The first real game preview of the season means that the 2011 season is on our doorstep with the Sabres facing off against the Anaheim Ducks in Helsinki, Finland as part of the NHL Premiere series.
The time for predictions and debates about what could happen are over as we now will finally have
The Sabres will be led on the ice by Jason Pominville as he was named the captain of the team on Thursday night. This is the second time Pominville has been named captain as he was part of the rotation of captains in 2008. The assistant captains will be a rotation between Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek, Paul Gaustad, and Derek Roy. The significance of these players getting a letter is that these players have been part of a core group that has come through the system at the same time and they are the base of this team.
In terms of who is actually going to play, according to John Vogl of the Buffalo News, Mike Weber will start the season in the press box as it appears that he is the seventh defenseman on the depth chart. Marc-Andre Gragnani will start the season in his place. Matt Ellis will be the healthy scratch for the forwards as Luke Adam has made the team as a replacement for Jochen Hecht.
It is expected that the lines will start the game will be the same that were featured against Adler Mannheim. What I don't know is the exact order of those lines and who will start. Below are those lines:
Vanek - Adam - Pominville
Gerbe - Roy - Stafford
Ennis - Leino - Boyes
McCormick - Gaustad - Kaleta
The Ducks will be without Toni Lydman who is starting the season with a shoulder injury. Much like Hecht missed the exhibition game against his childhood team, Lydman is going to be missing the game played in his homeland which he talked to Paul Hamilton about:
Lydman had off season shoulder surgery and can't play Friday or Saturday. He of course is unhappy to miss a game in his native land against his former team, "It is very disappointing, but I try to look at the positives so at least I get a little extra time to heal."
The Ducks do have last season's Hart Trophy winner in Corey Perry as well. The Ducks major scoring line of Corey Perry/Ryan Getzlaf/Bobby Ryan. Those three combined for 103 goals and 142 assists and were three of the top four scorers for the Ducks last season. The Sabres are going to have to shut down that line if they have any chance of trying to take the first game of the season.
The Ducks also have a Finnish hero in Teemu Selanne which should have the backing of most of the Helsinki crowd. Selanne has become somewhat of an ageless wonder as he is playing in his 18th season in the NHL and will be a first ballot hall of famer when he finally decides to hang up the skates. How much of a hero is Selanne in Finland, here is a picture of his picture hanging on the side of the Hartwell Arena.
Game time is at 1:00 pm and can be seen on MSG. If you are at work and can't watch the game, there will be a replay of the game in Buffalo at 7:00 pm.