Tonight the Sabres will take on the conference rival, Philadelphia Flyers. This game has importance for several reason, mainly showing that they can indeed play at home. Since i last wrote (sorry got busy) the Sabres have returned home for a stretch that has them play 7 out of 8 games inside the confines of the First Niagara Center. On the season the Sabres are a abysmal 1-3 at home, not only losing but looking terrible in doing so.
The Sabres will be looking to come out strong and put this behind them. The Flyers are not in anyway a give me game, but the players should have the motivation to come out and beat the team that ousted them from the postseason last year. An added bonus will be the abscencse of Daniel Briere from the Flyers lineup as he is out with an Upper-Body injury. Briere has generally been the biggest problem for the Sabres since hes relocation to the Philadelphia, so this should help the Sabres in defending the Flyers offense.
Beyond the Flyers the Sabres should be looking to make a statement to the home crowd that will attend the game tonight. The fans are not asking the team to win every game at home, we are just asking that you put the effort out there and play the game we know your capable of. This is the earliest I can remember the team being booed at home in a long time.If the effort is put in and the team does not try to over do it on the flashiness there is no reason this team shouldn’t be winning at home like they are on the road. Granted this has been a same sampling of the season thus far, but as everyone knows every singal point out there is important when it comes to the end of the season.
With all this in mind Lindy Ruff made some much needed changes to the lineup in hopes of creating a new spark in this team. Marc-Andre Gragnani will take to the press box tonight and Mike Weber will take over for him on the blueline. I have been asking for Weber to get his chance from the start, going back to last years playoffs he has been one of out better defense man. From what i understand Weber will be pairing with Robyn Regehr. All i can say is Philly forwards i hope you wear some extra padding tonight, this pair should hit everything in site and look for Weber to come out hungry after sitting in the press box since the start of the year.
Up front Ruff will be moving Ville Leino back to pivot where he will join the top line with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville. Not to say Luke Adam was doing a bad job on this line, this move is clearly just trying to get Lenio going and no better way then to put him on a line with your two highest scorers this season. When asked about Lenio, Ruff had this to say:
“We’re trying to be patient, let him try to make some plays and it doesn’t mean he’s going to fit right where I’ve got him, right now, but I know he’ll fit. It’s no different from when Danny Briere got here and Danny didn’t want to play center, he felt wing would be his best spot and I thought it would be center and eventually he ended up and center and that would be his position so I’ve got lots of experience to rely on.”
Look for the rest of the lineup to stay pretty much the same, except for the powerplay which will now be sans Gragnani and see Derek Roy take over the point on one of the units.
Players to Watch
Matt Ellis: During his 3 games with the Sabres thus far,Ellis has been one of the Sabres few bright spots during that stint. Hes hard work earned him a spot on a line with Roy and Drew Stafford midway through the Panthers game. While registering 1 assist this season Ellis wont dazzle you with his point production, but will with ability to play Ruffs system almost to a tee.
Scott Hartnell: Hartnell is on a real hot streak as of late, During his last 4 games he has amassed 9 points( 4G, 5A). Hartnell is not afraid to play the body physical in both the offensive and defensive zone. He is well know as being one of those players you love on your team and hate on the other team. Defenseman should be on the look out and ready whenever Hartnell is on the ice because he is as much a physical threat as he is a offensive threat.
Between the Pipes:
Tonight’s Goaltending matchup will find Ryan Miller(4-4-0) vs. Ilya Bryzgalov(4-4-1). Both former Vezina finalist will be looking to get there season back on track after facing early struggles. How these goalies play tonight will go a long way in determining which of there teams will be leaving the First Niagara Center tonight with the W and the important 2 points.