It's finally here. The battle that True Fans have been waiting for. A battle between two teams vying for the ultimate prize in the National Hockey League, and who will do whatever it takes to achieve their goal, no matter the cost. It's the battle for the - wait, Stanley Cup? No, no, no. Tonight is far more important - tonight the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers face off in the battle for the first overall pick* in the 2014 NHL draft.
The two worst teams in the NHL face off tonight for the first of two meetings this season. Edmonton sits in the #29 spot with 42 points through 57 games, while the Sabres own the #30 position with 38 points through 54 games. It will be a tight race to the finish, and with this game being a four point swing, both teams are not only pulling out all the stops, they're pulling their starting goaltenders.
Olympic goalie Jhonas Enroth replaces superior Olympian Ryan Miller tonight for Buffalo, while Ben Scrivens will get the night off for the Oilers after turning in monster performances over the past two games. The Sabres will further their tanking efforts by promoting Linus Omark from healthy scratch to top line winger, where he joins the newly-healed Drew Stafford. Zenon Konopka is out, lest the Sabres win any faceoffs, and Ville Leino is as well - he's just too much of an offensive** threat to leave on the ice. On the back end, the powerhouse combination of Mike Weber and Jamie McBain are back together, forcing the actually-playing-well Chad Ruhwedel to the bench.
For their part, Edmonton comes in to Buffalo 3-6-1 in their last ten, and have allowed exactly 100 shots in their last two games. Can the Sabres anemic offense take advantage against a backup goaltender? Find out tonight in the Battle For The Basement.
*Technically it's for the best chance to win the draft lottery, which would grant you the #1 pick, but that's way less fun to say.
(15-31-8) vs. (18-33-6)
Puck Drop - 7:00pm EST - First Niagara Center - Buffalo, NY
TV - MSG Bell-TV, SNET-W | Radio - WGR 550-AM
SBNation Oilers Blog - The Copper & Blue
2. Can Linus Omark take advantage of his sudden promotion?
Omark will be playing along the top line tonight against his former team, and will see a big bump in minutes from the zero he's been getting as a healthy scratch. Will he reward Ted Nolan's trust with production?
3. How will the Sabres respond to their 7-1 drubbing by the Avalanche?
Specifically, how will they come out of the gate - will they play like a ball of fire, angry about Saturday, or will they throw up another meek first period effort like they have so many times before?
Projected BUF Lines
Omark - Ennis - Stafford
Ott - Hodgson - D'Agostini
Varone - Girgensons - Flynn
Scott - Ellis - Foligno
Goal: Jhonas Enroth
Scratches/Injuries: Ruhwedel, McCormick, Moulson, Leino, Konopka
Projected EDM Lines
Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
David Perron - Sam Gagner - Nail Yakupov
Ryan Jones - Boyd Gordon - Ales Hemsky
Luke Gazdic - Ryan Smyth - Jesse Joensuu
Nick Schultz - Justin Schultz
Andrew Ference - Mark Fraser
Jeff Petry - Martin Marincin