Buffalo Sabres (0-1-0) vs.
Tampa Bay Lightning (1-0-0)
The atmosphere surrounding the season opener for the Buffalo Sabres was electric, right up until they let the Ottawa Senators score thirty seconds into the game. After that, the Sabres played a tentative, sloppy game for the next forty minutes, until finally finding their legs in the third period. Jack Eichel showed the world why he was so highly touted with his ridiculous snipe of a goal, and a replay review that wiped out Evander Kane's potential tying goal gave us all something to complain about.
Today, the Sabres will play some afternoon hockey against one of the best teams in the league, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and they'll have to do it without their starting goaltender, Robin Lehner, who tweaked his knee when his skate caught in a rut on the ice. In the crease this afternoon will be Chad Johnson, who will have the unenviable task of going up against Steven Stamkos and a powerhouse Lightning offense.
1. How will Chad Johnson fare against one of the best offenses in the league?
The Lightning outscored the Sabres 16-3 last season, going 4-0-1 in five games, and made the Stanley Cup Finals. Chad Johnson had and .889 save percentage last season, and never played a game after he was traded midseason. This may not end well for the Sabres, and they'll need their up-and-down defense to be up all afternoon to keep up with Tampa's offensive power.
2. With the early afternoon start, can the Sabres find their legs sooner than they did against Ottawa?
For all the excitement surrounding the season opener, most Sabres players felt like they couldn't quite relax and get into the flow of the game until the third period, in which they dominated Ottawa and looked like the exciting, fast team we all hoped they could be. Early afternoon games are notorious for heavy legs, but the Sabres won't have that luxury against one of the top teams in the East.
3. Will Ryan O'Reilly make his presence felt today?
O'Reilly called himself "useless" after the game on Thursday, and he wasn't too far off. Posting a -2 with 0 shots in 20 minutes of ice time, O'Reilly was mostly invisible in his Sabres debut. He's a very good player and was paid a hefty sum of money this off-season, so we'll see how he responds to a disappointing effort today.
Projected BUF lines
Projected TBL lines
Palat - Johnson - Kucherov
Killorn - Fillpula - Condra
Boyle - Namestnikov - Brown
Carle - Garrison
Coburn - Sustr