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Buffalo Sabres Open Season Against Philadelphia Flyers

January 20th, 2013 at 9:00 AM
By Paul Lane Sabres 101
More than three months later than they should be, the Buffalo Sabres are finally ready to take the ice.
 
Today's season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers (12:30 p.m., NBC) will allow for the release of weeks' worth of pent-up lockout frustration by fans, who sold out the First Niagara Center for a Rochester Americans game last month and came 10,000 strong for a Sabres practice last week.
 
'Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff' photo (c) 2009, Roswell Park - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
 
Rather than talking about revenue splits and memorandums of understanding, the hockey community is once again finally talking about the product on the ice. And the product the Sabres are putting on the ice is an intriguing mystery. Topping the question marks is first-round draft pick Mikhail Grigorenko, who did enough during the truncated training camp to earn at least a five-game NHL audition, after which time the Sabres must decide whether to send him back to juniors or forfeit his junior eligibilty by keeping him called up.
 
The lockout probably actually aided Grigorenko, who was able to hone his game for an additional half-season in juniors before coming to camp. He said he's been waiting for the moment that will come Sunday:

"Hopefully after warm-up, I'll be good. I don't think nerves will last more than one, two shifts … I don't care about other teams. I just want to prove to the Sabres they made the right choice in drafting me."

Grigorenko will be paired on one wing with Steve Ott, the only Sabres who might be more highly anticipated by Sabres fans than Grigorenko to make his blue and gold debut. Ott was acquired from Dallas in July for Derek Roy, but Sabres fans have yet to actually see him play.

Playing the opposite wing during practice this past week has been Ville Leino. But coach Lindy Ruff said Leino aggravated an injury Friday and missed Saturday's practice. He will skate this morning and be a game-time decision.

"My discussions with him are if he feels like he’s good, he’s ready to roll, then we’ll get him in. If not, then I’ll adjust the lineup," said Ruff, who said he may move Jochen Hecht or Patrick Kaleta up from the fourth line if Leino is scratched.

The Sabres cut out one day of practice from this week's training camp Thursday. Ruff said it was an attempt to keep the injury bug to a minimum, given the fact the Sabres will play five games in their first eight days and 48 over a 96-day schedule.
 
They'll be a bit fresher Sunday than the Flyers – who played Saturday in Pittsburgh – but Ruff doesn't consider that too much of a plus:
"It gives us maybe a little advantage on a scouting standpoint, but they'll be ready to play."
The Flyers lost to the Penguins, 3-1, with Claude Giroux scoring their only goal. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 24 of 26 shots for Philly in the loss. Former Sabre Daniel Briere missed Saturday's game with a wrist injury and is not expected to suit up Sunday.
 
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The doors to the First Niagara Center will open at 10:15 a.m. The Sabres Store will still be running its 50 percent off sale until the game's conclusion.

Nancy Saia of Buffalo and James Kretz of Tonawanda will perform the ceremonial first puck drop prior to the game. Concession prices will be slashed to $3 for a hot dog and chips, $1 for popcorn, $4.25 for a pop with souvenir cup and $2 for peanuts.

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Sunday's game will be the first of seven nationally televised games the Sabres will play in this season. All other games will air on MSG, and all games will be broadcast on the radio on WGR 550 AM.

The other national games are as follows:

  • Feb. 17 vs Pittsburgh, NBC
  • March 10 at Philadelphia, NBC Sports Network
  • March 17 at Washington, NBCSN
  • April 2 at Pittsburgh, NBCSN
  • April 7 vs. New Jersey, NBCSN
  • April 17 at Boston, NBCSN
Tags: Buffalo, Buffalo Sabres, Hockey, NHL

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