Ahh Buffalo, one of my very favorite teams. #2 and I over the past few years usually at some point discuss whether we'd trade our entire team straight up for Buffalo's entire team. The answer has often been yes. That answer has also been "as long as I can keep Hemsky". They have so many fine players, especially at forward, and just keep cranking them out.
One of our faves is Mr. Vanek. Boy can that guy score goals; the day that Lowe made that offer sheet we were both borderline giddy. To get a guy who can score like that and also really likes the province (if you remember the stories you know he played some hockey in Lacombe in his younger days and apparently may or may not have cried when he didn't get to come to Edmonton after signing the offer sheet) would have been absolutely amazing. He's exactly the type of player I'd be looking for if I were the Oilers to play with Ales. He'd be leading the league in goals this year if he was playing for us; mark my words.
Buffalo also has Tim Connolly, who has had a very unlucky career after breaking in at a very early age. He may get injured a fair bit lately but he always comes back and could rattle off 8 years with no injuries at any moment. We and everyone else have had chances to take a flyer on this guy when he had little value and didn't. I always advocated it. Why? He's an excellent point-producing C who plays a balanced game. Another guy who's just great to watch play the game.
BUF isn't doing so well this year; I suspect its because their D has fallen off in recent years but can't be sure exactly as I haven't followed them too closely.
I do know however that they have a hell of a squad in NHL '09, hahaha.
What to expect from us tonight? After that break and with injury questions who knows really? I do suspect that Ales will keep cruising. He's been showing signs of turning another corner all year and has really stepped it up lately. Had he not been hurt this would have happened earlier. Watch him just outside the offensive zone; you can almost always tell a good rush from him right around the outside faceoff dot. The number of times I've called a goal from him at that particular spot is rather large; which is kind of amazing and means he's making both NHL goalies and D-men miss who know exactly what's coming. That's the mark of a star. Like a Gretzky slap shot or a Mariano Rivera cutter. The opposition knows exactly what's coming and can't do a thing about it. Hemsky's the same way.
Who's going to step up from the remaining guys tonight? I'm not sure. I'm really hoping to see Deslauriers soon and am really worried about Roloson's play possibly dropping off now that Garon is gone. It didn't look like he was very good against Columbus and I believe I called him out a little bit in the previous game as well. We need him to perform now that we've chosen our horse.
On D, our sterling squad is going to need to put forth a strong effort tonight against a balanced and deep forward unit. Watch Tom Gilbert work in the defensive zone. On nights when he's most effective he uses his body without hitting to separate the puck from the carrier; then usually skates some with it before he moves it. This is how you can tell he's on. He's not as good at it as Joni was (he's the best in the league at this, period.) but he's quite talented.
Anyway, see you after the game!