Friday night's gutty win in Ottawa was a great way to start a season but it's really going to feel like hockey time when we see the opening faceoff tonight in HSBC Arena. It's the Sabres and Rangers kicking off the home portion of 40th anniversary season and we'll be here all night with various game updates and observations.
Looking forward to what kind of pregame ceremonies we'll see, especially the videos. We can crab all we want about the music they play -- someone should get fired if "Chelsea Dagger" is piped through here again like it was last week -- but the video montages the Sabres put out are usually riveting. (Music plusses: I'm typing this to "American Pie" and I know they've got "Piano Man" coming later, as in "It's 9 o'clock on a Saturday").
Lots of Rangers fans crowding the visiting tunnel for warmups, many wearing the time-tested classic Blueshirts. It's the franchise's 85th anniversary season opener. Lots of the terrific new Sabres apparel around the stands too; the team will be wearing the new thirds tonight. The "NHL FACE-OFF 2010" logo is painted on the ice inside each blueline. Dear NHL: The word is not hyphenated. Come on.
Speaking of logos and such, I've been getting this question constantly the last three weeks but the slug is still up on the bottom of the HD board. I would imagine it would be down by now if it was coming down. I know they like the red eye in it in and such. Wish it was outta here but those beautiful crossed swords are at center ice and the new duds look terrific on the players so I guess you can't have everything.
Just looked through the binoculars and the 2010 Northeast Division banner is rolled up next to the 2007 Presidents Trophy banner. It's going to be a blue and gold banner, just like the '07 division winner.
This just in from Sabres information guru Kevin Snow: Stepan is just the fourth player in NHL history with a hat trick in his debut. The others Alex Smart of Montreal in 1943, Real Cloutier of Quebec in 1979 and Fabiann Brunstrom of Dallas in 2008. Wow.
I got my Billy Joel at 9 o'clock on a Saturday. Kudos to the tune turners there. And they can let it roll -- and let the crowd sing -- since we're in an intermission.
18:52 left: You're kidding, right? Erik Christensen along in front for another tap-in to make it 5-1. Lots of blue-shirted Sabres just standing around.
17:55 left: Stepan stopped by Miller on a clear breakaway. You're kidding.
14:20 left: The Sabres get a quick power play tally from Leopold, his second of the night. It was an unscreened slapshot that leaked through Lundqvist, who has to make that save. 5-2, Rangers.
7:57 left: We're still in early-season mode on the Edge, mixing ongoing print edition work with the blog. Sabres trying to generate more offense but not much happening. Shots are 6-5 for Rangers in this period.
5:57 left: Sabres announce a sellout of 18,690. No way. Not a chance. Definitely a few hundred shy, unless scalpers were outside stuck with tickets.
5:37 left: Too little, too late? Roy gets his third of the season to make it 5-3. Third point of the night for Leopold and third assist in two games for Ennis. Too bad the Sabres fell asleep so much on defensive coverages earlier in this one.
2:43 left: Wow. Grier high and wide on a partial breakaway. Could have made things verrrry interesting. Elsewhere, what's up in this league? Pavel Datsyuk gets into a fight for the Wings last night and I'm told Ilya Kovalchuk and Mike Green just went at it in the Caps-Devils game. There's an odd combo.
1:32 left: The Sabres pull Miller and a few seconds later Marc Staal goes for tripping. So it will be a 6-on-4. Sabres call timeout.
1:25 left: Connolly loses the faceoff, the Sabres can't keep the puck in and Brandon Dubinsky goes ahead of the field for an easy empty netter to make it 6-3. Just way too easy. That's gonna be all she wrote for this one, folks.
It's over: A 6-3 win for the Rangers. Final shots are 36-28 for Buffalo. Stepan hit the post on the empty net with five seconds left. What a bum.
Of note: Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec doesn't remember playing last night and couldn't feel his legs when he woke up. Wow. Here's the story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Back on the homestead, the Rangers will have a 4-on-3 for the first 44 seconds of the period -- and a two-man edge for the next 31 seconds after that. Uh-oh.
18:20 left: Sabres kill it off. Gaborik shot wide on the best chance.
17:25 left: Fourth line continues to make things happen. Big hit by Kaleta, steal at the Rangers' line and a good shot that Henrik Lundqvist stops. We went whole first period and never mentioned King Henrik's name. He had no work to do in the first.
16:29 left: Tyler Ennis is here to score. He has to stop being deferential. He had a clear lane to the net and kept looking for the pass to Pominville and Buffalo lost a good chance.
13:30 left: Sabres have a lot more legs in this period. Shots are 7-1 for Buffalo after they had just four the entire first.
12:32 left: Sabres skating better and have an 8-2 edge in shots. Next item of business: Traffic in front of Lundqvist. Hasn't really been any yet.
8:56 left: Sabres have rolled some new lines last couple of shifts. Ruff has gone back to Vanek-Roy-Stafford while Ennis is with Niedermayer and Grier. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, ex-Sabre Henrik Tallinder has scored a shorthanded goal while fellow free agent signee Anton Volchenkov is out for the night with a broken nose after taking a puck to the face. Devils and Caps tied at 2-2.
8:53 left: The Sabres get on the board as Leopold rifles one home from the right point in off the post. Gaustad wins the faceoff to Kaleta, who whips the pass cross ice. The fourth line deserved to be in on one. Shots 12-2 in the period and Sabres cut it to 2-1.
8:16 left: Montador goes for cross checking in front of Miller.
6:15 left: No shots on the New York power play.
5:13 left: A Vanek sighting as Lundqvist stops his slapper and Stafford's try on a wraparound rebound. That's 15-3 in shots in this period -- and, remember, it was 16-3 in the second period last night in Ottawa.
On an unrelated note, I absolutely hate these stupid blooper reels they show during the long breaks in play on the HD board. How about Sabres highlights from the last 40 years? I don't need to see some old lady or little kid whacked in the head or running into a wall. What's the point of that?
4:52 left: Sekera with a blind back pass up the boards that Stafford couldn't reach. Rivet doesn't take the man out in front and Stepan taps home his second of the night. So shots are 15-5 and goals are 1-1. Also like last night in Ottawa. 3-1, Rangers.
4:35 left: Eminger for interference. Sabres to PP.
2:44 left: Myers has been pathetic tonight. Indecision at the point and just handed the Rangers a 2-on-1 that Miller had to soak up.
1:40 left: Are you serious? Stepan with the hat trick from directly in front -- and some hats make the ice from Rangers fans. 4-1. Terrible.
End-2nd: Sabres booed off the ice Buffalo had a 19-9 edge in shots and it's 23-19 overall. So that's one goal on 35 shots in two second periods in two nights. Yeesh.
7:19 p.m.: It's Game on.
15:40 left: First whistle and both teams have one shot. Gerbe simply replaces McCormick. No other line shuffling. Like a nice strip of Marion Gaborik at the Buffalo line by Sekera. Also liked Gerbe's play on the fourth line. Set up Gaustad right in front but Gaustad fanned.
The lines are Hecht-Niedermayer-Grier, Ennis-Roy-Stafford, Vanek-Connolly-Pominville and Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta. Defense pairs remain Myers-Morrisonn, Leopold-Montador and Sekera-Rivet.
13:29 left: First TV timeout. Bad giveaway by Montador nearly gave the Rangers a good chance. That pair has struggled so for. Big hit by Gerbe on Michael Rozsival, who is eight inches bigger at 6-2. Not many chances so far. The Sabres don't have nearly the skating room they got last night in Ottawa. And we'll have to see if they have the legs in their first of 22 sets of back-to-backs this year.
12:00 left: Sabres get first power play as Steve Eminger goes for boarding, a dangerous shot from behind on Pominville.
11:25 left: Miller robs Ruslan Fedotenko from in front. No penalty time on the scoreboard. Opening night clock jitters? And now the penalty time comes up.
10:25 left: Great pass by Leopold for a layup at the edge of the crease by Stafford....who fans...Yeesh. That's gotta end up in the back of the net.
10:00 left: Penalty expired with Rangers getting two shots on the PP and Buffalo none.
9:07 left: The Rangers take a 1-0 lead as a long shot from the right point goes in off Myers' skate. Sabres pay for Stafford's miss. The goal was by rookie Derek Stepan, making his NHL debut. He deflected Dan Girardi's point shot and then it ricocheted off Myers.
7:00 left: A look in the binoculars shows owner Tom Golisano is in his box -- with former tennis star and close friend Monica Seles seated at his right.
4:18 left: This has been one rough period for Tyler Myers, following a rough opening night. The big guy just blew a tire behind the net and handed the puck to Artem Anisimov. From there, a quick pass in front to Brandon Dubinsky for a tap-in and a 2-0 lead. Shots are 9-4 and the Sabres are D-E-A-D out there except for the fourth line.
1:16 left: Sabres get a break as Frolov takes a silly tripping penalty on Connolly just inside the Buffalo line.
45.6 left: So much for that penalty as Stafford makes a brutal pass to send Anisimov away. Sekera has to haul him down and goes to the box.
20.7 left: Lazy hooking penalty on Roy at center ice. First time I've even noticed Roy on the ice in this period.
End-1st: Rangers have a richly deserved 2-0 lead and a 10-4 edge in shots. Are Vanek and Roy even on the ice in this game? Why do the Sabres bother with Stafford anymore? How can the fourth line be the only one doing anything to this point? Did the real Sabres come home from Ottawa? Lots of gnawing questions.
6:24 p.m.: Ryan Miller draws cheers as he comes on the bench for his nightly pregame meditation. Gotta love that new third jersey he's wearing (save for the goofy piping in the numbers).
6:30 p.m.: The teams are on the ice and we have our first piece of news: It's Nathan Gerbe in the lineup and Cody McCormick as a scratch. A mild surprise. Lindy Ruff doesn't normally like to change winning lineups and the Rangers have some tough guys in their lineup like Brandon Prust and Derek Boogaard. Hmmm.
6:56 p.m.: Sabres scratches official: Weber, McCormick, Butler. Rangers scratches: White, Kennedy, Gilroy. Rangers starting Frolov-Christensen-Gaborik with Rozsival and Staal on D. Sabres starters are Hecht-Niedermayer-Grier-Myers-Morrisonn.
7 p.m.: The top five rows in Sections 301 and 325 are completely empty. What's up with that? Looks like there's tickets to be had if you're in the neighborhood.
7:03 p.m: Large white Sabres banner unfurled in lower 100 level to be passed over folks heads. Neat. Banner moving through the 100 level. And here comes a delayed "Welcome to the Jungle' with Sabretooth coming down from the rafters.
Don't mean to be a party pooper but they did the banner and Jungle thing in Boston during the playoffs. No points on the originality scale.
7:08 p.m.: The Sabres take the ice through the zamboni entrance and line up on the blueline to huge roars. And I called it: The video taking you through history, with lots of pop culture pieces from the years was awesome. Biggest cheer might have been for '07 Goo Goo Dolls theme. Huge cheers for Patrick Kaleta, bigger cheers for Tyler Myers. And, as you would imagine, the house comes down for Ryan Miller. Rick Jeanneret with a huge "MILLLLLER" on the PA call. Solid. Lindy Ruff gets a huge shout-out from the crowd too.
7:13 p.m.: Last year's video plays. Like the old movie-reel style flipping. And like the players taking a step back at the blueline to look up at the board as the banner drops from the rafters.
7:18 p.m. Doug Allen sings and it's time to play.