Sabres Prep For Another Big Week

Posted on November 16, 2009 by Dave Drews

Paul Gaustad Buffalo Sports DailyJust when the walls look like they are about to come crashing back down, Buffalo finds some mortar.

After a week that left many fans harking back to last November’s falter, the Sabres found some new strength. Even with several starters out with injuries, the team pulled themselves out of the hole they had begun to dig, and put three solid games together in upending a trio of tough opponents. While the Edmonton Oilers are having some trouble early on, both the Calgary Flames and the Philadelphia Flyers were going to be measuring stick games for a Buffalo team who has been in want of some grit in recent years.

The stretch only got harder when Mike Grier went down mid-week with a groin injury that will have him missing some time. The tenacious vet has imparted some of his knowledge on the rest of this team, it appears. Both the Flames and the Flyers have been out working other teams this year, but the Sabres didn’t let the two rough teams run all over them. After overtaking the grinding Flames in a shootout the night before, Buffalo ended a five game winning streak the Flyers had going, and ended the week relatively comfortable atop the Northeast Division.

This Weeks Opponents
·    Wednesday – Home against the Florida Panthers (7-9-1)
·    Friday – Home against the Boston Bruins (8-7-4)
·    Saturday – Away against the Ottawa Senators (8-6-3)

The teams may look like middle of the pack clubs, but Buffalo definitely can’t slump now. While they are leading their division, they have only played three games inside it, winning just one.  This week they get a chance to get some divisional notches against a couple of mediocre teams, a great opportunity to solidify themselves in the playoff race. The Sabres are down one already to the Bruins early in the season, losing 4-2 a little over a week ago in Boston. Ottawa, meanwhile, has given the Sabres fits over the last few years. Buffalo is 18-10-2 against the Senators since the lockout, not including playoffs. Last year they only won 1 of the 6 meetings between the clubs.

Division Update
·    Still leading the division and still have games in hand on most. The Sabres have 5 points on the rest of the Northeast with 25, and only the Senators have played as few games as them. As previously states, a couple more division games this week will help give them a even more breathing room.

Quote of the Week
·    ”It was really just extreme excitement hopping on the ice for the first time, a pretty awesome feeling.” Tyler Ennis on his first NHL game.

Ennis wasn’t the only one excited. Fans have been waiting to see what the 20 year old could do up in the big leagues, as he has had a very solid start of AHL-affiliate Portland. Ennis is second on the Pirates in goals (6), assists (8), and points (14). Not only did Ennis get his first goal in his first game, he was also made second star in Saturday night’s bout with the Flyers.

Ellis-Gaustad-Kaleta line update:

·    7 goals – 8 Assists – 15 points – plus-14
The line was split up some this week, with Patrick Kaleta jumping up on the third line with Mike Grier out. Adam Mair played with Ellis and Gaustad Friday and Saturday.

Goalie Update

·    Even with Patrick Lalime back from injury and Jhonas Enroth returned to the AHL, Ryan Miller played all three games last week. Some might see this as coach Lindy Ruff still being afraid of the backup, but you have ask your goalie to play back-to-back some of the time. It’s yet to be seen how much play Miller will get this year, but the way he’s playing now, one can’t really blame Ruff for playing the net-minder as much as he can. Miller is still leading the league in Points Against average (1.77), Save Percentage (.939), and wins (12). He certainly is making a case for that elite status he has been wanting.

Quick Stat to Ponder
·    Paul Gaustad still leads the league in faceoff percentage with 68.2%, and Derek Roy is still in the top 25 with 53.8%.

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