The Big Four
While Buffalo’s offense was busy going a complete overall, little has changed on Buffalo’s underrated, but effective, blue line. Nine of the 10 defensemen who dressed in at least one Sabres game last year, return for this season. Teppo Numminen is sidelined by a heart problem that requires surgery. He is out indefinitely.
All-Star Brian Campbell, who logged a team-leading 21:52 of ice time per game, will once again lead the defense with his smooth-skating play and keen offensive instincts. Campbell was a plus-28 and still managed 48 points.
He is capably backed up by a group of established vets that includes dependable Tony Lydman, and the rugged pairing of Henrik Tallinder and Dmitri Kalinen.
Kalinen is a solid hitter who can put up solid points while serving in a shut-down role. Tallinder, meanwhile, is just reaching his prime and can eat up enormous amounts of ice time when asked to fill that role.
Get the point
While Campbell is clearly the No. 1 option here, coach Lindy Ruff is blessed with a ton of power-play options on the blue line.
Vet Jaroslav Spacek was a workhorse for the Sabres last season on the power play. Although his regular ice time may be diminished this season, he still remains a viable man-advantage option. The power-play, however, will take a hit with the absence of Teppo Numminen, who has issues with his heart that will require surgery. He will be out indefinitely.
Youngster Nathan Paetsch will also get his opportunities to show ability as a power-play QB.
In the Wings
Andrej Sekera – After a pair of solid seasons in the OHL with Owen Sound, Sekera had a good first pro year in Rochester. He had 19 points in 54 AHL games and was a plus-14. He also played in two games with Buffalo. Has been compared favorably to countryman Andrej Meszaros of the Ottawa Senators.
T.J. Brennan – Still at least one year away from contributing, Brennan jumped right in at the top of the prospect line with the Sabres after being chosen in the second round of the 2007 Entry Draft. A late-bloomer, Brennan had 41 points in 68 games with St. John’s of the QMJHL in his first junior season. He is similar in style to Brian Campbell.
Marc-Andre Gargnani – A four-year vet of the QMJHL, Gragnani is ready to turn pro. An offensive defenseman with the skills to quarterback a power play, Gragnani had a career-high 22 goals last year for Prince Edward Island and finished with 68 points, three off his career-high in that department.
Nathan Paetsch – After a long apprenticeship, the 24-year-old Paetsch seems to have finally arrived with the Sabres. An offense-first defensemen, Paetsch had 24 points in 63 games, showing the offensive-zone polish that made him such a desirable prospect. Now, if Paetsch can address some of his defensive liabilities, there is no reason for him not to start assuming top-four minutes for coach Ruff.