The Buffalo Sabres finally drop the puck on the 2011-12 NHL season this afternoon when as they take on the Anaheim Ducks as part of the 2011 NHL Premiere. The Morning Skate will go full format for the regular season, the scaled-back TMS used for the preseason is due to the swollen rosters and lack of stats.
Buffalo has a tough draw for the Premiere compared to some past match ups. They will play two of the favorites to emerge from the West between Anaheim today and Los Angeles tomorrow. A slow start won’t be accepted well in Buffalo and these two games will offer a barometer to see what you should expect from the Sabres this season.
The powerplay came along well towards the end of the preseason and the lines appear to have gelled quite well. How they will fare in a regular season game is the unknown factor, but the look of three solid scoring lines should instill confidence in Sabres fans.
Highlighted match up
The toughest match up for the Sabres will be how to neutralize the Ducks top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. All three are tough, nasty players who can score goals at ease. Expect to see Tyler Myers and Robyn Regehr see quite a bit of time against this line with Paul Gaustad’s line also checking the big guns. If the Sabres can shut down these three they will likely have success in today’s game.
BUF: Ryan Miller 2010-11: 66 GP, 34-22-8, 2.59 GAA, .916 SV%
ANA: Jonas Hiller 2010-11: 49 GP, 26-16-3, 2.56 GAA, .924 SV%
Last meeting 12/21/2010, HSBC Arena, Sabres 5 – Ducks 2
Expect both teams to play with a lot of energy, they have had plenty of time to adjust to the time change and will be amped to get the season started. Anaheim will have the crowd on their side as Teemu Selanne returns home alongside Saku Koivu. Ville Leino is Buffalo’s lone Finn and he doesn’t have the star power of the other two, so expect a pro-Ducks crowd. The Sabres will need a quick start to build confidence with the new roster and potentially win some fans to their cause. Expect special teams to play a huge role in this game as both teams try to establish some footing on a new season.