Tonight, Steven Stamkos and his 19 goals come into HSBC Arena with the Tampa Bay Lightning (10-7-2) to take on our Sabres (8-10-3), and it’s a very intriguing matchup for the typical hockey fan. On one hand, you have Tampa Bay, currently 6th in the Eastern Conference, with Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, two of the most dynamic offensive players in the league. On the other hand, you have our beloved Buffalo Sabres, who have suddenly woken up and have gone from worst in the league to tied for 8th in the East. The Sabres have won 3 straight on home ice, extended last night by an exciting 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Derek Roy extended his points streak to 7 games with an assist on a beautiful goal by Thomas Vanek, and the club seems to have righted the ship.
In keeping up with previous previews, here’s Who’s Hot, Who’s Not:
Steven Stamkos. This center is currently averaging a point per game, and is coming off a game against the Flyers in which he netted a hat-trick in a high-scoring 8-7 victory over the Eastern Conference champs. This kid is the real deal, and if he keeps up his scoring click, he could end up being the scoring champ come season end. The Sabres will have their hands full with this sophomore tonight.
Derek Roy: 7 straight games with a point. How can he not be hot?
Ryan Miller: Ever since he returned from his “lower body injury”, he’s played extremely well. He seems to have given this team a much needed lift, and he continues to keep this team in games (case in point, last night vs L.A.). As long as Miller stays healthy the rest of the way, this team can continue to push for a playoff spot, and MAYBE challenge for a division crown.
Dominic Moore: A one time Sabre for 18 games (scoring only 1 goal), he’s struggled to stay on one team for a long period of time. This year, he still continues to struggle, netting only 8 points in 14 games (meaning he’s been scratched for 6 games). Poor, poor Moore.
Jochen Hecht: *Vomit*…Sorry about that. But he’s only got 2 goals in 21 games. That’s terrible for someone who is expected to score at least 25 goals and be a big offensive contributor.
-Miller will start between the pipes tonight for Buffalo, while Dan Ellis will get the nod for the Lightning.
-This game falls in the middle of the 7th set of back to back games (out of a league high 22 sets) for the Sabres this year.
-The Sabres and Lightning are two of 3 teams which have given up a league high 4 shorthanded goals (the other is Colorado)
Dave’s Dish is a segment that will pop up occasionally. All posts in the “Dave’s Dish” series are written by a friend of mine, Dave Sanna. He is a fellow Western New York-er and as die hard a Sabres fan as they come. Consider “Dave’s Dish” a place for a regular fan (just like you!) to release some opinion and analysis on the happenings of the Sabres. Enjoy!
Having just witnessed the Sabres’ recent road trip, a very successful road trip in which they obtained 5 of 6 possible points and began to slowly pull themselves out of the depths of the Eastern Conference cellar, this writer learned something. Something quite intriguing and shocking all at once. Make sure your jaws have a straight shot at the floor.
Jhonas Enroth is a young Ryan Miller.
*GASPS* I know. I was shocked when I first thought about the idea too. But if you compare veteran journeyman benchwarmer Patrick Lalime’s statistics to those of Enroth, you will be pleasantly surprised
Lalime’s season statistics: 4 Games played, 0 Wins, 3 losses, 3.32 Goals Against Average, .888 Save Percentage, 0 Shutouts
Enroth’s season statistics: 4 Games played, 2 Wins, 1 loss, 1 OT Loss, 3.43 Goals Against Average, .876 Save Percentage, 0 Shutouts
Okay. Take a minute and read these statistics (courtesy of Sabres.com). I know exactly what you’re thinking, and it probably uses a profanity or two. But here me out. Lalime’s time is running thin here in Buffalo. He’s got another year left on his current deal (making $600,000 to ride Ryan Miller’s coattails), meaning Enroth will most likely return to Portland when Miller returns from his injury. And this is probably the best thing for him! He’s more useful playing in the AHL than he would be sitting on the bench ready to spell Miller for a game or two. After next season, bring him up and he’ll be ready to be a full time backup.
I understand that Ryan Miller is the goaltender, better yet the STARTING goaltender. I understand he’s Team USA’s goaltender. I understand he’s the unofficial captain, face of the franchise, hallowed leader, best in Buffalo, and the overall “man”. I understand that he’s not going anywhere for a long time.
However, neither is Enroth, and if/when Miller leaves, we’ve got our new netminder.
Tonight the Montreal Canadiens (7-4-1) travel take the trip to our fine All America City to take on the Buffalo Sabres (3-8-2). Both teams are in a bit of a rut right now. After going on a 4 game winning streak, Montreal has lost their last 2. Not to be out-done by mediocrity, the Sabres have dropped 4 straight. However, these two teams aren’t exactly what one would call “similar”. The primary difference between the two squads presents itself in the form of one thing: Montreal can win. Montreal currently sits at the top of the Northeast Division with 15 points. Compare that to the measly 8 points that the Sabres have been able to muster up and the difference becomes apparent. It’s worth noting that Montreal won the only battle between these two teams this year by a margin of 2-1.
It’s no secret how the Sabres have been playing as of late. Their last game was this past Wednesday against the Boston Bruins. The Bruins got off to a quick start after Brad Marchand netted a goal three minutes into the game. Boston continued to overwhelm the Sabres by scoring three more unanswered thus chasing rookie goalie Jhonas Enroth. Drew Stafford broke the silence for the Sabres with a late second period tally but it turned out to be a fruitless effort. Things got worse for the Sabres throughout the rest of the game with the final score ending at 5-2.
Montreal’s last matchup was Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus netted two late 1st period goals and didn’t look back. The goals were scored by Rick Nash and Derick Brassard with Jakub Voracek getting helpers on both goals. Columbus finished off the Canadiens with a Kyle Wilson goal six minutes into the third period.
Alright, time for your favorite old friend Who’s Hot and Not.
Derek Roy – With his team leading 6 goals, 7 assists and 13 points, Roy has been a bright spot on a very dark team. Though he hasn’t scored in the past few games, Roy has been able to make his presence known through the course of this season. Also, Roy scored the lone goal for the Sabres the last time these two teams met.
Tomas Plekanec – If the Canadiens want to get back to winning, they need production from Plekanec. Currently leading the team in points with 5 goals and 5 assists, Plekanec has been able to step up for the Canadiens this year. The last 4 games that the Canadiens won, Plekanec was on the score sheet. 3 of those score sheet appearances came due to goals as well. Look for TP to lead by example tonight by notching a goal.
Andrei Kostitsyn – Much like Plekanec, Kostitsyn has been an integral part in the past success for Montreal. He currently leads the team in goals and is tied with Plekanec for the points lead. With an integral OT goal against the Coyotes a week and a half ago and a 2 goal game the night before, Kostitsyn has been quite clutch for the Habs.
Everyone – Seriously. Everyone.
Lindy Ruff – Listen, the Sabres look really bad. Something needs to be done to shake this team up and wake this team up. I realize that Lindy isn’t out there scoring goals but still, an entire team doesn’t just forget how to play the game in an offseason. This team came into the year ill prepared and frankly looks quite sloppy. It is the job of the coaching staff to make sure that the team comes into each game looking well prepared and ready to play. The chemistry of the team is directly effected by what lines Ruff decides to throw out on the ice at any given time. He needs to right the ship, and fast.
Brian Gionta – When Gionta was brought into the organization two years ago, it was a move that intended to provide more of an offensive spark. This season, however, not so much. Through 12 games Gionta has 1 goal and 2 assists. WOO. Don’t overwhelm us too much there, Brian. I guess this season Gionta is just coming up… short.
Scott Gomez – Everything that was just said about Gionta could be said for Gomez. Offensive spark, coming up short, blah blah blah. Just like his pal Gionta, Gomez only has 1 goal and 2 assists. Look for Gomez to try and up his production tonight against the lowly Sabres.
Between the pipes for the Sabres tonight will be Patrick Lalime. Patty is playing in place of the injured Ryan Miller. Lalime played the latter half of last Wednesday’s game after coming in in relief of Enroth.
Carey Price gets the start for the Habs tonight. After getting off to a rough start, Price seems to have somewhat righted the ship. Look for him to grab yet another win tonight against the rough Buff.
The game is on at 7:30 on MSG.
P.S. WE’RE BAAAAAAAAACK.