BLUE JACKETS at BUFFALO SABRES
THURSDAY, 7 P.M.
FIRST NIAGARA CENTER
After splitting their first two games with a regulation loss and a shootout win, the Blue Jackets seek their first regulation win of the 2013-14 season as they embark on Game No. 3.
GAME DAY: JACKETS at SABRES
With four days between their trip to Long Island and heading to Buffalo on Wednesday, the Blue Jackets should be well-rested and ready to go against a desperate Sabres club seeking its first win.
Those few extra days proved beneficial for injured Blue Jackets players Jared Boll and Fedor Tyutin, who both participated in workouts this week. Head coach Todd Richards said Wednesday that Boll is going to play against the Sabres, and Tyutin is aiming for a return on Saturday afternoon vs. Boston.
As for the Sabres, they'll have the full complement roster with the exception of Ville Leino, who is on injured reserve. Ryan Miller was deemed healthy by Sabres coach Ron Rolston on Wednesday and is available to play against the Blue Jackets, but in his stead, Jhonas Enroth has also played well despite Buffalo's goal-scoring woes.
With four days off, the Blue Jackets took advantage of the extra time by recovering from a few minor injuries, running up-tempo drills to adjust to the pace of the regular season and working more on special teams units. The power play, currently operating at 40 percent (2-for-5 in two games), has made a difference in both games but Richards is looking for more from his top guys.
Speaking of special teams, the Sabres penalty kill had been perfect until allowing a power-play goal to Tampa's Teddy Purcell on Tuesday night. It proved to be the tipping point of the game as the Lightning took control after tying it at 2-2 and eventually, winning in overtime on an Alex Killorn goal.
The Blue Jackets will pose the biggest challenge to the Sabres' penalty killing unit so far this year, as they are second in the NHL in that department with a 40 percent conversion rate (but yes, it's early). On the other end of things, their power play has started to heat up; the Sabres were o-fer on the power play prior to Tuesday, and broke through with a pair of PPG's from Cody Hodgson and newcomer Jamie McBain. Expect special teams to play a factor in Thursday night's game--the Blue Jackets are looking to extend their power play goal streak to three games and keep the good vibes rolling on the advantage.
After starting the season 0-3-1, the Sabres are searching for answers. They have struggled to score goals but have received quality goaltending from Miller and Enroth, so most of their issues remain up front. Frustration is setting in, but like coaches say, Rolston wants his players to channel that frustration into a better start on home ice. The Blue Jackets can't wade into this game; they've had a long layoff for the second time in two weeks, making it paramount that they get themselves into the game before the Sabres dictate the tempo.
vs. BOSTON BRUINS
SATURDAY, 2 P.M.