wouldn’t exactly pass for crimson, but it’s the reference that counts. I’ve been referring to them singularly as the Crimson Chin (Chins when it’s both) and you are more than welcome to join.

“Wow, did you see that pass from the Crimson Chin?! Nice sauce.”

The Sabres are long gone from Stanley Cup contention, so might as well have some fun with the playoffs, right? Maybe if he’s lucky, the Sedins will let Ryan Kesler pose as Cleft, the Boy Chin Wonder.

Meet Jordan Leopold, the newest member of the Buffalo Sabres

On the first day of free agency, the Buffalo Sabres signed defenseman Jordan Leopold.

Around 5:30 p.m., news came across the wire that the Sabres had inked the 7-year vet to a 3-year deal. The AP reports that “Monetary terms of the deal were not immediately available, but it’s expected that Leopold will get about $3 million a season.” 

Leopold put up 26 points last year (11 goals, 15 assists) in 81 games played, numbers similar to Daniel Paille and Jochen Hecht (both 12g and 15a). Leopold spent the first 61 games with the Florida Panthers, and finished out the last 20 with the Pittsburgh Penguins after being traded during the Olympic break.

He totaled 28 penalty minutes last year and finished with a minus-2 rating, numbers that put him right in the middle of the pack on the Sabres roster. If you look closely, you can chalk his negative rating up to being a good player on a bad team: 75 percent of his season was spent with Florida where he was a minus-7, but in the quarter of his year spent with Pittsburg, he went plus-5.

His ice time per game with Florida was 22:25, which would have led all Buffalo players not named Tyler Myers.

Through 436 career games, the former second round draft pick (Anaheim, 1999) has tallied 45 goals and 95 assists. He also has 54 playoff games under his belt–including a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals with Calgary in 2004–and has appeared in each of the last three post-seasons.

Although he was once labeled as injury prone (missed time for the following ailments, 2006-‘08:  hernia surgery (25 games), groin injury (17), fractured wrist (remainder of season), hip problem and lacerated leg (35 games), pneumonia, and concussion), he played in 164 regular season games over the last two years.

Leopold played four years at the University of Minnesota (missed Vanek by one year), and is a former member of the U.S. National Team Developmental Program.

Defensemen Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder both signed deals with new teams earlier today (the Ducks and Devils, respectively), but Leopold will fill the void. He is not known for his physical play (less than a hit per game last season), but he scored more goals last year than Lydman and Tallinder combined.  He may not be the “power play quarterback” people want Darcy to bring in, but he did see nearly 100 minutes of PP time last year, which would put him fourth among Buffalo defensemen.

Stay tuned for more free agency news and reactions.

Other info:
Age: 29
Birthday: August 3, 1980
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 200 lbs
Birth place: Golden Valley, Minn.
Shoots: Left