Last week the Sabres showed signs of being an NHL hockey club picking up 7 of 8 points last week with wins against Florida, Tampa, NJ, and shootout loss against the Rangers. I'm still on the side of they are dead in the water however if they go out and take another 5 of 6 points this week against Carolina, NJ, and Philly then maybe they are in business. With the awful start the Sabres sit three points back of the Flyers going into tonight's game with 25 games left. However with teams only playing within their own Conference it is extremly hard to make up points.
Since Ron Rolston has taken over the Sabres have shown signs of shaking bad habits. They no longer seem to be playing scared and fragile. Last week Buffalo locked down Tampa in 3rd to win 2-1 and also showed a lot of push back. In the Ranger game Sunday, the second game of a back to back, two weeks ago they would of lost that game 6-2. They were controlling the Rangers playing a perfect road game until Kaleta decided to be stupid and give the Rangers a 5 min PP and part of that was a 5 on 3. The Rangers quickly flipped the from 1-0 to 2-1 and I was ready for things to get out of hand. However before the 5 minute PP was over the Sabres tied it with a shorty via Nathan Gerbe and the Sabres were able to walk away with a loser point.
Rolston has preached attention to detail to his club since taking over and it is starting to show on the ice. The goals against and shots against are down. The turnovers are no longer a constant occurence in the Sabres zone. Again it was only one week, but I am curious to see how this week goes with Rolston's message now being able to sink in. Rolston has also sent a clear message to players that ice time will be earned not given on reputation. Marcus Foligno was shown the press box last week with his poor play last week and has come back like the player that finished last season. Mikhail Grigorenko was scratched for the first two games of the Rolston era and once he got in the lineup was only given around five minutes of ice time. However over the last two games Grigorenko has stepped it up and is riding a two game point streak, getting minutes on the PP, and played over ten minutes in NY on Sunday. Nathan Gerbe is another player that has seized the opportunity under Rolston. Gerbe has 3 goals in his last two games and is back to playing a top six role on a line with Ennis and Ott. Gerbe has always had the drive and skill to be a good secondary producer in the NHL the key is now that he is healthy after back surgery and is being given the chance. Gerbe was normally a healthy scratch under Ruff or a 4th line winger.
Looking forward to tonight's game in Raleigh the Sabres visit the Hurricanes. The Canes will place Justin Peters between the pipes tonight with Ward hurt and Ellis sick. Buffalo needs to get to Peters early and not let him settle in. Good news for the Sabres is team leading scorer Thomas Vanek is returning tonight after missing the last two games. Ryan Miller will again be in goal playing in his 300th straight game or so it seems that way. Miller is having an excellent year and solidifying his spot as the starting goalie for team USA next year in Sochi. The Canes took the first two meetings of the season back when the Sabres were in the middle of their downward spiral. The Staal brothers had their way in the first two meetings including Erik having a hat-trick in the first meeting, which was the last game Jhonas Enroth played this season.
Prediction: Close low scoring game...3-1 Sabres.
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