The Blue Jackets have done well to simplify their road game the past week or so, claiming at least one point in three consecutive road games (1-0-2). The tables will turn slightly tonight, as the NHL’s best road team comes into Nationwide Arena.
Buffalo is 7-2-0 away from First Niagara Center and are playing solid hockey in opposing buildings, and have won two in a row on the road. Though the Sabres are banged up and have several players out of the lineup due to injury, they will always be a tough opponent with their group of dynamic and offensive forwards.
Forward Tyler Ennis (ankle) is still on IR for the Sabres, and defenseman Tyler Myers is expected to miss 4-6 weeks due to a wrist injury. They are getting tremendous goaltending from backup Jhonas Enroth in place of Ryan Miller, who is out with concussion-like symptoms. Regardless of who plays/who doesn’t, Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel knows Buffalo always presents a good test – and it starts with the Sabres’ stable of skill up front.
“(Thomas) Vanek is one of the best forwards in the league, then you’ve got (Jason) Pominville who has a great release and accuracy,” Arniel said. “You’ve got to know where they are, you’ve got to play those two hard. They have some injuries but they’re still a team that’s 7-2 on the road.
“I’m sure their coach is trying to figure out why there’s such a difference at home and on the road, but we know they’re missing some key people as well.”
The rash of injuries is all too familiar to Arniel and the Blue Jackets, who recently got center Jeff Carter back into the lineup and have already had five different goaltenders on the roster.
“We’ve been down that road and didn’t have people feeling sorry for us,” Arniel said. “They’re going to come and work hard and simplify their game with those people out; but we’ve got to make sure we’re doing all the right things without the puck.”
The Blue Jackets will start Curtis Sanford in goal tonight and Buffalo is expected to counter with Enroth, who is 7-2-1 on the season
1,000 FOR VINNY
Blue Jackets winger Vinny Prospal has accomplished a lot during his 17-year (and counting) NHL career, playing for seven different clubs and contributing on and off the ice at each stop along the way.
Not only is the 36-year-old native of Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic the leading scorer for Columbus, he has had a profound effect in the team’s locker room. Arniel played 730 games of his own in the NHL and pointed to Prospal’s perseverance through the minor leagues before finally getting his chance in the NHL.
The hard work’s reward will be at the forefront tonight as Prospal plays his 1,000th game.
“For Vinny it’s a special night, a special moment,” Arniel said. “When we had an opportunity to sign him because of the injury to Juice, it was a big one for us. He’s made such an impact in our room; you can see how he got to this game tonight.
“He’s played with great players along the way, and I’m sure he’s learned from some good people in different organizations. Now he’s becoming that real good example for others.”
BRASS BACK IN
Center Derick Brassard draws back into the lineup tonight after missing the past three games as a healthy scratch. He skated on a line with Derek MacKenzie and Jared Boll this morning, and Arniel is looking for Brassard to embody the same qualities his teammates have during a 3-1-2 stretch.
“Derick’s been patient here waiting for an opportunity,” Arniel said. “We talked about our whole team, and how we play with and without the puck. Derick has really got to make sure that he’s doing the right things.
“He’s got to add to the puzzle; our game was going pretty good when we made the change (to scratch Brassard), so we’re hoping now that he can come in and add to it with his skill.”