DUNDAS, Ont. -- It's still raining in the Hamilton area, both in the form of precipitation and Kraft products, with about one hour till faceoff between the Sabres and Senators.
Kraft and CBC are the main sponsors of the "Hockeyville" event, and Kraft stands line the closed roads outside the arena. There are boxes of Mac and Cheese in a variety of flavors, crackers, cheese packets, some frozen-type thing, and folks are wandering around with their hands full of the free products. (Yes, I took a Sharp Cheddar Mac and Cheese -- come on, if the Barenaked Ladies can still eat Kraft dinners despite having a million dollars, I sure can grab a box. I don't have any really expensive ketchups, though. Hot sauce is better anyway.)
Speaking of anyway ... the whopping 980 seats are starting to get some fans in them. It's hard to believe there are 980 seats. I'd've guessed about 400. As I blogged earlier, this JL Grightmire Arena is tiny. The main rink in Amherst is bigger.
That said, it should be interesting to see an NHL game in such close quarters. Well, the Sabres have an NHL lineup. The Senators are dressing Chris Neil, Jarkko Ruutu ... and some dudes named Bobby Butler, Eric Gryba, Mike Hoffman, Roman Wick and Patrick Wiercioch.
Said Neil of the Sens' coaches: "I think they went out and measured the ice before they made the lineup."
6:15 p.m.: Speaking of CBC, it has pulled out the big names despite not showing the game tonight. It will air a one-hour special Saturday night, and Don Cherry, Ron MacLean and a very pregnant Cassie Campbell are roaming the halls.
Commissioner Gary Bettman is also here, and odds are good he'll be booed more lustily than normal. This is the Hamilton area, after all, and he nixed the Coyotes coming here from Phoenix. He usually handles the jeers well, though.
6:30 p.m.: And the teams hit the ice ... and the fog hits the glass. It's warm in the rink -- I'm not wearing a coat whereas in the Amherst arena I usually urge folks to start a campfire -- and fog could become a factor.
Ryan Miller will start for the Sabres and is likely playing the whole game.
Unfortunately, the free stuff outside included "thundersticks." I'm already eager to pop all the inflatable noisemakers.
6:37 p.m.: The Sabres' white jerseys rock. Gives them a link to the past. Now if the league would go back to wearing whites at home, all would be well in the uniform world.
6:40 p.m.: The Sabres' captain for tonight is Tim Connolly. The A's are being worn by Thomas Vanek and ... Drew Stafford. From playoff scratch to a letter. Could be a confidence-boost move. Or maybe his family is in town.
6:49 p.m.: The live blogging might not be quite live. It's standing room only in here, and the standing includes right in front of the makeshift press box. So odds are good I'll be joining the standing and will have to type during stoppages of play and whatnot.
Did I mention I hate thundersticks?
6:59 p.m.: The teams take the ice, and it's pretty quiet. It's cool for the folks in Dundas to get this, but they have two NHL teams within an hour or so. I'd say Hockeyville should be in some tiny town in Saskatoon that has its post office employee deliver mail on a moose.
7:02 p.m.: The Commish gets booed. The benches are actually two levels to fit all the players. I have no idea if the back row is going to have to jump over the front folks to get on the ice. Could be interesting. Huge round of applause for Cassie Campbell.
7:11 p.m.: And we're off ...
7:18 p.m.: The first whistle doesn't come until 6:46 has elapsed as the teams go from end to end nonstop. Tyler Myers hit the crossbar with just 21 seconds gone. Vanek did a nice job tying up Chris Kelly on a scoring chance in the slot.
And I do have to stand to watch, so no immediate blogs. Plus, there are no replays so, like the old days covering the Columbus Cottonmouths in Georgia, I have to watch every second without relying on the TV to cover anything I might miss. I actually like this part of it.
7:22 p.m.: Holding call on Mike Weber with 12:05 left.
7:25 p.m.: Sabres kill the penalty as second TV timeout hits. Miller looks even more confident in the crease than last year, and I didn't think that was possible. He's the best goalie in the league. Bold statement there, eh?
7:32 p.m.: Just 16 seconds after Steve Montador heads to the penalty box, Rob Niedermayer scores a short-handed goal to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead with 8:30 left. Niedermayer went behind the net and stole the puck off the stick of goalie Robin Lehner (who?) and came out front to dump it in the open net.
7:34 p.m.: Luke Adam and Zack Kassian nearly give the Sabres a 2-0 lead with five minutes to go. Adam stole the puck form Wiercioch (who?) and sent Kassian in alone, though the big winger reached the puck too close to the net to get much of a move. Lehner got a pad on the backhand.
7:43 p.m.: It's the end of one period with the Sabres holding a 1-0 lead. The shot totals? Your guess is as good as mine. No shot counters in this barn.
7:45 p.m.: Standing ovation for Don Cherry.
8:01 p.m.: Game on ...
8:06 p.m.: Cody McCormick heads to the box for hooking with 16:31 left, but not before he and Eric Gryba (who?) drop the gloves. To the fans' booing dismay, the linesmen jump in and refuse to let them fight.
8:10 p.m.: McCormick gets his fight wish as soon as he steps out of the box. Cody Bass challenges the big center, who scores a takedown decision. After some feints, McCormick lands two overhand rights and a couple of lefts to fall on top of Bass (whom I have actually heard of!)
8:24 p.m.: Nathan Gerbe (Cheap Plug Alert: Read Wednesday's paper for more about him) drew a roughing penalty with 12:38 left when he charged the net and was taken down by Andre Benoit. Gerbe also had a scoring chance in front with about 6:30 left. There is 5:40 remaining, and it's still 1-0 Sabres. And somebody is smoking a cigar in here somewhere.
8:33 p.m.: McCormick gets his piece of Gryba finally, as the two get tangled along the boards near the Buffalo bench. McCormick drops the gloves and the two try throwing blows, with none landing. McCormick gets four minutes for roughing while Gryba gets two.
8:36 p.m.: Wiercioch (hey, now I've heard of him) scores on the power play with 12.7 seconds left to tie the game, 1-1. The defenseman slid along the blue line to the center of the zone and took a shot through traffic that beat Miller on the glove side. The period comes to a close with the score knotted.
8:56 p.m.: And the puck has dropped ...
9:04 p.m.: The Sabres got a brief scare as Tyler Myers headed gingerly to the bench with 14:10 left after crashing into the boards. Athletic trainer Tim Macre watched closely as the defenseman flexed his left leg. Myers seems fine as we hit a commercial break with 12:34 to go.
9:11 p.m.: Luke Adam's breakout pass hits Jason Pominville in stride at the Ottawa blue line, and the right winger streaks in all alone and beats Lehner to the glove side with 8:46 left in the period. It's 2-1 Buffalo.
9:26 p.m.: Another scrum as Dennis McCauley levels the Sens' Matt Carkner, who joins Neil in taking exception to the hit. Carnker and McCauley drop the gloves while Neil sticks McCauley with a cross check. McCauley gets two minutes for roughing while Carkner gets four mintues with 1:41 to go.
9:30 p.m.: The Sabres get a 2-1 victory to improve to 2-1, while both teams head to their blue lines to a standing ovation.