After getting out of New York with a single point the Kaleta-less Buffalo Sabres will face the Ward-less Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday evening in a game where two points is extremely vital to the Sabres. In order to keep pace in the Eastern Conference the Sabres must get out of Carolina with two points or fall further behind the 8th seed Philadelphia Flyers.
Coming off a tough shootout loss to the Rangers, it will be interesting to see how the (9-12-2) Sabres start the game after a slow start in their last game.
This is the last time the Sabres and Hurricanes will meet in this shortened season and Buffalo will look to prevent the Hurricanes sweep of the series after they won a home and home in the first week of the season. The Hurricanes will be without all-star goaltender Cam Ward after he sprained his MCL. They will also be without backup netminder Dan Ellis, who is sick, meaning the Sabres will face 3rd string goaltender Justin Peters.
The Sabres will have leading goal scorer Thomas Vanek back in the lineup to help re-start their non-existent power play. Vanek is a major boost on the power player with his creativity and they will need that added creativity against the Hurricanes red hot penalty kill which has shutdown the opposition 23 of the last 24 times shorthanded.
Steve Ott and Nathan Gerbe have been the hottest Sabres over the last four games, combining for six points. Although not one of the players you look to lead the offencive charge Ott is quietly becoming a solid leader for the Sabres and is their underdog this season. You can credit him for getting Gerbe’s game rolling again and salvaging a point against the Rangers when he set up Gerbe’s game tying goal while shorthanded.
Ryan Miller had also been rock solid coming into the game against the Rangers, going 3-0-1 with a .922 save percentage. He looked tired and fatigued late in the last game, especially in the shootout, but after a day off on Monday Miller will make his 14th straight start between the pipes.
The Sabres will need to shutdown Eric Staal if they have any hope of winning tonight. The hurricanes captain had a hat-trick in their last meeting and is riding a three game point streak in which he has three goals and three assists. Alexander Semin is also starting to gel with his new teammates becoming more and more dangerous every night- keeping a close eye on him and Jordan Staal will also be important.
The Panthers sit atop the Southeast Division while the Buffalo Sabres sit at the bottom of the Northeast Division but the two teams are only separated by five points in the Eastern Conference. Tonight’s game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.