Sabres at Red Wings Preview: The 2013 Season Opener

WE'RE BACK, BABY! NHL hockey is back in the lives of Sabres fans as Buffalo takes on Detroit tonight in the 2013-14 season opener.

The NHL opened its 2013-14 season last night with a Stanley Cup banner raising in Chicago, a scary moment in the Leafs-Habs game, and a trio of close, exciting games. Tonight, the season opens for another five teams, including the Buffalo Sabres, who travel to Detroit to take on the Red Wings, one of their new division rivals.

Game #1

Buffalo Sabres (0-0-0) at Detroit Red Wings (0-0-0)

Puck Drop - 8:00pm EST - Joe Louis Arena - Detroit, MI
TV - NBCSN | Radio - WGR 550-AM
SBNation Red Wings Blog - Winging it in Motown (Please play nice if you're going to visit.)

Three Things To Watch For

1. How quickly can the new lines and pairings find chemistry?

The first game of the season always features some new faces in new places, but the Sabres will enter the game with four NHL rookies in starting positions - Grigorenko, Girgensons, Pysyk, and Ristolainen. The return of Ville Leino and the addition of Henrik Tallinder add another two (essentially) new starters to the Sabres roster, while Brian Flynn and Kevin Porter will be playing apart rather than keeping their Amerks chemistry alive.

All three defensive pairings are new this season, though obviously Myers and Tallinder will be trying to recapture their magic from 2009-10 season. Pysyk and Ristolainen both looked excellent throughout the preseason, but there's a big difference between September and October hockey. Ryan Miller will be counting on some instant chemistry between his six blueliners in order to kick off his 2014 Olympic/Vezina/Trade campaign.

2. Will Buffalo play with the consistent effort we saw in the preseason, or will they be overwhelmed by the moment?

One of the Sabres biggest problems last season was their inconsistency from period-to-period. Whether it was coming out flat to start the first, a letdown period in the second, or blowing a lead in the third, the blue and old just couldn't seem to give a full 60-minute effort. This year they enter the season with a new coaching staff, two new captains (remember, Steve Ott will be wearing the C in this road game) and a new commitment in the ocker room to hold each other accountable. How quickly will that new mentality stick or fade? We'll start to find out tonight.

3. The start of a new division rivalry

The Sabres and Red Wings are now both member of the newly formed Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that fact (even typing that sentence felt weird) but these two teams will meet four or five times per season for the foreseeable future. We all saw what mutual hatred can do in the two Sabres-Leafs preseason games, and the seeds of that rivalry will be born in the season opener.

Projected BUF Lines

Vanek - Hodgson - Stafford
Ott - Ennis - Leino
Girgensons - Grigorenko - Flynn
Porter - McCormick - Kaleta

Ehrhoff - Pysyk
Tallinder - Myers
Weber - Ristolainen

Goal: Ryan Miller

Scratches/Injuries: Foligno, Scott, Larsson, McBain

Projected DET Lines

Henrik ZetterbergPavel DatsyukJustin Abdelkader
Johan FranzenStephen WeissDaniel Alfredsson
Daniel ClearyJoakim AnderssonTodd Bertuzzi
Drew MillerCory EmmertonMikael Samuelsson

Niklas KronwallJonathan Ericsson
Danny DeKeyserJakub Kindl
Kyle QuinceyBrendan Smith

Goal: Jimmy Howard

Note: All projected lines use the most recent available practice or game information.

The 2013-14 Buffalo Sabres season starts tonight. Let's go, Buffalo.