Sabres Pre-Game Thoughts
posted Feb 4, 2006 at 06:20PM
Retro night tonight as we will settle around the fire and catch the game on the radio. The Sabres have been playing much improved hockey since our last meeting and they certainly will be up for the game in an attempt to undo past pastings. The Sabres are definitely not the Leafs and should provide a good test despite having some injury problems.
From the Ottawa Sun it seems that we will have new lines again tonight.
The top line remains intact. Smolinski will be moved up to play with Schaeffer and Fisher. All in all a reasonable top six. Smolinski will have to live up to his salary to make this a value add move. Neil has had a career season by adapting his style to fit Schaeffer and Fisher: mostly by using his courage to drive to the net, and capitalizing on tip-ins and rebounds. Last season when he played with Vermette and Spezza on what was then our "fourth" line, Neil had the opportunity to prove that he could handle the puck in a proficient manner.
The bottom six? Well the third line will be Kelly between Varada and Neil. The fourth line will be Vermette between Eaves and McGrattan. Of the bottom six our two most offensively talented players have been joined with our weakest. I do not see our third (kelly) line being a consistent point producing line.
Whatever. Vermette is playing center and he and Eaves definitely play well together. If they can get a regular shift, and shifts of more than the 30 second variety, they should do OK. Indeed I think Vermette's recent comfort with the puck has come about because his shifts have been longer, and he no longer has to do "something" in the first 25 seconds.
At some point pure number theory will force Murray to put the kid line together. There are only a few more combinations left. Most likely after this game he will probably move Eaves up into Varada's position and move the latter into the doghouse with Vermette.
It doesn't matter. As I said something has clicked with Vermette. You could pair him with fire hydrants and he will now make something happen.