Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season: @SwordPlay18.
The Buffalo Sabres begin a stretch tonight that will see them play three games in four days, with a home-and-home against the Carolina Hurricanes starting in Raleigh, NC tonight and concluding in Buffalo tomorrow evening. They finish the weekend with another Southeast Division showdown with the struggling Washington Capitals.
The home-and-home is an interesting twist into the Sabres’ season given such matchups are typically reserved for division opponents, but the Sabres and Canes will slug it out, likely literally on Friday, the next two nights.
The Hurricanes have not started well after uniting the Staal brothers and signing Alex Semin to a pricey deal this offseason. At 0-2-0, they will look to start off strong with a win on their home ice tonight. It will be imperative for the Sabres to get off to a fast start as they have the last two games.
The only real change to the lineup since Monday’s win in Toronto has been Nathan Gerbe skating with Mikhail Grigorenko and Steve Ott. Gerbe has not been cleared for contact yet, so unless that happens expect Jochen Hecht will likely find himself with Nos. 9 and 25, but it would certainly be an interesting combination of speed, skill and size (or the lack of size in Gerbe’s case) for the Sabres.
Ville Leino has not skated in the past few days and may find himself on injured reserve to make space for Gerbe. Matt Ellis is another candidate.
Lindy Ruff has said that Jhonas Enroth will get the start in one of the two home-and-home games, with Ruff not being completely forthcoming as to who would start in which game. Look for Enroth to start tonight and Ryan Miller to play Friday and Sunday.
Puck drop is at 7:00pm EST for tonight’s game.
Mikhail Grigorenko has played well in his first two games with the Sabres, and will likely make it to his five-game limit without much being said about his short-term future with the Sabres beyond that. However, despite the closed-lipped strategy employed by the Sabres brass, Grigorenko’s junior coach, goaltending legend Patrick Roy, has made his guess.
Roy, the head coach of the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, told the Quebec media yesterday that he was planning as though Grigorenko would not be returning to juniors and would be starting his career with the Sabres in earnest.
The question then becomes, does Roy know that he has to start planning this way, or is he just expecting the worst for his team and planning accordingly?
Luckily for Sabres fans, they should know much sooner than later. Given Buffalo’s hectic weekend, the team’s fifth game is Sunday in Washington. That means fans will know Tuesday prior to the Toronto matchup whether or not Grigorenko will be on the team moving forward or not.
Related to that decision: Don’t be surprised to see the Sabres make a move for a depth center if Grigorenko is returned to Quebec.