Tonight the Buffalo Sabres will host the Winnipeg Jets for the first time since November 5th 1995, nearly sixteen years to the day. In Winnipeg’s final season (95/96) they swept Buffalo in both their meetings, earning a 4-3 road victory in the Memorial Auditorium, and a 4-1 home victory back in Winnipeg on January 10th 1996. This season however, due to a pre-realignment scheduling quirk, the Jets 2.0 will face-off against the Sabres four times as they are conference rivals for at least this one year.
In this first of four meetings the Jets come into town on a two game slide, having lost to New Jersey in OT on Saturday and then suffering a 3-0 blanking by the Rangers on Sunday. The Jets have had porous goaltending and difficulty scoring goals in their rebirth season thus far.
The biggest disparity between these two teams is their goals against in which the Sabres are 3rd in the Eastern Conference allowing only 2.15 goals/game while the Jets are 25th in the NHL allowing 3.14 goals/game.
Special teams should also play a factor in tonights tilt. Although both teams are ranked near the middle of the pack on the Power-play, the Sabres lead the NHL in Penalty-kill percentage at 93.3%, while the Jets are tied for 20th in the league at 80%.
While the numbers may seem to favor the home team tonight, Buffalo is not entering this game without drama. After allowing three goals in the games first eight minutes, Ryan Miller was pulled in favor of Jhonas Enroth against Philadelphia last tuesday November 2nd.
Enroth played shutout hockey in relief and kept the Sabres in the game. Lindy Ruff rewarded the young swedish netminder with both starts in the back to back sequence this past weekend against Calgary and Ottawa, both resulting in Sabres victories.
Ryan Miller has voiced his frustrations in the media, and the Sabres franchise goaltender is chomping at the bit to return to action. Although as of this moment a starter has not been announced for tonights matchup against Winnipeg, all indications are that we will see number 30 back between the pipes. While not yet a full fledged goalie controversy, a strong start will be required of Miller tonight to keep the wolves at bay.
Both teams will be without some key players tonight as Winnipeg will be without star defenseman Tobias Enstrom who is out indefinitely with a broken collarbone, as well as defensemen Derek Meech, Ron Hainsey, and Randy Jones.
Forward Erik Fehr is on injured reserve, and Nik Antropov is day to day and is questionable for tonights match-up. Buffalo is still without forwards Jochen Hecht, Tyler Ennis, and Patrick Kaleta who will be serving game three of his four game suspension tonight. Corey Tropp will play his third straight game tonight for the Buffalo Sabres in Kaleta’s stead.
The puck drops at 7pm EST tonight, and the Sabres home broadcast will air on MSG.