Despite what the current standings say, Buffalo’s match up with the Columbus Blue Jackets this evening will be anything but a sure thing.
Columbus found some offense as they finally won their first game of the season, 4-1 over Detroit. After opening the season 0-7-1, the Blue Jackets rode two special teams goals (one shorthanded, one power play) to the victory.
On top of facing a seriously desperate team, Buffalo will have some significant history against them as well. Prior to their two-game sweep of the Blue Jackets last season, Buffalo had not beaten Columbus since the 2004 season. The Sabres are 4-7-1 all-time against Columbus and lost four of the previous seven games against the Blue Jackets. What is most important is that the Sabres had been winless against Columbus since the lockout.
Aside from cracking the Blue Jackets’ code last season, Buffalo will be facing a team that has had a topsy-turvy start to the season. Columbus beat Detroit, thanks in part to facing a backup goaltender, but have otherwise been very subpar this year. The Sabres not only need to jump to an early lead, tey need to step on the throat when they have their opponent down.
The Sabres are still struggling to find depth scoring behind the line of Thomas Vanek, Luke Adam and Jason Pominville. Brad Boyes and Nathan Gerbe got in on the act on Tuesday, which is a promising development. Both have been generating more chances of late, they were due to get a goal.
Every other line for Buffalo has not been able to provide help in the goal scoring department. Partly because all but one line (26-72-29) has been shuffled and flipped through nearly every game. With a bit more time to develop chemistry there should be some progress seen in terms of offensive output.
Buffalo power play vs. Columbus penalty kill. In their search for secondary scoring, Lindy Ruff shuffled his power play units prior to Tuesday’s game. While the Sabres remain in the top-20 in terms of conversions, they have only four power play goals this season – three of which were scored in Europe. In practice it seemed as if Christian Ehrhoff was being moved up towards the top of the point, rather than down on the circle. This was something I had touched on previously and I’m glad they are going to try and fix the problem. With the league’s worst penalty kill in town it will be imperative for the Sabres to capitalize on the potential mismatch. If the power play fails them again they could have bigger problems than finding the best spot for Ville Leino.
BUF: Jhonas Enroth 1GP, 1-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .935 SV%
CBJ: Steve Mason 9GP, 1-7-1, 3.25 GA, .889 SV%
2010-2011 Season Series BUF 2-0-0
12/3/2010, HSBC Arena, Sabres 5 – Blue Jackets 0
4/9/2011, Nationwide Area, Sabres 5 – Blue Jackets 4