Sabres vs. Jets Preview: Ruff Shuffles Everything, Sits Leopold As Winnipeg Comes To Town

Dave Sandford

The lines and pairings were all jumbled at this morning's skate, as Lindy Ruff looks to spark some slumping players and a dismal power play.

Two struggling teams face off tonight in the Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets. It's an interesting matchup of weaknesses, as the Jets have trouble scoring goals, while the Sabres have trouble preventing them. The Jets are playing the first game of their longest road trip of the season, but have won just one out of their last four, same as the Sabres.

Game #17

Buffalo Sabres (6-9-1) vs. Winnipeg Jets (5-8-1)

Puck Drop - 7:00pm - First Niagara Center - Buffalo, NY
TV - MSG, TSN-JETS | Radio - WGR 550-AM
Jets Blog - Arctic Ice Hockey (Please play nice if you're going to visit.)

Story

The Sabres had some serious changes to their lines and pairings at this morning's practice, with the big news being Jordan Leopold's benching and the demotion of Drew Stafford to the fourth line. TJ Brennan will fill in for Leopold, as the Sabres look to spark their struggling power play against an also struggling Jets penalty kill. Meanwhile, it looks like rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will be a healthy scratch for the second game in a row, and third time this season.

Three Questions For The Enemy

1. The Jets are currently in 14th place. What's been the biggest reason for the early season struggles?
The problems plaguing Winnipeg so far this season has been twofold: missed opportunities and poor goaltending. Throughout the first quarter of the season, the Jets have missed the net on 208 shots, which averages out to over fourteen chances a game. Missed opportunities has been a big reason for a goals per game average that is on a steady decline resulting in a plethora of one goal losses. Ondrej Pavelec is also off to another slow start, posting a goals against average of .889 which is certainly not up to NHL standards. While fans are confident that the scoring will pick up in games to come, the goaltending will likely continue to be a sputtering point of contention going forward.

2. The Jets have scored the fewest goals in the East. Are there one or two players that are disappointing, or is it a team effort?
The lack of scoring has been a team problem, with no one player standing out more than his teammates. That said, I'm sure fans were expecting a little more than two goals from free-agent acquisition Olli Jokinen. Jokinen's struggles haven't been for lack of effort as he along with Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler are three players who's current shooting percentages are astronomically low. We're all hopeful that those percentages start to trend back to their career averages.

3. The Sabres (among other teams) have been rumored to be looking at Evander Kane, but he has a notorious reputation for being immature and unprofessional. What can you tell us about him?
We have covered this before but some of us (read: me) feel that Kane has been given a bad reputation by those in the local media with an axe to grind. (Ed Note: Sabres fans have absolutely no idea what that's like...) He is a kid with confidence in his self which does rub some people the wrong way. As a former 30-goal scorer, he has tremendous hockey skill which is what we should all be focusing on.

*Thanks to TJ Maughan over at Arctic Ice Hockey for answering our questions.

Projected Buffalo Lines

Vanek - Hodgson - Pominville
Foligno - Ennis - Kaleta
Ott - Hecht - Gerbe
Scott - McCormick - Stafford

Ehrhoff - Sulzer
Regehr - Myers
Weber - Brennan

Goal: Ryan Miller

Scratches/Injuries: Leopold, Grigorenko, Sekera, Leino

Projected Winnipeg Lines

Ladd-Little-Wheeler
Kane-Burmistrov-Antropov
Tangradi-Jokinen-Wellwood
Wright-Slater-Thorburn

Hainsey-Byfuglien
Postma-Bogosian
Stuart-Redmond

Goal: Ondrej Pavelec

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