Its back at home for the Sabres, and thank god for that. I am drained after a West Coast trip. I am still not over missing an entire year of hockey thanks to the lockout (ok, I was in Iraq that year and would have missed the games anyway – but I didn’t even have the chance to follow them even sparingly). So therefore, I did not miss a single second of this past road trip, and boy did my sleep suffer greatly for it. Add in a sick two year old and a pregnant wife – instant nights of no sleep. Most nights after the game I would put one leg into bed ready for a warm slumber, only to have my alarm clock go off immediately to have me mutter, well that didn’t take long, pull my leg out of bed and get ready for another day.
Ryan Miller proved he was merely human over this West Coast trip, losing out on a little bit of the dominance that was very prevelant in his game at the start of the season. This is fear number one for me – Miller has guaranteed himself the starting job in Vancouver, will he stop playing like he wants it now and just try and get by the rest of the NHL season hoping to coast into the playoffs?
My second fear is that the Sabres don’t have the offense to compete for any length of time beyond the first round of the playoffs. Tim Connolly staying healthy and hot is helping erase some of that fear, and if Vanek can get and stay hot that will help also. The Sabres don’t have any even close to the scoring leaders in the league, but they do have several players with double digit scoring, so the balanced spread of secondary scoring may be a plus for them.
Both the Sabres and Devils come into tonights game looking to right a ship that is teetering on the brink of piss-poor hockey. Both teams are in the top category of Eastern Conference teams, but poor play as of late has seen leads trickle down to manageable levels for chasing hockey teams. Ottawa, thanks to a six game winning streak is now only five points back on the Sabres. The Sabres, thankfully have games in hand – but Ottawa plays the Sabres and if history has anything to say about those games, its going to be two more points for Ottawa.
Another Olympic goaltending battle is all set for tonight, as Ryan Miller faces off against Brodeur. These two will face each other February 21st in the final game of Olympic Round Robin play in group A.
The biggest story-line will be Tim Connolly – he is sitting on an 16 game point streak, currently the longest standing active NHL point streak. If Connolly can extend that streak to 17 tonight, he stands to tie Gilbert Perrault’s long standing franchise record Friday night in Boston.
The Sabres were looking to get back into the playoffs after a two year drought, first place in the division is a bonus, but the team will need to play much better hockey all around if they want to maintain the pace they established before their West Coast folly of a trip.
Tags: Buffalo Calder Canada Devils Eastern Conference Fear Group A Hart Hockey Human Martin Brodeur Medal New Jersey NHL Northeast Division Olympics Ottawa Senators Pregnant Ryan Miller Sabres Sick Stanley Cup Stanley Cup Playoffs Thomas Vanek Tim Connolly Tyler Myers Usa Vancouver Vezina West Coast