Carolina Hurricanes (1-2-1) at Buffalo Sabres (2-0-0)
First Niagara Center 7:30 p.m.
TV: FS Carolina, MSG – Buffalo
It feels good to get that first win behind us, doesn’t it? The Canes are on the road again and their first stop is at the newly renovated First Niagara Center to take on the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo is coming off two strong showings in Europe to start the year and have had nearly a week to rest up for this game while the Canes played only two nights ago. What a strong showing it was for Carolina, though. They were able to outshoot Boston at even strength, strike on the powerplay and kill off all five of Boston’s powerplays. In that lies a problem, though. The Canes have been shorthanded 11 times already this year (tied for sixth most in the NHL) and have committed 23 penalties (fifth most in the NHL). The penalty killing has not been terrible this season but this team has been taking penalties at the worst times and it has factored into them losing a couple games (see the 5-on-3’s vs. Washington and Tampa). Buffalo’s powerplay has a lot of weapons including newcomer Christian Ehrhoff so the Canes will hopefully learn to stay out of box for tonight’s contest.
Lines, analysis and more after the jump
Lines and defense pairings:
LaRose – Staal – Skinner
Ruutu – Jokinen – Ponikarovsky
Dwyer – Sutter – Tlusty
Stewart – Brent – Dalpe
Pitkanen – McBain
Allen – Gleason
Kaberle – Harrison
Vanek – Adam – Pominville
Gerbe – Roy – Stafford
Ennis – Leino – Boyes
McCormick – Gaustad – Kaleta
Regher – Myers
Ehrhoff – Leopold
Sekera – Grangani
Getting to know the Sabres
Terry Pegula gave the Sabres management a blank check to work with this off-season and they made two big free agent acquisitions in the form of Christian Ehrhoff and Villie Leino. They overpaid for both in the long-term but both will make Buffalo a better team this season. They also traded Chris Butler (okay defensive d-man) in exchange for veteran Robin Regher, who is good but I don’t know if he can take on the tough minutes for the Sabres like he did in Calgary. Might depend on how Tyler Myers develops but that’s a good thing since Myers has been a stud his first two years.
The Sabres blue line is stacked with offensive talent. Myers really shined as an offensive player since joining the Sabres, Ehrhoff is a machine on the powerplay (let’s see how he does without the Sedins, though), Leopold can provide a considerable amount of offense and Grangani has always put up high offensive numbers throughout his career. This is one reason the Canes are going to have to avoid penalty trouble tonight. The Sabres forward corps has only one top-level offensive threat in Thomas Vanek but the supporting cast is great and has a lot of balance. Interesting to see Luke Adam centering the first line instead of Roy but the latter has had good chemistry with Stafford in the past.
- Strangely enough, the Canes fourth line was the best territorially in Wednesday’s nights game. Although, it wouldn’t surprised you if you watched the game as Anthony Stewart was able to tally his first goal as a Hurricane in the third period. I haven’t been able to get the scoring chances from this game but going by corsi, the Stewart-Brent-Dalpe line hasn’t been horrible given they’ve played very few minutes and are buried with defensive zone starts. I’m still on the "give Dalpe more ice-time" bandwagon so I’m hoping their hard work from that game pays off with some more minutes.
- You know who also hasn’t been bad this season? Jiri Tlusty. No, I’m not joking. He’s actually created a few chances and has been on-ice for a lot (probably from playing with Jokinen). Although, until the last game, he wasn’t creating much offense on his own but mainly feeding off his linemates. Not that it’s a bad thing.
- I loved the thought of an Allen-Gleason pairing over the summer because it gives us a potential shutdown pairing. Glad to see that the coaches elected to put those two together. The two were very good on Wednesday night against the Seguin line, but they may have a tougher task in defending Vanek this game.
- In terms of who the Staal line will be up against, my guess is that it will be Paul Gaustad’s line with Robin Regher and Tyler Myers as the defensemen. Gaustad is an excellent defensive forward and that Myers-Regher pairing might be tough to deal with. Considering this line couldn’t do much against Chara and Boychuk on Wednesday.
- When looking at a line or pairing from the Sabres we can expose, that Grangani-Sekera defense pairing sticks out like a sore thumb. Grangani is primarily an offensive defenseman and Sekera’s play in his own zone is extremely spotty.
- Tomas Kaberle had the lowest amount of ice-time among Carolina defensemen at even strength on Wednesday (10:14). That looks bad at first glance but Kaberle does most of his work on the powerplay and I think he will settle in eventually. This was nearly the same role he had in Boston during the playoffs, though.