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GAMENIGHT: SABRES AT LEAFS
|Air Canada Centre (Photo: NHL.com) |
The first pre-season game is just about an hour away from puck drop. It's hard to believe, but also exciting as it's been too long since the Sabres have faced an NHL opponent (April).
Now the preseason is still the preseason which means a mixed line-up. That being said, it's the only opportunity most of us have to see some of the prospects and AHL players that will be future Sabres. The lines for tonight look like this:
FORWARDS: LW - C - RW
Paille - Hecht - Stafford
Gogulla - Zagrapan - Mancari
Bouck - MacArthur - Kotalik
Peters - Hunter - Kaleta
Weber - Sekera
Spacek - Paetsch
Tallinder - Card
I like Jochen Hecht at center. Always have. He's the best defensive forward on the team and it makes sense to have him covering the center of the ice.
As for the rest of the lineup, I'm going to be looking at Mark Mancari to see if he can excel. He's known for his hard shot, but he told me last week he's dropped 20 pounds over the last two years to get quicker for the "New NHL." This is a big year for him and his goal is to be in the NHL either with Buffalo or elsewhere.
The man centering his line is Marek Zagrapan. Another guy looking to make the next step and has the potential to be an excellent AHLer, which would lead to the NHL.
Others to watch throughout the night are: a leaner and maybe meaner Patrick Kaleta, Andrej Sekera and his puck moving ability, Nathan Paetsch and Mike Weber who are in a battle for the seventh defenseman position (odds are on Paetsch given his experience and the fact that Weber can be sent down without having to clear waivers).
I would have liked to see Nathan Gerbe and/or Tim Kennedy in the line up, but they'll get their shot tomorrow in Hockeyville.
The hokey moment of the night......the Leafs all came out for warm-ups wearing sweaters with the No. 1 and LEAF FANS above the number
|Pat Kaleta (Photo: Getty Images) |
I just received a great question from Shane in Rochester:
"Hey Kevin. Do you think [Patrick] Kaleta will be a permanent fixture on the fourth line this season? Or do you think he still needs to battle for that spot, especially with a skilled guy like [Clarke] MacArthur on the bubble?"
I think first we have to look at roster numbers.
The maximum on the roster allowed is 23 - two goalies, seven defenseman and then four lines (12) bring the total to 21 players. One extra forward (Andrew Peters) brings the number to 22. 0
If the team keeps 23 then both Kaleta and MacArthur make it. If it's 22, then I think it's between MacArthur and Kaleta. MacArthur brings an all around game and scoring touch, while Kaleta brings much needed thump. Good problem to have for Darcy Regeir. I think Kaleta stays and the roster sits at 23.
The pre-season is off to a fast start. Marek Zagrapan scored on the power play just 45 seconds into the game (assists from Sekera and MacArthur).
Zagrapan scored from the goal line on a tough angle with a wrister past Curtis Joseph (yes, that Curtis Joseph) glove side. Nice goal. Of course they all are.
For those wondering on the captaincy....Hecht has the C on tonight with Spacek and Kotalik as the alternates. Jason Pominville is watching from the press box tonight, but will be in the lineup tomorrow, so we'll look to see if he'll have the C in Quebec.
Toronto has just tied the game on a pretty goal from Dominic Moore at 8:09 unassisted. A turnover led to a mini break down the left wing for more and he ripped it top shelf past Miller's blocker. It was surprising how hard the shot was.
By the way, It's weird watching the Leafs without Darcy Tucker (Colorado) and Mats Sundin (the beach).
|Gallagher (Google Images) |
We just witnessed our first fight of the season: Andrew Peters vs Ryan Hollweg.
Petey takes the victory in this one with a good right hand that knocked Hollweg off balance and he had to concede. Good scrap though as both just jumped right in and went for it.
Another small note, Gallagher just won a fan contest on the video board here at the ACC. For those too young to know the comic Gallagher (including our own Erin Pollina) look him up!
Erin has informed me that she indeed knows who Gallagher is and told me his watermelon act was not that funny.
Leafs score again to take a 2-1 lead. Carlo Coliacovo scored at 18:51 unassisted after picking up a loose puck in the high slot and going top shelf glove slide. The Sabres were scrambling in the own zone and Miller had no chance as he never saw it with all the bodies in front.
In the final minute, Hollweg laid a good hit on Peters. Kaleta came right in and laid a hit on Hollweg, which ended up with Ben Ondrus going after Kaleta. Kaleta immediately dropped them and landed a left before it ended up in a wrestling match. Peters for some reason got a two-minute unsportsmanlike, 10-minute misconduct, and game misconduct- for what I'm not sure. The only guess from here is that he must have said something the officials did not like.
As for the period, pretty entertaining for a pre-season game. Plenty of hitting in the corners and good puck movement. The Sabres could play better in the own end with the forwards adding better support for the defenseman.
One period for CuJo and that's it. Justin Pogge is in net now for the Leafs.
Ron Wilson obviously wants to see what the kid has. Remember, the Leafs had two top goaltending prospects in Pogge and Tuka Rask, who was traded to Boston for Andrew Raycroft.
We know how that one worked out, so Pogge better be good. Miller is still in for the Sabres, but I expect to see Jhonas Enroth in the third period.
The Leafs strike again off of another turnover. Boyd Devereaux took a feed right in front of the net from Mark Bell and flipped it over Miller at 4:20. Again, Miller not at fault as the Sabres were very sloppy in the zone trying to start the rush. The Leafs deserve credit for an agressive forecheck that has been physical.
Wait, Jiri Tlusty was just called for tripping. Power play for Buffalo.
And I either need to learn how to type faster or think faster.
We don't have to wait until the third period to see Jhonas Enroth.
Lindy Ruff put him in at the 10:46 mark as the Sabres were starting another power play for a high stick by Toronto's Robert (my name is) Earl.
|Elmo (Photo: Google Images) |
The best off ice moment of the night just came during the commercial break.
The video board showed fans with pop up bubbles from their heads with the musical accompaniment "Dream Weaver". For a male fan they would show an attractive woman in the bubble, and so on.
You can picture the scene.
At the end, Ryan Miller was put up on the board from the bench and they placed Elmo in the bubble. As the crowd laughed, Miller looked up, saw the image, then turned center camera, smirked and nodded to the the 18,000-plus in attendance.
They roared. It was great.
Now the worst moment on the video board. During the call for the best fan, the camera found a 400 pound man without his shirt. I don't think I can or should write anymore about that... it was that terrible.
The second period belonged to Justin Pogge. He faced three Buffalo power plays and 15 shots and turned them all away. Timing on passes has been and issue for the Sabres along with some sloppy, scrambly play in their own end.
There haven't been any real standouts for the Sabres so far.
The third period is underway.
I spoke with Harry Neale during the intermission. He thinks the Sabres are getting far too many shots blocked and are looking for the perfect play. The stats support Harry's analysis as the Leafs have blocked 16 shots tonight with Buffalo blocking nine.
|Philip Gogulla (Photo: Getty Images) |
Goalgulla. It's actually Philip Gogulla on the PP from MacArthur and Zagrapan at 3:14. MacArthur made a great pass to Gogulla who was right in front of Pogge on the blocker side. He snuck right past the netminder.
MacArthur has assisted on both goals tonight, but is a minus-2 as both helpers came with the man advantage.
The Leafs capitalized on two-man advantage as Matt Stajan put in a loose puck in the crease at 7:20.
Enroth made some nice saves early in the power play and made another but lost sight of it as he knocked it off the left post.
Jiri Tlusty sent it behind Enroth and through the crease to the right side where Jason Blake's shot was blocked by Henrik Tallinder. The rebound found the blade of Stajan for an easy goal as Enroth didn't get back in time.
The Buffalo penalties were to Paetsch for high-sticking and Sekera for tripping.
The Sabres have cut the lead to 5-3 as Mark Mancari blistered a quick shot past Pogge at 13:19.
Zagrapan made a nice feed to Mancari at the right face off circle, who then just turned and ripped it. Mancari has has six shots on goal so far, and finally connected.
Zagrapan is having a pretty good night on the score sheet with one goal and two assists. Jaroslav Spacek had the secondary assist on the Sabres first even strength-goal of the night.
Toronto has just put the lead back at 3 as Dominic Moore scores short-handed at 14:47 on a breakaway. A pass around the wall got away from Mancari and led to a breakaway. A bit of luck was involved in this one as a diving Andrej Sekera knocked the puck and Moore down as he slide across the crease, but the puck found its way past Enroth.
Jochen Hecht has just given Buffalo its 4th goal as his tipped in Drew Stafford's rebound on the rebound at 16:33. Ales Kotalik picked up the other assist on the Sabres 3rd power play goal of the night.
Just a few minutes left in game and I am signing off to head down to the dressing room for some post-game interviews you'll see here at Sabres.com.
I hope you enjoyed my first crack at blogging during a game. It was fun.