The Buffalo Sabres (14-11-1) and the Philadelphia Flyers (15-7-3) have more in common than most would care to admit. Both teams genuinely hate each other. Both teams are better on the road than they are at home. Both teams have old-school hockey fan-bases. Both teams underwent fundamental changes during the offseason.
Despite a number of new players, these teams have no trouble remembering how much they dislike each other. And that’s before their playoff series last spring. It’s been five years since Danny Briere bolted the Sabres for the big bucks that the Flyers offered. If you think that Sabres fans have forgotten, you thought wrong dude. This off-season, the Sabres poached forward Ville Leino from the Flyers for some fairly big dollars of their own. Wednesday night would be a good time to start paying off that investment.
Whichever way you want to cut it, the Flyers have some momentum here. They have won four of their last five games and they have an NHL-best 9-3-1 road record. On top of that, the Flyers are 8-1-2 in their last 11 games in Buffalo. Not exactly a pretty picture for the Sabres.
But the Sabres have played to the level of their competition this season. I have no doubt that they will come out strong, for better or worse. Buffalo absolutely has to avoid early turnovers that lead to Flyers scoring chances. The Sabres have been down in the first period far too often this season and the Flyers are too good of a team to spot a lead to.
The Flyers have had their own struggles this season, particularly with their goaltending. Philadelphia moved both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter (arguably their two best players at the time) this off-season, in large part to free up the cap space to acquire an elite goaltender. Ilya Bryzgalov was their answer.
Ryan Miller will start in goal for the Sabres. Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to draw the start between the pipes for Philly.
For the Sabres, Mike Weber, Tyler Myers, Cody McCormick and Brad Boyes are all out indefinitely. Nathan Gerbe and Jordan Leopold are listed as day-to-day for Buffalo.
Blair Betts, Erik Gustafsson, Andreas Lilja, Chris Pronger and James van Riemsdyk are listed as out indefinitely for the Flyers. Andrej Meszaros is listed as day-to-day for Philly.
Date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Time: 7:30 ET
Location: First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY