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First Niagara Center was filled with plenty of new, shiny toys for fans to enjoy Friday night.
Turns out it was the holdover parts left over from last year’s Buffalo Sabres team that were to blame for spoiling the home opener for a sold-out crowd of 19,070.
It wasn’t until Erik Karlsson slipped in around Mike Weber and Tyler Myers and slapped a shot through the five hole of Ryan Miller with 1:35 to play that the game saw its first goal, and by then the Sabres had already blown enough chances in their eventual 1-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
Miller made 45 saves before that in a back-and-forth goalie duel with counterpart Craig Anderson, who turned aside all 35 Sabres shots for the shutout as the Senators, poised to be one of the East’s top teams, opened their season with a win.
In the big picture, none of it really mattered for Buffalo.
We should probably get used to these 2-1, 1-0 games. For the score, a combined 81 shots made for a night of good entertainment, even though the shot total was nowhere near indicative of the amount of scoring chances for either team.
There are going to be growing pains as we watch the rookies develop and the holdovers from previous seasons inch ever closer to their departing days.
Rookie Zemgus Girgensons and his line of Kevin Porter and Brian Flynn led the Sabres in scoring chances and gritty play throughout the game.
That was the problem.
Following the loss, Sabres coach Ron Rolston called his young third line the “best line.” If that continues, “We’re in trouble,” he said.
“They just play with effort and play the right way,” Rolston added. “It’s a simple game. We don’t have a lot of guys playing the right way at the beginning of the season, so we’re back to square one.”
Both Miller traded highlight-reel saves with Anderson throughout the game. It was the Sabres’ offense that is struggling out of the gates.
Through two losses to start the season, Buffalo has managed one goal and is 0-for-11 on the power play.
Thomas Vanek led both teams with nine shots, but too many others were nonexistent. Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford. Even the always-reliable Christian Ehrhoff had an off night. The list goes on.
This isn’t going to be pretty hockey. Girgensons has the Sabres’ only goal so far this season. He had one of the Sabres’ best scoring chances last night.
The least we can hope for is that they continue to keep things interesting. All things considered, that’s all we can really ask for.
The Sabres’ game presentation team was busy this summer. Friday’s game was the debut of a new light and sound system that featured all the bells and whistles of an elite game presentation arsenal.
A female voice occupied the PA system along with a male counterpart. That was a nice touch.
It will of course be interesting to see where they take the projections and dangling screens from here. There are a ton of creative possibilities. Should be fun to watch.
Props to the game pres team for their hard work, recognizing a problem that needed to be adjusted and getting the job done. I think the 19,070 in the building each night will appreciate the efforts, even if the hockey won’t look nearly as good.
— Henrik Tallinder left the game in the second period with what Ron Rolston called an upper-body injury. The team as of today has recalled Alexander Sulzer from Rochester to take his place.
— We also learned of a Ryan Miller injury (lower-body) this morning. Darcy Regier said the injury is “nothing serious, just minor.” So Matt Hackett is practicing with the team before tonight’s game in Pittsburgh.
Quotable: Steve Ott on what the early losses mean to the Sabres…
"I think our young guys can take a lot from tonight. it was a great learning exerience, even though we lost. … If we’re sticking with one of the best teams in the East, at least playing chance for chance, we probably don’t want to get in those run-and-gun games, that’s for sure, but at least we’re sticking around right until the end of these games."