SABRES (1-3-1) at BLACKHAWKS (2-2-1)
TV: MSG-B (HD), WGN (HD)
This is the second and final meeting of the 2010-11 season between these cross-conference rivals, with Chicago having rallied for a 4-3 win on Oct. 11 behind a pair of goals from Marian Hossa
Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson
returns to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension for a hit on Sabres forward Jason Pominville
that led to him suffering a concussion. Pominville left the ice on a stretcher and Hjalmarsson received a five-minute boarding major and game misconduct, in addition to the eventual supplementary discipline from the League. With that play still fresh in everyone's minds, it will be interesting to see how Buffalo approaches the game.
It would seem Buffalo has a lot more to worry about than retribution for Pominville's injury after the Sabres completed a four-game homestand with an 0-3-1 mark. Their offense ran completely dry over the last two games -- they picked up a point thanks to Ryan Miller
in a 1-0 overtime loss to the Devils, then were stymied by Canadiens goalie Carey Price in a 2-1 defeat on Friday. Derek Roy
finally ended a scoreless drought of 118 minutes, 55 seconds, with a third-period goal.
"We had a couple of bad bounces and it seems like we've had bad bounces fall on us," Roy said. "We're getting outworked at home and that's unacceptable."
Blackhawks: Corey Crawford
earned the win in Buffalo earlier this week and could get the call after Marty Turco started the front end of a back-to-back on Friday and earned his first victory in a Chicago jersey, 5-2 in Columbus. Viktor Stalberg
and Hossa staked the Blackhawks to an early lead with first-period goals 63 seconds apart, and Patrick Sharp
tallied twice in the second to give Turco a little breathing room.
"It doesn't really feel like it's a load off my shoulders," said Turco, an offseason free-agent signing who came in with an 0-1-1 record, 3.42 goals-against average and .896 save percentage. "But it is nice, for sure, to win. I didn't put as much thought into it as a lot of people did."
Roy has 5 goals in as many games, tying him for the League lead, and is the closest thing the Sabres have right now to a hot shooter. Miller stopped 60 of 63 shots against the Devils and Canadiens, a .952 save percentage. … Hossa (4-4-8) leads the League in points and has at least one in each game for the Blackhawks. Tomas Kopecky (1-5-6) and Sharp (3-2-5) follow him on the team scoring chart.
Pominville remains sidelined for Buffalo, which also lost defenseman Shaone Morrisonn
in the New Jersey game to a groin injury. … Chicago forward Patrick Kane
missed Friday's game due to illness while defenseman Brian Campbell is on injured reserve with a knee sprain.
The Sabres are off to their worst home start since losing seven in a row to begin the 1993-94 season. They won their only road game this season against the Senators. … Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have lost their first two games at the United Center after going 29-8-4 on home ice last season.
Hjalmarsson expressed regret for the hit on Pominville, saying: "Maybe I should have considered him being in a vulnerable position a bit more and not hit him as hard. I really didn't mean to hurt Jason and that's not the way I play. Maybe I went in too hard, maybe I didn't. It's tough to say. But I don't think anyone is out there to hurt people."
The explanation only went so far in the eyes of Miller and the Sabres.
"You can't have a hit like that, it's dangerous," he said after practice Tuesday. "I'm glad he admitted he didn't mean to do it. But you've got to change the culture some time, and I hope the League wakes up and sets a precedent for the year."