Double Minors: Sabres grind one out in Nashville

The story from last night is focused on the Jordin Tootoo hit on Ryan Miller. What may be lost is the fact that Buffalo managed to get back into the win column on the legs of a great goaltending performance and a three goal night, despite being badly outshot.

The Tootoo incident is tough to diagnose. The original camera angle looks like a hockey play, it is the reverse angle that shows there may have been a little more intent on Tootoo’s part to collide with Miller. Obviously the argument over his reputation will be a big topic regarding the play, but there seems to be two key ingredients that will likely result in a suspension. It is tough to say if Tootoo could have found his way behind the net, but that will certainly be an issue. Tootoo jumped into the hit and made some effort to avoid Miller but his effort also helped carry him further into the goaltender. Based on the precedent set from the Lucic hit, Tootoo will get a pair of games. If this was a solitary incident, he may escape justice.

Regardless of that play, the Sabres played a neat game that was worthy of two points. Miller was certainly the difference for the Sabres – they were outshot 34-14 – but the line of Luke Adam, Ville Leino and Zack Kassian came to play too.

Based on the recent track record of this team, two points is a step in the right direction. The next step will be to carry the play on their way to a sound victory.

  • Zack Kassian will need to go back to the AHL at some point. He clearly has the chops to play at the NHL level, he just needs to refine a few portions of his game (defensive zone, skating). Kassian’s goal is one that Sabres fans will see a lot more of. At one time Kassian was a pretty prime piece for a major trade, now he might be an “untouchable prospect.”
  • Joe Finley was only so-so in his NHL debut. Considering he is finally turning a corner in his development, he may still have a few more steps to take. He wasn’t horrible in these two games, which was certainly a possibility.
  • Ville Leino notched his first multi-point game in Buffalo. That is a good step for a guy who looks to be struggling to adopt “the system”. He is working well with Kassian and Adam – he has worked well with a few lines this season, but they haven’t been kept together. Depending on the length of Boyes’ injury, this line could stay together for quite a while. That is promising for all three players, not just Leino.
  • Miller had a good game. His highway robbery in the third period was great to see. That is one of those saves that make people put him in the top ten among the NHL’s goaltenders each season. His big test will come Wednesday against Philly. He had a rough outing last time and will certainly need to right the ship on home ice.
  • Christian Ehrhoff is in straight up beast mode. He is playing major minutes in major situations and is playing well. He also just about ripped off Patric Horqvist’s head after he hit  Miller twice in the third. Major props.
  • Only other thought regarding Miller and Tootoo is that the cards fell in an awfully coincidental manner. Tootoo, Miller in his first game back, first game since gettin bowled over by Lucic. Tootoo may have tried to avoid Miller, but given the circumstances it seems fishy.

Three Stars

1. Luke Adam

2. Ryan Miller

3. David Legwand

NHL Links

Game Summary

Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Sabres searching for answers in Smashville

Everyone is starting to run out of answers regarding the Sabres’ play as of late. The line combos aren’t working, play in goal has been average and injuries are mounting. Buffalo is 1-4-1 in their last six and have shown little in recent games.

A trip to Nashville probably isn’t the best medicine for a struggling club. The Preds are sitting in 11th out West, but play a stifling style that isn’t going to be conducive for solving the Sabres’ scoring woes. On the bright side, the Sabres play much better hockey on the road. So they’re got that going for them. Which is nice.

Ryan Miller is expected to make his return to the crease tonight. It will be his first action since being concussed/whiplashed in a collision with Milan Lucic on November 12. It should be noted that Miller’s play appeared to be taking an uptick based on his final two periods against Winnipeg and his first period play in Boston. Hopefully whatever he was battling has been expelled from his game and he will return to the form we saw over the first three weeks of the season.

Of note, the Predators Tweeted that Buffalo native Chris Mueller will make his season debut tonight. Cue the Bucky column on the Buffalo boy now. I’ll toss in and extra five bucks if he manages to hit on Tim Kennedy’s whereabouts in tomorrow’s piece too.

The Sabres have been bad from top to bottom as of late, so there isn’t one thing one could point to as a key for tonight. Obviously controlling the play and hitting the net would be a wonderful place to start given Buffalo’s recent scoring woes. Getting Thomas Vanek back on track would be helpful too, perhaps removing the king of bad angle shots from his line would be a good starting block there.

Highlighted Matchup

Ryan Miller. While it is inconclusive if Miller is getting the nod tonight, his play could end up being crucial for the Sabres’ success. Jhonas Enroth has been admirable in relief for Miller, while he has had some shaky outings over the last week, quite often Enroth has not gotten the necessary goal support to win. If Miller keeps the Preds to two or less he will have done all he needs to allow his team to get a victory.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller 11GP 5-6-1, 2.86 GAA, .909 SV%

NSH: Pekka Rinne 23GP 10-8-4, 2.57 GAA, .921 SV%

Last Game

3/20/2011, HSBC Arena, Sabres 3 – Predators 4 OT

*stats to come later*