Coming off the longest break the Sabres will have besides the Olympic break, the Phoenix Coyotes come into town tonight. The Coyotes are on game two of a back-to-back stretch that had them in Pittsburgh last night. Ilya Bryzgalov had the shutout last night as the Coyotes beat the Penguins 3-0. With one of the most tumultuous off-seasons in the history of the NHL, the Coyotes have come out strong beating their first two opponents to a combined 9-3 score.
Between the bankruptcy case and Gretzky stepping down as head coach two weeks before the season starts, the Coyotes have had their fair share of distractions this season. But their play has suggested that they are just looking forward and keeping their nose to the grindstone. The Coyotes have played well above expectations just two games into the season and if they can continue this level of play throughout the season, they will be a force to reckon with in the Western Conference. Much of that change in play can be contributed to new head coach Dave Tippett. Tippett was hired two weeks before the season started and is slowly turning around a team that didn't have a sense of direction.
As for the Sabres, Adam Mair looks to return to the lineup tonight as he is coming off hip surgery that sidelined him through all of training camp and the preseason. The return of Mair will shuffle the lines a little but with Toni Lydman being doubtful for the game and most likely being put on the injured reserve list, the Sabres will not have to make a decision on who to move out of the lineup. With Mair and Lydman, the Sabres would be at 24 players which is one over the 23-man roster limit.
While the Sabres will have to make a decision on the lineup sooner rather than later, both Tim Kennedy and Tyler Myers will make it difficult for the Sabres to send them down. Both Kennedy and Myers played a good opening game and continue to keep their impressive play going into this game. I would expect to see Myers and Kennedy on the Sabres roster only if there is going to be room for them to play, they won't keep him if they plan on sitting them.
Keys To The Game
Sabres: Take control of the game early. With the second game of a back-to-back and the very real possibility of the Coyotes having Jason LaBarbera in net tonight, if the Sabres can get off to a quick start they will have a good chance to control the momentum of the game. If they continue to play like they did against the Canadiens only hoping to find the back of the net more often than once, this team should stand a good chance of winning this game.
Coyotes: Keep the Sabres to the outside. While the Canadiens were outshot on Saturday night, they kept most of the Sabres shots toward the perimeter. The Sabres only goal came on the powerplay in the slot and then were shutout for the rest of the night. If the Coyotes can keep the Sabres chances toward the outside, they should be able to handle those chances better.