Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: WGN, NHL Network (US), WGN-AM 720
Frank Reich and the Comeback Kids: Die By The Blade
There was a time not too long ago when the Sabres were the darlings of the league, when they’re underfunded pluck and skating speed earned consecutive trips to the eastern conference finals, and a president’s trophy in 2007. But, because it’s Buffalo, the centerpieces of that team (Drury, Briere specifically) sought out pastures that weren’t Buffalo, and the team has mostly floundered since, having picked up some laughable contracts along the way.
This year’s Sabres were always going to be a work in progress, considering that they traded captain Jason Pominville at last year’s deadline, and current captain Tomas Vanek and goalie/emo kid Ryan Miller both are in the last years of their deals. If GM Darcy Regier had any foresight, he’d allow the team to crater to trade Vanek and Miller for kids, as there are some interesting pieces still in place here already.
If that’s been the plan, the results so far are right in line with it, as the Sabres are still looking for their first victory of any kind this season five games in, with only an OT loss to Tampa to show in the points column. Furthermore, the Sabres have only scored 5 goals in those 5 games, good for dead last in scoring early in the campaign. That’s not to say there aren’t threats up front, as Tomas Vanek doesn’t get enough credit for being able to create his own shot, and Cody Hodgson is pretty creative even if he can’t win a draw to save his life. And blog favorite Steve Ott always finds a way to be irritating even if he’s not on the score sheet. And Ville Leino is here.
The Sabres blue line is just as big of a mess, with Henrik Tallinder back in the in hopes of helping Tyler Myers reclaim his Calder trophy caliber of success, as well as justifying his mammoth contract. Speaking of which, Christian Erhoff has always been a nice all-around defensemen, but the paper he received was more than a little comical. There are big hopes for rookie Rasmus Ristolainen, who is one of many Sabres with awesome names (Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons to name some others).
And then there’s Chris Carraba in the cage. Ryan Miller has been cruising on the reputation of his 2010 performance in winning the Vezina and winning the hearts of all Americans in the Olympics for four years now. Frankly, even though he’s had little help, his mouth and his antics have been incongruously loud compared to his actual caliber of play. And if he can even get it together for a month or so this year, he’ll probably get shipped off to a place that will be in dire need of goaltending help. Miller can still steal a game here and there though, but it’s been a long time since he did when it mattered.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, they head right back to the rink tonight after a workman-like win over the Islanders last night. There was nothing spectacular or noteworthy about what took place last night, it’s just simply what the Hawks are supposed to do to teams like that, even if the Islanders are a fun bunch with a pretty decent future ahead of them.
The biggest news to come out of last night was Jimmy Hayes’ demotion and Brandon Pirri getting called up to the big club. Whether it was Stan or Q that made that call, it’s at least comforting to know that someone on West Madison sees what we’ve been seeing so far four games in. Hayes might be big, but he was offering nothing by way of physicality and doesn’t contribute on special teams, so his roster spot was always up in the air. With Pirri in the fold, there’s at least a possibility that Sharp and Hossa might now get the playmaking center that Sharp is clearly chomping at the bit to have feeding him the puck. It’s unclear whether or not Pirri will be in the lineup tonight with no morning skate today, but there might not be a better time to trot him out than against the Sabres as they’re presently constructed.
At press time there’s still no word on the exact lineup for tonight, but it stands to reason that either Kostka or Brookbank will get a look in place of Rozy tonight just to spare some tread on the tire. Same goes for Handzus, frankly, despite banging home a fortunate rebound last night. One thing we do know for sure is that Corey Crawford will be back in net for the Hawks, and looking to get things pointed in the right direction after the last-minute goal he yielded to the Blues.
While old adages dictate that every opponent must be respected and blahbitty blahbitty blah, the fact of the matter is that with the way that each of these two teams are playing right now, some shit would have to go seriously wrong for the Hawks to have the Sabres even make it a game on home ice, let alone walk out with their first W of the season. Take nothing for granted and take care of business. Let’s go Hawks.
If you’re not going to tonight’s game, you can get tonight’s Committed Indian via PDF right here: