Buffalo in 2012-13:
Buffalo was the only team in the Northeast Division unable to clinch a playoff spot come the end of the 2012-13 regular season by finishing the year with a 21-21-6 record for 48 points in 48 games. Ranked 23rd overall out of 30 teams in the NHL, it was the second year in a row in which the Sabres were unable to make a trip to the postseason. Head coach Lindy Ruff, who was in his 15th season with Buffalo, was replaced by interim coach Ron Rolston. Rolston coached the Sabres to a 15-11-5 finish, after starting the season 6-10-1, helping the first-time NHL coach earn the permanent job by the season’s end.
The Bolts beat Buffalo 2-1 on March 26, but found it to be their only win, as they dropped the first, as well as the final meeting against the Sabres last season. Tampa Bay has a 23-43-5-6 record all-time in 77 games versus their new Atlantic Division opponent.
Among the top three in point production during his last three campaigns on Buffalo, left-winger Thomas Vanek led the Sabres with 41 points (20 goals, 21 assists) in 38 games played in 2012-13. Centers Cody Hodgson, who had 34 points (15 goals, 19 assists), and Tyler Ennis, who finished the season with 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists), were second and third on the team in points, respectively, while blueliner Chrisitian Ehrhoff led all Buffalo defenseman with 22 points (five goals and 17 assists) in 47 games and was tied for the lead with a plus/minus rating of plus-6. Former Vezina Trophy-winner as the top NHL goalie, Ryan Miller, posted a 17-17-5 record with a .915 save percentage and a 2.81 goals-against average in 40 games with Buffalo. Miller’s 1,270 shots against and 1,162 saves led the NHL.
Key Acquisitions and Departures:
Buffalo joins the Lightning in the newly-formed Atlantic Division, which also includes Boston.
They moved defenseman T.J. Brennan midway through the year to the Florida Panthers for a fifth round pick in this year’s draft, the Sabres also dealt blueliners Jordan Leopold to the St. Louis Blues and Robyn Regehr to the Los Angeles Kings for additional draft picks. Buffalo’s series of rebuilding moves was capped-off by the trade of captain Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for prospects Matt Hackett and Johan Larsson and draft picks in 2013 and 2014 on the cusp of the NHL trade deadline.
In the System:
The club has entered rebuilding mode after obtaining 20 players in the past two drafts. The Sabres selected two defenseman in the top 20 of the 2013 NHL draft including Rasmus Ristolainen (eighth overall) from TPS of Finland’s SM-liiga league and the London Knight’s Nikita Zadorov (16th overall) of the OHL. Mikhail Grigorenko is one of Buffalo’s most well-known draft picks, appearing in 25 games last season with the Sabres, with one goal and four assists. The native of Khabarovsk, Russia was also a member of the QMJHL’s Québec Remparts for 33 games and contributed 54 points (30 goals, 24 assists) during that span. Zemgus Girgensons, Mark Pysyk, Brayden McNabb, Joel Armia and Matt Hackett are some of the many other prospects that are on the Sabres’ watch list
Facing their new Atlantic Division opponent two out of the four times in October, the Lightning head to First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo to close out their first road trip of the season on Tuesday, October 8th. At the end of the month, Tampa Bay and the Sabres will meet again at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday, October 26. The two will not meet again until the beginning of March, as the Bolts host Buffalo for the last time during the regular season at home on Thursday, March 6, before closing out the season series in Buffalo on Saturday, March 29.