Greetings from HSBC Arena as the Sabres prepare to meet the St. Louis Blues, a team that's mired in last place in the Western Conference but is, oddly enough, one of the best in the NHL on the power play, as John Vogl pointed out in today's paper.
Here's another bizarre Blues fact -- they've never lost in eight visits to HSBC Arena. Yep, St. Louis is 6-0-2 here since the building opened in 1996. Buffalo's last win at home was a 5-2 triumph at the Aud on Oct. 22, 1995 behind two goals from Jason Dawe and 29 saves from Dominik Hasek.
The Sabres have put Andrew Peters back in the lineup with Drew Stafford, Patrick Kaleta and Nathan Paetsch sitting out. So just 15 games into the season, only seven Buffalo forwards (Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek, Ales Kotalik, Adam Mair, Jason Pominville, Clarke MacArthur and Maxim Afinogenov) have played in every game. Old friend Jay McKee is in the St. Louis lineup as is West Seneca native Lee Stempniak. Starting on defense will be 18-year-old Alex Pietrangelo.
It will be Ryan Miller in goal against Manny Legace. Miller (7-2-2, 2.04, .929 sv pct) is fourth in the league in goals against and fifth in save percentage.
Live updates to come.
17:41 left: For all his concussion trouble, you'd think Connolly would skate with his head up. He had it down for a couple seconds and Keith Tkachuk just drilled him to the ice with a terrific open-ice hit. Afinogenov, by the way, has been reduced to a door man by Ruff for his apparent indiscretion on the second St. Louis goal. That's the last time we've seen him on the ice. Therein may lie the identity of one of Friday night's scratches.
16:26 left: The breather the Sabres need. Tallinder sneaks in from the left point and fires home a quick shot to make it 4-2. His first of the season, first since March 15 at Toronto and just his third in his last 104 games. Assist to Mair, his first multi-point game since March 14 against Carolina.
14:51 left: The Blues have one wiped out on goaltender interference by Andy McDonald. An obvious one as he wiped out Miller. What's he carping about?
11:52 left: Nothing on the power play for Buffalo and a big one for the Blues and local boy Lee Stempniak, who pots a Pietrangelo pass for his second of the season to make it 4-3.
8:04 left: Roy hits a post on another power play and the Sabres are stopped again. Now MacArthur is in the box for interference and the Blues' potent power play has a chance to tie it.
It's over: After some technical trouble here, we can tell you the Sabres hold on to win it 4-3 despite Vanek hitting a post after a gift giveaway from Mason. Shots are 33-32 for St. Louis.
16:33 left: Suddenly, what looked easy isn't. Patrik Berglund beats Miller from in tight to make it 3-2. Taking the Andy Murray basketball analogy further, it seems like the Sabres jumped to a 20-point lead in the first 10 minutes and can't get their motors going again. Too much too soon.
8:54 left: Vanek had a chance to make it 4-2 but Mason stopped him on a breakaway. Koci just stopped Peters with his stick and there was no penalty called. Mair and Rivet both stepped in but there was no further explosion -- at least not yet. After a few seconds, Peters skated off. Koci and Mair get two apiece for unsportsmanlike conduct. Weak.
End of the 2nd: Not much happening. Sabres lead, 3-2, after two and have a 24-22 edge in shots but the Blues had the edge in play for the last 8-10 minutes. Sabres can't think they can hold on for another 20 minutes with the three goals they scored in the first 5:16.
Notes from the opening 20: Peters played 58 seconds but got 10 minutes in penalties. ... Pominville was the only Sabre with three shots on goal. ... Blues stars Andy McDonald and Brad Boyes were both minus-3. Keith Tkachuk was minus-2. ... No minors on either side.
17:14 left: Peters is back in the lineup looking to get something started. He did just 2;24 into the game with Blues tough guy David Koci (sorry folks, decision to Koci). But Lindy Ruff stayed with the fourth line, putting Paille with Mair and Gaustad and just 22 seconds after the tussle, Mair connected. With Gaustad and Paille pushing the rush, Mair took an errant pass and fired a slapper from the slot past Legace. Mair's third.
16:00 left: Line recap for Buffalo looks like this -- Hecht-Connolly-Pominville, Vanek-Roy-Kotalik, Paille-MacArthur-Afinogenov, Mair-Gaustad-Peters. On defense, no changes: Lydman-Numminen, Spacek-Sekera, Tallinder-Rivet.
15:05 left: Ruff said this morning he wanted quick domination. He's getting it. Connolly makes it 2-0, getting credit for the goal after Hecht's goalmouth pass is knocked in by Legace and Brad Boyes. Connolly's second.
14:44 left: Bucky noted that Blues coach Andy Murray just went for the basketball timeout after the second goal. Didn't work. Pominville makes it 3-0 and Legace is gone on seven shots, replaced by Chris Mason.
6:15 left: The Sabres are toying with the Blues in the St. Louis end and the visitors can't seem to stop giving the puck away. Mason did well to prevent a fourth goal as Vanek made two defensemen look silly, beating them to the puck and going in on a breakaway but getting stoppped. Shots are 11-10 for the Sabres but the Blues' have been mostly from long range and on the perimeter. The exception came at this faceoff as David Perron went around Lydman but Miller stopped him from in tight.
5:53 left: Perron banks one in off Miller from the right of the crease to make it 3-1. His first of the season. Stempniak on one of the assists. It only takes 18 seconds after that for Peters to get into his second battle of the night, this time with Cam Janssen. Lots of blows in that one, with Peters doing his best Rob Ray-style arm whipping to exhort the crowd when it was over.
End of the 1st: The Sabres hold their 3-1 lead but things got pretty ragged after their three goals. St. Louis has a 14-13 edge in shots as the game is much looser than Ruff certainly would like.
taggedSabres game day