Oct 12, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) looks to pass around Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Time to dust off the red sweaters! Well, for the regular season, anyways. The Chicago Blackhawks will play their first of 41 home games tonight, against the Buffalo Sabres. Puck Drop is set for 7:30 PM Central Time. You can catch the game on CSN-Chicago and you can listen to it on WGN 720 AM and 87.7 FM The Game.
This is the first of 2 games between the Blackhawks and the Sabres. Last season, the Hawks swept the 2-game series and haven’t lost to Buffalo since the 2009-2010 season.
The Sabres are off to a 0-1 start, having lost their home opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Expectations aren’t exactly high for the Sabres this season, if there are any expectations at all. Buffalo figures to be at or at least very near the bottom of the Atlantic Division, as it is another rebuilding year. In their defense, it’s hard to expect much more from the 2nd youngest team in the NHL. 18-year old Sam Reinhart, the Sabres 2014 2nd round pick has high expectations, but patience may be the key here, as the supporting cast leaves a bit to be desired. Coming over from St, Louis, in the Ryan Miller trade, Chris Stewart looks to be one of Buffalo’s biggest point-producers this season. 3-time 30 goal scorer, Matt Moulson, looks to also be one of the Sabres biggest point producers, but outside of him and Stewart, it’s up to a the gang of kids to light the lamp. Tyler Myers and Josh Gorges anchor the Sabres’ blueline. Myers is looking to get his career back on track after a season+ of disappointing play. If he can, Myers can provide some much needed offensive punch from the blueline.
In net for the Sabres will be veteran backup during the Miller-era, Jhonas Enroth. It will be interesting to see what Enroth will do with more playing time, but with a suspect team in front of him, it’s hard to predict.
The Hawks will look to improve on their good luck victory in Dallas, on Thursday night. The Stars controlled the game and tempo, but the Hawks were able to hang on for the Shootout win to start the season 1-0. The so-so performance on Thursday and the fact that tonight is their home opener means the Hawks should come out flying tonight.
The lines in the morning skate were the same as where they started on Thursday night. The top-line of Jonathan Toews centering Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp was solid against Dallas, even with some tough assignments. The 2nd line of Andrew Shaw, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad was sort of underwhelming and not nearly what it was during the Western Conference Finals. Look for this line to make some noise tonight. Brad Richards was quiet in his Hawks’ debut, but even typing this sentence is an example of over analyzing too small of a sample size. Coach Q’s line blender was in full-force, Thursday night, so who knows who will wind up with who, although it should be as dramatic tonight. The blueline was all jumbled as well. The 3rd period reunion of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya meant that rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk and David Rundblad hardly saw the ice, in the 3rd. This can’t happen night-in-and-night-out, as that’s way too much ice-time for the other defensemen. It was just one game, so the criticisms and questioning will stop here. Again, this shouldn’t be an issue tonight.
In net will be the reason the Hawks are 1-0, Corey Crawford. Crawford was fantastic against Dallas, as he repeatedly bailed his teammates out throughout the game.
A home opener for an elite NHL team against one of the weaker teams in the league. The Hawks should take this one easily.