Heading into Saturday's game against the Sabres, I traded a few questions with David from the Sabres blog Die by the Blade. You can read my answers to his questions there
1. Up until the loss against Ottawa the Sabres were on a six-game win streak. What's it going to take to get back on a similar streak?
The month of January will be tough for the Sabres. They play only three games at home the entire month and none after January 18. The Sabres have been playing decent hockey for most of the season but have run into a few hot goaltenders. I'm not sure that they will be able to put together a six game win streak but there is enough talent on this team that they will be able to win some games.
2. Last season Ryan Miller had only 16 losses in 63 games. This season he already has 13 in 32. Do you attribute this to the Drury/Brierre trade, or is his play faltering a bit? Do you expect him to get the start in net against the Pens (both Saturday and/or Winter Classic)?
Early on in the season Miller struggled to find his game but he has been outstanding as of late. I think you can blame some of the Sabres early season struggles on Miller but the team should share in the blame. It would be fair to say that the loss of Drury/Briere had something to do it with it indirectly, the team struggled to find their identity but they learned from that adversity and have really become a complete team.
3. Who are the Sabres going to use as the key defenseman to shutdown Sid/Malkin?
This is a really good question and to be honest I don't know the answer. Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman have been the shutdown pair over the past two seasons but they have really struggled this year. Brian Campbell and Jaro Spacek have played really well and have seen an increase in their icetime but I wouldn't necessarily think they would be matched up with Sid/Malkin. It will be interesting to watch but I think Lindy will pair Tallinder and Lydman against them and adjust later if necessary.
4. What has been the single best attribute with regards to the team as a whole? (IE few PIMs, successful PP units)
The single best thing for the Sabres this season has been their power play. Last year the Sabres were the best team in the league 5-on-5 but struggled on the power play, hovering near the bottom of the league all season. The Sabres went into Friday night as the sixth ranked unit in the league due to the efforts of Ales Kotalik and Jaro Spacek. Most Sabres fans were ready to give up on Spacek after a very disappointing season last year but he has tallied six power play goals this year behind Kotalik with seven.
5. Do you think the game in Pitt is a nice pre-cursor to the outdoor action in Buffalo, or do you throw all of that out the window since it's a completely different atmosphere at Ralph Wilson Stadium?
I am usually very critical of the NHL but they got this one right. There is nothing that builds tension like a home and home series. It's not like it used to be in the 70's and 80's but there is still some tension in these situations. The league is playing this game to sell the game of hockey to the people in the U.S. and they want their best product on the ice. I don't think they need to have fights in the game, although it wouldn't hurt, but they need a very physical high speed game to sell the product. Let's face it violence sells in the world today (i.e. UFC popularity) and why shouldn't the league use that part of the game to sell it to Americans.