The Anaheim Ducks
know they're going to have a lot of people in the audience cheering for them here at Hartwall Areena, and the Buffalo Sabres
know this is going to be like a road game when the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere games start Friday (1 p.m. ET, TSN2).
The Sabres technically will be the home team, but expect a couple of Anaheim's players to receive the loudest cheers.
"I don't know why we're not -- we should be the home team," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle
said with a laugh. "We have more Finns than they do. It doesn't make sense that we're not the home team. Maybe we should write a letter."
In more serious business, it is time for just that for the Ducks. They have been in Helsinki for five days, and have been feted by fans from Helsinki and Anaheim alike.
Now it is time for the NHL regular season to start, and Friday's game counts just as much as one in Los Angeles or San Jose will in November or March.
"It is a little different because we're here in Finland playing the Buffalo Sabres
," Carlyle said. "We've been here close to a week and we've enjoyed the country. They've opened up their arms and done everything possible to make it comfortable for us. It is an exciting time for Finnish players playing in their homeland and it is an exciting time for all of our players to finally get to play games. You can play all the exhibition games you want and have all the practices you want, but nothing compares to playing in an NHL game and that starts tomorrow night for us.
"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. 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."