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Ducks face off against Sabres in Finland

by Brian Hunter
DUCKS (0-0-0) at SABRES (0-0-0)

2011 Compuware NHL Premiere in Helsinki, Finland


Season Series:
First of two matchups this season, with the teams meeting again in North America on Feb. 29, 2012, when the Ducks will host the Sabres in a Leap Year game. Last season, Buffalo won the lone meeting 5-2 on Dec. 21, 2010, as Tyler Ennis scored a pair of goals. Ryan Miller took a shutout into the final five minutes before Corey Perry beat him twice.

Big Story: Even though Anaheim will be considered the "road" team in this game, a couple of their players are much more likely to feel right at home. Teemu Selanne -- also known as "The Finnish Flash" -- is a conquering hero in Helsinki, as evidenced by the many loud ovations he received Tuesday in a preseason game against his former Jokerit team. Saku Koivu, a national team captain, is quite popular in his own right. The Ducks have a third Finnish player, blueliner Toni Lydman, who won't play due to injury. The Sabres may have their work cut out in getting the crowd at Hartwall Areena behind them in this one.

Team Scope:

Ducks: There's a lot to be excited about for Anaheim, which played extremely well down the stretch last season and captured the fourth seed in the Western Conference despite losing goalie Jonas Hiller from pretty much the All-Star break on. Hiller is healthy again and ready to resume his duties as the No. 1 in net, while Perry, fresh off winning the Hart Trophy, returns along with linemates Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. It's perhaps the top trio in the NHL, though the second line with Selanne, Koivu and Jason Blake may draw more attention from the crowd Friday. It's going to be a banner day for hockey, but coach Randy Carlyle doesn't want the Ducks losing sight of what's at stake.

"We're putting it on the line -- these are points for the season. Points in October are much easier to get than they are in March," Carlyle said. "You look at the playoff races -- take last year for instance -- we had 99 points and we only made the playoffs by three. It is competitive. It is also like you're looking at getting 100 points to qualify for the playoffs, and that is tough."

Sabres: Trying to find some continuity on its top line, Buffalo received some positive signs as it concluded the preseason with an 8-3 win over German club Adler Mannheim on Tuesday. Ennis, Brad Boyes and Ville Leino all lit the lamp, Ennis scoring twice. Boyes struggled in the playoffs last season after coming over in a trade deadline deal with St. Louis, while Leino signed a lucrative free-agent contract during the summer after coming into his own with Philadelphia. If they can mesh with Ellis, who put up 20 goals and 49 points in his rookie season, it bodes well for the Sabres' chances.

"Playing with Ville makes my job easier, just give him the puck and get open," Boyes said. "Tyler's play just speaks for itself, the way he uses his speed."

Who's Hot:
Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan had a slow start to the preseason but teamed up for six points against Jokerit, with Perry scoring a pair of first-period goals and Getzlaf winning the game in overtime. … Thomas Vanek scored twice against Adler Mannheim and had 3 goals in his final two preseason games. Jason Pominville finished with goals in consecutive games.
Injury Report:
Buffalo forwards Jochen Hecht (head) and Jason Pominville (leg) are day-to-day. … Lydman is still recovering from shoulder surgery and on injured reserve for Anaheim, as is fellow defenseman Matt Smaby (hand). Forward Matt Beleskey (shoulder) and defenseman Kurtis Foster (thigh) are day-to-day.

Stat Pack:
The Ducks won 47 games last season, tied with the Red Wings and Flyers for fifth-most in the League. … The Sabres averaged the fourth-highest total of shots per game (32.8) and the Ducks allowed the fourth-highest total of shots (32.3).

Puck Drop: Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff was a good sport when asked about the "home" crowd that will probably spend most of its time cheering on Anaheim -- or at least Selanne, its local hero.

"That part is going to be interesting," Ruff said. "I have so much respect for Teemu. There's not many players who could do what he's done and play at the level he is playing at right now at that age. He'll always be known as a tremendous goal scorer. … If I were a fan in Finland, I'd be here cheering for him, too. I think that part is tremendous."

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