THRASHERS (3-1-0) at SABRES (4-0-1)
Season series --
This is the first of four meetings between the teams this season. Last season, the Thrashers won all four games by a total of four goals -- two in overtime, two in a shootout. In their most recent meeting, a Thomas Vanek
giveaway led to Ilya Kovalchuk's overtime game-winner April 1 in Atlanta.
Big Story --
The Sabres missed the playoffs by two points last season; a couple of wins over the team with the third-fewest points in the conference in 2008-09 would have been the difference.
It's been an odd start to the season for the Thrashers -- they had five days off after their season opener, played their next two games in a three-day span, then had six days off before playing back-to-back Friday and Saturday. Starting with Friday's game, however, they'll play seven times from Oct. 16-31.
With Thomas Vanek
out of the lineup through the weekend, Daniel Paille will slide into Vanek's spot on the top line, with Derek Roy
and Drew Stafford
. "I don't want to mess with the other lines right now," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "Obviously he's got a great shot, is a great skater and he can dominate the physical game. It's inside him to come out and put forth a great effort for us." Paille had an assist and a plus-1 rating Friday.
Who's Hot --
Thrashers captain Ilya Kovalchuk had his three-game goal-scoring streak snapped Friday, but he's off to the best start of his career, with five goals in his first four games. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller
has allowed just eight goals in his five games this season. Buffalo is second in the League in defense, allowing just 1.60 goals per game.
Injury Report --
All the time off has allowed the Thrashers to field a healthy lineup. Vanek, first thought to be out a few weeks due to an upper-body injury suffered Tuesday, is possible for Saturday's game. Defenseman Andrej Sekera
is out for at least two weeks with a rib injury.
Stat Pack --
The Thrashers' top line of Kovalchuk, Nik Antropov and Bryan Little has combined for 5 goals, 12 points and a plus-3 rating. The second line of Todd White, Slava Kozlov and Maxim Afinogenov has combined for 2 points and a minus-10 rating.
Puck Drop --
At 4-0-1, the Sabres are the only team in the League without a regulation loss.
"We're just playing good hockey," said Miller. "I'm enjoying it, and I hope we can keep it up all year."
-- Adam Kimelman, NHL.com