Sabres at Blue Jackets Preview: Buffalo takes on the NHL's hottest team in Columbus
Chad Ruhwedel will make his season debut as the Sabres try to put a halt to both Columbus' eight game winning streak and their own five game losing streak.
Tonight in Columbus, two teams meet moving in opposite directions. The Buffalo Sabres, still owners of the NHL's worst record, have lost five games in a row (one in a shootout) despite their offense finally finding its rhythm. They'll attempt to snap that streak against the NHL's hottest team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, owners of an eight game winning streak and the seventh seed in the East.
To make the Sabres task even more challenging, they'll be without the talents of Mark Pysyk for the foreseeable future, as he was assigned to Rochester in order to keep playing during the upcoming Olympic break. In his place steps former UMass Lowell standout Chad Ruhwedel, a slightly smaller, less talented version of the man he replaced. Ted Nolan has confidence in the kid, however, saying this morning, "Today’s his day. One thing about him, he can skate and we need good puck-moving defensemen. Everybody looks for them. He’ll have his opportunity tonight."
One of the primary reasons for the Jackets' winning streak has been their play between the pipes, as Sergei Bobrovsky has been excellent since returning from injury, winning six straight starts. However, Columbus' offense is nothing to sneeze at either, and their 148 goals rank them fifth in the East; in fact, they have nine players with 20 or more points, as opposed to the Sabres three.
Tonight will also mark the second meeting of the season between the Foligno brothers, with Nick leading the season series 1-0 after Columbus beat Buffalo 4-3 in the shootout earlier this month at the First Niagara Center.
Buffalo Sabres (13-29-7) at Columbus Blue Jackets (26-20-4)
Puck Drop - 7:00pm EST - Nationwide Arena - Columbus, OH
TV - MSG, FS-O | Radio - WGR 550-AM
SBNation Blue Jackets Blog - The Cannon
1. Will the Sabres put anything past one of the NHL's hottest goaltenders?
Helping to fuel Columbus' win streak has been the stellar play of Sergei Bobrovsky, who is 6-0-0 with just 11 goals against since returning from a groin injury. The Sabres have scored three goals in five straight games, though, so their "powerhouse" offense just might have the answer.
2. Can Tyler Ennis keep his six-game point streak alive?
Or did we just jinx it by mentioning it here?
3. How will the defensive pairings respond to replacing Mark Pysyk with Chad Ruhwedel?
Pysyk, McNabb, and Porter were sent to Rochester earlier this week so they could play for the Amerks during the Olympic break. In Pysyk's place steps Chad Ruhwedel, and while the Sabres are 5-2 all-time when Ruhwedel plays, it will be a tall order to replace Pysyk's contributions on the top pairing.
Projected BUF Lines
Moulson - Ennis - Stafford
Ott - Hodgson - Girgensons
Foligno - Varone - Flynn
Leino - Konopka - Ellis
Ehrhoff – McBain
Myers - Tallinder
Weber - Ruhwedel
Goal: Ryan Miller
Scratches/Injuries: Sulzer, Omark, McCormick, D'Agostini, Scott