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Sabres vs. ‘Canes preview

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blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

The path to 82-0 continues!  With Luke Adam fitting in marvelously on the top line, Ville Leino collecting his first goal with the team and Robyn Regehr adding a little crunch to the blue-line, the Sabres left their European tour with an unblemished record.  The blue and gold returns home to a cozy locker room and a city of rabid fans, who will undoubtedly come out in droves to the season’s first Party in the Plaza (5:30 p.m., First Niagara Center Plaza) regardless of the rainy weather. 

The Sabres host the Carolina Hurricanes, a team they battled for a playoff spot late last season, at 7:30 p.m. tonight.  The game will air on MSG.

Carolina, 1-2-1, 3 points:
2010-11 record: 40-31-11, 91 points, ninth in Eastern Conference, missed playoffs.

The old guardCam Ward, Joni Pitkanen and Eric Staal.  Ward, a notorious Buffalo killer from the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals, returns between the pipes after starting a mind-boggling 74 games in 2010-11.  Now in his eighth year, Pitkanen just inked a three year, $13.5 million contract extension before the season, a real coup considering the ‘Canes expected Pitkanen to test free agency.  Staal, the offense’s heart-and-soul, is a top five center in the NHL—at least in our opinion.  He’s almost always healthy, a recognized leader and consistent in production.  How much more can you ask for?

The new crew:  Jeff Skinner, Brandon Sutter and Justin Faulk.  Skinner, the 2010-11 Calder Trophy winner—given to the league’s top rookie—returns as the left winger on Staal’s line.  His 31 goals, 32 assists and +3 rating last year endeared him to the fan-base, and he already has five points in four games this year.  Sutter, a lanky 22-year-old second line center, will try to rebound after a sophomore slump that saw his point total decline from 40 to 29.  Faulk, a 19-year-old rearguard that was a training camp sensation, is a (-6) through three games; still, head coach Paul Maurice and GM Jim Rutherford have uncomfortably gushed about Faulk’s potential.

Prediction:  3-1 Buffalo (Goals: Roy, Ehrhoff, Leino)

TAGGED: buffalo sabres, carolina hurricanes, christian ehrhoff, eric staal, hockey, luke adam, nhl, ville leino

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