(Seriously though, which jerseys were worse--The Sabres' Buffa-slug ones or the Flames' horse head alternates?)
After what must have been a nice mini-break from the soap opera that is the Calgary Flames' 2010-11 season, the local boys are back at it again tonight at home against the Buffalo Sabres in what will be the only game between these two teams this season.
Like Calgary, the Sabres have struggled through the first 30-odd games this season with a sub .500 winning percentage after finishing third in the East with 100 points in 2009-10 before bowing out to the Boston Bruins in the post-season. Goaltender Ryan Miller struggled through an injury to start the season but has bounced back, and is putting up some respectable numbers with an EV SV% of .925 as he seeks his 200th career victory tonight at the 'Dome. The Sabres' more recent struggles are of a different sort, as they recently received the news that leading scorer Derek Roy will miss 4-6 months with a torn tendon in his leg.
The Sabres are a team that is hovering very near the Flames in nearly every statistical category. They rank just ahead of Calgary in goals per game (although behind in overall goals for), are allowing about .3 more goals against per game than the Flames, and have a man advantage unit that is essentially equally as dismal, currently operating at 16.8%. Buffalo has been slightly better shorthanded than the Flames (not helped along by Ryan Miller's miserable SH SV% of .856) and are shooting the puck slightly more, but overall, these are two teams in a very similar position.
One interesting aspect about Buffalo's season so far is the emergence of Jordan Leopold. The former Flame is third on the team in scoring with nine goals and 21 points, although he's not playing the toughest quality of competition and his offensive Zone Start is a very favourable 58.4%, it's nice to see him doing well again after a frustrating spell of injuries appeared to have signaled the end of his NHL career. Buffalo's defence also boasts former Flame Steve Montador.The rookie who made something of a name for himself as a stable Flames regular on a blueline decimated by injuries during the '04 run to the Stanley Cup Final is a +10 on a roster littered with minuses, although his underlying numbers aren't spectacular. Sophmore defender Tyler Myers is leading the Sabres in TOI per game at nearly 24 minutes, an impressive feat for the 20-year-old adopted Calgarian.
For the Flames, all signs point to them icing the same lineup as they did in the win against Dallas last Thursday (read: Backlund and Conroy sit, Kotalik plays).
Lines and Pairings:
Enjoy the game everyone and feel free to scrounge up some cash to purchase poor Mikael Backlund a ticket to Abbotsford in the comments. Go Flames.