Tonight the Buffalo Sabres will faceoff against the Carolina Hurricanes in game number 40 of the regular season for the Sabres. So far this year, the teams are tied in the season series, both in goals scored and in wins. The Hurricanes were able to come back and defeat the Sabres in the “home opener” on North American soil, and the Sabres backed by Jhonas Enroth were able to shut out the Hurricanes at the RBC Center just about one month later.
Buffalo closed out 2011 by losing six of their last seven games, so a victory tonight will go along way in repairing the damage in the standings done by the Sabres lengthy skid of losing games. Carolina is coming off a game in which they were unable to hold on to multiple late leads against the New York Islanders.
The Sabres are getting good news on the injury front as many players are scheduled to return as soon as this weekend. While Buffalo sits two wins out of the playoff picture, the Hurricanes have a much higher climb to consider – with only 33 points only Anaheim and Columbus have fewer points.
Keys to tonights game are going to rest alot on Ryan Millers shoulders. With a disappointing start to the season coupled with injuries, the one time Vezina winner and Olympic Silver Medalist has not played to the level he is able to – some of which could be attributed to the team in front of him, but also to the oft injured team in front of him. It appears that Lindy Ruff is back into riding his number one goalie, with the confidence in his 1A 1B goaltending system shot down by Jhonas Enroth’s subpar play while Miller was injured.
The Hurricanes are battling injury bugs as well with goalie Brian Boucher and Forward Jeff Skinner both on the IR. Joni Pitkanen is also out of the linup through the month of January having undergone knee surgery. The Sabres can ill afford to take the ‘Canes lightly – as their AHL support has stepped up just as the Sabres prospects have. Justin Faulk was denied his request to play in the World Junior Tournament due to his play on the ‘Canes blue line. The 19 year old has been averaging 22:06 in ice time for the Hurricanes defense.