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Sabres chase 3-0 start against winless Hurricanes

by Tal Pinchevsky

SABRES (2-0-0) at HURRICANES (0-2-0)


Season series: This is the first game in a home-and-home sequence for these clubs and the first of three meetings this season. Carolina held a slight edge in last season's series, going 2-1-1 against Buffalo, although Sabres forwards Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville led all scorers in those four games with five points apiece.

Big story: While the Sabres reeled off two solid wins to start the 2012-13 campaign, Carolina stumbled badly out of the gate. The Hurricanes were dominated 5-1 against Florida in the season opener before losing 4-1 as they hosted the Lightning on Tuesday night.

Team Scope:

Sabres: Buffalo couldn't have looked much better in its season opener, as they treated the home crowd at First Niagara Center to a convincing 5-2 win over the Flyers. Thomas Vanek led the charge with his first-ever five-point night. Vanek added an assist Monday night against the Maple Leafs, but it was captain Jason Pominville who really carried the offense.

In Toronto, Pominville earned his fourth assist of the season when he set up Cody Hodgson in the first period before scoring the eventual game-winner early in the second. Toronto halved the Buffalo lead late, but Ryan Miller held the fort as the Sabres won 2-1 despite being outshot 35-20.

Hurricanes: Following an exciting offseason in which they acquired two big-name forwards in Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin, the Hurricanes' season couldn't have started much worse. Opening the season in Sunrise, Florida, against the Panthers, Carolina allowed five unanswered goals in the first 23:35 of game action before Patrick Dwyer earned the lone Canes tally in a 5-1 loss. What's more, Semin and Staal were a combined minus-2 with just three shots in the game.

Carolina looked to bounce back in its home opener Tuesday night against the Lightning, but Tampa Bay had other ideas. After the Lightning scored twice in the first period, Jeff Skinner replied in the second, with Jordan Staal and Semin earning their first points with the Hurricanes. But the Bolts scored two more goals in the third to wrap up a 4-1 win in which they were outshot 36-26.

"We need a couple more guys to raise their games just five percent and it will make a huge difference," coach Kirk Muller said after the 4-1 loss. "Just like last game, we'll dwell on the good stuff and push that stuff. But we've got to be a tougher team to play against."

Who's hot: No one has been hotter than Vanek, whose six points in two games led the League coming into Wednesday's action. His four assists and 12 shots were also among the most in the League. … For Carolina, Eric Staal has yet to register a point but his 10 shots lead the team. Justin Faulk has also been a steady force on defense while leading the team in ice time.

Injury report: Buffalo could be missing some forwards, as center Cody McCormick (finger) and winger Nathan Gerbe (back) are both on injured reserve while winger Ville Leino is questionable with a strained hip. … The Hurricanes are without winger Tuomo Ruutu, who could miss the entire season following hip surgery.

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