It's the second of consecutive matches for Buffalo hosting Alberta squads and as my colleague David Oleksy already pointed out, this will be a massive challenge in comparison to Edmonton. Calgary has taken two out of three in this series during the past four years but the home team has been successful each occasion.
As far as injuries go, both clubs are relatively healthy maintaining the majority of their players. But a big concern of mine is whether Mike Grier is able to suit up or not because he's one of our stronger guys, has played plenty of hockey against Western Conference teams and does plenty of duties which don't appear on the score sheet. Let's hope the groin doesn't bother him and he's good to go tonight.
Similarly, the Flames are much like Buffalo driven by exquisite goaltending, a great all-around team work and may roll all four lines naturally. The big difference is defense where Calgary holds the obvious advantage. While their offense from the blue line is noted, their shutdown ability is quite impressive as well led by Robyn Regehr and Jay Bouwmeester.
Here are your keys to the game.
- I said it Wednesday and I'll say it again: get first blood. Buffalo appears live and enthusiastic if they strike first whereas it's the opposite when they concede first. They'll have to come from behind to win games eventually but that's what lower ranked teams are for. Best not to try it with a squad like Calgary.
- Stay out of the penalty box (easier said than done if the officiating at all resembles Wednesday's circus). Calgary's power play has taken a downward spiral to 12th in the league at 21.8 per cent but they can get it going again quickly.
- Physical, physical and more physical. Finish your checks and make sure nobody gets too close to Ryan Miller because the Flames aren't going to hesitate to do the same. This will be a grueling affair in which Patrick Kaleta will show his value and hopefully draw some retaliations.
- Secondary scoring must be available. Buffalo's 43 goals for are tenth in the East alone, however they maintain the finest goals against average thanks largely to Miller's terrific poise. Drew Stafford, Clarke MacArthur and especially Thomas Vanek have to wake up.
- Play the full sixty minutes. It may seem like silly and obvious advice but the Flames have scored big goals late in the final frame previously to either take the lead or tie the game. Don't take the foot off the pedal for an instant.
- Feed off of Miikka Kiprusoff who has won three straight starts allowing two goals in the process. It'll be a great battle between two of our game's better net minders and Calgary as the visitor will require it.
- Intimidate the Sabres; they aren't exactly the scrappiest bunch out there. Get inside their heads, force turn-overs and don't give them breathing space. Do that, and you'll send the message loud and clear that they'll have to fight for the win.
- Screen Miller because everything he has seen up to this point in the year has been stopped for the most part. Philadelphia did it last week by sending shots through mazes and hoping for deflections. It was ugly but it worked.
- Pressure the defense into making difficult decisions. Our puck-movement from the blue line continues to grow gaining confidence so try to create odd-man rushes at their expense.
- Finally, make the powerplays count. That's what Edmonton failed to do and it contributed heavily to their downfall. Again though, Calgary is more dangerous and healthy than the Oilers were.
A Peak at the Streaks
#19 / Center / Buffalo Sabres
May 07, 1981
|2009 - Tim Connolly||4||11||15||0||2|
Just like he's capable of, Connolly has been Buffalo's best forward and has five assists during a four-game point streak.
#12 / Right Wing / Calgary Flames
Jul 01, 1977
|2009 - Jarome Iginla||9||6||15||2||20|
Finding his scoring touch, the always lethal Iginla has produced five goals and six points in the last four contests.