PreGame Skate: Anaheim Ducks


Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE

With just 20 games left, the new Buffalo Sabres will take to the ice tonight against the Anaheim Ducks.  By new, there will be one significant roster change, and that will be the substitution of Cody Hodgson for Paul Gaustad.

Hodgson will be teamed up with Ennis and Stafford to start the game, and I am interested to see if that sparks Drew Stafford into a scoring streak to finish out the season.

This will be the second meeting of the season for the cross-country foes, as the teams met on neutral ground months ago to start the season in Helsinki, Finland.  The Buffalo Sabres that started the season were a team on fire, and buried the Ducks 4-1.  There is little difference between the Sabres now and the Sabres then.  The Sabres then were riding the high off a busy offseason where the new owner spent money to retool parts of the team, and restructure the arena.  After falling into a slump because of injuries, the team is now back to a higher standard of play, as desperation sets in, and several hurdles to climb in order to make the playoffs.

Darcy said it himself, the organization was ready at the deadline to make the team better, even if it meant taking a temporary step back to get there.  Smart words for a GM that might be planning on an early summer for his team.

"When we evaluated our team, we knew we had to get better. If it meant taking a minor step back, we were prepared to do it. It still allows us to run at the playoffs. We’re all aware of the odds against us, but Cody will give us a good boost on the offensive side. We certainly lose Gaus’ competitiveness and size and thickness, and his ability to play against the other teams’ top line.”"

If the Sabres are destined to make the playoffs, they have little room for error in the final days of the season.  The Sabres are so far point a game producers, with 62 games, they have 62 points.  History tells us you need about 92 points give or take to get into the post season.  That means the Sabres need 15 wins to get into the post season, if they are going to lose, if they can sneak into a loser point, that only helps their cause.  Lose more than 5 games in regulation, and the season could be drawing to a quick close.

Anaheim comes into tonights contest in a similar fashion, quick start to the season, than a few months of uninspired play.  Both the Sabres and the Ducks are coming off losses, so it will be interesting to see how the teams respond.  Once thought to be sellers on deadline day, a recent surge by the Ducks has them jockeying for a playoff position as well.

It will be interesting to see how Ryan Miller responds in net after his open and outward comments about the events of trade deadline day, apparantly his friendship with Paul Gaustad was more important than stepping towards winning a championship.  Miller expressed his understanding of the business of hockey, but it sounds like he would have rather kept Gaustad around to lose him on July 1 for nothing, instead of turning him into a first round draft pick.

While Hodgson is no Gaustad in the faceoff circle, he might not be that far off.  He started the season out at over 50%, while his numbers have tailed off since then, a little training and in game scenarios, and he might be able to hold his own in the circle. 

Its a West coast game tonight, so despite having to be up early in the morning, some WNYers will be glued to their televisions at 10PM local time to watch the team play tonight.

Remember, our contest with OptionIt has been extended.  Click here to learn how you could win two seats to the Sabres/Leafs game on April 3rd.