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Sabres vs. Flames preview

Photo of Calgary Flames from 2009 by flickr.com/creativecommons user Rick McCharles

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Sabres fans know the problems that plague the team—after all, the local TV market for the Sabres is not only tops in the NHL (an average rating of 8.3, spanning roughly 54,000 households) but also the best that Buffalo’s seen over the last three years.  So yes, the community recognizes Ville Leino’s rough adjustment to Buffalo, Ryan Miller’s string of shaky outings and instigator Patrick Kaleta’s headbutt—which warranted a four-game suspension but didn’t draw an in-game penalty.  Then again, he probably deserved the stiff suspension—it was mildly Zidane-like.

Tonight, the Sabres (6-5) host the Calgary Flames, who are dwelling in the cellar of the Western Conference’s Northwest Division with 11 points (5-5-1).  Puck-drop is set for 7:30 p.m.; individual game tickets are available here, while admission to the pre-game Labatt Tailgate tent party can be purchased here

The Sabres cannot afford to overlook the Flames, however, as Brent Sutter’s team just mauled Detroit 4-1 behind Jarome Iginla’s two goals and Miikka Kiprusoff’s stellar play in goal.  Iginla’s four points through Nov. 1 had Flames fans wondering if his play has finally started to decline, as he’s led the team in points every year since 2000.  The three point outburst against the reeling Wings has silenced his critics for the time-being, at least.

When Calgary’s in peak form, the Flames are a defense-first team that capitalizes on scoring opportunities with proven snipers like Iginla and Rene Bourque.  Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano and Anton Babchuk pace the defensive corps, while former Sabre Chris Butler lends a touch of offense to the back-end.  We’re amazed how Sutter manages to keep his sanity with erratic forwards like Olli Jokinen, Niklas Hagman and Alex Tanguay on the roster.

Jhonas Enroth (2-0, 1.39 GAA) will start in net tonight, but since Buffalo plays back-to-back games this weekend (Saturday night in Ottawa as well), expect to see Miller (4-5, 2.48 GAA) tomorrow night. 

Prediction:  3-1 Buffalo.  Enroth earns the start, Ehrhoff, Stafford and Pominville score.  Bourque gets Calgary’s.

TAGGED: buffalo sabres, calgary flames, first niagara center, jhonas enroth, nhl hockey preview, ryan miller

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