Last week, the Buffalo Sabres were fighting the flu and it resulted in a lopsided 5-0 loss to the Islanders. This week, it’s the Flyers turn. With Arron Asham, Dan Carcillo and Jeff Carter all battling the bug, the sickly Flyers will find out where they stand in the Eastern Conference pecking order, as they visit the 9-2-1 Sabres, Friday, 7:30 P.M., at the HSBC Arena.
The Flyers are coming off two big wins against Southeast Division teams, out-scoring the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning a combined 12-2. During that span the Flyers pushed their power play percentage to a league-high 21.1% without the help of Simon Gagne (LTIR with double hernia) and Danny Briere (lower body muscle pull). However, Buffalo is a different beast.
The Sabres are hitting on all cylinders in the early season due to unbelievable goaltending from Ryan Miller (9-1, 1.69 GAA) and a balanced attack. Buffalo does not have one player in the top 30 in league scoring, but is led by Tim Connolly’s 11 points. Defense and depth scoring truly lead the way for the Sabres, who lead the league in goals against with 2.00.
Philadelphia line up
With Gagne and Briere remaining out of the line up, David Laliberte will make his third-straight appearance. He has two games in his first two NHL games. James van Riemsdyk took the rookie scoring lead with his 13th point in just his 10th game. Mike Richards and Carter are both coming off two-goal games.
Hartnell – Richards – Giroux
JVR – Carter – Laliberte
Carcillo – Pyorala – Laperriere
Powe – Betts – Asham
Ryan Parent remains day-to-day with a groin strain, allowing OK Tollefsen to stay paired with Danny Syvret. Braydon Coburn is a plus-2 with three goals in his last three games. Kimmo Timonen is a plus-4 in the last two games.
Carle – Pronger
Timonen – Coburn
Syvret – Tollefsen
Ray Emery will start in net for the Flyers. He is 7-3-1 with a 2.42 GAA. Emery has a 1.96 GAA in his last five games.
Buffalo line up
The Sabres’ offense ranks 15th in the NHL in goals per game with 2.92. It’s power play is not much better sitting at 17th with a 18.6% conversion rate. The top line of Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Drew Stafford, has earned plenty of chances but have yet to produce consistently or to their capability, despite having a combined 23 points.
Vanek – Roy – Stafford
MacArthur – Connolly – Pominville
Hecht – Kennedy – Grier
Ellis – Gaustad – Kaleta
The Sabres’ defense is led by red-hot rookie Tyler Myers and Henrik Tallinder. With two goals and four assists in his first 12 NHL games, Myers (6-foot-8, 222 lbs.) looks to be the real deal. He is a plus-8 while Tallinder is a team-high plus-10. Buffalo’s defense is tops in the league, giving up just 2.00 goals per game.
Butler – Rivet
Tallinder – Myers
Sekera – Montador
Ryan Miller is expected to make his seventh straight start in net for Buffalo. Back up Patrick Lalime went down with a groin injury less than a week ago, assuring a heavy workload for Miller in the upcoming weeks.
Key to the game: Be productive offensively
The Flyers need to get a multi-goal lead early and force the limited Buffalo offense to play catch up. The Flyers have better special teams all around and should control the game offensively. However, if the Sabres manage to get an early lead, watch out. They are a perfect 4-0 when leading after the first period and 6-0 when leading after the second.
The key is forcing Buffalo’s offense to win them the game.