Sabres vs. ‘Canes preview
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • October 14, 2011 @ 8:16am
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 guard: Cam 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)