For the first time since the 2003-2004 NHL season, the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild will face each other twice in regular season action, as the teams will meet once in October before facing off once again in January of this upcoming NHL season.
The teams haven’t met since March 24, 2012, when the Wild dropped a 3-1 decision to Buffalo at the First Niagara Center. The game marked Buffalo’s fourth consecutive win and the first time the Sabres finished the night in a playoff spot in 96 days.
Steven Kampfer opened the scoring for Minnesota, with Thomas Vanek tying things up early in the second period. Marcus Foligno scored the game-winning power play goal early in the third, while Cody Hodgson added a power-play empty netter with one second remaining in regulation to secure the win. Hodgson and Vanek had a goal and assist each in the victory, which saw Ryan Miller stop 21 of 22 shots faced.
Eleven of the 18 skaters who appeared in that game for Buffalo are still with the team today, including Marcus Foligno and recently re-signed Corey Tropp, who may be with the Sabres or the AHL’s Rochester Americans this coming season.
A lot has changed significantly for the Minnesota Wild since that day in 2012. Hometown boy Zach Parise and fellow Olympian Ryan Suter both signed with the Wild in summer 2012, and goaltender Josh Harding has been inspiring in his battle with multiple sclerosis.
The Wild lost forward Cal Clutterbuck to the New York Islanders, while defenseman Drew Bagnall signed with the Sabres (but will likely be in Rochester). They also lost Matt Cullen and Devon Setoguchi, but added grit in forward Matt Cooke.
The team added forward Nino Niederreiter as well. The trio of former Eastern-Conferencers: Cooke, Parise and Niederreiter, will bring some knowledge of facing the Sabres to the Wild squad that hasn’t seen much of Buffalo lately.
Of course – none of these players can compare to Jason Pominville, who will certainly be ‘the one’ everyone’s got their eye on this season when the Sabres and Wild face off. The Wild acquired Pominville on April 3 via trade that sent Matt Hackett and Johan Larsson to Buffalo.
Players to Watch:
- MINNESOTA: The obvious answer: Jason Pominville. The former Sabres captain will make his return to Buffalo on October 14 in what will surely be an interesting game. I personally can’t wait to see him face off against Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller, who were quite a trio in Buffalo since they were some of the longest-tenured players in the system. Also watch out for Zach Parise, who’s scored 17 points in 26 career games against the Sabres, and Matt Cooke, who has 10 points and 39 penalty minutes in 29 career games versus Buffalo.
- BUFFALO: Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek is the one to watch out for against the Minnesota Wild. Vanek has scored eight points in six career NHL games against the Wild. Ville Leino is another one to watch, as he’s tallied five points in six games versus Minnesota. Finally, there’s Steve Ott, who has played 28 career games against Minnesota, scoring 15 points in that stretch.
Meetings This Season:
- October 14 @ BUF
- January 2 @ MIN