Tonight the Buffalo Sabres play host to a divisional opponent, the Ottawa Senators. In Tuesday’s game, Buffalo easily handled one of the league’s top teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 4-1. Yet, the Sabres have shown inconsistency throughout the year leaving the prospect of gained momentum a mystery.
Most notable about tonight’s tilt is the fact that it is the team’s first game since the trade deadline and the loss of their captain. For those unfamiliar with the move, Buffalo shipped Jason Pominville and a 2014 4th round pick to Minnesota. In return the Wild sent a 1st round pick in this year’s draft and a 2nd round pick in 2014 as well as two prospects: – goaltender Matt Hackett and forward Johan Larsson.
On top of the loss of the captain Pominville, Buffalo also traded away two key defensive pieces. Jordan Leopold was sent to the Blues for a 2nd round pick in the upcoming draft as well as a conditional 5th round pick. Robyn Regehr was traded to the Kings for a pair of 2nd round picks, one coming in 2014 and the next in 2015.
A major interest in tonight’s game is how Buffalo fills these holes in the lineup. The moves that were made lead to a rebuild but do not immediately replace the players lost. The remaining Sabres must step up and shoulder the extra weight carried by the traded players. The defense has been hit especially hard, with the loss of two starting defensemen that logged considerable chunks of ice time. On the flip side of this, younger defensemen like Pysyk will have more room to grow and develop.
Over the past few weeks, Buffalo have been moving further from a playoff spot and they now sit five points out of eighth. It is safe to assume that barring any miracle final stretch helped by other teams the Sabres will miss the playoffs.
However, with the loss of the captain, the final stretch of the season will be vital for determining who has the leadership qualities suitable enough to earn the “C”.
Ottawa is in quite a different place from Buffalo as they currently sit in 5th and their only deadline move was to acquire Cory Conacher from Tampa Bay. They are poised to make a playoff run and will look to pick up as much momentum as possible going into the postseason.
After some rather disparaging comments from team leaders such as Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek the team’s response to the trade deadline will be important. This is definitely a transitional time for the Sabres but their play in this final section of the season will reveal clues to the team’s play next season.
Tonight’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. and can be seen on MSG.