Game #62, Sabres @ Rangers: The Boyes Are Back In Town
The Buffalo Sabres begin their season-long epic road trip tonight with a game against the New York Rangers and newcomer Brad Boyes will make his debut for the team wearing his familiar #22.
Boyes will skate at RW with Tim Connolly at C and Tyler Ennis at LW, according to The Buffalo News’ John Vogl. I theorized this would happen yesterday as I tried to get a handle on the new depth chart. With those three slotted in as the second line, Thomas Vanek will play LW with Jochen Hecht as his C and Drew Stafford at RW. I did not see this line combination coming together, figuring Hecht and Pominville would continue their eternal bromance. With the two scoring units established, the new third line looks to be Niedermayer at LW, Gaustad at C, and Pominville at RW. That leaves Kaleta at LW, McCormick at C, and Grier at RW on the fourth line with Gerbe the likely odd-man-out. This is a disappointing roster decision on Lindy Ruff’s part given how Gerbe has the speed and grit and compliment Gaustad and Pominville.
I know it’s been damn-near a decade removed from their time together as Erie Otters, but I’m curious to see how Connolly, Boyes, and Montador play together.
With Marty Biron out indefinitely after sustaining a broken collarbone (ouch), it looks like Henrik Lundqvist is backed up by a true newbie and will probably start every single remaining game of the season. Common sense would state that every team they play will pepper him with shots, redirects, and tipped pucks in order to fatigue him.
The Sabres’ forecheck and transition has been markedly better over the last few games, while defensive breakouts have continued to stagnate. If the Sabres can corral the puck in their own zone and get it up to the rushing forwards with better efficiency, the team can actually improve upon what they were doing to Atlanta and Ottawa often. And of course, they need to keep raising holy hell down low.
Buffalo needs to take 4 of the next 7 games at least in order to give meaning to their 3/15 matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes at home. Come out of this road trip better than .500 and the Canes game is hands down the most important game of the season. Come out of it less than .500 and prepare for the fight of your life to make it to the dance.