If it seems like we all just left this space, it's because we did! Greetings just 19 hours later from HSBC Arena as the Sabres get back at it against the Nashville Predators, a team they haven't played since a 1-0 win in Bridgestone Arena on Oct. 10, 2009 -- and haven't met here since that dreary we-want-refunds 2-0 loss on Dec. 1, 2008. This is just Nashville's seventh trip to HSBC and the Preds are 4-1-1 in the first six.
And it's as huge a game for Nashville as it is for the Sabres. As we start play today, the Preds are one point in the playoffs, holding on to eighth place in the incredibly crowded Western Conference.
Quick roster notes from the warmup: Shaone Morrisonn back in on defense for Buffalo and Steve Montador is out. I don't think this is a healthy scratch. Lindy Ruff said after last night's 8-2 win over Atlanta that Montador missed time during the contest because of a lower body problem -- and then caught his finger in the bench door too. Ouch.
Ryan Miller will go back to back for the Sabres, as Lindy Ruff pretty much hinted he would Friday. This is his 60th game of the season and he's 30-21-7, 2.66, .914.
The Preds beat Detroit, 3-1, at home last night and got here in the 2 a.m. range. So they're sitting Vezina Trophy candidate Pekka Rinne (27-20-8, 2.09, .930) and going with backup Anders Lindback (10-5-2, 2.58, .914). Nashville, it should be noted is currently leading the Jennings Trophy race for fewest goals allowed in the league.
Out of town, Carolina is idle, so the Sabres can pull four points ahead of the Canes with a win and both teams would have 10 games left. Meanwhile, the Devils are in last-gasp mode, playing at Columbus in a 5 p.m. game. Two huge ones out West that Nashville will be watching: Chicago at Phoenix at 7 and Calgary at Anaheim at 8. The Hawks and Preds are tied with 84 points while the Ducks and Flames are one back at 83.
Keep it here for all your updates.
5 p.m.: Sabres officially scratch Montador, Kaleta, Hecht, Lalime.
Sabres starters: Vanek-Connolly-Pominville-Sekera-Myers. Goal: Miller
Predators starters: Spaling-Smithson-Tootoo-Blum-Klein (who ARE these guys?). Goal: Lindback
I like how we're no longer announcing the opponent as "the NHL's" Nashville Predators. That was so sophomoric. What the heck league did we think they were from. Good move. Another plus I failed to give credit for last night: NCAA Tournament scores on the out of town boards. Good move II.
Of note: Sabres 8-7 in overtime deciders. Preds are just 1-6. No excuse for this game to still be going. This baby was over. And what is Vanek thinking now with all the chances he's missed in this one?
4:33 left: Ridiculous. Miller bursts right off as the Preds win it on the first shot by Erat. Preds win 4-3.
6:53 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
16:20 left: Right now, it seems like Vanek is never scoring again. He just flubbed a great Butler feed. But all that aside, Vanek has been dominant with the puck and made a great steal in the Buffalo zone on his previous shift.
15:06 left: Suter for cross checking as Gerbe explodes into the Preds' zone on a 1-on-2.
14:39 left: Pominville. Post. No population addition.
11:51 left: Lindback stop a Mancari slapper for a faceoff. That's Buffalo's 30th shot of the night. Sabres entered the game third in the league and tied for tops in the East in shots on goal, averaging 33.1 per game.
9:09 left: Clock keeps ticking. Good period with the lead. Shots are just 4-4. Miller stops Tootoo from in tight to keep the two-goal lead intact.
7:21 left: Vanek stopped again in tight on Pominville feed.
6:00 left: Mancari has a wicked slapper. Unleashed one here that Lindback gloved.
3:00 left: A huge two points very close now.
2:27 left: Uh-oh. Terrible play by Sekera losing the puck right next to the net and Geoffion pokes it by a surprised Miller to make things nervous again. Sabres lead, 3-2.
1:28 left: Faceoff in Buffalo zone.
1:23 left: You gotta be kidding me. Lose the faceoff and Geoffrion tips Franson's shot past Miller for the hat trick. Game tied, 3-3.
1:02 left: Pominville slapper stopped.
24.3 left: Miller stops Kostitsyn from the slot.
8.0: Miller stops Kostitsyn again to save a point.
On to OT: Big boos. It's 3-3. Shots were 10-9 for Buffalo and 38-25 through regulation.
5:59 p.m. The puck is dropped. Preds are 24-4-7 when scoring first and 19-4-6 when leading after one.
19:15 left: Terrible opening shift by the Sabres. Myers with a blatant giveaway and Miller stops Martin Erat in alone.
15:45 left: Vanek robbed again on two chances from in front, including a flip to the edge of the crease that he couldn't lift enough.
14:12 left: Sabres a mess in their own end this period. Morrisonn and Weber not much of a pair on this shift. Miller comes through again. shots are 5-2 for Nashville.
12:56 left: Sensational work down low by Gaustad and Gerbe and Gerbe finally pounds it in. His 11th. The little guy has been great lately. Game tied, 1-1. And much thanks to the game presentation staff for not keeping the score off for eons. Seems like today is a quick flip-off, flip-on.
12:14 left: Bang. A 2-on-1 with Vanek making the steal at the line and Connolly going in to beat Lindback with a quick snapper. Sabres lead, 2-1. Basketball timeout, Nashville. Vanek didn't score there but he sure made the play at the line. Connolly's 11th also.
9:40 left: The Gaustad line dominates another shift wtih Gerbe nearly connecting again on a diving one-handed poke of a Gaustad pass. Gaustad and Gerbe are driving the Preds crazy down low.
9:10 left: This game has been terribly officiated, with penalties on both sides not called as guys are getting tripped and hauled down all over the place. And there was a brutal missed icing call in the first period too. We finally have our first penalty, too many men on the ice on the Preds.
2:38 left: Cody Franson for slashing. Got egged on by Gerbe and couldn't resist.
1:00 left: The Sabres convert as Ennis takes a nice drop pass from Stafford and uses Boyes as a decoy before ripping home a quick snapper off Lindback. Ennis' 19th. Sabres lead, 3-1. Assist to Miller too.
22.2 left: Puck gets behind Miller but doesn't go in as he pulls it just in front of line. Fortunate bounce.
End-2nd: Sabres lead, 3-1. Shots are 17-10 for Buffalo. Huge period.
5:08 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
17:00 left: No whistles for three minutes. A fabulous first shift by Vanek-Connolly-Pominville almost ended up with a goal in the first 30 seconds again. Connolly's shot was dropped by a shaky Lindback and Vanek just missed on a great Connolly feed, fanning on his shot from the right of the crease.
15:40 left: Ennis flying and unleashes a wicked snap shot from his off side that beats Lindback but cranks off the left post.
13:16 left: Blake Geoffrion's pass to old friend J.P. Dumont in the crease goes in off a sliding Gaustad. Predators lead, 1-0. And it's tough to fall behind this team the way it plays defense.
12:19 left: Geoffrion, by the way, is the grandson of late Montreal great Bernie Boom Boom Geoffrion. He's the Predators' first Tennessee-raised player and has four goals in 11 games since being called up from Milwaukee.
11:50 left: Connolly stopped again. Sabres have a 5-2 edge in shots. Three were great chances plus the Ennis post doesn't count. But Preds lead.
7:10 left: Vanek will score in this game if this keeps up. Just put one behind Lindback but out the other side. Sabres converted those last night.
4:46 left: McCormick stopped on a 2-on-1 with Mancari after Gerbe created space at the Buffalo line. Lindback has been good and lucky so far. Shots are 6-5 for Bufffalo.
3:17 left: Tootoo cranks a one-timer off the left post past a beaten Miller. Quite a loud ping we heard all the way up here.
2:02 left: Really like how Myers keeps pushing the envelope joining the rush. It's created a lot of pressure and Lindback has had to make a couple good stops. A huge change in Myers' game the second half of the season.
End 1st: Preds lead 1-0. Shots are 11-6 for Buffalo. No penalties, although Vanek got taken down twice on his last shift. No call in either case.