Sabres Game Night: Montreal Canadiens

buffalo_sabres_1993montreal_canadiens_1992Ladies and gentleman please consult your hockey programs for tonights starting lineups and the following changes… A brief thank you the the PA voice of the Buffalo Sabres until 1997, Milt Ellis.  Remember that homey feeling you would get when you heard his voice over the loud speaker – and growing up playing street hockey how about you and your friends giving your best Milt Ellis impressions?  There will be some what of that familiar feel at the foot of Washingtong tonight as the 2009-2010 Buffalo Sabres play host to the visiting Montreal Canadiens for opening night.  That same feel comes from many of the same players returning for what the Sabres hope is not a repeat performance of their last two years.

Tonight’s matchup sees the return of Jaroslav Spacek to HSBC arena for the first time in the regular season.

The Sabres have a lot to worry about for this home opener, as the Canadiens re-stocked after a disappointing end to a Centenniel Season.  Habs goaltender Carey Price will attempt to stow the skeletons of last season as he continues his reign in one of the most storied creases in the NHL.  An unforgiving hockey market, Price will have to be a top goaltender for the Canadiens this year with the hopes of a better overall performance in year 101.  The Sabres will also want to watch out for winger Mike Cammalleri – in three career games against Buffalo as a Western Conference oppponent, he has four goals, six points, and is a plus 2.  With him in the division now, those numbers are sure to grow.

Keys for the Sabres :

Continue penalty kill success.  The Sabres are looking to be a tougher, grittier team this year, which could lead to more penalies – something that has gotten them in trouble in games in the past.  The PK unit has to keep the team in the game, or keep the opponent from snatching any momentum.

Utilize the power play.  As famous as the voice of Milt Ellis, Rick Jeannerette, and Ted Darling is the “Shoot” on the power play yell from the crowd.   In four seasons, winger Thomas Vanek has 65 power play goals, but the team needs to get help from the other members of the power play unit.    While the team will rely on Vanek to lead the score sheet, he cannot carry this team alone.

Vanek’s offense.  Last season Vanek was kept off the score sheet when playing Montreal – but the Sabres were still able to beat the Canadiens last year four out of the six games.

Another scoring season by Derek Roy.    Say what you want about the mans game, he has led the team in scoring the last two seasons.  Continuing to play like that is only going to help him come free agency where he would be guaranteed a pay day.

Goaltending.  The writing is on the wall.  Miller to the Olympics, but he still has a full time job with the team this year.  Remember the last time the Sabres had a world class goaltender, who won a gold but could not win a Stanley Cup here – if he is no closer the the holy grail of hockey at the end of this contract, a date with his home town team of Detroit could be looming.

The season begins tonight at 7 PM. More than just the team are hoping for something more than a long off season. The talking part is done, the ice is frozen. In the words of 1990s cult icons Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar:

“Game On”

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Tags: 2009 2010 Buffalo Sabres Carey Price Derek Roy Dominik Hasek Goaltending Hockey Hsbc Arena Memorial Auditorium Mike Cammalleri Milt Ellis Montreal Canadiens NHL Offense Olympics Rick Jeannerett Ryan Miller Ted Darling Thomas Vanek Waynes World

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