Third loss sets Sabres back below .500

A few familiar flaws cropped up in the last three losses for the Sabres as they dropped to 2-3-0 on the season after opening the year with a pair of victories.

Today’s loss to the Capitals came despite opening the scoring and controlling much of the play in the first period. Yet, the Capitals battled back and the Sabres were unable to discover the necessary depth scoring to get over the hump.

It is likely that many fans are panicking over the fact that many of the same issues have yet again hampered the Sabres in a string of losses. Naturally these losses are that much more prevalent with the fact that the shortened season has many focused on getting a quick start and finding security for the playoffs. Depending on how you break things down, this is just five games out of 48. Or you may see this as 10% of the season already behind a team that is looking to return to the playoffs.

Coupling today’s loss with the back-to-back losses at the hands of the Hurricanes paints a picture of a team who not only has struggled to find goal scorers beyond their first line and some up-and-down play from the blue line. Continue reading

Sabres first five will come quickly

With five games over the next seven games, the Sabres will know exactly what they can come to expect from the condensed 2013 NHL schedule. Rather than scrambling to provide specific previews for each and every game this season, it is more likely that you will see a look at each week of the season as it begins.

The Sabres open at home today against the Flyers and follow with games against the Leafs, Hurricanes (twice) and Capitals. Here are a few things to keep an eye on as the Sabres and NHL hockey returns. Continue reading

The Morning Skate: Post-Christmas push will be bolstered by familiar faces

Slowly but surely the Buffalo Sabres are getting their injured players back. Brad Boyes and Jochen Hecht will play tonight and it would seem as if Tyler Myers will be playing again prior to the New Year.

While see Hecht back on a line with Thoma Vanek and Jason Pominville is terribly depressing, Boyes will be skating on a new line with Drew Stafford and Derek Roy. That new combination will allow for the possibility of a Tyler Ennis, Luke Adam and Zack Kassian line. A very young, but talented trio. Ennis’ own injury could keep him out tonight.

The last time Buffalo and Washington met the Capitals were playing to get their coach fired. Now the Caps are playing under a new coach, but are struggling to gain traction. The Sabres are still in quite a bit of trouble on the ice and not many solutions have been presented at this point.

However, with the injury situation beginning to thin out, it would seem as if the Sabres will find themselves in a situation that will allow to make a roster move or two, if that is indeed the best way to get Buffalo back on track.

Highlighted Matchup

Vanek-Hecht-Poiminville. Vanek and Pominville have been the only consistent scorers all season. Vanek has been hobbled as of late, but remains the only true scoring threat. For a team that hasn’t eclipsed three goals very often, this limping top line will need to play big.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller 19 GP 8-8-2, 3.11 GAA, .904 SV%

WAS: Michal Neuvirth 15 GP 5-6-2, 3.06 GAA, .893 SV%

Last Game

11/26/2011, First Niagara Center, Sabres 5 – Capitals 1

The Morning Skate: Injuries mount as reinforcements are called

The injury bug has bitten the Sabres hard. Robyn Regehr and an unnamed forward (assumed to be a center) have joined Ryan Miller, Tyler Ennis, Tyler Myers, Mike Weber, Cody McCormick, Pat Kaleta and Brad Boyes on the injury list. The Sabres have called up Brayden McNabb and Paul Szczechura from Rochester.

There is still no news on which forward was injured – Mike Harrington speculates that Thomas Vanek or Jason Pominville could be candidates based on plays from last night.

Regardless, the Sabres will be playing with quite a few Rochester Americans on their roster this evening as the struggling Washington Capitals roll into town. The Sabres are in desperate need of a home win and a bounce back victory after three-straight losses.

The Capitals are in equally rough water as they have failed to live up to expectation this season despite their high payroll and roster of superstars. Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and high-priced free agent Joel Ward have all been sat down for various lengths of time throughout the early going here.

This might just fall into the must-win category for the Sabres. A week and  half ago this team was second in the conference, now they’re tied for eighth and are in desperate need of a big run to climb back into the top half of the conference.

Highlighted Matchup

The Youngsters: McNabb, Kassian, Brennan and Tropp. Sure Szczechura could fall into this boat as well, but he has seen time in the NHL (Tampa Bay) and was signed for veteran depth, he certainly isn’t a prospect. Still, the Sabres need big contributions from this bunch. Brennan has been great in his couple games, Tropp has shown he may be the next Pat Kaleta and Kassian and McNabb will need strong showings this evening to prove they’re at the same level as the other Amerks in the lineup tonight.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Jhonas Enroth 13GP 7-3-1, 2.40 GAA, .922 SV%

WSH: Tomas Vokoun 14GP 10-4-0, 2.66 GAA, .910 SV%

Last Game

4/2/2011, Verizon Center, Sabres 4 – Capitals 5 OT

Double Minors: Sabres 3 – Capitals 4 SO

The Buffalo Sabres dropped their final NHL preseason contest to the Washington Capitals 4-3 in a shootout.

Buffalo led 3-2 in the third, only to surrender the tying goal to Matt Hendricks with just under seven minutes to go. Thomas Vanek scored twice and Jason Pominville added a first period tally for the Sabres. Ryan Miller went the distance and made 29 saves. Jhonas Enroth was expected to see at least one period, but Lindy Ruff opted to get Miller another complete game. I would expect Enroth to play 60 minutes against Alder Mannheim on Tuesday.

Since this contest was sans television there isn’t too much I can offer in terms of analysis. However, losing a third period lead with most of the ‘A’ team playing isn’t very encouraging. Continue reading

The Morning Skate: Sabres vs. Capitals

The Buffalo Sabres play in their final state-side preseason contest tonight before departing for Germany and the NHL Premiere.

With the roster set for the season, this will be the closest to a regular season contest that anyone has seen to date. Luke Adam is probably the only player who will end up in Rochester; he is filling in for Derek Roy for the time being.

The lines should look something like this:

Vanek – Adam – Pominville

Ennis – Leino – Stafford

Gerbe – Gaustad – Kaleta

Ellis – McCormick – Boyes

Regehr – Myers

Ehrhoff – Leopold

Weber – Sekera

Continue reading