The Buffalo Sabres will skate into Ottawa tonight with the chance to at least draw even with Winnipeg this evening. If the Bruins can take care of business this afternoon, the Sabres will be playing for a share of eighth.
Now, I still contend that the team has yet to reach a point of watching the schedule on a nightly basis, but that day is drawing near. The Sabres have twice had a chance to draw even with eighth and have failed. Tonight is a game in which they will be rested (sort of) and is also one of those valuable “games in hand”. Winnipeg’s loss last night in Calgary came in their 68th game, this is game 68 for the Sabres. So far Buffalo has been strong when playing on a night their opponents are idle, but this game is yet another pivotal matchup.
Ryan Miller will be back in net tonight after getting a couple well deserved days off. I expect to see Ben Bishop in net for the Senators. Bishop is a massive goalie looking to make his mark on the league. He has waited a long time for his break and this season might be it. Buffalo’s oft-anemic offense will need to start rolling early tonight.
The main thing to watch for is two-fold. First, if Thomas Vanek is playing, I expect to see some new lines. John Vogl, Kevin Snow, Paul Hamilton and the rest of the Sabres media reported the shuffled lines at yesterday’s practice. However, those combinations came without Vanek and Patrick Kaleta. I expect to see some changes made in the hope to spark some more offense. If Vanek isn’t playing, seeing what Lindy Ruff comes up with (Marcus Foligno was recalled) will be equally interesting to a fully healthy lineup.
This special edition of The Morning Skate is because I’ll be taking the day to enjoy all the city of Rochester has to offer. So I’ll have Dinosaur BBQ and watch the Bandits and Amerks play.
The Bandits enter tomorrow’s game with their season in the balance. They simply cannot afford another loss if they expect to sneak in the playoffs and who better to snap their funk than their I-90 rivals?
One of the Bandits’ two victories this season came against Rochester, but this is a whole different Bandits team we are talking about. They have unraveled defensively and are getting offensive contributions from a small, core group. Things need to change in Banditland if a playoff push is to remain in the cards.
Like the Sabres, the Amerks are in the thick of a playoff race themselves. Luke Adam has been wearing #72 since his demotion (ugh) but has seven points in 11 games. He had a couple rough games upon his arrival, but has come around as of late. David Leggio had a great night against Binghampton tonight and I hope to see him again tonight. We shall see. Here are a few things I’ll be looking for from the Sabres prospects:
- Shaone Morrisonn: I’m interested to see the big veteran. I liked his signing last year, unfortunately he didn’t work out. He has been steady for Ron Rolston and the Amerks this year, I want to see his game now; perhaps he still has a future in the show.
- Defensive prospects: Drew Schiestel was loaned to Texas, which has freed up some playing time for other prospects. The defensive cupboard is going to be crowed in the next few seasons; Mark Pysyk and JGL are on their way and Brayden McNabb has shown his chops. I want to watch McNabb closely along with Joe Finley, T.J. Brennan and even Matt MacKenzie (if he plays). These guys have something to prove if they expect to stick around.
- Phil Varone: Dude has been lighting it up for the Amerks. 8+33 in 60 games from the development camp invitee. I liked him (along with Johnathan Parker and Steven Beyers) in the summer and Varone has turned out to be a worthy addition to the pipeline. He is only signed with the Amerks for now, but I could see him getting a look from the Sabres.
- David Leggio: I hope he gets the nod in net again, I’m interested to see where he stands in terms of development. The Sabres have some tough choices regarding all of their goaltenders in the coming months. Leggio is part of that group.
There will be Double Minors posted of the Amerks game, a Bandits recap and a brief write up on the Sabres. Stay tuned.