GAME 1 – HOME OPENER
FIRST NIAGARA CENTER
TV: MSG-B, BELL, TSN5, RDS
RADIO: WGR 550 AM in Buffalo
Outlook: The Sabres are looking to improve on having the league’s worst record for the past two seasons. After having drafted the 2nd overall pick two straight seasons, signing a Stanley Cup winning coach and adding all-star caliber players the Sabres have the pieces in place to make a playoff run.
It has been five long years (2010-11) since Buffalo has clinched a spot in the post-season and just about every respected hockey journalist has said the trend will continue this year
Those prognostications however could change if the Sabres can jump out to a quick start and a win tonight versus the Ottawa Senators would help.
Among the off-season acquisitions is goaltender Robin Lehner, a former Senators net-minder. He lost his starting job there last season when he suffered a concussion and was dealt after Andrew Hammond came in and showed real promise. The deal came during the NHL Entry draft and although Lehner has not looked consistent during the preseason, he is feeling good and excited about the new opportunity. He is considered to have a high-ceiling in terms of his ability. He has the start tonight against his former team.
High-profile forwards Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and defenseman Cody Franson were other notable pick-up’s ready to make their NHL regular season debut with the blue & gold. Kane has not played since going down with a season ending shoulder injury last February. Entering his 7th season, he recorded 30 goals back in 2011.
O’Reilly has spent the last six seasons with the Colorado Avalanche. His best year statistically was during the 2013-14 season in which he notched 28 goals. Franson ended last year with the Nashville Predators after a trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Known for his great shot from the point, he will most certainly help the Sabres improve their power play from last season, worst in the league.
About those two high draft picks, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart will play together on a line with Kane tonight. Eichel was no surprise to the lineup, Reinhart however was thought to have started the season in the AHL with the Rochester Amerks. Captain Brian Gionta will miss tonight’s game due to a lower-body injury (considered day-to-day). Reinhart will take his place on the wing. Eichel led Buffalo in scoring during the preseason (2-4-6), both of his goals came during the penalty kill. Reinhart recorded five assists.
Marcus Foligno led the NHL in PIM’s with 28 during the preseason. Tyler Ennis led Buffalo with three (3) goals in four games. Franson led the Sabres with a +/-6.
The Sabres are riddled with injuries out of the gate. In addition to Gionta, forward Cody McCormick and defenseman Zach Bogosian will miss some time. Josh Gorges (D) is a game-time decision.
Defenseman Matt Donovan (also signed in the off-season) and Jake McCabe will be healthy scratches, assuming Gorges is a go.
Ottawa forward and former Sabres player Clarke MacArthur could miss tonight’s opener. Defenseman Chris Phillips and goaltender Andrew Hammond are officially out with injury.
The Sens feature one of the best defenseman in the league, Captain Erik Karlsson. They also have Bobby Ryan and sniper Mark Stone. Kyle Turris is a gifted centerman and is exceptional in running their power play.
Dan Bylsma was hired to coach Buffalo after Mike Babcock shunned the Sabres and signed with Toronto. He returns to the bench after a year long hiatus. Prior to coming to Buffalo he won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He worked with USA Hockey this past year. He is also a former player.
Should be a great game tonight.
Arrive early, new security measures have been put in place for all fans entering.
Wolf’s Keys to the Game
-Play all 60 minutes
-Play Physical but Stay Disciplined
-Capitalize on the Power-Play
-Take Away Buffalo’s Speed
-Control the Puck