Things in Helsinki went without a hitch for Buffalo. The Sabres hope to carry the momentum off of their win against Anaheim yesterday into today’s game against the L.A. Kings at the O2 World Arena in Berlin, Germany.
Unfortunately for the Sabres, the Kings hope to do the same thing, coming off of a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Rangers in Stockholm Sweden yesterday.
The matchup with the Kings looks even tougher than what the Ducks brought. Let’s go straight into it.
Offense: Offensively, the Sabres brought it yesterday. Nevermind that they didn’t get a shot on goal in the 3rd period, because they didn’t have to shoot it anymore to win the game. Ruff trusted his new and improved defense to defend a three-goal lead heading into the 3rd period, and they complied, holding Anaheim to the outside to take 11 shots on Ryan Miller. The Sabres need to get off to the same start they did against the Ducks against the Kings, as well. Look for Thomas Vanek to be parked around his usual spot in front of the net, trying to collect garbage in the form of rebounds. Who will he be getting the rebounds from? His new linemates, of course. Luke Adam looked phenomenal yesterday, although it should be noted that Adam had under 10 minutes of ice time. Jason Pominville is showing people why he’s the new Sabres captain, grabbing three points of his own, pushing the line’s total up to 8 points. Hopefully, this line’s momentum can carry over into their game against the Kings.
The Kings bring a tougher test, offensively, than the Ducks did. They bring two deadly lines, centered by Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards, respectively. Richards is a player that the Sabres are plenty familiar with. The Sabres know he’ll be trying to get underneath their skin all day. Meanwhile, Anze Kopitar is a beast in all aspects of his game, including his deadly shot. Look for the Kings to get most of their offense from working the puck around their corners and attacking the net with big forwards like Dustin Brown and Jarrett Stoll. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for Jack Johnson, a defenseman with a wicked point shot who scored the Kings game winner in yesterday’s game against the Rangers.
Defense: The Sabres showed yesterday that what looked really good on paper looks really good on the ice, as well. The pairing of Myers and Regher was absolutely shut down, not to mention that Regier doesn’t to crap from anybody. He brings a welcomed physicality to the team that has sorely been missed for some time now. Christian Ehrhoff didn’t disappoint, ending up on the scoresheet for second Thomas Vanek goal. Surprisingly, Mike Weber was watching yesterday’s game from the press box, and I don’t expect him to be inserted into the lineup any time soon. Marc-Andre Gragnani is a skilled defenseman who can play both sides of the ice. While the Sabres are lacking Weber’s physicality, the presence of Regehr, Ehrhoff, and Myers has certainly made Weber expendable. Look for the Sabres to keep the Kings scorers outside scoring areas, something they did extremely well against the Ducks.
The Kings bring in a pretty good defensive corp. of their own. Drew Doughty, recently signed to a big 8-year contract, and Jack Johnson make up the Kings’ top pairing, and for good reason. They contribute both offensively (40 and 42 points, respectively, in 2010-11) and defensively (Drew Doughty was a Norris Trophy candidate two seasons ago, in 2010). Big defensmen Matt Greene (listed 233 lb. on the Kings roster) and Rob Scuderi (219 lb.) look to make life a living hell for the Sabres around the crease. Davis Drewiskie and Willie Mitchell round out the Kings defensive units, and seem to create havoc of their own, but they aren’t threats, offensively. Look for the Kings to keep guys like Ville Leino and Thomas Vanek out of their crease. The Kings defense also isn’t afraid to pinch in the offensive zone, having tons of faith in either of their goalies, Johnathan Quick or Johnathan Bernier.
Special Teams: The Sabres fired assistant coach Brian McCutcheon after last season because after years of coaching in Buffalo, he could not figure out how to work a power play. Have no fear. The Sabres new assistant coach, Kevyn Adams, seems to be doing just fine devising new ways to score with it. The Sabres were 2-4 with the man advantage against the Ducks, and look to continue to do well against a stout Kings penalty killing unit that ranked 4th in the NHL last season. The Sabres penalty killing seems to be much better than last year’s unit, who ranked 13th in the NHL. They killed off all 5 Duck power-plays yesterday, including a 45-second two-man advantage for Anaheim. The Kings bring in a power-play unit that ranked just 21st in the NHL last season, converting 16.1% of their attempts. The Kings were 1-5 in their power play attempts, yesterday, and like the Sabres, killed off all of their opposing team’s penalties, as well.
Injuries: Kings forward Dustin Penner (lower body) and defensman Jake Muzzin (neck) are listed as day-to-day. Kings forward Colin Fraser (ankle) is out on Injured Reserve. Sabres forward Jochen Hecht (concussion) could play, but he’s listed as day-to-day.