Greetings from the Arena for Game Two of Pegulapalooza: It's the Sabres against their former archrivals, the Ottawa Senators. Who are these guys? The Ottawa lineup tonight features immortals such as Zack Smith, Bobby Butler, Erik Condra, Francis Lessard, Corey Locke and Roman Wick. Lots of guys traded and others (Daniel Alfredsson and Sabres nemesis Chris Neil, to name two) are out injured. Odd.
A Buffalo win tonight would be four against the Sens this season, a first for the Sabres since 2001-02. What's really strange is the fact the visiting team has won the last eight games in this series. The Sabres went 3 for 3 in Ottawa this year while the Sens won the only meeting here on Oct. 22 as Alfredsson's empty-net goal was his 1,000th NHL point.
The Sabres dressed all seven defensemen in warmup so no idea yet if Andrej Sekera remains a scratch. No word yet on any claim of Craig Rivet off re-entry waivers. Teams have until noon tomorrow to make that claim.
Ryan Miller has a .947 save percentage and a 1.78 GAA in his last four games. He could become the first Buffalo goalie to beat Ottawa four times in a season since Dominik Hasek did it in 2000-01. Miller, by the way, is the subject of the gameday poster in Saturday's print editions. Be sure to pick one up!
The Sabres are in their second home back-to-back of the season. The Detroit Red Wings are already in town (their equipment is downstairs ready to be loaded in the locker room when Ottawa leaves), and be sure to check out the Sabres' notebook in Saturday's paper for an update on the Wings. There's your cheap plug alert for the night.
Out of town watch: Carolina is hosting injury-riddled Pittsburgh, the Rangers are at Washington, Florida is at Atlanta and red-hot New Jersey is at Tampa Bay. The Devils are 16-1-2 and have gone from 27 points out of the playoffs to just nine. That's crazy.
Keep it here for all your updates, Pegula sightings, Pegula tweets, etc.
7:27 p.m.: Sekera is the scratch for Buffalo.
Buffalo starters: Vanek-Connolly-Pominville-Butler-Myers. Wow. There's some odd combos. Goal: Miller
Ottawa starters: Michalek-Butler-Spezza-Phillips-Lee. Goal: Anderson.
7:32 p.m.: Great tweaks on the opening intro video with Pegula's presser and scenes from Wednesday night. And it ends with "Winning is Not a Goal. It is a Belief" on the screen. Gotta love that quote. Untouchable.
9:21 p.m: The puck is dropped.
15:00 left: Not many whistles so far. Hard to blog, write story at same time. Somebody ice the puck!
12:34 left: Shots are 5-2 for Ottawa. Sabres certainly need some insurance here. Good effort on the road by the depleted Sens, basically playing with a bunch of AHL players. Sabres need to sew this one up -- and then play a lot better tomorrow with the Red Wings here.
12:25 left: They heard me. There's your insurance. Hecht bangs home a Stafford rebound from the edge of the crease on a two-on-one. Sabres lead, 3-1. Hecht's 10th.
9:37 left: Sabres a little loose. Miller robs rookie Corey Locke on a deflection on the doorstep.
3:00 left: Sabres still in control. Your friendly beat writer/blogger in control. Story done. Sorry, Ryan. You can't wait till after deadline to write!
1:55 left: Uh-oh. Michalek with a wrister high to make it 3-2.
It's over: A 4-2 win on Vanek's empty netter with 31.5 left.
8:27 p.m.: The puck is dropped. Bad news out of town as Carolina leads Pittsburgh, 3-0, and the Rangers lead Washington, 3-0.
18:39 left: Anderson stops Pominville after a nice feed from Vanek.
18:00 left: Anderson again, on a Montador snapshot via an Ennis feed. Sabres will eventually cash in on some of this open ice.
12:52 left: Niedermayer for hooking. Shots are 5-3 for Buffalo in the period, 15-11 overall.
10:11 left: McCormick bangs it home from the slot after a pass from the point by Montador goes by Vanek but richochets off the end boards right into the slot. Vanek did a great job of puck possession on that shift. Sabres lead, 2-0.
8:03 left: Vanek a little gimpy after getting dumped along the boards by Michalek but he gets up and joins the play as the Sabres dominate delayed penalty time in the zone. Michalek gets a boarding call.
5:36 left: After a wild sequence (Myers broke up a 3-on-1, Stafford stopped by Anderson on a 4-on-1), the Senators come right back with a long pass to Jason Spezza and he smokes Miller with the backhand on a breakaway. Sabres had a power play and an odd-man to go up 3-0. Now it's a game. Sabres lead, 2-1.
4:02 left: Miller with two saves after a terrible giveaway in the slot by Hecht. The Sabres have not been good with the puck in their own zone in this one.
2:08 left: Miller with a nice grab on Michalek after Vanek and Leopold had shots from the slot fail to get to the net. Buffalo has outshot Ottawa, 17-9, in this period and 27-17 for the game.
1:34 left: Kaleta runs over Svatos at center ice. Few seconds later, he puts it in on the rebound of his own one-handed shot and crashes into Anderson. Goal waved off for now. It looked like a kick. And on top that, Kaleta is gone for goaltender interference. We've seen Miller run over a lot worse than that at times this year with no call. Happened in Ottawa as a matter of face in the last meeting. And on the replay, it wasn't a kick. Foot never moved.
End-2nd: Sabres hold the 2-1 lead. Shots were 18-11 for Buffalo and are 28-19 through two.
7:37 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
15:51 left: Pretty scrappy play so far. No shots for the first 3:02 until Miller robbed Milan Michalek from right in front. Anderson just stopped Pominville's deflection for Buffalo's first shot. It's 2-1 for Ottawa so far.
13:35 left: Terry Pegula is in the owner's box with Rene Robert and they're celebrating Mike Grier's breakaway goal, a neat deke to the backhand. Grier outskated a diving Chris Campoli for the puck at center ice and got away to score his fourth, from McCormick. Sabres lead, 1-0. Grier had been scoreless in nine games and had one goal (Feb. 4 at Pittsburgh) in his last 42 games. Ouch.
10:54 left: Weber goes for boarding on a tough hit against Bobby Butler that drew plenty of attention from the Senators. Derek Roy has joined Pegula and Robert in the owner's box. Interesting that Robert is here two nights in a row. A big welcome back to him. He's gotta be thrilled Larry Quinn and Tom Golisano are outta here.
8:55 left: A Vanek howitzer from the right wing off the post. Anderson hesitated coming out to get the puck and Vanek fired as he was trying to back into the net. He who hesitates is usually lost, right?
7:36 left: Yep, it's a whole new world here. During a stop in play, Sabretooth came down the aisle in the 100 level with a birthday cake as the Happy Birthday music played. The recipient? Jessie Pegula, who turned 17 yesterday. She was wearing the classic blue No. 4 with Pegula on the back that the owners' kids got Tuesday. And she got a good hand when she was saluted over the PA.
7:17 left: Francis Lessard for cross-checking Kaleta in front.
5:58 left: Ennis stopped point-blank after a great feed across the goalmouth by Gerbe.
2:42 left: Leopold for interference after a long shift in which the veteran was an absolute trainwreck. He gave the puck away at least three times -- including a horrible one right in front to Marek Svatos that forced Miller to be alert. Just checked: Leopold was on the ice 1:54 on that shift. Couldn't get off the ice and a tired player took a penalty.
The Sabres' lines tonight have looked like this: Vanek-Connolly-Pominville, Kaleta-Gaustad-Gerbe, Ennis-Hecht-Stafford, Niedermayer-McCormick-Grier. Defense pairs: Butler-Myers, Leopold-Montador, Morrisonn-Weber.
37.8 left: Kaleta sneaks around two Sens at center ice and gets a good chance on Anderson, who stops the slapper and a rebound.
End-1st: Shots are 10-8 for the Sabres and they hold their 1-0 lead.