We know you can’t take anyone lightly in this league. We know we’re facing the sort of team that is similar and work really hard and do the little things right. - Mark Giordano
BUFFALO, NY -- The Buffalo Sabres are coming on. The Calgary Flames are well aware.
After just two wins in the opening 10 games of the season and five in their first 20, the Sabres have steadily improved and are winners in seven of their past 10 contests.
Buffalo is hoping to turn that into eight in 11 at the Flames expense.
“They didn’t have the start they wanted to out of the gates obviously but their last 10 games they’ve been playing really well and getting results,” captain Mark Giordano said. “The other thing is their goaltending has been great. We know you can’t take anyone lightly in this league. We know we’re facing the sort of team that is similar and work really hard and do the little things right.”
Each team has identical 3-2 records over the past five games. At home, however, Buffalo has been streaking of late with wins in three straight at First Niagara Center.
With an 8-0-2 mark, the Sabres has points in their past 10 home games when hosting Calgary too. In fact, Calgary’s 2-1 overtime win in Buffalo last year snapped an 18-year winless drought for the Flames in western New York.
Coach Bob Hartley knows the challenge ahead against a young, rising team.
“There’s no free games in the NHL anymore,” Hartley said. “With the parity that exists, you’re not ready, you don’t play, you don’t work, you’re going to leave the building empty. It’s as simple as this. You have to respect every team. I know the coaching staff, I know many of their players. They’re a young team. They went through growing pains. We went through growing pains too and were not done. A hockey team is very fragile. The day you start celebrating is the day you starting to go backwards.
“Those guys are on a good run, seven wins in the last 10 games. They are playing well and deserve lots of credit.”
The players know too.
They also see the similarity between the two rebuilding clubs.
“They’re hot right now, so it’s a hard working team, quite similar to us and they have a lot of guys who are working to show off for jobs,” Colborne said. “Similar to us, from what we’ve heard in the media, it’s a very similar kind of, if you don’t bring the effort, you’re going to be sitting. Doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran or a rookie.
“It’s going to be a fast paced, physical battle. They have a lot of good, young players and their goalie is playing at a very high level.”
Colborne is ready to welcome the challenge the Sabres present. After missing 18 straight games with a wrist injury, Colborne will make his return to the lineup in Buffalo.
It couldn’t come at a better time for the 24-year-old.
“I’m excited,” said Colborne, who last played Oct. 28 against the Montreal Canadiens. “I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work for this. I’m excited to get back and start helping the guys get back on a winning streak.
“The nerves will be going again. It feels like the first game of the year again. I’m not worried about my conditioning levels or my skating, but it’s just going to be timing with the puck.”
Hartley isn’t worried about Colborne’s conditioning either.
He’s seen the work that the 6-foot-5 forward has put in.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that if right now we had fitness tests, Colborne would be top three,” Hartley started, “and I wouldn’t be surprised if he would be No. 1.”
SHAKING IT UP
After losing 4-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, the Flames dropped consecutive games for the first time this season.
Hartley’s responded by shaking up his lines to avoid extended that streak to three.
“Performances dictate changes in this business,” Hartley said. “That’s how it goes. We’re trying to be proactive in all parts of our game. With Joe being back in the lineup, were remixing lines trying to generate new chemistry. I know that, I shouldn’t say I don’t attach any importance to lines, but to a certain point, we’ve been together, most of those guys, for already few years.
“We added some pieces and we’re always looking for a mixture of speed, a mixture of grit, a mixture of skills, and that’s what we came up with last night. We’re going to experiment this during tonight game.”
Colborne will skate with Sean Monahan and Paul Byron as part of Hartley’s lineup shuffle. Michael Ferland was assigned to the Adirondack Flames after Colborne was activated off the injured reserve. Rafael Diaz will draw in on the blue line, too, while Ladislav Smid and Matt Stajan could sit.
Hartley admitted it’s getting tougher to draw up who is in and who is out.
“It’s going to be harder for everyone,” he said. “Don’t get mad when you get scratched. Make sure that you’re mad when you play. If you play this game being on your toes, being aggressive, being mad, chances are you’ll stay in the lineup. Don’t wait until we scratch you, to suddenly be mad at the coach, I’m the wrong guy to get mad at.”
The Flames face off with the Sabres at 5 PM MT. SNET-Flames(TV) and SN 960 The FAN (radio) will carry the broadcast.
@NHLFlames will live-tweet the game and provide you will all sorts of game day content. Fans can also follow along with the hashtag #CGYvsBUF.