Greetings from HSBC Arena, where we have a matchup of the engaged goaltender, Ryan Miller, and the backup goaltender, Anaheim's Curtis McElhinney. The Ducks' Jonas Hiller had a 45-save shutout over Boston on Monday and coach Randy Carlyle decided to rest him on the second night of back-to-back games.
According to a recent count by Mike Harrington, this will make the 16th time this season the Sabres are facing a backup goalie. They are 10-3-2.
I have to take a second to give major memory points to fellow writer Bob Matuszak of the Associated Press, who walked into the press box and immediately said, "Hey, they're playing your favorite Christmas song." Indeed, for this first time this holiday season I got to hear "Christmas Wrapping" by the Waitresses. I don't know what was more exciting, that I got to hear it or that he remembered it from previous seasons.
Craig Rivet, wearing the bright yellow "C," was the last Sabre on the ice for the pregame skate. He's been seething for more than a month while sitting out, so I bet he gets in a fight tonight. That's a lot of anger to build up.
"There’s a lot of good and bad emotions that I’ve had over the last month, month and a half, but tonight is not about me," he said. "It’s about me fitting into a team that I want to try and help these guys play better. I want to play better. Things are not going to happen in just one game, but I’m going to start with tonight to try and build some momentum. I’m going to give everything I have."
7:08 p.m.: The Sabres start with a forward trio of Rob Niedermayer, Cody McCormick and Mike Grier. The Ducks have their top line of Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Game on.
7:12 p.m.: The first power play goes to the Sabres, as Anaheim gets whistled for too many men with 16:15 to go.
7:14 p.m.: And the first power-play goal goes to the Sabres. Drew Stafford works a give-and-go with Derek Roy, cuts to the net and slides a low backhand past McElhinney, who is 2-3-1 with a 3.11 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. Well, he was that until the goal.
7:20 p.m.: Miller makes a big save on Ryan with 13:21 to keep the Sabres up by one. Miller, by the way, was none to pleased word of his weekend engagement at The Mansion got leaked.
7:25 p.m.: Rivet and Nathan Gerbe welcome each other back to the lineup and give the Sabres a 2-0 lead with 9:55 left. Rivet pinched to the right corner and fired to the net, and Gerbe buried the rebound for his first goal of the season.
7:32 p.m.: The Sabres are back on the power play and Jason Blake is gone from the game after a five-minute boarding penalty and game misconduct for hitting Patrick Kaleta from behind into the glass with 6:24 left. Kaleta got up after a short injury rest.
7:37 p.m.: Tyler Ennis gives the Sabres a 3-0 lead with 3:03 left. McElhinney stopped Andrej Sekera's slap shot but directed the rebound right to Ennis.
7:42 p.m.: The Sabres finish one of their better first periods with a 3-0 lead and 17-4 shot edge. Of course, it helps when the opponent is short-handed for six minutes.
7:53 p.m.: Still a few minutes from puck drop here, but Mike Harrington is up in Toronto for a Team Canada world juniors exhibition and asks that you check out his blogging at this link.
8 p.m.: The second period starts with punches, as McCormick and Getzlaf stand at center ice, ignore the opening draw and just start swinging.
8:02 p.m.: And on the next faceoff the center swing again. Kyle Chipchura and Gaustad fight with six seconds off the clock. Chipchura dominates early but Gaustad hangs in and rallies late.
8:04 p.m.: This period may never end. Steve Montador creates another whistle just 30 seconds in with a cross-check. It's Anaheim's first power play.
8:06 p.m.: Sabres back at full strength.
8:09 p.m.: Ennis scores his second of the night with 15:20 left to give Buffalo a 4-0 lead. Seconds after he fed Thomas Vanek for an opportunity that didn't get through, Ennis skated through the slot and slipped a shot from close range between the post and McElhinney.
8:11 p.m.: My buddy Joe Best just texted that Versus' television choice has really, um, upset him. Duke, you do nothing but sit on the Internet all day -- if you try hard enough, you can probably find a pirated version of the scoreboard feed somewhere.
8:17 p.m.: Nice glove save by Miller on Brandon McMillan to keep it 4-0 with 10:32 left.
8:19 p.m.: The third fight of the period has George Parros, one of the NHL's heavyweights, taking down Mike Weber with ease with 10:02 left. Not the guy Weber or any inexperienced fighter wants to face.
8:29 p.m.: The Sabres hit the final commercial break with 5:06 holding their 4-0 lead and a 30-9 shot edge.
8:33 p.m.: Jochen Hecht goes to the box for hooking with 3:30 left.
8:38 p.m.: The Sabres head to the dressing room with a 4-0 lead and 31-13 shot edge. If they lose this, they're worse than terrible.
8:55 p.m. The puck drops without incident.
8:57 p.m.: the Sabres are back on the power play just 1:09 in as Cam Fowler goes for holding the stick.
9:05 p.m.: It's still 4-0 with 13:53 left as Corey Perry goes off for slashing.
9:11 p.m.: OK, game story is done notebook should stand for the night. It's 4-0 with nine minutes left. Really, there was no reason for Buffalo to lose this game. Ducks were playing their fifth East Coast game in seven nights, they faced a 45-shot barrage Thursday in Boston and they were using their backup goalie. It all adds up to an easy Buffalo win.
9:15 p.m.: Fans chanting for five goals.
9:21 p.m.: Hecht's hooking penalty ends Miller's hopes for the 20th shutout of his career. Perry does the honors with 4:24 to go. Still, Miller will get his 199th career win. One more will make him the 67th goalie to reach 200. Teammate Patrick Lalime was the 66th.
9:24 p.m.: Rivet scores with 2:57 to go. Welcome back.