NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, October 8th (All times eastern)
Buffalo Sabres (0-0-0) at Ottawa Senators (0-0-0), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Both the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators have had all summer to think about their respective first-round playoff exits a season ago. Tonight, the Northeast Division rivals get a chance to take out their frustrations on each other.
The Senators, though, could be without top center Jason Spezza when it hosts the Sabres and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller Friday night at Scotiabank Place.
Ottawa head coach Cory Clouston said on Thursday that Spezza will be a game- time decision because of a groin injury. While he doesn't expect his center to miss too much time, the club also won't rush him back and chance making the injury worse.
"We don't think it's going to be long term, if it's going to be any games at all. He's very disappointed that he wasn't able to practice [Thursday]," said Clouston.
Ottawa is already opening the season without defenseman Filip Kuba, who is out with a broken right leg suffered early on in training camp.
With Spezza out, Mike Fisher and Nick Foligno skated on the top line with Daniel Alfredsson, while Peter Regin was bumped up to the second line between Milan Michalek and Alex Kovalev.
The injury is just the latest setback for Spezza, who missed 22 games last year due to injury on the way to registering just 23 goals and 57 points. There were also reports that he was unhappy in Ottawa and may even have wanted to be traded, but there seems to be no issues between the 27-year-old and his franchise.
Despite Spezza's struggles, the Sens finished strong down the stretch last year and qualified for the playoffs as the fifth seed, but lost to Pittsburgh in the opening round.
The Senators will look to get their power play off to quick start tonight under offseason addition Sergei Gonchar, who was brought in to offset the free agent loss of fellow defenseman Anton Volchenkov as Ottawa traded defense for offense at the blue line.
Ottawa will also be trying to settle on a No. 1 goaltender. Brian Elliott eventually beat out Pascal Leclaire for the role a season ago and went 29-18-4 with a 2.57 goals-against average while also opening the postseason as the Senators' starting netminder. Leclaire, meanwhile, went just 12-14-2 with a 3.20 GAA and also missed time with a broken jaw.
It is unknown who will get the start tonight in net.
The Sabres have no such issues in net thanks to the presence of Miller, who went 41-18-8 with a 2.22 GAA and .929 save percentage a year ago en route to winning his first Vezina Trophy. The 30-year-old American was also named the MVP of the hockey tournament at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver after posting a 1.35 GAA and guiding his country to a silver medal.
Miller has one of the top young defenseman in front of him in Tyler Myers, who had 11 goals and 48 points last year as a rookie to take home the Calder Trophy.
Like most sophomore skates, the 20-year-old Myers will be looking to take another step forward this season.
"I feel good right now," he said. "I'm not going to go out there and try to do any more than I did last year. I'm happy with the way things went last year and obviously some little tweaking but just keeping it simple is my main focus."
Myers will have some new faces on the blue line after Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman both left s free agents. Buffalo was able to replace the duo, bringing Jordan Leopold and Shaone Morrisonn into the mix.
Behind Miller, Myers and sniper Thomas Vanek, the Sabres won the Northeast Division last year to earn the third seed in the postseason, but they didn't make it past the first round after a series loss to the hated Bruins.
Vanek will look to rebound this year after notching just 28 goals and 53 points last year, while Derek Roy led the Sabres with 59 points a season ago.
The Sabres ended the regular season last year with a 5-2 victory in Ottawa, snapping both a nine-game series losing streak to the Senators and a five-game slide at Scotiabank Place.
10/08 10:57:45 ET