Opening night is finally here! (Cue up the celebration)
The Red Wings will play their first game as a member of the Eastern Conference. The first opponent is a new Atlantic Division rival, the Buffalo Sabres.
What: Buffalo Sabres at Detroit Red Wings
When: 8 p.m. tonight
Where: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan
TV: NBC Sports Network, TSN2
Records: The Red Wings went 24-16-8 last season; the Sabres went 21-21-6
Coaches: Mike Babcock is 445-236-19-90 in his 11th season as a head coach, and 376-174-75 in his ninth season with the Red Wings. Ron Rolston is 15-11-5 heading into his second season with the Sabres.
Season Series: The Red Wings went 2-0 against the Sabres in the 2011-12 season.
|Justin Abdelkader||Pavel Datsyuk||Henrik Zetterberg|
|Johan Franzen||Stephen Weiss||Daniel Alfredsson|
|Daniel Cleary||Joakim Andersson||Todd Bertuzzi|
|Drew Miller||Cory Emmerton||Mikael Samuelsson|
|Niklas Kronwall||Jonathan Ericsson|
|Danny DeKeyser||Jakub Kindl|
|Brendan Smith||Kyle Quincey|
|Jimmy Howard (starting)|
Thomas Vanek-Cody Hodgson-Drew Stafford
Tyler Ennis-Steve Ott-Ville Leino
Zemgus Girgensons-Mikhail Grigorenko-Brian Flynn
Kevin Porter-Cody McCormack-Patrick Kaleta
Christian Ehrhoff-Tyler Myers
Henrik Tallinder-Jamie McBain
Mike Weber-Rasmus Ristolainen
Ryan Miller (starter)
Red Wings Update: The Wings are beginning their quest for not just a 23rd consecutive playoff appearance, but a 12th Stanley Cup. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are still the leaders, but the team made a splash in the summer by signing Alfredsson and Weiss in free agency. Some consider the Wings to be a bona fide cup contender this season with the aforementioned in the fold. On the injury front, Patrick Eaves (knee), Darren Helm (groin), Jonas Gustavsson (groin), and Jordin Tootoo (shoulder) are all out.
Sabres Update: The Sabres had been a perennial playoff team until the last two seasons. Last year's poor start resulted in the dismissal of head coach Lindy Ruff, and the promotion of Rolston from their AHL affiliate in Rochester. Rolston, a native of Fenton, Michigan, was officially named head coach in May. The Sabres recently named Vanek and Ott co-captains of their team, and signed Tallinder and McBain in free agency this past July. Marcus Foligno (upper body) and Corey Tropp (jaw) are out for tonight.
Centers: Hodgson is a solid first-line center, but he will have a tall order in going against Datsyuk. Grigorenko, a rookie, will either center the second or third line, leaving Ott to center whatever line not occupied by Grigorenko. Weiss could have a good matchup with Ott, but Grigorenko could be in for a long night against Andersson. It's worth noting that Ott likes to stir the kettle regularly.
Edge: Red Wings
Wingers: Vanek (41 points-20 goals, 21 assists last season) is a former 40-goal scorer, and arguably one of the most underrated wingers in the league. Stafford is a steady hand, but not very explosive. Zetterberg should have a lot of success being on a wing with Datsyuk, and the same can be said for Abdelkader. Franzen and Alfredsson will be very tough for Ennis and Leino, a former Red Wing. Girgensons is one to keep an eye on, as he will make his NHL debut. Cleary and Bertuzzi will both be more of net-presence players, but Bertuzzi could see action whenever Kaleta or even Ott are on the ice. Beyond Vanek, there isn't a lot of firepower on the wings for the Sabres.
Edge: Red Wings
Defensemen: Kronwall and Ericsson should be better with part of a season under their belt as the top pair. Ehrhoff and Myers will likely be the top pair for the Sabres. DeKeyser and Kindl played better toward the end of last season. The wild card for the Sabres could be the Tallinder-McBain pairing, as both have never played together. Ristolainen was the Sabres' top pick in this year's draft, and will be making his debut tonight. It's worth noting that the Wings finished 5th in goals against last season, while the Sabres were 22nd.
Edge: Red Wings
Special Teams: The Red Wings had their issues on the power play last season, but they appear to be corrected to some degree with Alfredsson manning the point. Weiss will help shore up the penalty kill unit. The Sabres were a disaster on special teams, finishing 29th on the power play and 23rd on the penalty kill.
Edge: Red Wings
Goaltending: Howard (21-13-7, 2.13 GAA, .923 save percentage, five shutouts) and Miller (17-17-5, 2.81 GAA, .915 save percentage) are both expected to represent the USA at the Olympics. Miller, a former Michigan State star and brother to Wings forward Drew Miller, was often left out to dry last season, and he has struggled against the Wings in his career. Howard has never lost to the Sabres in four games against them. His most recent start was a 5-0 win in January 2012.
Prediction: (DISCLAIMER: If anyone does not like what is put for a prediction, please refrain from rude comments). The Sabres are still rebuilding, and it will take time before they get back to being a playoff team. The Wings will start their time in the East on the right foot.
Make It: Red Wings 4, Sabres 1.
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