Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Now's a good time for the Sabres to grab the attention Buffalo's sports fans

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 2-7-2017

Football season is over and in a two-sport town like Buffalo one would think that the Sabres should get a little more attention from the media. It would seem so yet it's hard to believe a sub-.500 team like the Sabres would grab the attention of the Buffalo sports fans while there are still Bills things to talk about. There's the Tyrod Taylor situation, the upcoming draft combine plus the draft itself, not to mention their spiteful disdain for the New England Patirots and their disgust directed towards the Atlanta Falcons who choked like no other team in Super Bowl history.

One would think that Buffalo sports fans would get tired talking in circles about the same things year-in, year-out. But apparently they don't. Despite the fact that the Bills did this season what they've been doing all century--missing the playoffs, firing the head coach, looking for a franchise quarterback, etc., etc. etc.--the airwaves are filled with Bills-talk.

Until the Sabres start grabbing attention, Groundhog Day marches on. Those who would like to hear more about an up-and-coming Buffalo hockey team are left to find the nearest wall and beat their heads against it as the latest in the Taylor saga, among other things football, takes up precious air-time both over the airwaves and in the bloodstream that causes our heads to go numb.

One can understand the impetus behind the broadcasting decision to flood the airwaves with NFL news as it's the behemoth while hockey is merely minor league. It's also fair to say that the Sabres haven't done anything to capture the areas attention and/or imagination since they were battling for last place in the McEichel Sweepstakes, and that was a negative means to a, hopefully, positive result. In fact the Sabres haven't done anything attention-grabbing on the positive side since they won the President's Trophy 10 years ago.

This year it's been a roller-coaster ride for the Buffalo Sabres and at this time things have smoothed out a bit. Buffalo hasn't had a long losing streak nor have they had a long winning streak as they head into tonight's contest against the New Jersey Devils which in and of itself isn't a very exciting proposition.

However, with five games in seven nights, nine in 14, the Sabres have the opportunity to ride a wave up until the trade deadline if they can put together a streak. Buffalo lands in New Jersey with a 21-20-10 record and is in seventh in the division 15th in the conference and are lumped within a group of eight teams that are all within five points of each other.

Tonight's game is the first of two back-to-back's this week and four within the short month of February where the league also scheduled them for a six-day bye-week. In all they'll have played 14 games in 28 days leading up to the March 1 NHL Trade Deadline.

If ever there was a time for the Sabres to grab the attention of the Buffalo sports fan, now's the time. During this nine-game stretch  they have games against four teams who are presently in a playoff position (all home games against San Jose, Anaheim, Ottawa and Chicago) and five against non-playoff teams (New Jersey, Toronto, Vancouver, Colorado and St. Louis.)

Six of those nine are at home where Buffalo's riding a 5-0-1 streak this calendar year and are 12-8-4 at home overall.

The Sabres are also getting healthier as they're only down one regular forward, Johan Larsson who's out for the year, and one defenseman in Zach Bogosian, who is day-to-day. Buffalo came off of a three game winless streak to post two strong performances losing 2-1 in overtime against the NY Rangers last Thursday and shutting out the Ottawa Senators 4-0 on Saturday.

With practice time at a premium this month there probably won't be very many changes in the lineup outside of in-game moves. Here was Buffalo's lineup against Ottawa:

Moulson, O'Reilly, Okposo
Foligno, Eichel, Reinhart
Kane, Girgensons, Gionta
Bailey, Deslauriers, Ennis

Kulikov, Ristolainen
McCabe, Franson
Falk, Gorges

The starting goalie has yet to be named.

Derek Grant, who was waived by the Sabres, claimed by Nashville then waive by the Predators was claimed by Buffalo today and was sent to Rochester. Chances are he could see the ice again for Buffalo within the next 30 days as WGR's Paul Hamilton notes they can do so within that time frame without exposing him to waivers.

Of note, the Devils are in a 1-5-2 slump at home.

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