Game 20 Preview: Sabres at Hurricanes

Buffalo Sabres (11-7-0) at Carolina Hurricanes (6-10-3)
RBC Center, 7 p.m.
TV: FS-Carolinas, MSG-Buffalo

With the Canes coming off their worst performance of the season and speculations about whether or not head coach Paul Maurice will make it through Christmas, the common belief among Canes fans is that we are at rock bottom now and there is nowhere to go but up. While I agree that the team has been playing awful lately, things CAN get a lot worse than this. The Canes currently sit at 6-10-3 which is bad, but does anyone remember the time where we won only five games in October and November combined? Granted, the team was riddled with injuries then but that stretch felt a lot worse than the one the team is going through right now.

This has been a brutal November for this team. They have won only two games and have been outscored 32-16 during that stretch, outshot 269-221 and their powerplay is a miserable 3/33. I should also mention that the last time they scored on the powerplay was the 5-2 loss to Dallas which was five games ago. So, in a way, there is nowhere to go but up for this team because if they keep letting this happen then they could find themselves in Ducks or Blue Jacket territory sooner than they would like.

Lines, defense pairings & more after the jump

Hurricanes

Stewart – Staal – LaRose
Skinner – Jokinen – Ruutu
Ponikarovsky – Sutter – Dwyer
Boychuk – Brent – Tlusty

Gleason – Allen
McBain – Harrison
Kaberle – Joslin

Ward

Sabres

Vanek – Roy – Pominville
Leino – Boyes – Stafford
Adam – Gaustad – Kaleta
Ellis – Gerbe – Tropp

Leopold – Regher
Ehrhoff – Myers
Sekera – Grangani

Enroth

Getting to know the Sabres

As everyone probably knows, their starting goalie, Ryan Miller was concussed after being hit high by Milan Lucic of the Bruins so Jhonas Enroth will get the start in net tonight. Enroth is one of the better back-up goalies in the league and is capable of stealing a game or two so this won’t be an easy task. He’s coming off a couple brutal outings though including the Sabres last game against New Jersey where he gave up five goals and was pulled in the third period. Goaltending hasn’t exactly been Carolina’s strong suit this year, so if Enroth is still shaky then this could potentially be a high scoring matchup.

I heard someone say that Tomas Kaberle was a worse signing than Ville Leino and all I can do is laugh at that statement. Do I like Kaberle’s contract? No, but I would rather have him and numerous fake-shot passes for $4.25 mil over three years than Leino for six years. This is someone who was scratched at times last year for Philadelphia, so I have no clue how anyone could justify giving him that kind of contract. Just to add salt to the wound, he has only ATTEMPTED 16 shots in 18 games.

Buffalo has a few guys riding the percentages when it comes to who their top performers are. Jason Pominville is second on the team in points but the team is shooting at over 13% when he is on the ice, so he will cool off later in the year. Thomas Vanek has seven points in five games but the team is shooting at an even higher rate at even strength with him on the ice. One guy who is performing well territorially is Drew Stafford and his boxcar stats are pretty underwhelming despite his shooting percentage being around the league average. Go figure.

Either way, Buffalo hasn’t changed that much aside from the Miller injury, Tyler Myers being taken off the top pairing in favor of Jordan Leopold, Corey Tropp playing on their fourth line instead of Cody McCormick and Derek Roy centering their first line (Adam was playing the first game).

Games Notes:

  • Gleason and Allen could be split up again to give our defense corps more depth and to make sure that at least one of them is covering Vanek, Pomminville and Stafford at all times. It will be difficult to contain them.
  • One bright spot of November has been the slight emergence of Eric Staal. Yes, he only has one goal but his underlying numbers are getting a lot better than they were in October and the team has 55% of the scoring chances go their way when he is on the ice. Keep it up, Eric.
  • Why isn’t Boucher starting again? Didn’t Ward basically get hung out to dry by the defense last game? Let the man have a night off.
  • The forwards really need to tight up their defense because Buffalo has a few guys on their blue line who can jump into the play (Grangani, Ehrhoff, Myers, Sekera) and crate scoring chances if Carolina does not pick them up.
  • I feel that Anthony Stewart on the first line will just lead to more juggling but I’m willing to try anything at this rate.
  • Chad LaRose has been one of the team’s best forwards and has been a beast when it comes to creating chances (at least compared to the rest of the team). He has earned his spot on that first line for now.
  • I’m interested to see how Dwyer does now that him and Brandon Sutter are reunited on the third line. Dwyer’s played very well on the PK but his play at even strength has left a lot to be desired. I can say the same thing about Tim Brent.
  • My goal for the game: outshoot the opponent. Even if we don’t win, I want to turn the game off knowing that this team tried and put forth a great effort. I sure as hell didn’t have that feeling last game.
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