The Buffalo Sabres opened the 2011-12 campaign with seven of their first eight games away from the First Niagara Center. In addition to two neutral site European games, the Sabres just wrapped up a four-game road trip.
Sandwiched between Buffalo’s appearance in the NHL Premiere Series and the four-game trip was Buffalo’s lone home contest, a sloppy 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Sabres return to the cozy confines for the F’N Center for a five-game home stand that sees the Sabres play seven of their next eight in Buffalo.
The Sabres weathered their early trip well, earning six of a possible eight points on the road-trip and opening a 5-1 record in games played outside of the F’N Center. Buffalo has put up some impressive numbers in their opening away contests:
- Record: 5-1 (2-0 NHL Premiere)
- Goal Differential: +6, 17GF – 9GA (+5, 8GF – 3GA NHL Premiere)
- Power Play: 4/16, 25% (3/8, 37.5% NHL Premiere)
- Penalty Kill: 15/16, 93.7% (6/7, 85.7% NHL Premiere)
- Top Performers:
– Thomas Vanek: 9PTS (5+4)
– Jason Pominville: 9PTS (3+6)
– Luke Adam: 6 PTS (3+3)
– Christian Ehrhoff: 4PTS (1+3)
– Ryan Miller: 4-1, 1.75 GAA, .960 SV%
Buffalo’s early season success has largely been linked to two factors; the play of Ryan Miller and the production of the Vanek-Adam-Pominville line. While Miller has been hardly to blame in Buffalo’s two losses, the top line has accounted for one goal (Vanek) in those two games.
The four-game road trip is the third longest for the Sabres this season. They have a five-game western swing at the end of February and into March along with a seven-game journey in January, a month in which they play only three of twelve games at home. However, until that hellacious month, the Sabres longest jaunt away from the First Niagara Center is three games in December sandwiched by a number of home games.
Not only was establishing a strong road presence important, it was key to ensure a strong start for a club that opened the 2010-11 season 3-7-2 in seven road and five home games. The Sabres won’t be able to rest on their laurels with only seven games gone in the regular season, but they have found a sound game on the road and faced down a tough early schedule with success.
The Sabres play 14 of their next 20 games at home. Since there has only been one home game to this point in the season, there is nothing much to point to regarding the upcoming home schedule. One thing is obvious, a strong showing over the next seven home games will give Buffalo a firm hold among the Eastern Conference’s top eight.