Buffalo’s second matchup against Carolina comes with a different set of circumstances than the first meeting did on October 14 at First Niagara Center.
The home opener for the Sabres came on the heels of an excellent European debut, but was only game number three of the young season. The Hurricanes had already played four games and had yet to hit the skid they’re currently mired in.
Now the Canes are searching for answers as they attempt to climb away from the Eastern Conference basement. The Sabres, on the other hand, are trying to maintain their grip on the top spot in the Northeast Division. However, the team’s toughness and entire makeup has fallen under heavy scrutiny as of late despite their spot in the standings.
Buffalo will be without Mike Weber due to an injury suffered against New Jersey but will still have the services of Tyler Myers as he did not receive any supplemental discipline for his hit on Danius Zubrus. T.J. Brennan was recalled from Rochester, although it is likely he will serve as the seventh defenseman while Marc-Andre Gragnani comes back from the press box. It wouldn’t be a bad move to toss Brennan into the fire. After all, why call the kid up to plop him in the press box?
The one thing working against the Sabres this evening is the team they’re playing. Sure, the Hurricanes have been sinking in the Eastern Conference standings. But this is a team fresh off a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the Canadiens. Prior to that, the Flyers hung five on them and chased Cam Ward in unceremonious fashion. It appears that some may think this team is destined for a low finish, those sentiments may just shake them out of their funk. For a team that has had some seriously slow starts and terribly inconsistent efforts, the Sabres do not want to stare down a desperate team looking to tighten up defensively and battle for a victory.
Special teams. The home opener saw the Hurricanes deposit a pair of shorthanded goals and create at least five total opportunities while a man down. They added an additional power play marker, and their first goal was scored just after a penalty expired. While the Sabres have had a marvelous turnaround since then, they will need a better showing than they had against New Jersey. When Buffalo’s special teams are clicking they are a difficult team to beat.
BUF: Jhonas Enroth 9GP, 6-1-0, 2.19 GAA, .926 SV%
CAR: Cam Ward 16Gp, 6-8-2, 3.27 GAA, .904 SV%
10/14/2011, First Niagara Center, Sabres 3 – Hurricanes 4