Hurricanes Record: 21-19-9 (51 pts.)
Sabres Record: 13-28-7 (33 pts.)
After playing the Flyers last night in a rescheduled game the Canes move on to Buffalo to play the Sabres, where just last week these two teams were forced to reschedule a game due to snow. The Canes are coming off a big 3-2 win last night over the Flyers. Jiri Tlusty, who has not had the greatest season and has had to deal with an appendectomy, scored the game winner late in the third period, and Anton Khudobin stopped 22 of 24 shots to pick up the victory.
Tonight is the first of three games against the Sabres this season. It's also a homecoming for two current Hurricanes. Andrej Sekera and Nathan Gerbe both played for the Sabres last season. Sekera was acquired for Jamie McBain and a second round pick (J.T. Compher). That's a trade that I think most Caniacs would say has worked out quite well. Nathan Gerbe was signed as a free agent after being bough out by the Sabres.
Both players are having strong seasons for the Canes compared to their career averages. Gerbe is on pace to come close to his career high 16 goals and surpass his previous career high point total of 31. Gerbe scored one of the prettiest goals you will ever see last night, streaking in off the wing and shooting between his legs to beat Steve Mason. Sekera, whose 7 goals so far this season has already eclipsed his previous best of 4 set in 2009-10, is on pace for 42 points. On top of his statistical output Sekera has settled in to a top role, often times paired with Justin Faulk on the Canes top defensive pairing.
Buffalo comes in to the game in last place in the league. To say it's been a trying season is an understatement. The Sabres traded Tomas Vanek early in the season to the Islanders for picks and prospects. The Sabres offense is sputtering along with a league low 89 goals on the season, 22 below the next closest team prior to last nights games.
Alexander Semin scored an early goal for the Canes last night to give him 10 on the season. Semin has been hot since Jim Rutherford made some public comments about the player, scoring four goals in the last three games. There's no doubt that the Canes need Semin to score. Hopefully Semin can continue on his recent success and inclusion on the Russian Olympic hockey team and help lead the team back in to a playoff spot.
The reconstituted Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, Jiri Tlusty is putting up points like it was last season, putting up 4 points and 2 goals last night. Head Coach Kirk Muller reformed that line in the Calgary Flames game last week and it has been paying dividends since.
The Canes came out of last nights game a little banged up. Patrick Dwyer left the game early. Drayson Bowman, who is on the trip, may find himself reinserted in to the lineup. No word yet on if we will see any lineup swaps or line shuffling. While the top line is going gang busters Jeff Skinner has cooled off some in the last week. Perhaps Muller will make some moves on the second and third lines in response. Justin Peters got the start a few nights back against Tampa Bay and was quickly pulled. Is it possible he could see another start against the Sabres to keep Khudobin fresh for the Senators on Saturday?