ANAHEIM – The Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks are set to play their second game against each other in a week. Last Saturday, the Ducks claimed a 6-3 victory in Buffalo.
The Ducks and Sabres square off again Friday night at 7 p.m. (10 p.m. in Buffalo) at Honda Center.
The Sabres held an optional morning skate at Honda Center on Friday in which a dozen players took part in. Lineup updates from coach Ron Rolston won’t come until he meets with the media later this afternoon.
UPDATE: Christian Ehrhoff is day-to-day with a lower-body injury but will not play agaginst the Ducks, according to Rolston. Ville Leino will be a scratch.
"He’s not playing tonight," Rolston said of Leino. "[Mikhail] Grigorenko will be in and that’s all we’re going to talk about."
When asked about Leino's play of late, Rolston briefly expanded on the subject.
"We expect, again, our veterans to be a big part of the team and to this point, he hasn’t been," Rolston said. "I think, obviously it’s still there and he’s missed a lot of hockey to his defense. I’m sure he’ll be back."
John Scott is eligible to return from his seven-game suspension. He skated with the defense Friday morning and did some extra work with forward Ville Leino and goaltender Jhonas Enroth after practice.
The team scares me because I think they’re on the way up, trending upward. - Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau
Since that last game against Anaheim, the young Sabres have held their own against two of the best teams in the NHL during their three-game California road trip. They beat the San Jose Sharks 5-4 in a shootout on Monday and fell to the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 on Thursday with both Kings goals coming on the power play.
Right now, Anaheim has a League-best 27 points. The Sabres are at the bottom of the standings with seven. That said, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau isn’t overlooking Buffalo.
“Any time you think you’re better, when you’re at the top of the League and you’re something, it comes to bite you in the butt,” Boudreau said. “Watching the San Jose game against Buffalo and then the L.A. game, take away the power-play goals and they’re right there. So they’re feeling pretty good about themselves. The team scares me because I think they’re on the way up, trending upward.”
The Ducks are coming off a 5-2 win against the Coyotes on Wednesday. They’re 6-0-0 at home and have earned points in their past seven games overall (6-0-1).
With the way the scheduling works now, each team in the League will visit every arena at least once this season. Each Eastern Conference team will face every Western Conference team twice and in the case of the Sabres and Ducks, those matchups are occurring in a short time span. It gives both players and coaches a chance to game plan rather quickly for two games against a team they don’t see very often.
It’ll happen again in the not-too-distant future as Buffalo will play the Kings a second time on Tuesday in Buffalo. Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons said both teams can benefit from the fast turnaround.
“It’s definitely tougher to win two games in a row because they adjust to us and we try to adjust to them, so it’s just going to come down to who works harder,” he said.
Ryan Miller did not start in goal for the Sabres the last time the two teams met, but Boudreau is well aware of what Miller is capable of when he’s on his game. With Jhonas Enroth getting the game against the Kings on Thursday, Miller is expected to start against Anaheim.
“I think it’s always beneficial once you’ve played a team and you can see some of their tendencies. There are still a lot of unknown names in the Buffalo lineup that we really don’t know too much about. They might have had a bad game against us or not. It’s a small sample size, one game against them,” Boudreau said. “Plus they’ve got Ryan Miller in net tonight. The last time he was in here, he stopped 40-plus shots and they won 2-0 [on Feb. 29, 2012]. We don’t know how they’re going to play against us.”
Sabres rookie defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen will have a chance to line up against one of the players he grew up watching in Finland. Winger Teemu Selanne, who has said he plans to retire at the end of the season, is expected to be in the Anaheim lineup and Ristolainen is looking forward to the opportunity to play against him.
“I watched him when I was a kid and still [do] when he plays,” Ristolainen, 19, said. “He’s one of the best Finnish players ever and it’s very nice to play against him tonight. It might be the last chance to play against him for me.”