By Brian Wheeler
Tonight's season opener for the Buffalo Sabres will be a bittersweet affair. With elevated expectations by fans and media alike, and a team that is returning nearly all of its starters from last season, the Sabres are champing at the bit to try and recreate the magic of 2005-06. But they will have to endure a party at their own expense in order to do just that.
Buffalo will be the uninvited guests at the Carolina Hurricanes' Stanley Cup banner raising ceremony in the RBC Center tonight (Versus, 7 p.m.), the site of their season-ending Game 7 loss last season.
To watch or not to watch, that is the question.
"We've had discussions on it," said Ruff. "Really, it's their party and I don't know if they really want us part of it.
"For myself, I wouldn't bother me [to see the banner raised]."
Being 20 minutes away and falling just short of the Stanley Cup Finals has left a scar with some players in the locker room. Whether or not the banner raising will be like pouring salt in an open wound varies.
Defenseman Brian Campbell still doesn't like to talk about the season-ending loss and admits that he didn't watch the Stanley Cup Finals, while goaltender Ryan Miller
is treating tonight as just another game.
Some, like Ruff and defenseman Teppo Numminen, are trying to see the silver lining in the situation.
"It's a vision of something that you want," said Ruff. "That a year from now you would like to be there. I think that is motivation."
Added Numminen: "It's a good reminder for us as to what the goal is and what we can achieve here. It's a special event, so in a way it's ok to be there."
Two advantages, one practical and one superstitious, seem to come about by being absent from the ceremony.
Staying in the locker room would allow the Sabres to warm-up right up to game time and would prevent the team from being packed into a bench that is suitable for approximately 15 skaters.
The superstitious advantage comes directly from Carolina, who opened the 2005-06 season in Tampa Bay and was a no-show when the Lightning celebrated their championship.
"We may have to copy what they did because it seemed to work for them," joked Ruff.